So Osama bin Laden has been killed. Ok. Now what?
In the short term, an orgy of ghoulish US nationalism, as the media drools over the bloodied corpse, a body that, we’re told, the US now has in its possession, to be (no doubt) lovingly displayed at some future date.
Bin Laden was a mass murderer and no friend of the Left. Still, what does it say about our era that that the decade’s biggest news story centres not on a new scientific discovery nor a medical breakthrough nor the extension of healthcare nor the provision of public housing but rather on the celebrations attendant upon a public enemy being gunned to death?
Will the wars come to an end? Of course not. Bin Laden never played any role in Iraq nor in the Afghan insurgency. As for the new quagmire in Libya, well, that’s a pretty good example of how the the killing can continue without any reference to al-Qaeda whatsoever — Gaddafi is to that war what bin Laden was to the other two.
And terrorism? If al-Qaeda was an organisation out of a James Bond movie, with bin Laden personally directing worldwide mayhem from his cave, today’s events might have made a difference. But, of course, that was never the reality. Instead, al-Qaeda functioned as a free floating brand, a label to be grabbed by anyone who wanted it. Bin Laden’s death changes nothing in that respect — would-be suicide bombers are scarcely deterred by the prospect that they might be killed.
What about justice? Perhaps the relatives of 9/11 victims feel better today. Perhaps they have found some closure. Perhaps. But over the last decade, we’ve seen, in the course of the War on Terror, hundreds of thousands of people killed, with some estimates putting the death toll from Iraq alone as high as a million. Who will bring justice for them?
Indeed, in the face of all that death, it’s hard to celebrate one more corpse — even if it belongs to Osama bin Laden.