Plenty of people will remember where they were when they heard that the Americans had finally got Osama Bin Laden. Me, I was sitting up in bed shouting They never have! You're pulling my leg... Found Elvis too, have they?
Like many others, I assumed he'd never be found, not because I thought he was dead or a seven-foot tall shape-changing reptilian from Venus, but because he seemed destined to join Jimmy Hoffa in the Where are they now? file - a mystery for the ages. Credit to the Americans for sticking to their guns and tracking him down.
I doubt there's much I can add to the debate, but a few points occur...
- First up, break out the beer! Bin Laden was one of that most obnoxious of breeds - a jumped-up, true-believing little turd whose every breath and thought were dedicated to making the world a shittier, more dangerous place for everybody else. It's a shame this didn't happen in 2001 and save us all the hassle.
- Ten years ago, I probably wouldn't have had to say that explicitly. It would've been taken as read.
- And, what? Ten years of non-stop, full-bore violence and mayhem, and we have a dead Saudi beardie with a bullet in his head to show for it. I won't list the disasters of the decade. Suffice to say, there are a huge number of people who are no longer with us who probably would've been, had it not been for Osama and George W's dick-waving contest. I'm yet to run across anyone saying in blunt terms that all of the catastrophes of the 2000s were worth it to perforate one angry shut-in, which is good. It either means that there are fewer psychopaths around than I'd assumed, or that they're a lot quieter than they used to be.
- And no wonder they're quiet. Hands up who thinks Bin Laden spent the decade thinking Oh my, I have really messed up. We are losing so badly to the Infidel that I regret my previous actions? A little rich-kid styles himself a Holy Warrior, sucks up a load of funding for his psycho mates and somehow manages to become the Face Of Evil Itself, glaring out of magazine and newspaper covers worldwide. Bin Laden might be feeding the fish as I type this, but I don't think he'd have said that he lost. He may not have got his apocalyptic victory, but with half the Middle East in flames, I think he'd say that he didn't do too badly for a hateful little shit with a few rich buddies.
I'd like to think that we've learned lessons about not turning murderers into global celebrities and tiny gaggles of terrorist shitheads into planet-throttling James Bond-esque supervillains, but I doubt that's the case, because...
- It's odd to hear politicians and pundits simultaneously declaring that snagging Bin Laden is both a major victory and not-victory at the same time. It's an event that has both changed the world and left it unaltered; a death that has made us safer by somehow increasing the threat of terrorist attack. It's like the Schrodinger's Cat of historical events.
- All of which means that, despite all the hoo-ha, it's still business as usual. The drones will keep buzzing over Pakistan and we'll continue doing whatever it is we're supposed to be doing in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. The obvious implication of this is that OBL himself and Al Qaeda generally were never as threatening or as important as we were led to believe but then, prominent public figures have been saying this for years to no avail.
Other thoughts, in no particular order -
- Yes, it's pretty distasteful to see people openly celebrating Bin Laden's death like it was a football result. I don't begrudge it to anyone, if it makes them feel good for a while - if nothing else, at least it's one fleeting moment of pleasure to come out of OBL's whole, worthless existence.
- That said, it puts me in mind of those weirdos who rock up outside death row prisons to chug beers and wave Burn the Bitch! banners whenever there's an execution. Hell, whatever excites you, guys. It does nothing for me.
- It's pretty odd that the Americans haven't released definitive proof of death. I assume this is because OBL didn't carry much paperwork. I'd expect photos to be released in all their gory detail eventually, once the furore has died down.
Still, this has led to a lot of talk of conspiracies. Going by my Twitter feed - not a reliable source, by any means - there seems to be a lot more concern about conspiracy theorists than there are actual conspiracy theories. I also notice that those most concerned about conspiracy theory are also those who bought into the War On Terror rhetoric hook, line and sinker. It's mildly interesting that those most stridently disdainful of suckers are themselves some of the most prominent suckers around.
- Anyway, if I was Osama Bin Laden, I'd be thinking three things - 1) Why didn't I leave a video pretending that I was still alive, and that the Americans had killed a body double? 2) My head hurts and 3) I don't like the look of that bloody great fish.
- The ladies get the royal wedding, we get Call Of Duty: Extreme Terrorist Smackdown. It's a fair trade.