Published on 2 May 2011

Osama's gone: Now the real challenge

Osama bin Laden (Reuters)Osama bin Laden: Dead and buried.

It’s not a headline I ever expected to wake up to. Of late I had even begun to wonder whether he was anyway some kind of composite figure. That’s the intrigue of the unseen enemy – he is so easily contorted into whatever you want to make him.

Is he alive/dead/figment of our imagination? But then in the end he was always more “inspirational” than “active”.

Hence his death, even though he has clearly been inactive in recent years beyond a few audio messages, is structurally important. He was a totem for many for whom he was seen as the enemy of their oppression. For the rest, he was a divisive hate figure who polarised communities across the world.

But when I stood amongst the heaving crowds of protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, never the word Osama, bin, nor Laden was ever present – in voice or in written slogan. Osama did not drive the Arab Spring – he was no part of it anywhere.Did the appalling achievement of 9/11 elevate him to a false pedestal of capacity? Almost certainly. His presence in the world has distorted global relationships for two decades. There is no iconic successor to lead what was already a fading movement.

So what now? Pakistan is bound to upheave. Prime Minister Zadari only clung to power courtesy of a patched up deal in the past few days with Musharraf’s Party. He will be personally hugely vulnerable – locally and internationally.

After all, here was Osama holed up in a vast unexplained security compound half a mile from the Pakistani equivalent of  Sandhurst. Structural elements of Pakistan surely must have known he was there. Structural elements of a country with whom we enjoy friendly relations. Was he protected?

Obama too will be more vulnerable in a security sense. But today he was all but re-elected to be the next President of the United States. Osama is dead. The purpose of the Afghan war is done. Even if at the most terrible cost and what is bound to be a long-lasting and unstable aftermath. And Al Qaeda‘s rump? It will attempt a firework display of nasty action – perhaps.

But Osama’s gauntlet still clenches in death. From Bolton to Baghdad, from Düsseldorf to Mumbai, political and community leaders have a vast job on their hands. The challenge now to reach out to the alienated peoples who found in Osama hope and leadership. His fundamentalism feasted on inequality, poverty and hypocrisy.

The Arab Spring will not neutralise these issues in a very long time. The opposition to the Arab spring, rooted in Saudi Arabia, continues to fund Wahabi-ist fundamentalism in schools, madrassas and mosques in Europe and across the developing world.. Great oil wealth vested in a few mediaeval hands continues to spawn the strain of fundamentalism upon which one rich Saudi, Osama Bin Laden lived and died.

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35 reader comments

  1. Saltaire Sam says:

    Just as America has sent a message that it never gives up trying to achieve what it sets out to do, we should probably expect a reply from the terrorists to let us know they are still around.

    The next few months could be very dangerous even if the lack of a figurehead will mark the long term decline of terrorism.

    I was pleaased that Obama sent another message, telling Islamists that the fight is not against them but against those who use Islam as an excuse for their own political struggle. That’s a message that can’t be repeated too often.

    1. Geoff says:

      Certainly Obama has said before that the war isn’t against Islam but as sharia law dictates the whole of Muslim life, it can be extremely difficult to separate religious and political aspects sometimes.

  2. emu says:

    Well apologies to Saltaire,(for mentioning Hitler)but there are still Nazi thugs 65 years after his death.No doubt there will long be those crazed idealist Zealots incapable of peaceful co-existance and normal political interaction long after this death.
    Brainless or brain dead thugs will no doubt supposedly try to avenge the death of a murderer , a mass killer who did not care about human life.Women and children, innocent people were enemies of his twisted manic logic.
    At least he is gone,i believe buried at sea.If so the ideal resting place , one would hope devoid of coffin or covering ,just weighted by chains.

  3. Ray Turner says:

    Can I be one of the first to say good riddance. I hope the world will settle down now that this bad influence has gone, and become a much safer place…

    Not sure it will though, as I’m sure there are many followers who are both willing and capable of stepping into Bin Laden’s sandals…

    1. wondering says:

      This is only the start. This organization is not like ours. when you cut off one head, three more appear. Beware there are more to come. The credit belongs to our troops and the ones that have died to reach this point NOT OBAMA! It takes little to SAY go for it.

