Osama bin Laden, r.i.p.

The attack in Abbotabad that removed Osama once and for all constitutes an act of war by our government that I consider morally justified and strategically useful. It is different from antiseptic drone attacks along the AfPak border (which I’ve opposed in a previous essay), that may or may not remove second or third echelon Taliban leaders, while inflicting inevitable “collateral damage”. Bin Laden was the top leader of a loose collection of terrorist bands dedicated to doing us harm. His removal may lead to fragmentation in the ranks of his followers and to some kind of leadership struggle. Unlike the drone attacks it is unlikely to cause us more pain in the long run than gain. It was a pukka military action carried out in a way that does credit to our armed services.

I find it interesting that our administration is leading right off with a fairly detailed account of how our clever intelligence operatives, without any explicit help from the Pakistanis, uncovered the secret of where and how they found out where Osama has been hiding, and how they yanked him out from a house right next to a military cantonment while their soldiers were off drinking tea someplace. It’s a case of the lady protesting too much. So be it. If our public stance denies Pakistani involvement, and thereby helps the government of Pakistan and the ISI get off the hook, why not?

But just between us, it is simply not credible that the Pakistani authorities had the guy right under their noses all these years without knowing about him. It is far more credible that Osama was a ward of the state, being held as a wild card, to play when it might become most advantageous. I consider it plausible that his wardens had gradually come to the conclusion that for various reasons the time had come to let his enemies have him. I’ve seen a theory that there may have been an understanding at a high level that we might show our gratitude at collaring bin Laden by pulling a little less crosswise against the ISI in our influence over Karzai’s negotiations with the Taliban. Speculative, but there are a lot of wheels within wheels in the region these days, and if that was not the deal then there may have been something equally complex.

Never mind. It’s been a long time since the American public had much in the way of good news from that part of the world. It’s almost gotten to where we don’t recognize it any more. Relax, fellow citizens, this is a good thing. And enjoy.


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4 Responses to Osama bin Laden, r.i.p.

  1. Beverly Spicer says:

    Beautifully written, well said. Though I really don’t believe the Pakistani government has been keeping him as a wild card….rather, I think we have. Reports of Bin Laden’s death in December 2001 were widespread and published in a Pakistani newspaper. Later, Benazir Bhutto referred to his death in an interview with David Frost in November of 2007, before her own assassination in December of that year. You can easily find both documentation and a YouTube video of Bhutto saying it with google and YouTube search. So really, I think the US has had he news of his death on ice for 10 years, waiting until we we fully set the banquet table for a further feasting on the Middle East, and the announcement is merely the dinner bell. I believe there will be much coming down the pike that will make this good news vanish very quickly. The NYT obituary of Bin Laden ended with this, and I’m paraphrasing: Bin Laden’s greatest hope should he be killed was that his supporters would rise up against his murderers. Table set. Dinner bell rung. Appetizers soon to be served and the feast will soon commence.

    • Thoth says:

      This conversation here prompts me to distinguish between two categories of conspiracy theories. In the first category, the conspiracy theories seem like fair reality based guesses. In the second category the conspiracy theories seem a little too wildly disentangled from a multifaceted reality.

      I am neither convinced of either Ambassador Coon’s guess of what more there might be on the Pakistani side of this story nor of your guess at something more on the American side Ms. Spicer, but the two guess strike me as being on very different ends of the spectrum of conspiracy theories. Ambassador Coon’s theory seems to be in the first, plausible category; whereas your theory Ms. Spicer, feels too painfully disconnected from reality. This is why:

      In the observable world it appears to us that there are many actors on the world stage–not just one. Osama bin Laden’s followers have not previously been calling for revenge for his supposed earlier death. Furthermore, Osama bin Laden was still transmitting messages to Al Jazeera that the militants of the world were NOT decrying as fakes all these years on their hate filled websites. In fact, bin Laden released 8 messages last year alone which helped us tracked down finally where those message where coming from.

      Therefor, to suppose that everything in this story revolves around the U.S. manufacturing reality in a vacuum any way it likes just seems like too much of a denial that there are other actors on the world stage other than just the U.S. government. It seems like a weird twist on solipsism in a way. The term comes from Latin solus (alone) and ipse (self). Generally it means to think that one’s own conscious thought life is the center of reality and that nothing else is really real or relevant; however, in the sense I’m wringing out of the word, I’m suggesting that conspiracy theories obsessing about U.S. government scandals of deceit with no regard to other restraints from outside the U.S. seem to create a kind of weird solipsistic un-reality bubble around the U.S. government rather than the individual generating the fantasy.

      We don’t live in a dream world that is manufactured by the U.S. government in which this government can just dream up whatever reality it likes to feed to us. To think it can leads to fringe nuttiness. Beware least you step of the cliff reality into the free fall of wild free-associative fantasy in these kinds of “second category” conspiracy theories.

      I am deeply disturbed that Osama bin Laden was found a few dozen meters from one of Pakistan’s most prestigious military academies and a mere 30 or so miles from the capitol. I hope Ambassador Coon is wrong about the Pakistani’s knowing about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts for a long time, but I’m afraid he might be right.

      On the other had, I can’t believe for a second that Osama bin Laden died years ago, and that Pakistani rumors from years ago clue us in to some vast U.S. government conspiracy orchestrated in the mass media for a decade, and that said conspiracy was set up so that our government could fake Osama bin Laden’s death when it wanted to pick another fight with militants or sell us some other warmongering scheme. This dinner bell story you write makes a good word picture–but it has about as much rationality in it as the tales in of Alice in Wonderland. There are use for such stories, but that use is not in interpreting reality. Use your imagination to write mnemonic stories to memorize geography or something useful — or just use that imagination to write honest fiction that acknowledges itself as such.

      Please, let’s be level headed and distinguish between fair speculation and wild hysteria that assumes the U.S. government is some black hole like center of the universe around which a few poor little free thinking citizens are being helplessly sucked in. If you’re going to go that route why not just go all the way and say the government is really run by lizard monster aliens in human disguises that eat people secretly. There are a lot more videos on youtube about that theory than there are about Osama bin Laden supposedly dying years ago but youtube hit points don’t make reality–they make entertainment.

  2. Thoth says:

    By R.I.P. do you mean “requiescat in pace” or Reduced Ignition Propensity? The word “pukka” was my favorite in this reflection, but I have a hard time using the letters R.I.P. after Osama bin Laden. Are there other alternatives?

    Osama bin Laden, departed?
    Osama bin Laden, passed away?
    Osama bin Laden, the End?
    The Late Osama bin Laden?
    Or in Arabic, Osama bin Laden, tuwuffiya? تُوُفِّيَ

    Are we required to wish him peace or rest in his departure? Is there something neutral in between wishing someone “R.I.P.” and “burn in hell!” as some people voiced from the streets on National Public Radio today?

    • Thoth says:

      Perhaps wonder is a better human spirit to approach adversaries with than rage — wonder with a grain of salt from Ortega y Gasset philosophy of perspectivism. Perhaps I can sigh and say to any other fellow human being who by definition must be serving a role in our evolution by saying r.i.p. as title of the article states. But it’s taking me a week to get there, and a good deal of meditating on this quote from the Lord of the Rings:

      Frodo: It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance.

      Gandalf: Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.

      Perhaps it would have been better to have captured him rather than to have killed him–if I had had that choice–would I have made it? I don’t know. But now I think it would have been the right and wise thing to do if it was an option. Just as I now say R.I.P. to each human being who lays their life down as a stepping stone on the ladder of evolution. The learning will continue for every, enshallah.

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