Osama bin Laden and the Arab Spring

Premature death offers the surest path to immortality.

No, that isn’t a metaphysical statement; just a rather prosaic observation.

Che Guevara, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, John F Kennedy, Malcolm X and now Osama bin Laden — all will forever be remembered through iconic images that capture their vitality, untarnished by age and infirmity.

The war on terrorism made pitifully little sense other than in symbolic terms, yet even in these terms the US has consistently been the loser.

9/11 was an offense to American pride — how could the greatest, most powerful nation on earth be brought to its knees by a small band of young men armed with box cutters?

Apparently, the only way to restore American pride and reinvigorate American power was to go on a rampage across the Middle East, kill hundreds of thousands of people and then, in what most Americans would gladly see as the final act, execute America’s archenemy. If we bankrupted ourselves along the way, it was all in the name of the most noble cause: the war between good and evil.

But evil can only be effectively externalized and symbolically vanquished if we simultaneously indulge in the willful suppression of awareness. The destruction of al Qaeda has only been a plausible objective for as long as we remain dreamily wedded to our own sense of innocence.

Elliot Abrams, a man still guided by his own dream images of the Middle East, writes:

The timing of Osama bin Laden’s death is perfect, coming during the Arab Spring. Al Qaeda’s message that violence, terrorism and extremism are the only answer for Arabs seeking dignity and hope is being rejected each day in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and throughout the Arab lands.

Al Qaeda and its view of the world are being pushed aside in favor of demands for new governments, free elections, freedom of speech and assembly and an end to corruption. Bin Laden’s death weakens Al Qaeda and Salafi movements further by taking away their most powerful symbol.

But on the contrary, what bin Laden’s death has achieved is to terminate the real life of a fugitive and leave behind nothing but the powerful symbol.

While in the eyes of Americans bin Laden came to symbolize violence, in the eyes of those who looked up to him as “Sheikh Osama” he symbolized a beacon of defiance in a region where for too long subservient populations had acquiesced to authoritarian rule by leaders who were themselves subservient to American interests.

As a political awakening now erupts across the region, a narrow violent Islamist movement has not so much been rejected as it has been superseded by a broad, youthful, partially non-violent, popular movement.

Even if the Middle East’s young revolutionaries have no organizational links or ideological sympathies with al Qaeda and its affiliates, the jihadists can nevertheless be viewed as a historical precursor to the Arab Spring in as much as they too rejected the political legitimacy of the region’s American-backed autocratic rulers.

To the extent that commentators portray the uprisings as ideologically non-violent, this seems to say more about the way Americans across the political spectrum have in the post 9/11 era been conditioned to view political violence, than it says about the nature of the Middle East’s ongoing revolutions. If one wants to praise the uprisings it is only politically correct to do so if one also praises their ostensible non-violent character.

Nowhere has this image of non-violence been held up more frequently than in the coverage of the Egyptian revolution, but as Egyptian journalist and blogger, Hossam el-Hamalawy, writes, this image is a fabrication.

One of the biggest myths invented by the media, tied to this whole Gene Sharp business: the Egyptian revolution was “peaceful.” I’m afraid it wasn’t. The revolution (like any other revolution) witnessed violence by the security forces that led to the killing of at least 846 protesters.

But the people did not sit silent and take this violence with smiles and flowers. We fought back. We fought back the police and Mubarak’s thugs with rocks, Molotov cocktails, sticks, swords and knives. The police stations which were stormed almost in every single neighborhood on the Friday of Anger–that was not the work of “criminals” as the regime and some middle class activists are trying to propagate. Protesters, ordinary citizens, did that.

Egyptians understand well what a police station is for. Every family has a member who got abused, tortured or humiliated by the local police force in his/her neighborhood. And I’m not even talking here about the State Security Police torture factories. I’m talking about the “ordinary police.”

Other symbols of power and corruption were attacked by the protesters and torched down during the uprising. Revolutionary violence is never random. Those buildings torched down or looted largely belonged to Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.

In a number of provinces like in N Sinai and Suez, arms were seized by protesters who used them back against the police to defend themselves. State Security Police office in Rafah and Arish, for example, were blown up using RPGs, hand grenades and automatic rifles, while gas pipelines heading to Jordan and Israel were attacked.

Am I condemning this violence? Totally not. Every single revolution in history witnessed its share of violence. The violence always starts on the hands of the state, not the people. The people are forced to pick up arms or whatever they can put their hands on to protect themselves.

Along with dispelling the myth of non-violence, maybe it’s time we stopped calling this an Arab Spring — or at least remember that spring brings tornadoes and storms and not just flowers and birdsong.

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6 thoughts on “Osama bin Laden and the Arab Spring

  1. Colm O' Toole

    Excellent piece.

    this seems to say more about the way Americans across the political spectrum have in the post 9/11 era been conditioned to view political violence, as it says about the nature of the Middle East’s ongoing revolutions. If one wants to praise the uprisings it is only politically correct to do so if one also praises their ostensible non-violent character.

