I'm not at all about watching grisly videos depicting gruesome events of death and carnage. There are websites devoted to such dark and perverted entertainment and that they maintain even a semblance of popularity lends me to wonder if our worlds population of sociopaths is much more inflated than any can effectively measure.
Never the less, some years ago I did watch a video of American hostage Nicholas Berg having his head sawed off like so much livestock to the slaughter. It is as much by this haunting few moments as 9/11 that I identify the message and methods of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
A few years later, upon learning that the man who held the knife that so violently ended Nick Berg's life, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had found his demise, courtesy of the United States Air Force, I allowed myself some small sense of celebration. And when I learned that after the two F-16's had "reached out and touched" him he'd survived long enough to see American soldiers (apparently delivering medical attention no less) and likely realized the source of his doom, I thought along the lines of, "Better than dead, the motherfucker knew who brought it about."
Likely of little comfort to Nick Berg's family but for me a sense of vindication, of vengeance realized. A selfish, if understandable reaction but necessary to illustrate my personal hatred of what Al Qaeda represents. Necessary because sometimes when people read dispassionate analysis or consideration they leap to emotional conclusions. Consider the above a litmus of my own personal views while I cast them aside and look at an issue straight on without the taint of emotion.
Back in 2001 President Bush promised to capture bin Laden "dead or alive." Is Osama bin Laden more valuable dead or alive? What are the pros and cons of each outcome?
The concept of these questions is naturally counter intuitive to most Americans. Bin Laden not only deserves death but in eliminating him the US scores a major victory in the "War on Terror" as they effectively decapitate the leadership of Al Qaeda.
Without bin Laden AQ will continue shatter and become even more fragmented and tactically impotent. Truly AQ's successful attacks since 9/11 have served to illustrate a continuous scaling down in both size and effectiveness. By lopping off their leadership they, like a queen less hive of wasps, will surely scatter to the winds.
Additionally the demise of bin Laden will serve a symbolic victory of western ideals over the anachronistic values and ideals of radical wahhabism. Much as MacArthur "humanized" Emperor Hirohito on board the USS Missouri in the signing of the Potsdam Declaration, the end of bin Laden would serve a message to any and all that hold him a prophet...
... Except that in death Osama bin Laden becomes a martyr and, perhaps, elevates both his own status and the dogma of Al Qaeda to the level of Prophet.
Decapitating the leadership of Al Qaeda may have very different consequences than pounding AQ in Iraq leader, al Zarqawi, out of existance. AQI without Zarqawi combined with collective dissatisfaction within the Sunni tribes served to render AQI impotent and eventually virtually inconsequential.
Assuming that bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri don't travel together (be straight out imbecilic if they did) AQ without bin Laden is still within the reign of al Zawahiri. And Zawahiri is likely AQ's "brain." A former leader of Egypt's Islamic Jihad, he was fingered in the assassination of Eqyptian President Anwar Sadat and served a three year sentence. That sentence left him hell bent in both his message and method of toppling secular Islamic regimes. If Zawahiri entered prison a terrier he came out a frothing pit bull and when the two met in Pakistan in the late 1980's (as the Soviets licked their wounds and pulled their forces from Afghanistan) ideology met method and strategy.
A dead bin Laden also serves a very formidable martyr. Bin Laden's demise will meet out western justice but may well serve a clarion call to many across the Islamic world and the ranks of AQ would likely see an immediate, if short term swell. Even given additional fragmentation (as the organization would likely suffer) operations could resume a higher status of return with a sudden swell in ranks under al Zawahiri.
Prior to his demise, American intelligence will have pin pointed his position. In doing so they maintain the prospect of either killing (or taking) bin Laden or harrying him.
Decapitating AQ through killing bin Laden and even al Zawahiri won't end AQ. Rather it will simply allow a new rank and form to graduate and take on the charge. By locating but not killing or taking bin Laden the US saves itself years of intelligence effort. If we know where bin Laden is we can monitor and perhaps dig our way into his hateful organizations modus.
Which way should we travel?
4 years ago