The murder of Osama bin Laden by the United States government at Abbottabad in Pakistan on May 2 was a drab farce, after the tragedy of 9/11 and its aftermath (and coming in the wake of the Arab awakening it does seem rather placid). The US government in its self-imposed position as the world policeman invaded the territory of Pakistan to kill Osama within what Barack Obama described as the longest 40minutes of his life. An unarmed bin Laden, as the US reported, was shot dead for putting up resistance. With what, whence he was unarmed? Your guess is as good as mine. But just perhaps the Uncle Sam realised an Osama bin Laden’s trial could bring much more embarrassment for it than the justice it took to him. The farce was not over with the murder. After Islamic rites for the dead, the corpse of the bearded Sheik of terror was bundled with a huge stone and “buried” in the North Sea to become food for fish.
This is the American story about Osama’s death. The Iranian state declared it has information to the effect that Osama was dead years back. A number of writers have also tried to perpetuate that myth hinged on renal failure he is said to have suffered from for years, while his sons demanded evidence of their father’s death. All such talk could be said to have been put to rest with the official statement by al-Qaeda on May 6, confirming the success of Operation Geronimo (as the American military establishment christened those 40minutes and related days before it). Eleven days after that, not less than 74 police recruits were killed by twin bomb blasts that have been declared as the first act of al-Qaeda retaliation, in the Charsadda district of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.
Oppressors the world over maintain their continued domination of the lives and minds of people through some extent of social amnesia. Uncle Sam will want us to remember, but what it wants us to remember is that which numbs deeper remembrances. The sheer daredevilry of the attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, that fateful day in 2011, with the loss of some 3,000 persons in what would eventually become Ground Zero, is considered the limits of what we are to remember about Osama bin Laden. This of course is tied in with the earlier terror attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and that on one of its ships off the coast of Yemen. We are also made to remember that al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula and in Iraq have continued this evil, supposedly prepared and stirred by bin Laden, just as some of his disciples’ unleashed bloody mayhem in London on 7/7/2005.
We do remember all these, and unequivocally condemn such terroristic disposition. But our memory and consideration of the present cannot end with these flashes of the past “glory” of Osama and his like, which a few still (hope to) live. We cannot but remember that Osama bin Laden’s ascendancy was with the support of the United States and Britain, in Afghanistan. The Frankenstein that was murdered in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden, was very much a creation of the United States and its Western allies. They had supported the al-mujahedeen in their battles against the Soviet puppet-government in Afghanistan and created such movie hero characters like Rambo out of it.
It was however not just through such direct ties that the West created its own nemesis of some sort. The embers of faith in the destructive pathway of terror have been fired by much more than stinger guns and rocket launchers. Disillusionment, discontent and anger are some of the elements that have led, not a few pairs of feet, to the training camps in Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia & Yemen. The unjust system which America has been the major guarantor of since the Second World War and the arrogant imperial posture of the American state in world affairs have earned it quite a fair share of enemies. Indeed, the origins of Osama’s turning the sights of his guns towards the states of the West lies in anger that filled him (and many Saudis) in 1992 with the influx of yankee soldiers into Saudi Arabia after Saddam’s ill-fated annexation of Kuwait. He would also strengthen his hand and anti-Western convictions in Bosnia Herzegovina, another theatre of imperialist intervention at the end of the last century.
The arrogant and disdainful jaunt of yankee imperialism has been well flavoured with the brash use of state terrorism. In several third world countries, the assassinations of serving heads of states have been traced to the doorsteps of the United States government. Soldiers and secret police officers were trained in Latin America during the 1960s/70s on how to use torture to prise out information from individuals and how to use mass terror to cow restive populations. Operation Condor was one of the means for these evil training on terror by the United States. By the end of the 1970s when its “dirty war” was wound down, tens of thousands of Argentines, Brazilians, Chileans, Mexicans, etc had been killed or simply “disappeared”, many of these after the most gruesome of murders.
1979 marked a turning point, for the whole world in different ways, and for Osama bin Laden in the trajectory of what would be his life which ended as America’s Public Enemy Number One. The victory of Margaret Thatcher in Britain (and Ronald Reagan in the US, the year after) signalled the coming to an end of the days of belief in the West as much as in the East, despite the Cold War, that, the state should play a key role in the provision of employment and social services and the building of infrastructure. In the “developing world”, such states were known as developmental states, while in the advanced capitalist countries, these were welfare states. In the Middle-East, oil-flushed monarchies had created quasi-welfare states, reducing the citizenry’s general poverty, while their Emirs and Kings lived in stupendously ostentatious splendour. America’s continued propping up of the Zionist state of Israel, which kept (and still keeps) Palestinians in a state of thrall was for many young men and women the most painful sore to live with.
As the neoliberal counter-revolution took its lunge towards global spread through Thatcherism and Reaganomics, two key moments took place in the Islamic world. The revolution of working people in Iran which had passed through some three tumultuous years ended as an Islamic revolution, establishing a radical theocratic. This radicalised several youths, the second moment would provide an outlet for many of them to fight for the banner of Islam. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Along with the Afghans who have been known since the time of Alexander the Great to be fierce, die-hard fighters, hundreds, indeed, thousands of Arab jihadists flocked in to face the invading Red Army of what was known as the “Soviet Union”, with the full support of the United States, the United Kingdom and a number of other Western countries through what was called Operation Cyclone. That same year, Osama bin Laden finished his studies at the University. He needed very little prompting by his mentor, Abdullah Assam to join the jihadist fray in Afghanistan. The genie had been let out of the bottle.
The genie however was not Osama bin Laden. He merely gives it a face, one of many faces, even if this is a very ugly and mangled one. The genie is the countering-spirit of what has swept through the world from the 1980s, bearing the banner of neoliberal globalization. The emergence of an Osama and similarly minded (would-be) terrorists reflect deeper contradictions. The general state of deprivation and despair in the world as the triumph of individualism is crooned by the neoliberals creates the atmosphere for aspiring messiahs & martyrs, who can relate the situation of the masses to the devilishness of the Western kaffirs and are ready to lay their lives down for what they consider as remedy of the situation. The failed attempt in Afghanistan represented part of the death throes of the “USSR”, and the gradual erosion of the Cold War era’s bi-polar world. In the uni-polar world of pax Americana, and with rising discontent all over the world, where fundamentalists could not only find theocratic states to inspire them, but also where bases for training already existed from an earlier war, 9/11 had been a disaster waiting to happen, in the period of lull in the masses self-activity that the opening of the Century was just trying to shake itself from.
The Zapatistas tried to shake up the world and the return of mass action against oppression in 1994. Their cries would be taken up again in 1999 by workers, youths, trade unions, ngos and Left groups that took over the streets in Seattle. But the world has probably never gone through such heady and glorious hours and days as those this present spring of revolutionary awakening in the Middle East and North Africa, have brought, for almost a century. The mass actions of millions of people have swept off longstanding dictators like Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak while battles still rage for the soul of Libya and the Arab revolution continues its contentions in Syria & Yemen, while it seems, for now, to have been snuffed out by Saudi Arabia &c. in Bahrain. In none of all these was al-Qaeda and its cohorts to be seen anywhere near! The dark hours of the individual terrorist in the shadows have been shown for what they are; empty moments.
The murder of Osama bin Laden after the blossoming of the Arab spring cannot but be an anti-climax. It is equally very unlikely though, that this act would reduce the spread of terror; while America’s imperialist hegemony still subsists.