Christopher Hitchens isn’t the only person to notice that Osama bin Laden, “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks and nominal head of Al Qaeda, had been hiding in Pakistan’s Sandhurst. But when he does notice such things, he sure doesn’t hold back…
The colonial British—like Maj. James Abbott, who gave his name to [Abbottabad]—called them “hill stations,” designed for the rest and recreation of commissioned officers. The charming idea, like the location itself, survives among the Pakistani officer corps. If you tell me that you are staying in a rather nice walled compound in Abbottabad, I can tell you in return that you are the honored guest of a military establishment that annually consumes several billion dollars of American aid. It’s the sheer blatancy of it that catches the breath.
There’s perhaps some slight satisfaction to be gained from this smoking-gun proof of official Pakistani complicity with al-Qaida, but in general it only underlines the sense of anticlimax. After all, who did not know that the United States was lavishly feeding the same hands that fed Bin Laden? There’s some minor triumph, also, in the confirmation that our old enemy was not a heroic guerrilla fighter but the pampered client of a corrupt and vicious oligarchy that runs a failed and rogue state.
In other comments in today, Aditya Chakrabortty cites a few academics whose research suggests that painting extreme Islamists as intrinsically Evil does little to fight terror and isn’t even accurate.
The conventional view of Islamist terrorism is the one set out by Clinton yesterday, of a “violent ideology that holds no value for human life”: evil, inexplicable, and irreconcilable with any civilised values. Yet analysis from social scientists suggests the opposite.
However odd it may seem to use these terms of would-be jihadists and suicide bombers, some researchers describe Islamist terrorists as in the main rational, desperate figures operating in wrecked countries.
… What Merari’s research shows is “a large pool of psychologically healthy, basically altruistic suicide attackers”. That description comes from Eli Berman, at the University of California, San Diego. His use of the term “basically altruistic” is surely intended to be provocative, but what the economist means is that terrorists are often acting out of a desire to help others in their group.
Geoffrey Robertson QC who spoke at last year’s Protest the Pope rally and has called for the Pope’s arrest, is left dissatisfied by a country celebrating an “assassination”, and wonders at the international legal ramifications.
America resembles the land of the munchkins, as it celebrates the death of the Wicked Witch of the East. The joy is understandable, but it endorses what looks increasingly like a cold-blooded assassination ordered by a president who, as a former law professor, knows the absurdity of his statement that “justice was done”. Amoral diplomats and triumphant politicians join in applauding Bin Laden’s summary execution because they claim real justice – arrest, trial and sentence would have been too difficult in the case of Bin Laden. But in the long-term interests of a better world, should it not at least have been attempted?
That future depends on a respect for international law. The circumstances of Bin Laden’s killing are as yet unclear and the initial objection that the operation was an illegitimate invasion of Pakistan’s sovereignty must be rejected. Necessity required the capture of this indicted and active international criminal and Pakistan’s abject failure (whether through incompetence or connivance) justified Obama’s order for an operation to apprehend him. However, the terms of that order, as yet undisclosed, are all important.