Osama bin Laden is dead. Will cutting off the head of the snake kill the body? Not likely.
He will almost certainly be martyred by his followers and spawn new insidious attacks for decades to come, quite possibly much more dangerous in death than he ever was alive. Millions of people see him as a revolutionary, fighting against evil, courageous and charismatic, the leader of their cause. Some of those, quite possibly thousands of ‘warriors,’ will now be inspired by him to follow that cause to the death.
That is not unlike the legend of Che Guevera. Interestingly, those two had a common enemy in capitalist western society. Today “Che” is accepted by American youth as a hero and his image is common, accepted and inspirational to many in our society. Will something similar happen with Osama Bin Laden in other countries?
Of all the great villains recognized as world leaders, probably Adolf Hitler has the dubious honour of being the most famous. Stalin runs a close second given the number of people he had killed is in the millions, but he was about brutal force and maintaining power, whereas Hitler was able to turn the minds of a whole nation into instruments of evil to carry out his diabolic philosophy. But those are current villains. The most effective and wide spread in his might, ruthlessness and destructive power was Genghis Khan, whose 12th century empire encompassed the greatest territory of any ruler in history.
Do we remember any great, kind and wonderful leaders from that time, before or since? No we don’t. Is there one leader in the last one hundred years who stands out as much in our minds as Hitler or Stalin? No there isn’t.
In politics and the lives of ordinary people – and this does not include religious figures or deities – we typically do not remember those who did good nearly as much. That is just the way it is.
Almost all Americans see Osama Bin Laden as a villain. If you count lives lost, with the nearly 3000 civilians from the destruction of the twin towers and roughly the same number of soldiers killed fighting the subsequent ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan, Bin Laden accounts for fewer than 10,000 lives lost. That is a paltry sum in comparison to some of the other great villainous leaders.
But it was the way Bin Laden did it that was so notable. Probably he was not the mad-genius behind the plot to ram recently fueled passenger jets as bombs into tall iconic American buildings, but his is the face of it. He is seen as the mastermind behind the destruction of the twin towers in New York – buildings selected because they epitomized capitalism and western culture. That blow was all the more impactful because it was done with impunity on American home soil by diabolically turning their own infrastructure into weapons. It was a very effective low blow and at the same time a taunting slap in the face. The way it was done, particularly because it was so twisted and sick, was guerilla warfare against a vastly superior enemy and has to be admired for its brutal effectiveness.
Osama Bin Laden changed our lives forever. Thanks to him there was a loss of innocence and naivety throughout western culture. We now live in a much different word of high security with reduced freedoms. Our American neighbours, a whole nation, have become less open, restricting their democracy. Its politics are driven in part by paranoia and fanaticism and racism has crept into their mainstream. Muslims in particular are paying the price and the relationship between followers of Islam and Christians is under pressure. The way this is heading does not bode well for the future. No war is as awful as a religious war.
Osama Bin Laden and his followers did not do good and did not make the world a better place by their actions. In fact they set us on a path in the opposite direction.
The Americans are now polarized, strident and militant. As such, Bin laden has won.
Until someone, or some nation, changes that direction for the better, things may well continue to worsen.
At one time Canada was respected as an international peacemaker. Perhaps it is time for us to take up that role again.