Obama today reported to the American people that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in a US raid on a compound in Pakistan. Former soldier Joe Glenton - jailed for refusing to fight in Afghanistan - gives his take on the death of the former US asset.
For just 1.188 trillion dollars, over 7000 coalition deaths, an estimated 1.45 million dead Iraqis, and an obscure but likely massive number of dead Afghans, we have secured one Saudi terrorist. Bargain.
These figures have much in common. Partially or wholly they are a result of a ‘war’ supposedly prosecuted in pursuit of one person and an end to his doctrine, albeit a doctrine with little purchase. Bin Laden: the bearded, obscurantist terrorist with his strange eyes, long-time favourite son of the West.
There's not yet even any independent verification. A confusing and anti-climactic end for a being that haunted me for most of my adult life.
I recall at 18 or 19 when it came on the radio that planes, planes, were hitting buildings in America. Apolitical, young and listless, I didn’t know what to make of it. The Falklands veteran turned carpet fitter with whom I worked nodded sagely - grizzled, roll-up sagging. The world had changed, he told me.
He was right. We went back to fitting lino in a council house. But Bin Laden’s name would become a household one within days, amid the drums of war.
When I left my job in a restaurant, two or three years later, to start my military training I was handed a card. The messages, casual and well-intended in their bigotry, encouraged me to ‘kill some Iraqis’ and ‘Get Bin Laden’. To my eternal shame I laughed rather limply and said I’d try.
But we should not be confused. If he is dead, it is bordering on irrelevant. Bin Laden has already been a spectre for ten years - unless we subscribe to the Manichean idea that he was like something out of Ian Fleming’s imagination, a villain at the head of the table, henchman and all.
The sketchy details of a ‘high tech hideout’ and a shootout with a Seal team (apparently lost in Pakistan) fit the propagandist’s caricature. But they do not fill in the blanks.
If it is true, as some suggest, that his aim was to bog down the West in an unwinnable war in Central Asia then his life’s work is complete. He will no doubt be elevated by his lunatic admirers to the status of some Islamist Guevara, minus the Christ-like images of his carcass. This, apparently, was sea-dumped in the ‘traditional way’.
Bin Laden's death is unlikely to spark a withdrawal of Western troops. It may later be tacked on as one reason to enable withdrawal, as public support for occupation continues to plummet.
There are firm arguments that it was never really about Bin Laden. It was about money, power and a hint of vengeance. Aquinas and others who expounded Just War theory would no doubt appraise the figures I started with, and demand to know what, exactly, happened to the Principle of Proportionality.
Is the end of Bin Laden a reason to withdraw? Not exactly. It is another reason to withdraw, if we needed any more - we have a mass of them as it is. And don't ignore the weak presupposition that we had any right to be there in the first place.
I suppose I should try and identify a positive. It might be that the overt aggression of recent years has perhaps made concrete the knowledge that our punchy, hubristic hegemon can never be trusted and should never be trusted. And these recent, bloody, imperial adventures might have contributed to the energy and vibrancy of the Arab Spring, which provides such a powerful antidote.
So, for me and Osama this seems to be as far as we go together. I have survived both his and my own former employer's best efforts to get me killed for their own interests, though others have not.
But the most telling news is not the death of a ghost. It came, on Saturday, from another grouping with which Bin Laden had a fraught history of disagreement and tension. The Afghan Taliban proclaimed that the tenth summer fighting season since the invasion is upon us.
The West, despite the passing of one long-time favourite son, has other sons to replace him. Bin Laden or no Bin Laden, the West may have assured his legacy for him.
Joe Glenton will be speaking at this weekend's Counterforum event.
More articles from this author
- Occupy Plymouth moves into the Plymouth Occupation Centre.
- N30 Plymouth _ Union Solidarity with Occupy Plymouth _ 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!
- N30 Plymouth _ Dave Franklin PCS _ 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!
- N30 Plymouth _ Chaz Singh & Paddy Ryan, PTUC Hon President 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!
- N30 Plymouth _ Phil Smith ATL _ 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!
- N30 Plymouth _ Chris Webb CWU _ 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!
- N30 Plymouth _ Poem and Sarah Allen-Melvin PCS 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!