What interesting news! Osama Bin Laden taken out by US troops after ten years in hiding. It is good news, but I find a couple of things very interesting;
1) Under what law or item of war were the US able to complete such an exercise, and in a country that they are not on great terms with? If Bin Laden was a war criminal then surely there would be some form of trial or is it that he was already branded a “terrorist” so the US was within its rights to attack and kill him on sight if he didn’t give up without a fight? I am not saying that I support Bin Laden, but I wonder about the process – how did we all decide that he guilty, and exactly what is the charge? Clearly, we in the public are not party to all the information that the US government has and I understand that completely. I just wonder when so many took to the streets to celebrate, did they actually ask any questions of the process or were the people celebrating just so relieved that he was killed that they forgot to ask? Remember that 911 is now a long time ago and everyone’s memory a little blurred to the facts. Did he admit to the bombs in New York that did all the damage? Do we all remember clearly what happened and what was said? My memory of what he said is certainly blurred.
2) Yesterday, I saw it reported that the US took the body of Bin Laden into custody and that they have already buried him at sea. So far, we have not seen any real proof that he is actually dead except that the US President (yesterday) said that he is – we haven’t seen photo’s of his body or footage of his burial. What of his family, did they get any opportunity to take part in the funeral and who was it that made sure that it was performed according to Islāmic law?
3) How is it possible that Bin Laden was so close to Islamabad without someone knowing he was there? More interesting that he was allegedly found living in comfort in a mansion in Allahabad, a beautiful city, which is home to government, education, business and culture in the area. According to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allahabad “Allahabad is home to seven out of fourteen Prime Ministers of India. Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Gulzarilal Nanda, Vishwanath Pratap Singh and Chandra Shekhar were all either born in Allahabad, were alumni of Allahabad University or got elected from a constituency in Allahabad “. The city has further spiritual meaning for many with Wikipedia quoting, “The ancient name of the city Prayag (Sanskrit refers to it as a “place of sacrifice”) and is believed to be the spot where Brahma offered his first sacrifice after creating the world”. Isn’t this the perfect place for Bin Laden to die? With all of this already known, one must ask if this might not have been one of the first places the US would have looked for Bin Laden? Last night I heard a local reporter question both the US and Pakistan governments ability to find Bin Laden since he was so close to major cities and government centres, she suggested that perhaps there were groups within the Pakistan government that were sympatric to Bin Laden, allowing him to stay in the city undetected. It is not clear to me how long he was there, but how do we know that he was not put there by the US until the right moment came along to expose him?
The pictures that many of us have harboured of Bin Laden living on the run in the desert in relative discomfort, now have to be replaced by a picture of him living a more than comfortable life in a beautiful city surrounded no doubt by friends and family.
I also overheard a sound bite of a reporter on the news last night saying something like, “people power has forced change to many of the governments that the Al-Qaeda movement first opposed”. He was talking about Yemen and Libya where the push for freedom is now happening by the citizens and not terrorist movements. This is interesting as I had never thought of Bin Laden as a freedom fighter and it makes me question Bin Laden’s true motives. No doubt he believed that he was doing the right thing and truely believed in his cause. Many of us in the west have been happy to see the struggle for freedom and democracy in countries like Libya and Egypt so is there some common ground between our support of the current protestors and the ideals of Al-Qaeda when it comes to self-determination?. Potentially there is a separate argument around the definitions of self-determination and democary and then how are they implemented? ie: freedom for all or just for some? Maybe at a fundamental level there is some common ground, however when a movement crosses over into terrorist acts that support bombs and killing to get your point across they lose all credability and probably the ability to be effective as change agents.
Meanwhile it remains to be seen what this event will mean to us and how events might now play out in the world – who will be safe and who will not – our feelings of security will never be the same again and have forever been changed by the 911 event and now the death of Osama Bin Laden. I am not celebrating and note the following quote which I found via Twitter this morning and I think sum up my feelings pretty well;
“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr