We May Have Given Osama Bin Laden Too Much Credit

#Opinion

Sat, May 5th, 2012 21:00 by capnasty NEWS

According to Abhijnan Rej of Open The Magazine, Osama Bin Laden was not the cunning fighter, commander and theologian he appeared to be. Instead, he argues, his fame was blown out of proportion because Bin Laden was "mode-locked to success by a series of random events, each reinforcing the next."

Early in the days and months after 9/11, a senior Norwegian diplomat Espen Eide, following his peacekeeping experiences in the Balkans, called Osama bin Laden a "conflict entrepreneur". The New York Times ran long pieces on the organisational structure of Al-Qaida, depicting it as a well-managed modern multinational company with bin Laden as its CEO. President Bush evoked the Wild West with a 'Wanted Dead or Alive' slogan, unwittingly equating bin Laden with Jesse James. French philosophers being French philosophers spoke of Al-Qaida's (and ergo bin Laden's) actions as spectacular works of theatre whose aim was to 'radicalise the world by sacrifice'. In the Indian state of West Bengal, a leading member of the (then ruling) Communist Party sympathised with the attack on the Pentagon; after all, he rationalised to disbelieving members of the press, wasn't 'Pentagone kaman dago' ('Take aim at the Pentagon') one of the Communist Party's early slogans? Badly printed Che-type T-shirts with bin Laden on it sold like hot kebabs in the not-so-tony neighbourhoods of Islamabad and Karachi which young men wore with pride, sipping on a local version of Coca-Cola. The good Reverend Jerry Falwell went above and beyond everyone else by indirectly claiming that bin Laden was actually doing God's job by punishing America for allowing "alternative lifestyles".

From Berlin to Bombay, from Georgetown to Jakarta, Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden became whatever people wanted him to be, a bit like a certain class of high-priced 'escorts' one sees advertised in the 'Personal' columns of adult magazines.

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