Monday, 2 May 2011

My take on the Osama Bin Laden take-down

(This page is the official blog of Ridealist, but I am also a full time journalist and sometimes feel the need to get things off my chest. Normal service will be resumed shortly - and if Ridealist gets the funding, permanently!)

Just got home from a very busy day in the news room - you can imagine.

Driving home I was thinking of the millions of soldiers over the centuries who have gone into battle with the name of a long-dead spiritual or religious figure on their lips.

I hesitate to use the names of the most obvious, but you know who they are!

Perhaps they could also have invoked a favourite saint, an imam, a fabled leader of old...

Whatever "good" book they subscribed to in one hand, and a sword or scimitar in the other, they would storm fearless into battle, assured their sacrifice would be rewarded.

Brits also sailed to war on ships like Achilles... Ajax.. Oh, how we love our ancient heroes, even if they were fictional.

"Gott Mit Uns" on German belt buckles from Imperial times to the end of WW2 didn't mean they had woolly gloves with no fingers.. It meant they had someone rather powerful on their side.

The problem was, the other side thought that too.

The amulets we wear around our necks, the charms we carry in our pockets, the prayers that sit on our lips. They don't make us invincible, but they do convince us of the righteousness of our cause, and they give us comfort.

The Navy SEAL team that went after Osama Bin Laden apparently had "kill not capture" orders. And making what invocations to their deities they thought appropriate, they stormed in and did the job.

But what did they do really?

This time yesterday, most analysts would have said Bin Laden was a virtually spent force.

Boxed in, unable to communicate effectively.

Still "America's most wanted" for sure. But how much of a "clear and present danger" was he?

One commentator I watched today said they weren't even selling tee-shirts with his image in the market anymore, Che was far more popular.

But overnight he is once again front page news. See those tee-shirts reappear tomorrow.

Not simply because the Americans got him. That's part of the Western media hoopla.

No, because, if the reports are to be believed, he went down fighting. A gun in his hand.
No groveling Saddam Hussein. No cowardly Hitler who took the easy way out.

And in the Islamic media, that element is playing rather well.

So what has been achieved? We've just made him a martyr. A popular hero. Again.

Isn't that how we popularise many of our heroes - even if they weren't?

Isn't that how any culture popularises their heroes?

Died with their boots on?

Went down fighting?

Never give up! That's the spirit!

There was the half-hearted attempt to link the death of a woman to her being used as human shield by some cowardly defender. But in the background noise, that story sunk like a stone.

Should have worked a bit harder on that PR pitch, boys.

And then there is the sudden concern of the Western allies to Muslim sensitivities, the headlong rush to bury him at sea less than 24 hours after his death.

A noble tribute from one warrior to another? Well, that is how it will be played - perhaps without the "noble warrior" references.

While many world leaders from Obama to Cameron struck a suitably sombre pose, no smile, no jingoism, no Bush smirk. No triumphalism, just "justice has been served."

But they were quick to remind us, warn us if you like, that al-Qaeda wasn't just Osama Bin Laden. There are other equally nefarious players in the mix there.

Thanks, we knew that.

They told us that the fight would go on. I guess we knew that too.

But I think the point they missed, is that we just gave the opposition a new rallying point.

If Bin Laden was slipping from his pedestal as the leader of al-Qaeda, we should just have continued to let him slip. What harm? Apparently somewhat in ill health, needing a stick, and utterly and almost totally out of touch. A bit of a spent force heading towards obscurity.

A has been.

Bin Laden? Oh, yeah, I remember him. Wasn't he George Bush Snr's business partner?

(No, tsk, his son, the terrorist one). Oh yeah, right.

Sadly, today's events have just cemented him there. Back on the jihadist pedestal.

And finally, not least in the events of today that made me cringe; the crowds of youngsters who gathered to cheer, sing, drink and dance on the watery grave of Bin Laden. So much for sensitivity.

Images of the celebrations have been beamed around the world. We've just killed someone that hundreds, thousands, many thousands of people actually still revere as a hero. Whether in your opinion they are misguided or not, that is a fact that you cannot escape.

Sure, we've seen the same examples of insensitivity. We've seen jihadists chanting and singing around the bodies of dead pilots being dragged through the street. They ain't no angels either.

They've committed unspeakable acts of cruelty, barbarity. Certainly by our standards anyway.

But as they say, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

But something tells me that dancing on Bin Laden's grave isn't going to impress them very much.

As another commentator said today - "I think we have just swatted the hornets nest."

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1 comment:

Costarama said...

I work only steps away from Ground Zero. As I avoided the other "hornets nest" on my way to work (with so many people "paying tribute" to Bin Laden's take down) I tip-toe to work, unable to escape that it is on my front lawn.

I'm concerned.

Not only for me personally. Concerned because might isn't right and the glorification of yet another "might" goes on.


YES. I agree with your article.