Life After Bin Laden
The death feud has ended, but the evil he wrought continues.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Osama bin Laden is dead – killed at the hands of U.S. Special Forces in an operation deep inside Pakistan.
The battle of good versus evil has just tipped in the favor of good. Those who supported bin Laden, directly funding his acts of terror or cheering his successes and applauding his rhetoric, have taken a hit. Those who were his targets, those who went searching for this mastermind of evil, have triumphed. Osama bin Laden was not only the master of evil, he was the face of evil.
Both the West and the Muslim world have much to be grateful for. Some are cheering audibly, others are offering silent thanks. Bin Laden was a hero for a significant vocal, active and dangerous minority in the Islamic world. And as much as the West was a target of his diabolical hatred, the Islamic world was even more centrally targeted in his venomous, vitriolic crosshairs.
Our societies, different as they are in so many ways, shared a remarkable link because of bin Laden, a link that has been strengthened now that this evil man has been killed and buried at sea.
For very different reasons, the West and the Islamic world each subscribe to the idea of ‘the big name’ theory of history and politics. It is the big name, the big person, the big leader, who is charged with changing the course of history. As easy as it is to understand the need to attach a larger-than-life face to beyond-our-wildest-imagination actions, it is erroneous thinking. No man lives in isolation, no person functions all alone. Osama bin Laden is dead, but his evil is very much still with us.
It is enormously important that it was the United States that killed bin Laden – that he died not at the hands of some other country or by natural causes. It is important because Osama bin Laden symbolized the greatest modern evil perpetrated against the United States of America, the greatest evil to confront the Western world in our time. And it is important because the United States spent so much time, money and effort to pursue and destroy the most influential thug of our era. It is important because his supporters need to know that the long arm of justice is not just a Western metaphor, that it is an indisputable fact on the ground.
BIN LADEN SET A TERROR MACHINE IN MOTION… THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF AL QAEDA HAS NOT BEEN ALTERED OR TOUCHED BY HIS DEATH.
Supporters of this villain saw him as bigger than life. In many parts of the world Osama bin Laden was transformed into a fictional superhero, an untouchable with the ability to survive and successfully carry out his mission despite a manhunt that was colossal in its scope and astronomical in its cost. In these parts of the world bin Laden was a symbol of the weakness of the United States and of the West because he outsmarted them and continued, through radio and video presentations, to haunt his victims long after 9-11.
Bin Laden is dead, but the system of evil that he begat lives on. He set a terror machine in motion and this machine has been operationally independent almost since the first moments of those first acts of terror were perpetrated. The infrastructure of al Qaeda has not been altered or touched by his death.
The free world should take some solace in the knowledge that this evil leader, Osama bin Laden, met his maker on Holocaust Memorial Day, the day dedicated to remembering the evils that befell humanity at the hands of Hitler and the Nazis. By some quirk of history and fate, Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler are now, even more than before, forever linked.
MICAH D. HALPERN is a columnist and a social and political commentator. His latest book is Thugs: How History’s Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder.