‘Osama here. Open the door…’
‘What?’ I thought, ‘Osama Bin Laden?’ I was at that moment reading this tweet by @missletsbuild Julia: “Osama bin dead, Obama bin lying! #osamadead.” I must’ve spoken aloud because the voice from the other side of the door had a ring of urgency to it:
‘Come on. I don’t have the entire day…’
‘Well,’ I shouted back, ‘you do have all the time now, don’t you?’ …and saying that, I opened the door. Yes it is indeed Osama standing in front of me. I rubbed my eyes and Osama leaned forward to pinch me.
‘It is me. I am Osama. Now can we sit and talk?’
‘Yes,’ I said, and led him to my study where I was anyway in the process of writing my article on him. He bent forward and looked intently at the PC screen to read all the headings that I had written:
Does terror ever die?
Osama never said he was a terrorist.
Now we know what happens inside Pakistan.
You’ll love being a terrorist if you like a life spent hiding and running away!
Only the rich can afford to unleash terror!
Osama was a salesman who couldn’t sell all the time.
‘Hmmm… interesting options. As I have landed straight on your landing and you’re writing on me, I think I’ll grant you three questions and no more before I move on to collect some classified information from Assange. Go on, shoot…’
Osama was in some kind of a terrifying hurry and yet seemed like he had all the time in the world to stay to talk to an unknown blogger like me.
‘Why are you in such a big hurry? The DevGru or the Seal Team Six of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group are probably relaxing at some undisclosed location in Pakistan. Who knows, they could even be back to Dam Neck, their home base in Virginia.’ In my hurry to show-off, I didn’t realise that I had actually asked a question.
‘That’s your first question… right? Yes I am in a hurry as I am a part of the JPC in the kingdom of far-away planet and we have an urgent meeting to decide if it is ok to allow coffee beans to exist.’
As I stared incredulously at him, I detected a faint flicker of a smile through his salt and pepper beard and he continued: ‘You see, I was the first coffee bean that got hammered in 1657 when coffee was introduced in France. I hate the French since then and have been lobbying to get coffee beans flushed out of existence here on your planet. I’ll tell you more on this but later.’
‘OK.’ I said, and before I could think of a better question I blurted: ‘So you’re into big time politics even in…err…hell?’
‘You mortals are so naïve. There is neither any hell nor is there any heaven anywhere. We all simply go to a far-away planet. And live there forever. Dreaming. Debating. Deciding on how to keep the universe in its active mode.’ He paused before going on: ‘We are all equally vocal and equally powerful. Except our Prime Minister who silently accepts everything we say… unless he decides to merge one of us into him.’ Osama knew he had me trapped into either asking questions with answers that were beyond the understanding of humans or let me nervous anxiety to ask the perfect question lead me to ask one that was a total block-head!
I knew I had to ask the third question now. But this man had already buried me in so many strange sounding facts that I was unable to think of any really smart question that could keep him with me for longer. I looked at the screen and searched for some inspiration. That was when I saw the list of headings that I was considering for my article.
‘I want you to explain the truth behind all the seven statements written there. Can you?’ I asked, pointing to the screen.
This was Osama’s turn to be taken aback and after a stunned moment of silence he said: ‘That was smart. I’ll now have to tell you more than I would’ve wanted to tell anyone about me.’
As I was about to say something, he raised an admonishing finger to silence me and said: ‘It is only correct to warn you that you may talk but you cannot ask any question. If you ask a question, I’ll be forced by my own words to remain silent.’
This was the moment when I noticed that Osama was wearing skin coloured shorts and sky-blue tees with ‘I revolt’ written in black on its front. I was unable to resist saying: ‘I like your shorts and tees.’
‘This is self-cleaning material and I belong to the ‘I revolt’ party. Before I opted to be born as Osama, I was already a parliamentarian in the far-away planet. The debate on coffee beans was cut short then and now I need to rush back with important and vital classified documents on coffee beans that are with Assange. This may just help me give my arguments the final twist that I have been looking for all these years.’
‘Interesting to know that Osama was just searching for coffee bean reports when the powers on Earth thought he was after their power.’
‘You mortals wouldn’t understand. It’s all linked, you see. I was born as Osama in 1957 with a destiny to revolt against destructive powers. I did say on the 24th of November 2002: Anyone who tries to destroy our villages and cities, then we are going to destroy their villages and cities. Anyone who steals our fortunes, then we must destroy their economy. Anyone who kills our civilians, then we are going to kill their civilians.’
He paused for a while after such a chilling statement and then continued: ‘Before I was Osama, I was the first bullet that the British officers fired on their rebelling soldiers of the 3rd Light Cavalry of the British East India Company. This was in 1857 and then it was only in 1957 that I was handed my next job by the Assignments Ministry.’
‘Not much of a transition though as you shuttled between being a bullet to being one who fired them.’
‘No, I never fired on anyone. I made plans to kill, yes. In my bullet avatar I was a mere impulse. In an earlier avatar, I was the main strategist, the quill, of Fredrick the Great as he drew the plans for besieging the city of Prague in 1757. It was I who guided his hands.’
‘Right. Now I understand. You have this 100 year pact with violence. And even your 1657 avatar of the coffee bean that got hammered by the French is one violent incident that has given us all a lot of sleepless nights, so to say!’ I smiled as I said this.
‘See, you understand all my dilemmas. So you must also have understood why terror never really dies.’
‘Well, sort of. The quill obviously means that terror is a product of a mind that seeks happiness by demanding. That bullet of the 3rd Light Cavalry tells me that terror is an outcome when talks either don’t happen or fail. The coffee bean incident,’ I paused for a moment, ’means that terror has the ability to walk out from a battlefield and amble in a company boardroom too.’ I looked at him with a triumphant expression waiting for applause. Applause from Osama? Phew, the world is going to wring my neck.
‘You’re doing well,’ he said.
I almost allowed my body to go into an elaborate gracious bow… that’s the effect of watching the Kate-William wedding throughout the day sometime last week. But I did nothing and I said nothing.
Does terror ever die?
‘Listen,’ he continued, ‘terror is a function of the mind. It exists so long as a mind is willing to be terrorized. So terror never dies.’
‘Not really,’ I remarked, ‘terrorists can still be real even if I decide not to remain terrorized. So terror isn’t just a function of the mind.’
‘This too is right,’ replied Osama, ‘However, the opposite is more true… terror will be real even after the terrorist has ceased to be. I was going through an article written on me by Simon Jenkins where he concludes that the thesis must now be put to the test, whether an idea is more potent when its creator has died for it than when he was alive. Terror shall continue, as you shall see.’
Osama continued: ‘The kind of annoyance and darkness that Ravana initiated, is still alive. Therefore, is Ravana really dead? Hitler’s contorted thought processes are still evident. Therefore, is Hitler really dead? Terror that this Osama evolved isn’t yet dead. Therefore, will Osama ever die? Terror anyway is a set of questions in the human mind that have decided not to be satisfied by any answers. So they go on agitating within minds… sometimes jumping out uncontrollably to kill…’
He was silent for a while and then with a vigorous shake of his head he began again: ‘But remember, terror dies or sublimates into something benevolent when we decide to change its definition. Just look at how history is full of dictators like Hitler surviving and thriving because of their idea and ideology becoming acceptable.’
‘It is not easy to make ideologies unacceptable,’ I replied. A few worry lines had already made their appearance on my forehead. After a pause, I continued: ‘This means that though your death is a victory for the forces of peace, but yet it does not mean extremism has been defeated. Hey, we’re getting into a war of semantics now.’
‘No, not really. Put down the gun. Lose a few lives. But keep your chant for peace sharp and loud. This is what Gandhi did. This is the reason for Nelson Mandela’s victory. This is what a few determined people in Egypt did.’
‘…and this is exactly what the people of Libya aren’t doing.’
Osama looked at me impatiently and continued: ‘Even Martin Luther King has said: I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. The ultimate winner is going to be non-violence.’
Before I could utter another word, he raised his hands to indicate that he wanted me to be silent, and continued: ‘The Americans are making it appear as if all extremism is directed towards them. Extremism has no such territorial or racial preferences… as I said before, it is a mere agitation of the mind… and only silence can silence it!’
I was listening to what Osama had to say and was even trying to stumble upon something that could be connected to what he was saying.
‘Ah! Here it is,’ I remarked triumphantly, Allan Little of BBC says: ‘For if it appears to be a war against a certain kind of terrorism only – the kind that attacks America and its friends – then it will look less and less like a war against terrorism and more and more like a war for American self-defence.’ (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1693876.stm)
‘This guy is right,’ admitted Osama.
‘You know Osama, some are believing that you aren’t really dead. I was reading this tweet from @rondlite Ron D. Lite that said: Amazing tech: same day dna results #osamadead. Which new equipment they use for that? Minimum is 48 hours…’
‘Forget all those conjectures. Forget even that tweet from @iMishaal Mishaal Hamza that said: Dear America, You need to understand one thing, Just because ur President or Al Qaeda confirms we’ll not believe the news!! @OsamaDead?, though what it actually says is that the ideology is still alive. Forget all the mish-mash that Mush is blurting out.’
