Osama Bin Laden Came to Timely End
By HENRY STERN
Not to write about Osama bin Laden this week would be to ignore an event of historic importance.
He is directly responsible for the death of almost 3,000 New Yorkers, a figure surpassed most notably by Hitler, who is primarily accountable for the tragedy of World War II. Mao Tse-Tung, Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Hafez al-Assad, and various African genocidal tyrants were also mass murderers, but usually employed more primitive means than the Nazi fuhrer and the Wahhabi devotee.
Bin Laden was terminated with extreme prejudice by well-trained Americans who, we presume, followed the instructions they were given. The thought that he should have been taken alive is naive. Who would try him? On what authority? How would a sentence be carried out? How much attention would he get for years while the legal system took its protracted course? What would the International Court of Justice opine on the matter? And what consideration did the thousands of innocent civilians receive before he sent the hijacked airliners to crash into their offices?
It was clearly in the national interest to dispose of the matter on the spot, and the result was presumably dictated by the elected official who is commander-in-chief. There is a certain irony in a Nobel Peace Prize recipient personally involved in the murder of an unarmed captive, whether in the presence of his daughter or not. But think of how many lives would have been saved if bin Laden had been stopped 10 years ago, before 9/11, when President Clinton authorized the removal of bin Laden from the planet after the bombing of the destroyer U.S.S. Cole on Oct. 12, 2000. Clinton later said that his order was never carried out because the United States was unable to establish a military presence in Uzbekistan and because American intelligence and law enforcement agencies refused to confirm that bin Laden had authorized the bombing.
On the photo issue, I completely agree with the President. As he said, we do not spike the football after a touchdown, nor should we create an iconic image for bin Laden’s followers to venerate. The conspiracy theorists will never be satisfied, nor need they be, for the further they depart from reality, the less credible they become.
Burial at sea was also entirely appropriate. No remains, no relics, no tomb, no shrine. Life began in the sea, and it is not the worst place to decompose. As the fate of Luca Brasi, who killed far fewer people than Osama bin Laden, was poetically described by his colleagues, “He sleeps with the fishes.” Besides, if he is going to meet the 72 virgins who Muslim theologians say await him in paradise, the North Arabian Sea will simply be a stop on his journey.
Osama bin Laden did not liberate anyone from tyranny. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan was harsh and oppressive, a medieval theocracy brutal to its own people. We predict that bin Laden will be regarded over the years primarily as a mass murderer, who employed the ingenious method of hijacking jet planes whose tanks were filled with jet fuel. He caused the death of thousands of innocents as part of a deluded conspiracy to re-establish the Caliphate and rule the world. The lesson of his life is how much harm one individual can do using modern technology.
The bombing of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, should have alerted the world to the menace of bin Laden.
Much more will be written about bin Laden and his remarkable career. But if he had to be described in one word on his non-existent tombstone, we suggest that “murderer” rather than “martyr” would be an appropriate appellation.