    This observation reminds me of the following quote from Sartre in 1961 about the French lefts racist view on revolutions in Africa.

    But all the same, they think there are limits: the guerrillas must have their hearts set on showing that they are chivalrous; that would be the best way to prove that they are men.

    So where does this leave Bin Laden? Another great question. Will he, in 50 years, be remembered as someone who died fighting Western Imperialism? Or will he be remembered as another Hitler, an unspeakable monster?

    Seems likely that in the end he will be remembered as “a beacon of defiance” against one form of oppression (Western) but who championed another form of oppression (Wahhabi).

    Needs to be remembered that Bin Laden never fought to free people like Che Guevara did, Osama fought to free people from the West only to then dominate them through his own version of Islamic theocracy. It is possible that the revolutionaries of the Arab Spring understood this need to free people from the West and simply discarded Bin Laden’s notion of what would come after that.

  2. Ian Arbuckle

    The alleged targeted assassination of Osama Bin Laden poses too many questions that are being ignored by the MSM even Al Jazeera, Russia Today and Press TV. But the question of “why should he die now?” is important and may give us a clue to the truth.

    I wrote “alleged” because there are obvious reasons to doubt what the US government said yesterday not least the lack of tangible evidence, yet again. It is difficult to accept that this has any more veracity than what the US government puts out any other day of the week. At least you can grow better roses in what horses produce.

    Firstly lets be absolutely clear, OBL was a CIA operative at least until two months before 9-11 when he was visited at the American hospital in Dubai by two CIA agents, on more than one occasion during a ten day stay there. This was according to a report in Le Figaro and attributed to French military intelligence. These visits were long after Embassy bombings and the attack on the USS Cole.

    You have to wonder also why OBL could go from being of such critically important to cause wars to just so unimportant in terms of the US government leader.

    “The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him.”
    – G.W. Bush, 9/13/01


    “I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.”
    – G.W. Bush, 3/13/02
    “I am truly not that concerned about him.”
    – G.W. Bush, responding to a question about bin Laden’s whereabouts,
    3/13/02 (The New American, 4/8/02)

    OBL was most likely killed or died in 2001:

    In his book “Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive?” philosopher Professor David Ray Griffin, former emeritus professor at California’s Claremont School of Theology, claims that Bin Laden died of kidney failure, or a linked complaint, on December 13, 2001, while living in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains close to the border with Waziristan. His burial took place within 24 hours, in line with Muslim religious rules, and in an unmarked grave, which is a Wahhabi custom.

    Also in a November 02, 2007 interview with David Frost, Benazir Bhutto was asked about the previous attempted assassination on her in October. In her response Ms. Bhutto said she had told Peveis Musharraf that she suspected the involvement of Pakistan’s security services in that previous bombing attempt on her life. She remarked that one security agent she suspected of being involved, she said, “had dealings with Omar Sheikh, the man who murdered Osama bin Laden.”

    Less than two months after this interview, on December 27th 2007, Bhutto was assassinated.

    On December 26, 2001 the Egyptian newspaper Al-Wafd reported that a prominent official of the Afghan Taliban had announced that Osama Bin Laden had been buried on or about December 13.

    ‘He suffered serious complications and died a natural, quiet death. He was buried in Tora Bora, a funeral attended by 30 Al Qaeda fighters, close members of his family and friends from the Taliban. By the Wahhabi tradition, no mark was left on the grave,’ said the report.

    So if he was dead why stage this elaborate show?

    My opinion is that it is to revive the war on terror, which is flagging along with the US’s domination, assertion and hegemony that its operations have furthered and enabled. The serious question must be, to what extent will the US go on in this endeavour to revive a fictitious enemy and conflict. Will the assassination of an irrelevant bygone icon to gain some brownie points for the waning ratings of a seriously puppettized president be enough by giving some local hoopla to the dumb right and the other delusional patriots who believe the official version of the 9-11 conspiracy scenario, or is their a deeper more ominous plan to re-initiate the next phase of “false flag” attacks, for which we are being already warned to expect as retaliation for Bin Laden’s killing. Or, is the idea to find cause to extend the war by debilitating and finally overrunning Pakistan’s already weak government and creating an explosive backlash of militancy?

    Last week we could find reports from classified Guantanamo files saying there would be increased terror attacks if Osama was killed and one week later, he is killed.

    “‘Nuclear hellstorm’ if bin Laden caught: 9/11 mastermind
    Apr 25, 2011 at 22:45
    [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged organiser of the September 11, 2001, attacks,… had warned that Al-Qaeda has hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe that will unleash a “nuclear hellstorm” if Osama bin Laden is captured, leaked files have revealed.(AFP/File)]…” Was this “selectively leaked on April 25?