Osama continued: ‘What matters is that it has taken 10 years, 2 wars, 919,967 deaths, $1,188263000, 000 to kill me. This is what the world must realise. You cannot fight and vanquish terror. Terror dies only when the concern for reason and goodness transcends boundaries.’
Osama never said he was a terrorist.
‘Geronimo EIKA… is all wrong. I was an enemy of policies that strangulate. Remember, I said that – he (American President) moved the tyranny and suppression of freedom to his own country, and they called it the Patriot Act under the disguise of fighting terrorism.’
Osama continued to speak without waiting for another prompt, ‘Read that article by Mats Svensson (http://www.counterpunch.org/svensson02172009.html) where he writes: In the USA, it took 19 years before president and Nobel peace prize winner Mandela was removed from the US terrorist list. Yes it is true. He was only removed in 2008 during President Bush’s last year in power. It was also then that the world finally understood that Mandela had been a free man all along. Confined but free. A freedom that he gave to de Klerk in 1990 and to the USA in 2008. To receive that freedom one first has to want to receive it.’
I wondered how this dead terrorist could remember such long quotes, forgetting that he could also possibly read minds now that he wasn’t an earthling anymore.
‘Log on to that site and confirm if you disbelieve me.’
‘You’re right, I remember having read this article.’
Osama seemed to be in silent thought for a while before he looked up and said: ‘Terrorism is politically and emotionally charged. Defuse this charge and the world immediately becomes a saner place. What I mean is the world is insane not just because of terror and terrorists but also because of the way it is perceived and handled.’
Then Osama asked me to open Wikipedia and made me read this: ‘terrorism is simply violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for a religious, political or ideological goal, deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians), and are committed by non-government agencies.’
And also ‘Those labelled “terrorists” by their opponents rarely identify themselves as such, and typically use other terms or terms specific to their situation, such as separatist, freedom fighter, liberator, revolutionary, vigilante, militant, paramilitary, guerrilla, rebel, patriot, or any similar-meaning word in other languages and cultures. Jihadi, mujaheddin, and fedayeen are similar Arabic words which have entered the English lexicon. It is common for both parties in a conflict to describe each other as terrorists.’
‘So now I hope you understand that terrorism is like statistics that can be made to look and prove whatever the mightier or the more resourceful person or nation wishes. Thus a person who is a terrorist for someone can at the same time be a good man as well.’
‘I can understand your point about vested interests creating Gods as well as demons. However, I’m not able to buy your inference that a terrorist too can be a good man. You know after 11 September President Bush said: There are good causes and bad causes. But there is no such thing as a good terrorist.’
‘Let me explain my point again by quoting my good friend Allan Little from BBC who, referring to the Irish problem, wrote: The republican movement had to accept – and persuade its own supporters – that the ‘armed struggle’ it had been waging could not bring about the desired goal of a united Ireland.
Equally, the British Government had to concede that the terrorism could not be defeated by military/security means alone. Its political causes had to be addressed.’ (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1693876.stm)
‘I don’t understand how this makes a terrorist a good man.’
‘If you’re fighting for a good and a just cause, you are a just and a good man. There is no more to it.’
Osama seemed to go into some sort of a trance again. Maybe he was debating if he really wanted this coffee bean report from Assange of not…
He was back just as suddenly and said, ‘Let me tell that there is nothing incredible Abbottabad except the Musharraf pretending to jog when he thought he was being observed.’ And saying this he smiled.
I showed Osama a few quirky reviews of the property scene in Abbottabad:
“Free HBO, but ‘death to America!’ chants were getting old. Better options nearby,” wrote reviewer Steve Jenkins, who gave the hideout a one-star rating using Google’s reviews feature, a function normally reserved for assessing stores, restaurants and hotels.
“Located in cozy, quiet neighborhood,” read a five-star review. “Interrupted only occasionally by machine gun fire. Lacking in amenities, but an up and coming area. Handyman special. One satellite phone available with smoking bullet hole for [communication] back home. CIA helicopters offering complimentary air lift service for corpses. Great property to get away from it all. Must See!”
‘Hmm…,’ and Osama had nothing more to add. After a while he said,’@Mementomori68 Justin Case had tweeted: If there is one thing to be learnt from #Osamadead is that the Abbottabad Neighborhood Watch program failed. But actually even this doesn’t make this place incredible!’
You’ll love being a terrorist if you like a life spent hiding and running away!
His glance indicated that he had had enough of Abbottabad. I didn’t have the will to insist that he tell me more on this place… after all it was here that his fate was SEALed!
‘I was born in 1957, the 17th of 52 children of Mohamed Bin Laden, a multimillionaire builder responsible for 80% of Saudi Arabia’s roads.’
