Osama bin Laden Sleeps with the Fishes
I always thought he had a kind face. There was no glimmer of menace in that peaceful and otherworldly countenance; he could have passed for Jesus Christ’s darker brother. He was said to be modest and soft-spoken in his comportment. His face bore no trace of weasely worldliness or venality. He didn’t strut like a Qaddafi or a Saddam Hussein or any other cheap Middle Eastern strongman.
He didn’t need to. The late Osama bin Laden enjoyed the tranquil self-assurance of the 24-karat religious fanatic, one who lives and dies by the certainty that the Creator of the Universe embraces him and reviles all those who don’t share his beliefs. Such colossal certainty has to be a potent drug.
Bin Laden’s gentle face belied his monstrous hatred for the West in general and Americans in particular. The ruthless Chairman Mao had a gentle face, too, but bin Laden’s has to be the most extreme disconnect between appearance and reality that I’ve ever observed.
Now the body of the master terrorist lies untold fathoms below the waves of the Arabian Sea. He drifts among the seaweed and the fishes, inert and senseless… no orgasmic Islamic paradise for this waterlogged martyr. Only a gaping eternity of nothingness awaits him — unless a moral God rules the universe and consigns him to some nightmarish netherworld. How surprised and baffled bin Laden would be to awaken in the lowest region of Islamic hell.
When the news broke Sunday evening that a daring U.S. Navy SEAL raid had ended his near-decade as a fugitive, bin Laden couldn’t hear the whoops and cheers of the jubilant American crowds. I find it hard to feel jubilant over anyone’s death, but I can understand the party-in-the-streets atmosphere that prevailed during that memorable night. Obama had taken out Osama, like the Western hero that George W. Bush had aspired to be. What a triumph for our harried, much-maligned and rapidly graying Commander in Chief!
The epochal 9/11 terrorist attack orchestrated by bin Laden had ushered in America’s darkest decade since the Civil War. Disenchantment ran deep as we endured two financial meltdowns and two extended, unpopular and inconclusive wars. Political and cultural animosities sundered us and drove us to the brink of civil discord. Now, with the death of bin Laden, the darkness seems to have lifted, at least for the moment. We feel vindicated at long last, though the Islamic terrorist movement continues to simmer and we undoubtedly haven’t seen the last of it.
Even more important, we seem to feel united — something we haven’t felt as a nation in nearly a decade, something we left behind on the smoking rubble of the World Trade Center. United in outrage that September, we essentially split into two nations as Bush the Younger led us down the path to war in Iraq. Now the two strands promise to converge again. As much as it seems uncivil to celebrate a death, the demise of Osama bin Laden could prove to be just the salvation we needed. Sometimes the best revenge is revenge.
A few random New Moderate observations…
President Obama would make a world-class poker player. The man can keep a secret — not always a good thing, but in this case it was a crucial thing. Nothing about his comportment, even during the White House corrrespondents’ dinner a few nights before, betrayed any knowledge of the secret operation already in progress.
Obama hunted down Osama by adhering to Bush administration policies. Surprise! Candidate Obama vowed that he’d dismantle the Guantanamo gulag and remove us from the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of war. He never made good on his promises. Instead, he obtained crucial intelligence from Gitmo captives and maintained our military presence in Asia, both of which enabled us to raid bin Laden’s compound. Sometimes you have to give the devil his due.
Bin Laden was “hiding” in plain view for the past five years. A walled million-dollar residential compound rises on an acre of land in a bustling town an hour north of Pakistan’s capital, a stone’s throw from the country’s national military academy. And we’re supposed to believe that the Pakistanis had no idea who was hiding inside? That they never wondered about the identity of their new neighbor? (Didn’t anyone in town ever have to deliver a package or a take-out curry dinner to the mysterious complex?) We seriously need to rethink the extent of our “alliance” with Pakistan. Yes, they’ve got the Bomb. No, we don’t have to pour extensive aid into the country. We’ve got what we wanted… now let’s split.
That goes for Afghanistan, too. The elimination of Osama bin Laden hands us the perfect opportunity for a graceful exit from this unwinnable war. We can’t continue to pour American lives and resources into this bottomless pit. To win in Afghanistan, we’d have to kill every Taliban soldier — an impossible task. Afghanistan is a remote, splintered and ungovernable country. Let’s declare “Mission accomplished!” and get the hell out.
Don’t be surprised if conspiracy nuts insist that bin Laden is alive. A motley contingent of “deathers” will undoubtedly question whether President Obama actually got his man. They’ll deny the validity of the DNA evidence, they’ll insist that bin Laden’s “death photos” have been doctored, they’ll claim that he’s been sighted in Yemen, Ethiopia or Buenos Aires… that our government engaged in a massive deception regarding his death. Conspiracy nuts will always dwell among us. Pay no attention to them.
Will the death of bin Laden inflame Islamist radicals or defuse them? Probably a little of both. We’ll need to boost our vigilance in the short term, but al Qaeda has been decapitated. Somebody will take bin Laden’s place, of course, but nobody in the movement can rival his stature and charisma. An icon of the movement is gone. Just as important, moderate Muslims should feel less intimidated when it comes to speaking out against the radicals who pervert their religion. Suicide bombing and the murder of innocents both violate essential tenets of Islam. The moderates need to take the reins, repudiate the radicals and lead the faithful into the 21st century. About time, too.