    2. Jeani Weenie says:

      I agree completely, but more than anything at the moment, thanks for not releasing the DEAD PHOTOS of him. That would make us equals to Osama Bin Laden.

  4. frenchy says:

    Ray; I, and indeed i’m sure many others share the fear that you are no doubt right.

  5. G says:

    oh, please. The government is covering our eyes as usual. I don’t believe this for a second and slowly people are waking up to the fact that this has all been carefully planned and executed. Why all of a sudden did they find OBL, and just as Obama’s popularity seems to be going down the stinky bog??!! I believe OBL died years ago, google Benazir Bhutto, she talks about OBL dying in 2007 & do some flipping research. Question yourselves and don’t believe everything the media feeds you. Instead use your brain and think, its still legal.

    1. Saltaire Sam says:

      While I share your skepticism about much of the misinformation being put out, I do tend to believe this story on three counts.

      1 Why would the CIA be trying to boost the career of a democratic president?

      2 If OBL died a few years ago, it should be quite easy for his supporters to prove, and I can’t see why the US would present them with a simple propaganda coup.

      3 This is embarrassing for Pakistan and they too are in a very good position to refute it if it is not true.

  6. Y.S. says:

    This bloke has caused so much problems for muslims all around the world. People thought he represented our religion when he didnt. As you noticed in Egypt he was never the leader of the majority of muslims, only the few who were misguided.
    As for the majority of muslim rulers in the middle east, they want all the wealth from their country rather then sharing some of it. Thats why they end up out of power.

  7. Unclemash says:

    The most interesting thing is, yesterday there was an assassination attempt on Col Gaddafi and today the death of Osama. Is this all about diverting the media attention or PR campaign. As a God fearing person I don’t celebrate the death of a friend or enemy

    1. Meg Howarth says:

      In both cases – Gaddafi and OBL – we’re forced to rely on second-hand evidence. No-one knows for sure whether Gaddafi was in the compound which was hit by mortars, likewise G above is surely correct to question the death of OBL, particularly since it seems the body has already been disposed of, an action which is likely to inflame Muslim sentiment according to the editor of the UK-based Al Quds newspaper. Burial at sea is not, apparently, acceptable to Muslims.

    2. emu says:

      Better dead than in prison , but then i support hanging too :)

    3. anniexf says:

      emu, have you such faith in either the police or our legal system (or both)that you can’t believe an innocent person might be executed?
      For me, as long as such a possibility exists, the death penalty is an abomination.

    4. Geoff says:

      So Meg Howarth, if burial at sea is unacceptable to Muslims can we expect more innocent people to be murdered because they don’t like it? As the UN workers were over the stupid actions of that twit of a Pastor in the US.

    5. Moonbeach says:

      Annie, we already have the death penalty only our Government chooses to kill the innocent.

      On average, in the 10 years from 1997 to 2007, police marksmen killed 3 innocent people per year. During the same period, released murderers killed 29 people.

      Mr Blair’s adventure in Iraq killed 200,000 innocent men, women and children at least.

      Why not execute those who are guilty of the most heinous of crimes. True, an innocent person might die but perhaps 6 per year might be saved!

    6. emu says:

      Annie ,there are miscarriages,but far fewer than you would imagine.In the cases were verdicts are overturned it is rarely that the case of innocence has been proved.
      How many murderers/rapists escape justice only to go back into society to repeat their offences.Who do you blame for that , the police the courts,the psychiatrists,the social workers or the offender that you would prefer released?
      I would prefer a posthumous pardon rather than condemn victims because a murderer goes free.

  8. Meg Howarth says:

    ‘The purpose of the Afghan war is done.’ Some might argue that it was the wrong focus and avoidable but for the stubbornness of the US. Will leave it to experienced journalist Jonathan Steele to put Bin Laden and the post-2011 invasion of Afghanistan in historical context: let’s we forget (i) that the CIA backed him in Afghanistan on the grounds of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’; and (ii) that his original demand of the US was that it withdraw its troops from (his country) Saudi Arabia, a request it refused until years after 2011 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    And now the final Bin Laden irony: it seems it was the CIA that organised the assault on the Pakistani compound which led to his death, where once it armed and supported him to fight against the Soviet Union.