‘This explains the funding for your activities.’
He pretended as if he had not heard what I had said, and continued, ’My father’s death in a helicopter crash in 1968 brought me a fortune running into many millions of dollars, though considerably less than the widely published estimate of $250m. BBC agrees with me.’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-10741005)
‘We’ve been running from country to country, from hide-out to hide-out, from one safe haven to another… not because we were trying to escape arrest or being killed. We did that as a part of our strategy to keep the world amused,’ continued Osama, and then after a pause, ‘or simply guessing.’
He then went on to punch a few keys and opened a pdf that was supposedly a compilation of a case study on him. [Osama – A case-study. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB253/sandia.pdf]
‘Documents like these are all over the internet. There are some truths and a lot of created truths in them. Truth, you see, is just a matter of perception. Some see me as a ‘Gucci terrorist’ with a big mouth and a fat wallet while others see me as a potent enemy.’
‘Yes,’ he went on, ‘I love to travel and meet my friends in thought who are spread all over. If this means I am running away or trying to hide, so be it. I never cared for such ideas earlier, and now of-course, I am far away from such burdens. All I know is that in today’s wars there are no morals. This is what I had said way back in May 1998 in an interview with ABC.’
‘But still, terror-mongering is so full of running and hiding.’
‘Run and hide!’ he smiled as he said this, ‘I know so many who hide millions in Swiss banks. I know so many who run away from declaring the truth. And yet you call them leaders. To my supporters, I was a fighter for freedom against the US and Israel, not, as I was to many in the West, a terrorist with the blood of thousands of people on his hands. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-10741005] Run and hide. You know, you people must try to redefine these two words… run… hide.’
‘OK, point taken.’
Now we know what happens inside Pakistan.
Zeeshan Malik in Islamabad, writes: ‘…and without support of Pakistan all this success of USA will be near to impossible. At least give a word of appreciation for hundred thousand martyred of Pakistan who were killed in the war against terrorism.’ I showed this to Osama who guffawed heartily and said:
‘Remember run and hide? Well, Pakistan has a lot more to hide than Osama alone… and they’re just running towards an inevitable beginning.’
‘Beginning…,’ I mused.
‘Think about it.’ Was all he had to offer on this heading.
Only the rich can afford to unleash terror!
Adam Robinson in ‘Bin Laden: behind the mask of a terrorist’ says: ‘He applied many of the principles to Al-Qaeda that he had learned elsewhere, and evolved a terror group that had a far greater sense of organisation than any in existence.’ And goes on to explain: ‘…while disruption could occur due to discovery or capture, Al-Qaeda would be extremely difficult to put out of business. For example, when ordered out of Sudan in 1996… could manage an orderly departure of his military establishments to Afghanistan… religious committee and finance committee worked normally… Al-Qaeda was a fully functional multi-national.’
Osama was looking at my notes and wondered aloud: ‘You’ve researched well. Yes, I was just running a corporation and calling it a mere terror outfit will be undermining the terror capabilities of organisations like the many financial institutions that plunged us all into a global recession.’
‘Phew,’ said I, ‘Yes, I do agree with you here.’
Osama smiled and went on, ‘Only the rich can afford to unleash terror… the rich and the powerful. I hope I have made this point clear to the world.’
Osama was a salesman who couldn’t sell all the time.
Strengths of Osama included mentioned in the pdf mentioned earlier [Osama – A case-study. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB253/sandia.pdf] include:
- Good at instigating and inciting others
- Recognizes the true value of the media
- Skilful at media manipulation
- Good organisational skills. His real genius is in recruitment, publicity, and organisation as opposed to planning and execution
- Effective at stroking politicians (eg. building homes for the politically powerful)
- Effective at building alliances with politicians: what he offers evidently appeals to the leaders of pariah states
- Effective at stitching together Islamic alliances even across old and deep divisions
- Good logistical and financial skills
- Not a micro-manager: is willing to spin-off ideas and teams which then operate semi-automatically
- Effective delegation of authority
- Surrounded by several layers of protection, providing relatively good security
- Would not be easy to snatch or kill without the complicity of other nations
I showed this list to Osama and said: ‘Your selling skills obviously have waned with a passage of time.’
‘Yes, and it’s the same with Mubarak… and now with Gaddafi. At a lower rung, your own Laloo Prasad is an example.’
I gave him a look of surprise and said: ‘Well, you’d place terrorists and statesmen in the same basket?’
He said nothing.
‘Say something,’ I insisted and then suddenly realised that I had actually asked a question… and he would now not answer. So I said: ‘Will you stay on here while I type out some sort of a final analysis of Osama?’ He nodded his head in affirmation.
