I’m Glad Osama bin Laden Lived So Long

What a thing to write.

Why would I be at all happy about that monster’s longevity?

One simple reason: Osama lived long enough to realize that everything for which he had fought and to which he had devoted considerable sums of money came to nothing.

In 1977, the progressive rock band Kansas sang “Dust in the Wind.”  Its message of the evanescence of man and his follies reminds listeners to devote their time to meaningful things.  The lyrics wistfully point out

It slips away

And all your money won’t another minute buy.

Bin Laden’s dreams of a world in which:

  1. America had withdrawn from the holy lands of Saudi Arabia;
  2. America and the other infidel western powers were brought to their knees, financially or otherwise; and
  3. Al-Quaida’s twisted view of Islam predominated,

all amounted to nothing.

More precisely, Osama lived long enough to witness the revolutions that rocked the Arab world.  They took place in Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.

Did the youth of those countries take to the streets and risk arrest, torture and death for Muslim fundamental extremism?

No.

As Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland pointed out on NPR’s Talk of the Nation:

I mean, he lived long enough to witness his worst nightmare, and that is to see peaceful young people, non-ideological, chanting the same values that America stands for – freedom, democracy, human rights – succeed where he and his group never did in the Arab world. And that had to be very disheartening for him before he died.

Prof. Telhami went on to explain al-Quaeda’s failure to capture the hearts and minds of individuals in the Arab world:

But I want to say something here that we have to understand in context. You know, in my polling over the past decade about al-Qaida, when I ask people what aspects of al-Qaida do you sympathize with most, if any, and of course a large number say none, no aspect they sympathize with.

But of those who say they sympathize with anything, the majority said they mostly sympathize with the fact that al-Qaida stands up to the U.S. and speaks for their causes, not an embrace of its agenda.

Only roughly six percent across the region said they embrace their agenda. So it was really mostly gaining from the negative, not gaining, you know, because people embrace their agenda.

Bin Laden had to know this.  He had to sense it.  Even though he brought down the towers and succeeded in all of those other nasty deeds, in the end he failed.

Indeed, his own success lead to his inability to continue as the functional head of al-Quaida — he was too much of a target to remain in charge.

As GEN. Colin Powell pointed out yesterday, the fact that bin Laden’s compound had no telephone or internet access  and that Osama relied upon couriers serves as proof that the man was nothing more than a symbolic head of his organization for the past several years.

Additionally, he lived in a walled compound, deep inside Pakistan, a stone’s throw away from that nation’s military academy.  Bin Laden must have believed that he enjoyed the protection of the state.

Therefore, in the seconds between the entry by U.S. Navy SEALs and his violent death, Osama bin Laden must have come to the realization that he had been betrayed.

It may not have been true.  But, it had to have crossed the man’s mind.

Not a great way to leave the planet.

No country (including his native Saudi Arabia — the home of the holy lands he supposedly sought to protect) would accept his body for burial.

For the rest of history, they who curse his name will far outnumber the few who praise him.

— The Major

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