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?There is more, go read the whole article.
Ten years ago, I remind you, he had a gigantic influence in one rogue and failed state—Afghanistan—and was exerting an increasing force over its Pakistani neighbor. Taliban and al-Qaida sympathizers were in senior positions in the Pakistani army and nuclear program and had not yet been detected as such. Huge financial subventions flowed his way, often through official channels, from Saudi Arabia and other gulf states. As well as running a nihilist international, he was the head of a giant and profitable network of banking and money-laundering. He could order heavy artillery wheeled up to destroy the Buddhist treasures of Afghanistan in broad daylight. A nexus of madrassas was spreading the word from Indonesia to London, just as a nexus of camps was schooling future murderers.
And he decided to gamble all these ripening strategic advantages in a single day. Then, not only did he run away from Afghanistan, leaving his deluded followers to be killed in very large numbers, but he chose to remain a furtive and shady figure, on whom the odds of a successful covert "hit," or bought-and-paid-for betrayal, were bound to lengthen every day.
It seems thinkable that he truly believed his own mad propaganda, often adumbrated on tapes and videos, especially after the American scuttle from Somalia. The West, he maintained, was rotten with corruption and run by cabals of Jews and homosexuals. It had no will to resist. It had become feminized and cowardly. One devastating psychological blow and the rest of the edifice would gradually follow the Twin Towers in a shower of dust. Well, he and his fellow psychopaths did succeed in killing thousands in North America and Western Europe, but in the past few years, their main military triumphs have been against such targets as Afghan schoolgirls, Shiite Muslim civilians, and defenseless synagogues in Tunisia and Turkey. Has there ever been a more contemptible leader from behind, or a commander who authorized more blanket death sentences on bystanders?
Hitchens makes it clear that US policy helped fund Osama bin Laden through the much more than $15 billion that was given to Pakistan from which a fair chunk then flowed into the al Qaeda network. The US really needs to rethink its relationship with Pakistan. That is a murderous state where you can't trust anybody. I still have the image of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto burned into my mind. And I know that destabilizing proliferation of nuclear technology by A. Q. Khan was tolerated and shouldn't have been. There is just too much intrigue and back-stabbing going on in Pakistan. That country should be isolated and put on a watch list for rogue states.