By Raffique Shah
May 08, 2011
IT was inevitable, of course, that Osama bin Laden would have met his death at the hands of the “Great Satan”. That he survived the hunt for some 15 years, eluding the world’s best intelligence agencies and killer-squads, is testimony to the man’s ingenuity, his survival skills. Little wonder he evolved from an ordinary freedom fighter to being a legend in his lifetime, a hero to many, a demon to others. Like him or hate him, few will deny that Osama has carved his name in history.
Maybe the US Navy Seals who executed the Al Qaeda leader last Sunday did him a big favour. If we believe what the West says about him—when he was not plotting mass murder on their soil he was busy subverting Arab and other governments—then his exit from earth when regime-change in the Mid-East is coming from popular uprisings, must be a blessing of sorts for “bin”. The masses no longer need guns and bombs and rivers of blood to rid their countries of despots, be they self-proclaimed monarchs or dastardly dictators. They are removing unwanted regimes by sheer force of numbers, by their determination to sacrifice a few lives so that the many can live in relative freedom. Or so they hope.
In this re-written text of how to stage successful revolts, bin Laden became irrelevant. Maybe that was why he spent his final days at a hideout in Abbottabad. The town’s name is itself a contradiction of some fundamentals that Osama supposedly stood for. Abbottabad? That sounds like an unholy mix of Christianity and Islam, a curious choice for an Islamist.
His mansion was another disappointment. The Americans said he was living in luxury while his followers adhered to austerity. When photographs emerged, it turned out that the house was similar to that of some mid-level drug dealer in Trinidad. Dole Chadee lived in a far more impressive compound than “de bin”. But there he was, holed up with his youngest wife, a bunch of children and sundry hangers-on, seemingly working overtime on some outdated computer. The Seals’ “black-ops-squad” allegedly took scores of USB memory-sticks from the house.
He sat in his “shamba” plotting and scheming…and observing developments in Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Libya. He saw a long-standing lackey of the Americans, Hosni Mubarak, bite the dust at the hands of enraged Egyptians. As an ex-lackey of the US—the CIA all but created Al Qaeda in the 1980s—he must have felt some sympathy for Hosni. Then he heard turncoat Gaddafi blame him and al Qaeda for fomenting revolution in Libya. The last straw must have been the rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah in Palestine.
What must a fundamentalist to do in the circumstances? Not exit from earth and take one’s chances in the hereafter? He would not have considered suicide like Hitler did: that’s very un-Islamic. But clearly, it was time for “the bin” to take leave of his mortal being and seek solace in paradise, whether or not he gets his quota of virgins.
When he would have heard the whirring of the Seals helicopters’ rotors, followed by a few muted sounds of gunfire on the outside, he would have been relieved. The Great Satan is here, flying chariots et al, to usher me to paradise. What irony. He knew they would never take him alive. He held too many secrets. The Americans had recruited and funded the Mujahidin, of which he was a member, to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. The US had furnished them with sophisticated weapons and provided experts to train them. We may never know what other “goods” he had on America
Clearly, the Seals had orders to kill him, not take him prisoner. In a courtroom, he could have been a great embarrassment to the White House, the Pentagon, Langley and maybe even to No. 10 Downing Street, London.
Osama must have quietly recited his last “surah” even as the Seals stormed his haven and sent him to heaven…or hell, as many believe. Gone in a flash, a single bullet to the head. In those fleeting moments, he must have thought of his first White House benefactor, Ronald Reagan, who, in the end, wasted away for years, a victim of the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease. He must have wondered, too, about the Bushes, father and son, who both trained him and turned on him: what tortured final days would they face?
Most of all, he must have mused on the irony of a president named Obama “taking out” Osama. But what are brothers-in-fate for, if not to help each other? He knew President Barack’s ratings were low, that he could not get a handle on America’s bed-ridden economy, and worse, that “the brother” was virtually under siege by Palin and her dumb, right-wing rednecks. In death, Osama could do more for Obama.
In death, he could also do more for Al Qaeda than he did during his years in hiding. Which is why those who openly celebrated his demise—and I understand why they did—should face the reality that Osama’s death could signal even more perilous times ahead. America has the propensity for creating monsters that return to haunt its people, most of them innocents. It also violates the sovereignty of other nations at will. Days after Osama’s death, another drone attack in Pakistan enraged large numbers of Muslims across the Mid-East.
If I were an American, I would be afraid…very afraid.