Monday, 2 May 2011

Feeding the beast


Bin Laden is dead. The news is now round the world. I woke up to it early this morning, discovering it not through the usual media but from an alert in my inbox from Bob Mack, a friend and fellow blogger. I couldn't quite believe it - perhaps it was a mistake, maybe the facts are not conclusive. I immediately messaged Bob;

"Bob, I’m just out of bed, just checking my mail and I saw this. I heard it first from you! Is it really, really true? There’s no doubt, is there? Do they have a body? I’m so glad if it’s true. I was tempted to refer to this creature as a rat on two legs, though, on reflection, I thought that unfair to rats."

Yes, he confirmed, it's true, quoting a news report from the Army Times. I gather it was a consequence of an operation by the elite Navy Seals unit, with groundwork in preparation for months. These brave American servicemen are to be congratulated, should be congratulated by decent people across the world, people for whom Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda are an abomination, the work of the Devil, the agents of Iblis. Nothing can ever make up for the attacks on New York and London; nothing can ever bring the many victims of these vile people back to life, but at least some justice has at last been achieved, and some justice is better than no justice. That Bin Laden is off the face of this planet has to be a cause of immediate celebration.

I'm happy; I'm sure just about everyone else who reads this will be happy also, but I think this should be tempered with caution. We should always be aware of the nature of terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda; that they are amorphous, formless, almost like gas; they can operate through multiple locations without any central control. From watching past news reports, from watching Bin Laden's periodic broadcasts from some isolated and indeterminate location, it's fairly obvious that he had lost much of the importance that he once had, that he had become little more, if you like, than an avatar. A head has been cut of the hydra but the beast is not dead; other heads will appear from other places.

I know, it's a sobering thought, not one that perhaps we really want to hear at this point in time, but all the more necessary simply to ensure that we retain a proper sense of balance. Bin Laden is dead; terror is not, we all know that. Al-Qaeda has received an important blow to its morale, but it will soon recover, in possible revenge attacks. This is not the end, it's not the beginning of the end, and, I have to say, it is not even the end of the beginning. I also have to say that it was a gross error to get rid of his body, get rid of the evidence, so quickly. This is the stuff from which myths, and conspiracy theories, are hatched.

There are also serious questions that have to be addressed about the deeply misconceived 'war on terror', questions about our involvement in wars in the Muslim world, places where we have no business, where we achieve nothing; places like Afghanistan and now Libya, where the war on terror has degenerated into terror. The deeper our engagement, the more collateral damage, the greater the hydra becomes, sucking, like a vampire, on resentment, anger and hate. This is something that is not easily defeated, not even by the most careful intelligence and the bravest of soldiers. Yes, Al-Qaeda is a vile organisation but by one ill-conceived action after another we have been feeding the beast, not killing it.

34 comments:

  1. ana, due to some reason i had to jump to the last paragraph, and i found you have summarized some very complicated situation beautifully.
    personally, i have ambivalent feeling about such "operations".
    will be back to read more.

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  2. The death of OBL made a nice retirement present for me, placing a final seal on a significant portion of my working life.

    The first decade of the 21st century has been dominated by this ill-conceived conflict. It may well continue through the 2nd decade, as much out of habit as need. I look forward to a change of strategy that makes the entire issue irrelevant. At this point, I have no idea what that might be, but I am certain that this nonsense cannot be allowed to persist as a permanent state of affairs.

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  3. Yun Yi, my friend, you will always be welcome.

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  4. Calvin, I will be twenty-five at the end of next month. I suspect that I will still be writing about these things when I am sixty-five, if I am not killed off beforehand by a dirty bomb.

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  5. This is a publicity stunt by Obama to get his popularity ratings up before the next presidential election. More than likely Osama has been dead for some time of critical wounds he recieved when the US bombed the caves he was hiding in on the Packistan border a few years back. He was silent for a long time, then Al-Qaeda released pre-recorded messages from him. They shot some tall Afghan in the face twice and immediately disposed of the body at sea. They say that they have conclusive DNA evidence but that is just paper like the Kenyan's birth cirtificate , the real evidence is fish food. This is highly unusual as enemy combatant bodies are sent to Ramstein Germany for identification processing and disposal and someone of this importance?

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  6. Like that toothy old Count from the Carpathian Mountains, the evil ones keep coming back from the dead. A prudent society will always keep a good supply of sharpened stakes on hand.

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  7. When I was 25, the American Republic was 201, Her Majesty had recently celebrated a Silver Jubilee, Disco and Punk were new, and the Iranian hostage crisis was two years in the future. Mao still ruled China, and Breshnev ruled the USSR, Pol Pot was murdering his own people by the tens of thousands. James Callaghan was mismanaging the UK almost to the point of collapse; Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan had yet to come to power. In many ways, today's world is much better and safer - Islam is not nearly the threat international Communism posed. If events continue to accelerate during the coming decades as they have in my lifetime, it's going to be a hell of a rush :-)

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  8. Nice analysis...and your post raises the right questions. I found your writing very effective.

