Osama bin Laden (1957 – 2011)
Osama bin Laden, America’s ultimate boogeyman for two decades is dead, a victim of whirlwinds he contemptuously sowed.
You don’t need this blog to tell you this, because the international press and social media has already done their jobs. But here is how the story unfolded:
The story broke online as the chief of staff for the former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, tweeted: “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.” Earlier, as the White House corespondents were being summoned back, the President and the Vice President briefed the former presidents and the congressional leaders respectively. The president’s address to the nation, originally scheduled for 10.30 p.m. (Washington D.C. time), began sixty five minutes late — probably because Mr. Obama was writing his own speech. (Even earlier, someone had unknowingly livetweeted about the operation that would eventually kill bin Laden).
That bin Laden’s demise was a culmination, if not cloture, of a decade-long multinational manhunt was clear in obituaries major newspapers quickly released, the obituaries that they evidently had written years ago. To the New York Times, he was “An Emblem of Evil in the U.S., an Icon to the Cause of Terror”. BBC took a measured stance, calling him a terrorist only once in their obituary. The Telegraph’s title, “the presumed architect of the shocking events of September 11”, is a bit wrong, but not as wrong as filling it under ‘religion obituaries’. In the unique journalese it now reserves for only the most solemn occasions, Time declared, “Death Comes For the Master Terrorist.” “A moment of unadulterated celebration” noted the Economist, after a 6.5-hour delay that seemed eternal by today’s standards.
Ben Macintyre’s flowery piece for The Times of London called him “the ultimate anti-hero for the last decade”. At Time, Tony Karon reiterates his oft-repeated stance that bin Laden had largely failed, a position this blog had endorsed before. At the New York Times too, Ross Douthat reflects on “The Death of a Failure“, while Nic Kristof ponders the life after bin Laden. For me personally, deeply troubling is the fact that bin Laden was finally discovered not in a squalid Afghan cave, but in a luxuriant compound some 50 miles away from the Pakistani capital. It is an affluent suburb close to the Pakistani military academy, where many retired generals in the Pakistani government — a government the U.S. has given over billions of dollars to track down terrorists — reside. It is more than an embarrassment; it is an indictment.
I wonder what Matthew Norman, who wrote this sad epitaph to American might only ten days ago, think of now.