Tag Archives: Abbottabad

Osama and the use of “bin” as a homophone of “been”

2 May

Lucky for me I’m jet-lagged, so it’s not too off-putting getting up at 1:30 in the morning to hear the news that international bogeyman – our generation’s Carlos the Jackal – Osama bin Laden, has been eliminated in Abbottabad, Pakistan. One can only wish there was a Costellobad nearby.

Bin Laden has for some years been a largely ceremonial head of just about any grouping of disaffected Islamic youth who decide that extremist jihadism is a great way to rebel against society or their parents. His elimination is a day of celebration and remembrance, and I’m grateful not for what some commentators are referring to as “closure”, but instead for the sheer revenge factor. With bin Laden’s elimination, almost all of the people who planned the 9/11 attacks are either in custody or dead. That’s a fundamentally good thing, with credit going to both the Obama and Bush administrations.

Qaedatards pledge an oath of personal allegiance to bin Laden, and there’s really no one with his stature or charisma to replace him in that terrorist social network. Could al Qaeda be finished?

Since that fateful day in 2001, the United States has been fighting what has been termed a “war on terror”, but that’s an impossible war to wage. Terror is a feeling, not an army. Terrorism is something that has existed since time immemorial, whereby people or groups wage irregular attacks against military and civilian targets alike in order primarily to make people afraid, and secondarily to make some oft-facile point. Terrorism as a tactic is something that cannot be “defeated” in the traditional sense of fighting wars. It is something that needs to be monitored, infiltrated, prevented when possible, and punished when not. The best way to combat terror is to keep calm and carry on, and to remain vigilant against it.

In retrospect, I think, the biggest shock from 9/11 was how ineffective and sieve-like our security apparati were. We Americans have a short attention span, which means we tolerate window dressing (color-coded threat levels) over real effective change. We consolidated many agencies under the “homeland security” umbrella, and they’re supposed to be working together and sharing information.

I think bin Laden’s elimination, and the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks should lead to some “closure” of a real sort. The money, effort, and attention we pay to fight three separate and distinct wars in Asia and Africa could be so much better spent on solving longstanding issues here at home. Reforming the tax code to make it more fair and simpler, ensuring that Americans have access to quality health care that doesn’t bankrupt them, and otherwise saving or redirecting trillions of dollars spent now on multiple quagmires.

What I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is that Osama’s death won’t end terrorism. No act or omission by our government or military can ever end terrorism, any more than a war on drugs will end drug use. It’s a largely symbolic milestone.

But what a symbolic milestone it is. The killing of a mass murderer is a great thing to celebrate. The upcoming days will reveal more details about this operation and we’ll consume them with glee and awe. But since we’re the last superpower, we’re a huge target – both collectively and individually. Extremists and murderers will continue to want to become infamous by killing us.

Live your life. Be happy. Do things. Travel. Read. Write. Draw. Paint. Buy. Make. Invent. Love. Discover. The best way to defeat terror is to be. And to not be afraid.

(Image courtesy of Marquil at EmpireWire.com)