Posts Tagged ‘Osama bin Laden’

Paradigm shift: The beginning of the end of Jihadism

May 9, 2011

I have posted earlier that the death of Osama bin Laden represents a paradigm shift for US foreign policy where after a decade the “Get Osama” game is over. The question of evidence of Osama being dead is already obsolete. Doubts about the legality of  executing a self-appointed enemy in another country without the tacit approval of that country have also become irrelevant. The bottom-line is that it is the end of one chapter – if not the whole book – of the 9/11 tragedy. US Policy can finally begin to look beyond the nebulous “War on Terror”. The lack of definable boundaries for this “War” has actually led – in 10 years – to the loss of many of the civil liberties which had been won slowly in the previous 50+ years since the end of World War II. Perhaps some of these will be restored.

But the shift may be more fundamental and more widespread than just for US policy. The Spring revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East have  actually caused change on the ground and have been more effective than any ideology based on jihadism or terrorism. As this movement spreads to Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and perhaps even to Saudi Arabia, the value and even the capability of jihad being a vehicle for revolutionary change is losing ground.

The world has shifted away from Ben Ali, Mubarak, Osama bin Laden, Gaddafi, King Abdullah, Assad and their ilk.

Paradigm Shift

The violence of jihad is no longer being seen as a credible method of change against the authoritarian regimes of the Arab World. Other methods are clearly more effective. Jihad has few definable objectives left. 

Der Spiegel writes:

Osama bin Laden’s violent ideology may have once garnered support in the Arab world, but his death this week came at a time when the burgeoning pro-democracy movement in the Muslim world had rendered his ideas and his international terror network al-Qaida irrelevant.

… Many Muslims admired Osama bin Laden, and not secretly. A study by the Washington-based Pew Research Center conducted two years after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington found that 72 percent of Palestinians, almost 60 percent of Indonesians and Jordanians and almost half the Pakistani population considered bin Laden to be “trustworthy.”

Given such overwhelming support back then, it is amazing how little interest there is today in the former batal, or hero, in the Arab world. The news of the audacious Navy Seals raid electrified the West, but in North Africa and the Middle East it was merely one story among many. On Tuesday, the front page of Dubai’s Al-Bajan newspaper was dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the founding of the United Arab Emirates. In Cairo, the lead article in the Al-Wafd newspaper addressed worries about money flowing out of Egypt. The Arab News in the Saudi capital Jeddah reported that English would now be an obligatory subject at school from fourth grade onward. Only then did it mention and comment on the death of “the Sheikh,” as bin Laden was always respectfully and reverentially referred to.

Not much of that respect and reverence appears to remain, and both bin Laden’s reputation and the violent culture he symbolized have been on the decline in the Muslim world for years. Since 2003, researchers at Pew have asked the same question about bin Laden every year. While 72 percent of Palestinians backed him in 2003, that figure has now fallen to 34 percent. Jordanian support has dropped from 56 to 13 percent, while Pakistani backing for bin Laden has slumped from 46 to 18 percent. ….. But as dangerous as al-Qaida remains as a terrorist organization, its political ideology has become virtually irrelevant in the Middle East. The more attacks it has carried out since 9/11 — including on targets in the Muslim world — the harder it has been to justify that terrorism to ordinary Muslims. …

…. The upturn in fortunes in the Persian Gulf, the resulting opening of previously closed Arab economies and the simultaneous boom in the use of social media have threatened to sideline al-Qaida completely. A growing majority of mainly young Arabs are no longer primarily interested in fighting presumed American hegemony in the Middle East or pushing for the acceptance of a religion allegedly repressed by pro-Western regimes. Instead they want a share of the economic growth from which only their rulers’ clans have profited until now.

Pious jihadist philosophers simply have no answers to such aspirations. Religious arguments are as useless in countering anger at the unjust division of wealth as the sham reforms with which autocratic leaders in the region have tried, and in several instances, failed to cling to power. It is ironic, for example, that bin Laden’s killing comes only weeks after the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who claimed until the bitter end that “hundreds of new bin Ladens” would make the world unsafe unless his advice was heeded. 

