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Bin Laden’s End: Unanswered Questions – OpEd

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The real story is Al-Qaeda chief managed to evade the powerful arm of the empire for 11 years

By Aijaz Zaka Syed

SO America has finally managed to kill the monster it had created. And in one of those ironies that fate throws up, Bin Laden met his end at the hands of someone whose name has often been confused with his own. In his death, Bin Laden hasn’t just saved the struggling US president; he may have gifted his nemesis a second term in office.

But can you really kill men like OBL? He was not just another human being, a man of flesh and blood like you and me. Rather, he represented an idea. And you can’t kill ideas — even if you happen to be the most powerful nation on the planet and have the deadliest of arms man has invented at your disposal.

The long crippled man who spurned a life of obscene luxury to live on the run forever like a hunted animal, had to go the way he did. There’s hardly a surprise there. The real story and feat lies in the fact that the Al-Qaeda chief managed to evade the long and powerful arms of the empire for so long — for 11 long years.

While the “coalition of the willing” hunted the most wanted man on the planet all across the wild frontier stretching from Pakistan’s Northwest to the Afghan border with Russia, he ostensibly lived right in the heart of the Abbottabad cantonment, a stone’s throw away from Pakistan’s elite Kakul Military Academy.

What an extraordinary, extraordinary story! And what chutzpah, what masterstroke of the evil genius that Bin Laden was!

And what embarrassment for Pakistan’s leaders! They haven’t been just caught unawares; they’ve been found with their pants down. The country has become the laughing stock of the whole world. It’s damned if it admits that this was a one-sided US operation and it had no clue whatsoever until US choppers with their elite commandos barged right into the heart of the cantonment and took out their man. It’s damned if it suggests otherwise.

How’s it possible for the world’s most hunted man with a $50 million bounty on his head to live next to a military base close to Islamabad and go unnoticed by Pakistan’s fabled sleuths? These are disturbing questions that no one seems to have any answers for.

Whoever is responsible for this mess, they’ve put Pakistan in a rather nice spot, perhaps like never before in its history. The ever voracious and vicious television networks across the border haven’t stopped partying since. It’s the great Pakistan barbecue season all over again.

All his life Bin Laden had been an enigma and a perpetual source of concern to his distinguished clan and the land of his birth. Now he has visited a calamity on the folks who hosted and worked with him during the glorious decade of the Afghan jihad.

Lest we forget the commander of the faithful in that “holy war” against the so-called “Evil Empire” was none other than the leader of the free world. Uncle Sam headed the Western coalition as he does now. Pakistan was only their second lieutenant, a facilitator if you will. Only when the music stopped, Pakistan was left holding the baby. Everyone went home and it had to live with the mess that was left behind. Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, Taleban and the whole rag-tag army of various other groups are a blast from the past that the West doesn’t want to have anything to do with today.

When the tide turned after 9/11 and Pakistan went with the flow, the chickens came home to roost. Bin Laden came home to where he thought he belonged. His final suicide mission was to blow up his former friends and the land that sheltered him.

However, the ultimate victim of the misguided missile that the billionaire Bin Laden fired had been the faith that he claimed to champion. He brought nothing but disgrace and disaster to Muslim lands and fellow believers. More Muslims than the Westerners or Christians and Jews have died as a direct consequence of Al-Qaeda attacks, or by those that were inspired by his murderous ideology. A noble religion of 1.6 billion believers has come to be condemned as a death cult, with all Arabs and Muslims being tarred as terrorists. For which Bin Laden will not perhaps be ever forgiven by Muslims.

Yet you can’t help a twinge of sadness at the tragic end Bin Laden has met — far from the land of his birth that he so loved. He was driven by the belief — hopelessly distorted as it was — that he was fighting to free Muslim lands and for justice for the Palestinians, Afghans and for the oppressed everywhere.

Muslims never identified with OBL or condoned his appalling crimes. They, however, understood what forced a quiet young man to kick his billion-dollar fortune and take up arms. He struck a chord in not just Arabs and Muslims but in the dispossessed everywhere by taking on the big bullies who have killed more innocents and wreaked more destruction on our world than a million Bin Ladens could have managed in their life time.

Besides, the way this whole charade has been played out with President Obama and his aides “coolly” watching the action live in real time as if it was a baseball game, and his body being dumped into the Arabian Sea has only added to their disgust and outrage. Using all that overwhelming force to kill an unarmed, ailing man without a trial. So much for America’s fabled justice system and due process!

Shouldn’t Bin Laden have been put on the trial for the crimes he has been accused of? What was the hurry to buy him at sea? What was it that America was trying to cover? And how’s Obama’s justice different from the “dead-or-alive” cowboy retribution of his predecessor?

But dead or alive, we haven’t heard the last of this yet. Bin Laden may be dead and gone; his cause is not. Others will take his place and may already have. If the world is to prevent the rise of more Bin Ladens, it must take its scalpel to the festering cancer of injustice and oppression in the Holy Land. Now that the so-called architect of 9/11 is gone, the US has no pretext or business to be in Afghanistan-Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Bin Laden has taken with him to his watery grave the West’s raison d’être for its imperial project in the Muslim world.

Aijaz Zaka Syed is a widely published columnist. Write to him at [email protected]

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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