Monday, May 02, 2011

Chistopher Hitchens on the Death of Osama bin Laden

Glad that Hitch has lived to see it. From Slate:
If you tell me that you are staying in a rather nice walled compound in Abbottabad, I can tell you in return that you are the honored guest of a military establishment that annually consumes several billion dollars of American aid. It's the sheer blatancy of it that catches the breath.

There's perhaps some slight satisfaction to be gained from this smoking-gun proof of official Pakistani complicity with al-Qaida, but in general it only underlines the sense of anticlimax. After all, who did not know that the United States was lavishly feeding the same hands that fed Bin Laden? There's some minor triumph, also, in the confirmation that our old enemy was not a heroic guerrilla fighter but the pampered client of a corrupt and vicious oligarchy that runs a failed and rogue state.

Elsewhere in Slate, Daniel Byman analyzes the future of al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden, John Dickerson discusses the president's proactive role in the assassination, and William Saletan uncovers some holes in the raid narrative. Also, David Weigel describes the scene outside the White House following Obama's announcement, Anne Applebaum applauds America's use of human intelligence over expensive technologies, and Brian Palmer examines Bin Laden's burial at sea. For the most up-to-date-coverage, visit The Slatest. Slate's complete coverage is rounded up here.

But, again, we were aware of all this already. At least we won't have to put up with a smirking video when the 10th anniversary of his best-known atrocity comes around. Come to think of it, though, he hadn't issued any major communiqu├ęs on any subject lately (making me wonder, some time ago, if he hadn't actually died or been accidentally killed already), and the really hateful work of his group and his ideology was being carried out by a successor generation like his incomparably more ruthless clone in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. I find myself hoping that, like Zarqawi, Bin Laden had a few moments at the end to realize who it was who had found him and to wonder who the traitor had been. That would be something. Not much, but something.

In what people irritatingly call "iconic" terms, Bin Laden certainly had no rival. The strange, scrofulous quasi-nobility and bogus spirituality of his appearance was appallingly telegenic, and it will be highly interesting to see whether this charisma survives the alternative definition of revolution that has lately transfigured the Muslim world. The most tenaciously lasting impression of all, however, is that of his sheer irrationality. What had the man thought he was doing? Ten years ago, did he expect, let alone desire, to be in a walled compound in dear little Abbottabad?