Columns / Discourse / May 4, 2011

World Politics Corner: Bin Laden

“So … now what?” That was my reaction to the news. My second thought was “I bet it’s Flunk Day tomorrow!”—but that was independent of the circumstances.

Could this be the end of al Qaeda as an organized group, similar to the death of Hitler and the end of Nazi power? Probably not. Hitler killed himself as his empire was crumbling around him. Bin Laden’s death was in a shootout with the U.S. army, and al Qaeda continues to have hold on several areas and minds in the world.

In reality, there probably isn’t much that will come of this news. The last video Bin Laden released was an endorsement of the attempted Christmas Day Bombing on a Northwest Airlines Flight in January 2010. The U.S. spent time targeting and making known all other “second-in-command” operatives for al Qaeda, showing that although the head is gone there is some sort of structure in place. Many pundits have been questioning for years the extent of involvement bin Laden has had in this last decade. Experts have had their doubts, too. Recent close looks into the strongholds of lower level al Qaeda footmen show the lack of coordination in the group as a whole. Al Qaeda will probably continue to exist. The military struggle will go on.

If anything, there may be an increase in the violence. “If he has been martyred, we will avenge his death and launch attacks against American and Pakistani governments and their security forces,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Pakistani Taliban Spokesman, said. Other pro-bin Laden groups have said similar things. Perhaps this is the most concerning aspect of the news.

One interesting reactionary comment was made by the Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua: “It is surprising to see how normal crime and killing has become and how it is celebrated by imperial governments, although they maintain respect … I believe that in the first place it is an ethical question from the human point of view to celebrate death as an instrument of resolution of a problem.”

“Imperial governments” has a ring to it. Certainly it will resonate with many in al Qaeda. This is not to say that the VP of Venezuela is for al Qaeda. This reaction was probably already felt by those within the organization.

Bin Laden is dead, but the scars are still around. The brainwashing on both sides is still around. On Flunk Day I took a break from the festivities to go shopping at the Dollar General. I saw a man with a long beard and white topi—a hat typically worn by Muslim men—stop to get a newspaper on Seminary Street. After the Dollar General I stopped in another store, where some boys not older than 14 were sitting at a table. Everyone was friendly and as I browsed for something of interest, the conversation around me got louder. One of the boys said, “If I saw someone who looked like bin Laden I’d shoot him on site.” I thought of that man on Seminary Street, minding his own business. I thought of that boy and how he could learn something so vulgar and ignorant.

A friend of his saw me staring quietly at the table, and told his friend to stop—that this wasn’t the place for that conversation. Is there a place for that kind of conversation?

Bin Laden is dead, but there is still so much more to do on the Human front.

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