Party Poopers and the Curse of Legacies.

Am I glad that Osama Bin Laden is dead?

Well, let’s put it this way: I’m glad he’s not free to inspire another little Muslim boy to strap a suicide vest around himself and attempt to blow people up.  I’m glad he’s not planning the next large terrorist attack.

I would have preferred it if he’d been captured alive and put on trial. But I think it’s naive to think that was ever going to happen. For one thing, Navy Seals and Special Forces aren’t really known for their live captures (not that I’m criticizing them. I think they did their job and my hat off to them). But secondly, it didn’t really suit anyone to have him put on trial. After all, the prosecution would be asked to show how the extraordinary renditioning of hundreds and the illegal and indefinite incarceration, and torture of combatants at Guantanamo Bay led to his apprehension. More likely they’d just proclaim all that information out of bounds in ‘the interest of national security’. It would be messy. This is neater.

I would have preferred not to have to witness crowds of people gathering in Times Square and in front of the Whitehouse braying out their national anthem and singing ‘ding dong the witch is dead’ and generally comporting themselves with savage schadenfreude. It looked a lot like the impromptu celebrations that took place in Muslim countries when the Twin Towers fell. And I wanted to be able to expect something a little more serious and civilized from Americans. But hey, people are people, right? All over the world.

The Guardian has behaved itself and issued a very good and interesting Obituary for Osama Bin Laden. And I have to ask myself – was it worth it? After all, the 9/11 attack was the impetus for the Iraq war, not just the invasion of Afghanistan. So, over 7,000 coalition soldiers, 100,000 Iraqis and at least 20,000 Afghans are dead.

It’s worth remembering that the last casualty in this war, before the capture of Bin Laden, was the nameless, innocent Pakistani woman some devoutly religious man used as a human shield when the Special Forces came through the door shooting.

Well, c’est la vie. We don’t care about nameless Pakistani women any more than they do in Pakistan, where tribal elders sentence them to be gang-raped for something their brother did.

So, what will be this man’s legacy?

In my mind, it will be that in leading Al Qaeda in a jihad against the Western world, he effectively distracted many young Muslims from fighting the appalling tyranny taking place in their own countries.  After all, having a common demonized enemy has always been an effective way to shift the population’s attention off trouble brewing at home.

His actions legitimized countless brutal and corrupt leaders all over the Arab world, because the US saw them as strong men who could stand up to those dreaded and tenacious fundamentalists Muslim movements all over the Middle east who were all, we are assured, in cahoots with him.

Personally, I think Al Qaeda’s day was over the moment that Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo and demanded the ousting of Mubarak. From Morocco to Tunisia, from Syria to Yemen and Bahrain, the Islamic world is starting to look inward for a cure to what ails it. I don’t think they have much time to hate us now. They’ve found the local culprits of their misery and are taking their complaints to the streets.

I think his legacy is going to be that his war against the West was a sham. That it perpetuated and entrenched everything he said he despised. His terrorism had the opposite effect to what was intended.

And that’s a pathetic legacy, richly deserved.

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