Obama: 1, Osama: 0

Osama bin LadenRest in peace, Osama bin Laden. And in death may you find the peace that in life you fought so vigorously against. May God be the judge of your soul, even as your deeds on earth have been judged by Men.

You were number one on the CIA’s most-wanted list even before 9/11, after which, of course you became a household name. The Afghan people suffered from your support for the Taliban regime, but the hunt was prolonged, and even as you managed to stay alive, the Al-Qaeda network was severed, and your influence waned. In the end, it had to come to this, and while the war on terror is not finished, your death is a fatal blow to the survival of your ideas.

As rejoicing broke out in Washington and New York last night, some people questioned: should we be rejoicing the death of a man? While a solemn respect for the dignity of human life – even that of bin Laden – is in order, my answer is yes. We should be rejoicing the end of a regime of terror, just as there was rejoicing at the end of WWII, or when the Berlin Wall came down. Barack Obama said in his address that Osama’s “demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity,” and I agree. In the long run, the world will be a better place for his death.

Thus Obama sums it up: “For over two decades, bin Laden has been Al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda.”

Politically, this is great news for Obama. He managed to pull off what George W never achieved, and his credentials as a warrior are thoroughly strengthened. Finally, the U.S. has good news to talk about. While much can happen in a year and a half, this will be remembered on Election Day in 2012.

On the other hand, history has moved on. Killing bin Laden was important, but it was the war of the last decade. The end of Al-Qaeda (if that be the result) also marks the end of terrorism as means for change in the Middle East. The uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, etc., are the new way. Finally, the man on the street is having his say. As Fareed Zakaria points out, America now needs to move from supporting dictatorships to democratic forces in the Middle East, as they have done previously in Asia and Latin America.

Obama also pointed out that “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.” People everywhere acknowledge that, and they are choosing another way. The death of Bin Laden may not bring peace right away (he still has some supporters left), but is an important milestone, marking a new way forward.

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2 responses to “Obama: 1, Osama: 0

  1. kamilla Lindquist Capion

    It is so obviously a good thing, and we are all celebrating and yet there are all the not so obvious questions lurking. Is it a big step for democracy to kill a man without trial? Does ideas really die with the man who advocated them, or are they invigorated by martyrdom? Isn’t that exactly the sneaky thing about ideas, they live not within us, but are like places that exist in the stream of people visiting, altering and leaving them? Will people stop visiting this place because Bin Laden are not able to anymore? And finally there is the slight discomfort of knowing that he was initially sponsored by the USA in his first ‘ Jihad’. I shall not defend him or his actions. But will this death make the world a better place? I am not so sure.

  2. Very good questions, Kamilla, and most of them not easy to answer. I will do my best to comment, though.
    Killing a man without trial? In principle a bad thing, sure. Reportedly, they tried to capture him alive, but he resisted. But even if they had, where do you try someone like him? What if Hitler had survived and sat at the Nuremburg trials? Some things are better to finish off quickly.
    Will the idea die, or will Osama become a martyr? Well, that’s the big question right now, isn’t it. There’s definitely a risk of the latter, especially in the short term. I am, however, putting a small bet on the former.
    About the U.S. initially sponsoring bin Laden, it’s certainly ironic. People change, maybe he wasn’t all bad back then. But sure, there are complicated issues in all of this, and this just goes to show it’s never completely black or white.

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