    As for Pakistan being unaware of his presence – it seems barely credible, as does the lack of protection.

    Another irony on this royal-wedding-induced bank holiday is, of course, the presence of Wahabi fundamentalist Saudi princes in Westminster Abbey last Friday.

    Meantime, democracy in the UK demands that MPs are elected only when they have more than 50% of the vote, as under AV.

  9. anniexf says:

    Even if one head of this appalling Hydra has been chopped off, many more will appear. I saw some young Americans on tv shouting “It’s over!”
    Sorry, lads, but it isn’t, not by a long way. Almost every Western country now contains terrorist cells, which will no doubt wish to demonstrate Al Qaeda’s continuing power.
    The very knowledgeable & interesting Egyptian journalist who has often appeared on C4 but whose name I can never recall said today on the BBC that when he interviewed OBL he asked him what he really wanted most. OBL said it was to meet God. Well, maybe he’s got his wish?

    1. Mudplugger says:

      I agree – Al Qaeda is not a hierarchical organisation, it is a culture, a philosphy, therefore removing the historic ‘head’ does not impact on the culture – indeed it may act as a further motivation throughout all its operating cells.

      What seems to be forgotten is the root-cause of all the terrorism we have seen in the past 20 years, and will see for the next 20. It is the simple existence of the state of Israel in Palestine. That is the common motivating factor, the driver which causes all Arabic and Muslim groups to harbour hatred towards the West, with the consequent atrocities of terrorism.

      Until some sort of arrangement, agreeable to all the Arabic groups, can be implemented, we will continue to see ever-increasing militance and terrorism from those aggrieved by Israel’s occupancy of land they consider rightfully belongs to the Palestinians. And this solution will never happen so long as the Zionist lobby holds such sway with the politicians, of all parties, in both Europe and the USA.

      Al Qaeda is not the disease, it is just a symptom of the disease – unless and until a real cure is found, it may be a terminal condition.

  10. byrdele says:

    I agree with you, Saltaire. President Obama’s message that this is neither a war against Islam nor Muslims is vitally important. People are people, I reckon, no matter what their religion or lack thereof – 99% just want to live in peace. But it’s always that 1% to which we react and decide that it represents the whole group. This is sad.

  11. Geoff says:

    Firstly, OBL won’t be missed by myself but I feel sorry for the innocent victims who are likely to be killed & maimed in revenge attacks.

    As for the importance of OBL, that was always overstated and terrorist jihad will continue in both hard & soft forms. Don’t forget, MI5 estimate 200 UK citizens are committing treason by fighting for the Taliban with many more supporting them with funds. Plus there are 2000/4000 (depending on source) estimated individuals who pose a serious terror threat in the UK.

  12. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    Dear G ,
    another conspiracy , well you may be right but does that alter the now-news that he is officially dead, although, I suppose that information could also have been falsified.

    When one is aware of how organisations distort truths and the corruption which exists in this Country ,then on a bigger scale, in such pressing global concerns, then anything is possible.

    Jon, such a good piece from you today. There is nothing to say really except we all wait and wait and the tension is not truly abeited. Are we going to be blown and fractured down to Gods own DNA or will this power focused religion let us see springs like this until we die naturally. Perhaps this spring is a blossoming picture of , of-late warmer friendlier times.

  13. Really_Paul says:

    One thing is for sure, conspiracy theorists are going to be talking about this for years – some in America still don’t accept the official version of the Kennedy Assassination!

    OBL’s identification (to quote what we regularly hear on News reports about civilian casualties from NATO air-strikes in Libya “has not been independently verified”. There have been indications that he has had at least one ‘double’.

    Surely a captive OBL would have been better than a dead one (if only for interrogational purposes) – haven’t SEALs heard of Tasers etc.?

  14. claudia says:

    Stop sending AID to the country of so many terrorists.