Other dictators and terrorist leaders will undoubtedly follow Mubarak and bin Laden into the annals of history. As the commanders of a sinking epoch both men managed to cause a lot of harm, but their philosophies are finished.

Paradigm shift: Proof is only needed if Osama is alive – his death no longer does

May 5, 2011

The ground has shifted.

The default position has changed to be that Osama is dead. No further evidence is necessary  or can actually contribute further to that default position. The decision not to release any photographs for now makes sense. The additional benefit it can provide is marginal. No doubt the conspiracy theorists and many others will screech and wail about this lack of evidence and how it may be that Osama was not killed.

They miss the point. The “Kill Osama” game is over.

The common perception and consciousness is  that he is now dead.  It is no longer politically tenable to demand that “something be done about Osama” or to criticise the US administration for not having done enough to achieve justice for 9/11. The burden of proof is no longer on the US Administration to show that Osama is dead but is on those who wish to show that he is alive.

Perception is reality.

President Obama can no longer be criticised for any sins of omission regarding the hunt for Osama bin Laden. A partial closure of events of 9/11 and the “War on Terror” has been achieved.  US foreign policy has been a hostage to the events of 9/11 for almost a decade. Some of the constraints are now removed. It frees Obama’s possibilities for actions which were unthinkable as long as the common perception was that Osama was still alive and 9/11 was an open wound. The wound has not healed yet but it now begins to close. A withdrawal or partial withdrawal from Afghanistan now becomes politically possible. US policy can now begin to look beyond what was possible with the shackles of 9/11.

Whether all this was intentional or just a happy coincidence will never be known.

Perception is reality and the perception now – with or without any further evidence –  is that Osama is dead. From the view point of foreign policy development this is not just a shifting of ground – it is a magnitude 9 earthquake. It can allow a freedom of thought in US domestic and foreign policy which has not been possible for this decade of the “War on Terror”.

This represents a fundamental paradigm shift.

Osama is surely dead but “evidence” is now irrelevant and The New Great Game goes on

May 4, 2011

The information / misinformation is building up.

The truth will probably never be known but this is the region where truth itself is never certain. From the time of Alexander and Darius this is the region of the world where nothing is as it may seem, where there are more layers of intrigue and deceit and lies and misinformation than on the largest onion imaginable. Truth is undefined. Memories are selective. Reality is whatever perception says it is.   History will record whatever comes out in the TV documentary / soap opera that is probably already under production. With the developments in North Africa and the Middle East, a new path to revolution and reform has developed and has proven to be far more effective in meeting the aspirations of people than the mindless violence of Osama.  Maybe I am just an optimist but I think this confirms that Al Queda and their methods are becoming irrelevant.

  • He was armed – He was not armed.
  • He used one of his wives as a body shield –  He did not.
  • She was killed – She was not.
  • She was shot in the leg – She was shot in the head.
  • He was killed in front of his daughter – He was alone.
  • The Pakistani ISI knew where he was – They did not.
  • The Pakistani Army knew where he was – They did not.
  • Photos will be released (CIA) – Photos are too gruesome to be released (White House).
  • His body was dumped from a helicopter – He was put in a coffin and cast into the sea from a warship.
Al-Qaeda: The next generation; An al-Qaeda training camp outside Mogadishu, Somalia. Jihadists are expected to wage a long war of attrition against the West; AP

Al Queda - now without a cause

On consideration I now think the hasty burial at sea and the lack of photographs and the “conflicting” stories and the general mystery have worked very well. If it was an intentional strategy to surround the “evidence” with mystery then it has probably been very clever. Myths may continue but they would have continued anyway no matter what evidence were produced. Strangely the burden of proof has now shifted to those who may wish to claim that he is alive. If the world acts as if Osama is dead then he will be effectively impotent and dead even if he is skulking in some cave in Afghanistan or some ISI safe-house in Pakistan.

Osama bin Laden is no more but The New Great Game goes on.

Food for conspiracy theories — Osama bin Laden “buried” at sea

May 2, 2011
A still of 2004 Osama bin Laden video

Image via Wikipedia

The New York Times reports that Osama bin Laden has been buried at sea.

