Sunday, September 24, 2006

Would it matter?

A French newspaper has quoted a leaked intelligence report as saying that the Saudi Arabian government believes Osama bin Laden died of Typhoid in Pakistan a month ago. While refusing to confirm or deny anything, the French government has launched an inquiry into the leak.

There's too much of an aspect of "my brother's friend's cousin's tatooist said..." in this for it to be believed in the absence of a body (that's what we did for Pol Pot, after all). But it raises an interesting question: would it matter if OBL was dead?

At this stage, I don't think so. The US's overreaction to 9/11, its mindless quest for vengeance around the world, and the total lack of regard it has shown for civilian lives, international law, or simple morality in the process has transformed Al Qaeda from a bunch of loons living in caves into something much worse: an idea. And as Alan Moore pointed out in V for Vendetta, ideas are bulletproof. You can kill the people who believe them, but that does you no good if you do it in such a way that two more spring up in their place.

Knowledge of the tools and techniques of terrorism has spread. The US occupation of Iraq and its programme of rendition and torture and indefinite detention have provided a running sore of atrocities to motivate people to pick up those tools and use them. Osama bin Laden is now, in a sense, irrelevant; the only way this is going to stop is when the anger subsides. And given the scale of atrocity so far, that could take a while.


OBL's death could be great excuse for "declaring victory" and going home.

"job done. We won, you lost - if there is any doubt try to find where your house used to be"

Posted by Genius : 9/24/2006 01:32:00 PM

Personally I suspect OBL has been dead since about Nov 2001 and that the US Administration has been using him as a bogeyman ever since.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/24/2006 01:37:00 PM

It's really unlikely the US government would keep quiet about bin Ladens death. They want people focused on Iraq and Iran. bin Ladens continued existence is both embarrasing and inconvinient for the Bush Administration.

Does it matter if he's dead? Bin Laden had two big strengths as a leader: his abilty to raise funds through his connections in Saudi Arabia and his ability to recruit new members to his cause.

I doubt many Saudis are donating cash to Al Qaeda these days since the penalty for doing so is death. Ditto for recruitment. If you're a young man in Egypt or KSA and you want to fight a holy war you're gonna go to Iraq or Somalia, not Aghanistan.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/25/2006 10:51:00 AM