    If the next False Flag event is nuclear it would certainly make the sheeple cringe and do as they are told by their masters. A dirty bomb would be an easier origin to hide, but never the less…..
    Quoting from the blog “Warning Signs March 6th 2011”:

    Libya, in partnership with Israel and the former apartheid regime in South Africa, began developing chemical and germ warfare capabilities. These WMDs were used by the South African forces in Angola and elsewhere, thousands died. Libya funded one of the largest chemical and biological weapons programs in the world, rivaling the former Soviet Union in size, a program thought to be in place as late as 2004. During the same period, a year after the American invasion of Iraq to end a WMD program now proven non-existent, Libya, with Israeli help, developed a nuclear capability and is said to control several “Hiroshima” style weapons, uranium based fission devices.
    As part of this combined program, South Africa built 10 nuclear weapons at their Pelindaba facility between 1975 and 1980.
    The three nations performed one successful weapons test, an 18.2 kiloton uranium weapon on September 22, 1979 on Prince Edward Island in the seas north of Antarctica. This test was observed and verified by both US and Soviet nuclear intelligence services and a “weapons signature” was developed. South Africa ended its program in 1990, shipping 6 of the remaining weapons to the US for dismantling. Three were sold and then transferred to British control and eventually shipped to Oman but disappeared in transit.
    One of these weapons exploded in North Korea in 2009, their only successful nuclear test. Two are missing.”

    It may be more accurate to say that they are not missing per se, but more likely up the sleeve of history ready to be attributed to the next best boogie nation like Iran, or even better for endless faceless war, a non nation terrorist group to be defined……

    And then there is the question of the legality of this apparent tactical strategic strike by JSOC. Who else in the world can now follow the advise of Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser at the US state department who told the American Society of International Law? “Some have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing.

    “But a state that is engaged in an armed conflict or in legitimate self-defence is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force.
    “The principles of distinction and proportionality that the US applies are …implemented rigorously throughout the planning and execution of lethal operations to ensure that such operations are conducted in accordance with all applicable law.”

    Watch the clock. It will only be a matter of time before Libya, DPRK (North Korea), or Iran use exactly the same justification. In fact India could well complicate the immediate situation and further expand hostilities as it seems to be getting closer to suggesting that on the same basis it should consider to “take-out” a few members of Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan.

    Quoting from the latest BBC article “The killing of Osama bin Laden near Islamabad is proof that “terrorists belonging to different organisations find sanctuary in Pakistan”, Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram says.

    President Obama’s statement that the Al-Qaeda leader was killed in Abbotabad “deep inside Pakistan” was a matter of “grave concern”, he said.

    The minister urged Pakistan to arrest those behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
    India has blamed the attacks on Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group.

    After initially denying the charge, Pakistan later admitted that some of the attacks were planned on its territory.”

    So what is the world being set up for? The only things transparently clear comings out of Washington these days are lies. As its empire wanes America’s last tools left in their box are global financial havoc and its dull and heavy hammer of war; a provoked and expanded war to insure disaster capitalism on a global scale.

    One way or another, one has to ask the question, why?

  3. DE Teodoru

    Interesting that you should quote a little bald headed shmuck who used to get his ass handed to him in the schoolyard. The Arab Spring showed that the educated Arab minority wants a modernist revolution instead of a leap backwards into Sharia and is willing to face the same kind of muzzles Oasama faced. Ironically, it was the Israelis, todays top assassins with “made in USA” arms — Abrams champions for pats and profit– who were the most fearful of this revolution, not alQaeda. alQaeda rode on the issue of justice though it turned into a Mafia. But unlike the neocons, all alQaeda operatives chose self-emolation for their cause. And they were no less brutal in their willingness to have people killed for their views as the necons in their bravura– of course, Upper West Side mice all, they would have someone else do the dying and killing, unlike alQaeda that lived and died for their cause. When thinking of what war profiteers were the neocons, one can’t help feeling that they deserve to lie next to binLaden.

    With a bullet hole just above the left orbit of Osama on dialysis– who nevertheless, unlike neocons, went to all the wars he advocated– Obama got his campaign gimmick in lieu of lowering unemployment below 8%. The real issue now is that publicizing this assassination will mobilize hundred of thousands of enraged hihilist Islamics to devote their lives to revenge on our homefront rather than somewhere else. So if you’re on a bridge, in a tunnel or a building that blows up, tell yourself: Oh well, at least I die so Obama can be re-elected!

    Throughout history SecOps were always discrete, avoiding publicity for their grusome work. But this and the birth certificate are all Obama has to run on. Anyway, I hope Obama wins because the Republicans for sale to the highest corporate bidders are reeeealy dangerous. Evil, like goodness, now a days, is relative!

  4. randrand

    possibly-just possibly-why state gun laws keep issuing licenses and guns and full auto-guns like popcorn! Are the states that starved for revenue in tax barren coffers, or-is there a need in the near future to train a “PEOPLE’S MILITIA”>>1 Is it a lightweight hint that what is coming is indefensible by law enforcement and government agencies??!The timing, if not a conspiratorial false flag, is curiously on target for what was revealed as a concerted effort to advise all radical units world-wide revenge attacks between July 4th Holiday and the anniversary of 9-11. iIt is like the planners in Washington are going for loooooong holidays in the mountains during that period of time-WHAT DO THEY KNOW-WHAT DO THEY SUSPECT?

  5. randrand


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