Osama is dead but al-Qaida and its allies aren’t. Terrorism is still live and kicking. Hamid Mir in ‘Osama, Before And After’ has this to say: ‘His real strength was hatred against America, not Islam. His physical elimination is big news for the Americans but many outside America want elimination of the policies that may produce more Osamas. No doubt he was responsible for the killing of many innocent people but the Americans cannot justify killing innocents through drone attacks on that count. Both Bin Laden and the Americans violated Pakistan’s sovereignty. This must stop now. Osama is dead. If America does not leave Afghanistan now, this war will not end soon and the world will remain an unsafe place.’
I could see that Osama was visibly pleased to read the quote with which I had begun my final analysis.
As mentioned earlier, the Al-Qaeda runs like a multi-national and has a fair degree of de-centralised operational framework. This means that cutting off one arm may not mean much to rest of the body which will then still have enough power left to re-group and launch retaliatory attacks. It is the motivation to re-group that needs to be dealt with. It is the way terror and terrorists are perceived and handled than needs a dynamic change. Even the TOI in it’s May 03 Editorial ‘End of the road’ says: ‘Bin Laden’s aura grew as he successfully evaded capture for over a decade. Even now as reports of burial of his body at sea trickle in, there is scope for propaganda furthering the jihadi cause. Bin Laden may be dead, but terrorism continues to be a global threat.’
The Indian Foreign Ministry too needs to go beyond mundane thoughts on countering terrorism and come up with solutions that inspire peace and togetherness instead of a mere confrontationist approach. They have issued a statement that says: ‘The world must not let down its united effort to overcome terrorism and eliminate the safe havens and sanctuaries that have been provided to terrorists in our own neighbourhood. The struggle must continue unabated.’ Struggle? Well, if you have self-strangulating strategies they would leave you with no other option but to struggle!
Charley Reese [http://www.antiwar.com/reese/?articleid=8493] writes: ‘I fear the expansion of American government power more than I do the terrorists. They are, after all, criminals who might shoot us or bomb us and get killed in the process. They are, by nature, a passing threat. A secretive government that scoffs at the rule of law and the restraints of the Constitution, however, is a very permanent threat to the freedom of the American people. Government power that isn’t checked will just keep on growing until one day the American people will wake up neither free nor secure.’ Isn’t this really what everyone else everywhere else is experiencing? It is vital that the definition of terror must go on and include corruption that plagues and withers away a nation. It isn’t just the explosions that kill people, it is the explosive elements within a corrupt state and society that has more destructive power than Al-Qaeda and all its techniques taken together.
It is heartening to read US president Barack Obama when he says: ‘Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must – and we will – remain vigilant at home and abroad.’ However, remaining vigilant at home must include all the reasons that had lead to that massive destruction of careers and jobs that had rocked the entire world a couple of years back.
One last observation that I’d like to make is that hate parades, hate tweets, hate updates, hate words, hate speeches are nothing but unpleasant reminders of terror. This happens just as often in the real world as it occurs in the virtual world where social networking has brought the sane and the insane on a similar platform… and the insane always happen to be more aggressive.
Where is Osama now
Here, in my pocket. Yes, I speak the truth. Even as he was silently reading the sombre final analysis that I was typing… (maybe he too wants to a hit author even in the far-away planet…) I saw a thin thread of smoke appear from nowhere. This thread morphed itself into a firm-jawed character who I recognised as Vallabh Bhai Patel.
‘Now here is another character from after-life.’ I thought, ‘It appears that the politicians there want to make a come-back.’
‘I’m Patel.’ He said laconically.
‘…and I’m afraid!’ whimpered Osama.
Patel smiled indulgently and said: ‘The Ministry of Assignments has decided to help you with your research and thus let you experience the fate of a coffee bean again in the present century. You will request to be converted into a large sized coffee bean immediately. All you need to say is – I agree,’ he paused before continuing, ‘We will spare you the growth phase and you shall become a ready-to-use bean right here with this mortal to decide what to do with you. All the best!’ Saying this, Patel disappeared.
Osama had no option but to say: ‘I agree.’
And I could see a stray large sized coffee bean perched precariously on the edge of the sofa cushion. I picked it up and now I have an Osama avatar in my wallet pocket. No, I will not plant this bean anywhere and run the risk of the entire ‘I Revolt’ party members from the far-away planet master-minding a chaos in the coffee market. Neither will I crush and liberate him. Osama gets to stay here on earth forever, as a harmless coffee bean. Patel’s strategic mind won again.
12 May 2011
Featured image credit: renonevada