Monday, May 2, 2011

The end of Osama Bin Laden

Osama Bin Laden is no more in this world.
Sometimes, to succeed, one must fail forward.

Over thirty years ago, the Carter Administration faced the demoralizing loss of Desert One. The loss of that helicopter during Special Ops necessitated the birth of the very department of special forces that landed outside the Bin Laden compound, an hour north of Islamabad. Under an order signed by President Barack Obama before his visit to my shaken city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and without sharing information with Pakistan, at 3:30 pm EST the troops---probably twelve to fifteen Navy SEALS, though I've heard forty in another place---landed nearby, in a final run practiced three times before. This time, the J53 helicopter intended to provide their escape malfunctioned, sparking fears for their safety in the tiny number of people in Washington aware. The troops went ahead.

Forty minutes later, the firefight was ended. The man for whom the Western world has searched since the 1990’s, a hunt began by President Clinton and carried by President Bush, lay dead. His body was identified using DNA and photographs, which are certain to be released. Then, in accordance with Islamic law, and with care to avoid creating a shrine to matyrdom, Osama Bin Laden was buried at sea.

At 10:30 pm EST the President made his announcement: an unusual time, late Sunday night. My friend Stephen T. Seagal wrote : "it can't be anything good, at this hour. Unless they finally caught Bin Laden." :-D

The compound had been watched for two years. It was eight times the size of any house in the rather wealthy neighborhood. Information in the works since 2004 ---a nickname of a man for whom a certain courier worked---was used in deducing the code name of the courier. The house had burned its trash daily, avoiding evidence, and had no internet or cable connections. The questions about Pakistani intelligence---a country where jihad is still encouraged in the only thing approximating public schools, in many areas stricken with poverty, people earning maybe two US dollars a day---continue, as the most wanted man in the world lived in the suburbs of the capital. Obviously, our fears that they might tip off Bin Laden are underscored by the mission’s absolute secrecy.

It is true that Pakistan has felt picked over as a country, considering our relationship with India, their traditional foe, after the Indian flirtation with the Soviets ended. We also cut aid in protest of their nuclear program. Nevertheless, Secretary Clinton seems to have been correct: someone had to know, inside Pakistani intelligence. Pakistan is many countries, really, overlapping in resources and intelligence and beliefs.

It all came down to intelligence on the ground, about a man on a motorbike. The President was briefed in August, 2010, leading to several meetings. The Navy SEALS were assembled, in lieu of a bombing, so that civilian casualties would be minimized, and so that a body might be retrieved and identified, to leave no doubt.

The search for Al-Quaeda’s number two, Zalwahiri, their Egyptian strategist, will continue. Yet, make no mistake, this has been a very bad year for Al-Quaeda; the tendencies towards democracy in the revolutions of the Arab Spring deflate the arguments of vengeful religious leaders. Think about this: Al-Queda was founded primarily to remove President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt! The rallying call against the dictator was answered, but not by Al-Quaeda.

There is the danger of those who want to settle scores. My friend in Sri Lanka awaits the reaction of the million and a half Muslims in his country. The Hamas reaction, predictably, condemns death of the “holy warrior.” There have been lots of causes for bad blood on either side, and more violence and carnage undertaken for its own sake than any idealistic code has asked. The spiritual leader of the movement, however, has met justice.

This is a time for those who have sacrificed in their service to this country to feel some vindication, though the loss of time with their families, even the loss of limb and life, can never be replaced and remains a price paid. Does this spell the close of our wider operations in Afghanistan? It is also a time for the families of the victims of 9/11 to feel the universe does, as MLK Jr. put it, bend towards the arc of justice. I hope it is the end of silly conversations for a time (this is still America) as we concentrate on the more serious business of living together. There is a wider war beyond even Osama Bin Laden. Thinking about the Muslims who died under his mass murdering hand, by his orders, I cannot help but think of the enemies of extremism, the proponents of cooperation, tolerance, and reason, within all who seek a more peaceful world.

So let Times Square and Ground Zero cheer, and the White House celebrate. The war...and the peace...goes on.

In the immediate aftermath, people in Abbottabad expressed widespread disbelief that bin Laden had died — or ever lived — among them.
"I'm not ready to buy bin Laden was here," said Haris Rasheed, 22, who works in a fast food restaurant. "How come no one knew he was here and why did they bury him so quickly? This is all fake — a drama, and a crude one."
Kamal Khan, 25, who is unemployed, said the official story "looks fishy to me."
The burial from an aircraft carrier in the North Arabian Sea was videotaped aboard the ship, according to a senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because a decision on whether to release the video was not final. The official said it was highly likely that the video, along with photographs of bin Laden's body, would be made public in coming days.
The swiftness of the burial may have raised suspicions but was in accord with Islamic traditions. Islamic scholars, however, challenged U.S. assertions that a burial at sea was an appropriate fate for a Muslim who had died on land.
The act denied al-Qaida any sort of burial shrine for their slain leader. Once again, bin Laden had vanished, but this time at the hands of the United States and in a way that ensures he is gone forever.
Hitler's Death was announced May 1st, 1945 (by Geraldo, a certain librarian said). Thanks Steve. Peace to everyone who's lost someone and let's find something better to do than religious/ profiteering based wars, awright

Excuse me one last joke:

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