Cool and calm wins the race. Eight years after George W. Bush declared mission accomplished when it patently was not, his successor Barack Obama has actually accomplished something, gruesome as it may be. Unfortunately Osama's demise is not the end of terror as we know it
There’s an old saying that if you wait by the river long enough you will eventually watch your enemy floating by. It is poignant in terms of the demise of Osama bin-Laden because there’s another saying often used to draw a distinction between the ‘terrorists’ and those who have declared war on them – that the West has all the watches but the terrorists (read Al Qaeda and the Taliban) have all the time.
Well, not so much.
Hilary Clinton put it well when she announced to the terrorists that this proves they cannot out-wait America.
However, before getting too carried away like those involved in bizarre scenes of jubilation in Times Square or at Ground Zero, it is perhaps wise to sprinkle a little rain on this parade.
First, well done to the patience of the US intelligence service and their current Commander-in-Chief – although it is a little creepy to be celebrating an assassination of any sort.
Watching and waiting have not been qualities in great supply in the first years of response to 9/11, but Obama has certainly provided it in spades during the last few months since he was first briefed on the real possibility that bin Laden was within US sights. Laser-like vs shock and awe wins the day.
Perhaps Obama may now be forgiven for taking so long to produce his long form birth certificate. It wasn’t that the dog had eaten his homework after all. It was that he was rather busy on real issues such as catching the world’s most wanted man.
Don’t hold your breath on Obama getting the credit however. Donald Rumsfeld is clinging to the line that bin Laden was caught following intelligence that came from Guantanamo prison, which he just so happened to set up. Let Rummy think what he likes because what he thinks really doesn’t matter any more.
It will be interesting to now watch for the conspiracy theories that will no doubt arise because Al Qaeda’s No.1 was “buried at sea”. Why not bring his bullet-ridden body back to the States so you can prove he’s dead. You know, like a long form birth certificate proves you are an American – providing of course it is not forged! Others will ask why there was any reverence paid to the Muslim tradition of burying the dead within 24 hours of death since bin Laden had no respect for the lives or human dignity of others. But really if some want to take these lines, who really cares about the conspiracists any more?
As Obama ribbed Trump at the Washington Correspondents dinner the other night, Trump now having ‘forced’ the President to produce his long form birth certificate can get on with really important issues such as investigating whether the Moon landing was faked.
Respecting Muslim tradition surrounding burial was smart because the ‘war’ is not against Muslims, and burying (or perhaps dumping?) bin Laden at sea avoids having an exact location of martyrdom at which to build a shrine.
But now for the rain. Unfortunately cutting off the head of this snake does not mean it will slither away into oblivion.
Al Qaeda is an ideology, not a man. Granted it is an ideology that seems to be struggling as its lack of presence during the so-called Arab Spring shows. Muslims in troubled Middle East countries are not in the streets shouting for the institution of Shar’ia law and death to America. Al Qaeda has been nowhere to be seen for the very reason that it can’t produce jobs, health care or political change.
Shooting bin Laden out of the picture is a huge blow to his self-styled multinational organization, just as getting rid of any figurehead is, but this is not the end of terror or Al Qaeda.
His was the face on the ‘Wanted’ poster, but there are many followers who wish to be just as wanted by the West, and they will see him as a martyr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No. 2, is still around and while he doesn’t exactly come across as a charismatic replacement, he can still mix the Kool Aid.
And don’t forget the promise is to inflict death by a thousand cuts. These will be very much on the minds of the US and other administrations throughout the world.
But so too will be the role of America’s ‘great and trusted ally’, Pakistan.
What a shambles. Here was the king of terror living in a huge walled compound an hour’s flight from Islamabad and 800m from a Pakistani military academy within a largely military town of Abbottabad!
It is impossible to believe that the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, did not know who was in this compound which was many many times larger than any other residential address. Sure it didn’t have internet or phone lines, but didn’t someone in a Pakistani uniform ever wonder, just a little bit, what was going on behind those walls?
It proved the perfect cover to be right next door. Like the jewel thief who stands around outside the store after the robbery. Who’d have thought to look in the Pakistani military backyard when there are all those caves in Tora Bora to go fruitlessly searching through?
The Americans may have some explaining to do about breaching the sovereignty of a state and conducting a covert operation to assassinate – and it was without doubt a kill mission as opposed to a capture mission.
But before Pakistan jumps up and down about the breach of its borders, it also has some explaining to do about just how serious it really is when it comes to spending billions of US dollars combating terrorism. It would also be good if Asif Ali Zardari provides some explanation quickly so he can shut down the gloating coming from his Afghan neighbour Hamid Karzai.