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  9. Anthony, I've seen that suggested but if it's a stunt it would have come in useful at the time of the mid-terms or held off to 2012. It's still too far from the presidentil election. Cudos gained will have worn off well before then. But, as I say, the quick disposal of the remains was a clear mistake.

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  10. Calvin, that's quite a range! Actually I envy you in some ways. Your world seems somehow clearer, the enemy the more evident, the lines of demarcation more obvious. Now everything seems such a flux. I have serious worries for the future of my nation.

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  11. If rumours are to be believed, Osamas compound lacked even a telephone line.

    To believe him in control of anything is folly.

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  12. Not by mistake but by intention, big difference.

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  13. The Americans have delivered a message. Attack us and we will kill you, even if it takes ten years. The Israelis deliver the same message to their Arab opponents and now NATO is delivering it to the Libyan leader. Do you remember sometime last year when a terrorist in Yemeni was cruising along in his pickup when a drone exterminated him with a missile. They have nowhere to hide.

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  14. Very well summed up. There may be others to take Bin Laden's place but at least he will never gloat again at any attempts to kill westerners, and if we can kill him we can also get to any other idiot who is willing to take his place.

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  15. Anastasia this is a brilliant post. You are totally right about caution, the problem with fanaticism is death creates martyrs and martyrs thrive on death. We seem to inhabit a manichean universe. The real answer is the right strategy.

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  16. Just an optical illusion, Ana. Everything looks like a mess of insanely intricate detail close up. Distance lends perspective. Try thinking how you 'want' the world to be 40 years from now, and then work to make it so. Today's crises will take care of themselves on the way.

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  17. I am not sure how we, the supposed 'civilised' west, can take any form of moral high ground when we rejoice -as everyone is clearly doing- in the killing of Bin Ladin in such cold blooded fashion.

    If we really wanted to put the fear of god into them, we should have subjected him to our most fearsome weapon: English Common Law. Put him before a jury in a foreign land where he does not understand the language well (naturally things will have to be translated). Convict him of the most heinous crime possible and make him sit in prison until he dies. Yes, it will cost the tax-payer money but surely that punishment is infinitely more desirable than making a martyr out of the man, and what is surely worse: letting him off easy by killing him with bullet to the head.

    I think it rather barbaric to rejoice in such tyrannical use of force to 'take out' the most wanted man on earth. If we really wanted to stand tall, with our heads well above the fray, we should have ignored what he had done to us and bring him to justice, our justice.

    Right now we are no better than them.

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  18. Michael, agreed, with the exception of Libya, which has not been an enemy for some years. I'm going to add something on this tomottow.

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  19. Richard, thanks and welcome to my blog. :-)

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  20. Spitfire, I don't know all of the details but I think he was offered the option of surrender. In some ways that might have been better, better to put him on trial; in other ways worse, a living hero rather than a dead martyr. Our justice will never be recognised by some.

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  21. @ M.J.Mc: Nato to The libyan stongman "give us controll of your oil or we will kill your grandchildren"

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  22. yes, I agree that terrorism is not easily defeated. and I realy fed up with them, you know ana, many terorists in my country. but, at least we should not stop to eradicate them.

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  23. Maya, yes I know you've had some terrible problems. We have too.

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  24. NATO to Libyan dictator - stand down or we will kill you. Personally I would just kill him - remember Lockerbie, the IRA, the policewoman and so on.

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  25. Michael, yes but these things happened years ago and cannot now be resurrected as a causus belli. Make no mistake, I abhor Gaddafi, but he was a man with whom we were doing business before this. I can make no sense of our present policy, in political, military or strategic terms, as you are about to find out.

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  26. There is no evidence that Bin Laden is dead. None at all. None at all. Yesterday my tongue accidentally slipped during a conversation to utter "Obama bin Laden" and earlier 'Obama's been Laden.' By the way burial at sea is not in accord with Islamic Law. That was a foolish move, Saudi Arabia's royals who have family connections with Bin Laden requested the body but were refused. There will be endless theories about it now.

    This will either make or break him. I don't think bin Laden's death or not makes the world a safer place to live in. I smell a rat. Especially now that America is trying to squirm out of why the heck he was 'buried at sea.' Everyone knows that burial at sea is not the Islamic custom. There is no evidence that he was caught at all and the US and Britain are being slaughtered in Libya. Rather than admit that after a decade they still can't find him they hatch up this ... personally I can see no reason to believe them, we've all been had several times before. I just feel upset and sorry for the innocent civilians caught in the middle of all this. People who don't know how dirty a game international politics has become (or always was, really), helpless people who are helpless to save their own lives and those of their loved ones, there have already been 3 suicide bombs in Pakistan as a backlash (at my last count). No doubt there will be others across the world. The twisted and perverted ideology remains and it serves western interests in the middle and far east. Especially in Pakistan.

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  27. Rehan, the whole thing has been atrociously handled.

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