In a dramatic late-night appearance in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Obama declared that “justice has been done” as he disclosed that American military and C.I.A.operatives had finally cornered Bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader who had eluded them for nearly a decade. American officials said Bin Laden resisted and was shot in the head. He was later buried at sea.

If anything will feed all the theories that Osama died a long time ago, or that he was / is a US agent, or that he has been supplied with a new identity and is living safely in luxury somewhere in the Americas, it is the news released by the US Administration that he has been buried at sea. Now he can live forever!

It does seem strange that after a man-hunt for the most wanted man ever and which has lasted almost ten years that the evidence was disposed off so easily and so quickly and without any fanfare. Something smells.

The picture of the dead Osama on Pakistan TV seems to have a beard which is identical to that from a picture taken many years ago (2004?). It is plausible that the picture of the dead Osama is a montage. That the position of the open mouth, the teeth and the beard could be identical in 2 pictures taken years apart with one in life and one in death does strain credulity. 

Photo of dead Osama seems to have been photoshopped

Somebody was buried at sea. But whether it was Osama or somebody else is open to question.

A remarkably inept piece of PR – or perhaps the conspiracy theories do have some basis and this is actually a remarkably clever piece of misinformation.

Some of the conspiracy theories doing the rounds:

Version1: Somebody else was buried at sea and

  • Osama’s body is being secretly transported to the US where it will be minutely dissected, or
  • this covers up the fact that
    • Osama died a long time ago, or
    • Osama was a US agent and is living with a new identity, or
    • the terrorist known as Osama never actually existed and was created after 9/11.

Version 2: Osama died a long time ago – whereabouts unknown – and President Obama released this information at a time when he needed some good news for domestic politics and the body had to be “disposed off” quickly to make the story “unverifiable”.

Version 3: The persona known as Osama bin Laden had to be “killed off” so that the person acting out the Osama identity (name unknown) could be groomed to take over in Saudi Arabia when the monarchy falls.

Related: Osama bin Laden dead – but he changed our world

Osama bin Laden dead – but he changed our world

May 2, 2011

All the deaths in the US, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and in bomb attacks in many European, African and Middle-East countries can be linked to the events of September 11th 2001 and to Osama bin Laden. Whatever the subsequent duplicity and stupidity of Bush and Blair and Howard, they were merely reacting to what bin Laden had set in motion. Bush’s thirst for revenge in Iraq was enabled therefore by bin Laden.

Bin Laden’s body will no doubt be displayed as evidence buried at sea with DNA collected and there will be much celebration and jubilation in some quarters. There will be dismay and – hopefully – some despair and fatigue among those who use mindless violence for their political aims. The response to the events of 9/11 itself has perpetuated the cycle of violence and has even legitimised the use of terrorism as a political tool. Collateral damage has become acceptable. All manner of “means” have become justifiable and acceptable where the purpose has been the “War on Terror”. Fundamental values have been subject to new limitations and constraints. Using violence to effect regime change in other countries  is no longer taboo. Mass arrests, torture, pre-emptive strikes across country borders and the assassination of  political enemies have become legitimate actions for even “democratic” nations.  All that had been achieved in terms of civil liberties, human rights, freedom to travel and freedom to work since the end of the World War II suffered a massive setback after 9/11.

Ten years on his death is of course a milestone of great symbolic importance. But his death will not provide any simple closure to the  “War on Terror”. All the different political movements around the world which now use mindless violence and suicide bombers in public places will not cease their actions. The Al Quaida networks will not suddenly dissolve. The extremists will not disappear. But perhaps the long-term futility of using such mindless violence will become more obvious to them.

The developments in Tunisia and Egypt were not precisely what bin Laden wanted. He would have preferred a religious uprising. But the rise of the “democratic” yearnings in North Africa and the Middle East could also not have happened before 9/11. Even if the regime in Saudi Arabia is still in place and any democratic movement there is still a long way off, the popular expression of the fundamental yearnings of people  is irreversible and will not be denied.

Osama bin Laden will live in infamy far longer than Bush or Blair. The world after 9/11 is not the same as it was before bin Laden struck. 


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