  15. emu says:

    claudia,i totally agree.This incident gives every reason why to stop it
    Channel 4 are still playing tricks with my name and email

    1. Saltaire Sam says:

      Is it Adrian when you are only slightly Rod Hullish and emu when you’re the dummy :-)

    2. adrian clarke says:

      Saltaire it is the only way it will let me post :)

  16. Meg Howarth says:

    Think you’ve successfully outed Adrian, Sam!

    Was puzzled when Emu, whom I’d previously never heard of, claimed recently that I’d convinced her/him by careful argument on the merits of a tax on land (LVT), so how could I possibly support Yes2AV. Adrian had been open and gracious in being won-over to LVT, so I’m using this as proof that Emu never existed – thank goodness! It was becoming a struggle reading some of the stuff.

    With less than 24 hrs to go before the referendum, and with a handshake to Adrian for the double-act – were you hoping I’d out you instead of Sam re your LVT comment? – here’s a hilarious short (animal) video on the sensible way to vote tomorrow. Enjoy, and let the makers of this have the last laugh. Cheers, Adrian:

    1. adrian clarke says:

      I’ve never been in Meg, but it appears that channel 4 didn’t want to let me persuade you all to vote NO to AV,but i hope some nice gentleman has tweaked my Email address and i can post again under my own colours.
      The link was moderately funny and shows the desperation of the Yes lobby whilst also showing the farce of the system.It clearly shows how the third placed candidate with fewer than 30$ of the vote , can by using eliminated voters second preference vote win ,where in reality no one wanted him/her.
      What a farce and what an undemocratic method of choosing a representative

    2. Meg Howarth says:

      Adrian – Here in Islington, we listened to the cats, above, and – like Camden, Hackney, Haringey and Lambeth – voted Yes2AV! Our two Labour MPs supported the No vote, despite leader Ed urging Yes. Waiting to learn what they have to say.

  17. Technofuzz says:

    Im not altogether certain that BinLaden is dead, its a known fact that these guys are not stupid and its rumoured they have lookalikes.
    I believe they busted the wrong guy and realised it, then dumped him in the sea abit sharpish, knowing they screwed up bigtime using the Islamic religion as an excuse to bury him quicktime. The fact that Obama wont show proof of the death is pretty obvious the Yanks messed up AGAIN..The expressions on the faces in Washington Ops room showed that at that moment they realised the job went so badly wrong. And now Bush wont have anything to do with Obama, at ground zero, says a million words, the fact that Bush wont get on the glory train is a huge suprise, he loved the glory train, thats what Bush lived for (and Blair).
    Osama/ what a mouthful dodgy if you’ve had a stiff drink.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      I disagree. Show the pictures , give them something to create a shrine to .They are that pathetic.
      If he were alive he would want to prove the yanks are wrong so we would get a video via al jazeeraz.
      Until and if he shows his face he is dead.

  18. Meg Howarth says:

    Below is especially for you, Adrian, from a comment blog analysing the No to AV vote:

    ‘68% (of the 42% who turned out to vote) voted against the “miserable little compromise” of AV. That’s not a vote in favour of First-Past-The-Post, since that wasn’t the referendum question. Instead, it was simply a rejection of just AV itself – not a rejection of other alternatives! It’s only AV – the “miserable little compromise” – that’s been rejected.

    Let’s bear in mind that even if we assume that all those No votes were cast in support of First-Past-The-Post, the turn-out was still only 42%, meaning that over 71% of the electorate as a whole did not vote in support of sticking with First-Past-The-Post. This is a damning indictment of the status quo, clearly showing that it only has the support of a minority – less than 30% – of the electorate. (68% of 42% is less than 29%.)

    That’s my entry for the Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics game. Can we have a referendum on proportional representation now, please?’

    [by NotProperty, in response to

  19. adrian clarke says:

    What a hipocritical and squalid argument Meg.Those who bothered to vote ,voted overwhelmingly to reject AV by 3-1.Now you say it shouldn’t count because there was only a 48% turnout.By that argument, not a single councillor should have been elected.
    I wonder if you would have had the same attitude had the AV vote won.I very much doubt it .
    Using your argument , had AV won and been used in a general election with a 70% turnout,5O% would only be 35% of the electrate so i suppose to be successful under AV the winning candidate would need 65% of the cast votes to get the 50% you support???

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