The events of September 11, 2001 have shaped a huge part of my life. I did not lose anyone thankfully in New York, Washington or in Pennsylvania, but I vividly remember what was going through my mind as I watched CNN from my residence in Karachi. It was a pretty hot day, and I had jus returned from school, it was like watching an action movie, the first tower was on fire and then out of no where the plane just went through the second building. It was a surreal moment, everything was in slow motion, all I could think about was all those times my family had visited cousins in New York and the visits we took to the World Trade Centre.
Life had completely changed; at that moment I did not realize that everything I dealt with from now on, would be through the ‘9/11 narrative’. And then CNN did something unforgivable. They took images of Kuwaiti citizens celebrating the withdrawal of Iraqi troops after the Gulf war and displayed it as Arabs/Muslims celebrating the death of 3000 Americans. After that, all I heard was Fox discussing how the military was going to blow Osama out of a cave in Tora Bora. Who can forget the notorious ‘your either with us or the terrorists’ which galvanized NATO and eventually the United Nations to push forward into South Asia in search of Osama and to bring ‘democracy’ to Afghanistan.
Bin Laden was a murderer and a fake Muslim leader. Due to his direct actions the lives of many Muslims around the world was put into jeopardy, both in the West and primarily in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and eventually in Pakistan. The Patriot Act, the Islamophobia, the death of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan can all be in one way or another be traced back to his actions. I can only sit here and think ‘what if, 9/11 never happened?’ I also blame bin Laden for what Bush did, he is another individual who is a criminal to me for his actions in Iraq, an unnecessary war, an unnecessary second election (absolutely won because of the fear Americans had of terrorism) and I will guarantee you that many people in the Muslim world hate him equally as much as they hate bin Laden. There are rumours amongst the Pakistani media, that an innocent woman was killed in the gun battle that raged in Abottabad (which isnt a suburb of Islamabad at all). Some even have said that it was one of his wives that risked her life for Osama. Really puts human life into perspective, that someone can still love even an individual that is disliked by so many people.
The covert operation executed by Navy Seals and the Pakistani military took months to be planned. According to Obama,
Last August…I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground…finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice. Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability…After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
9/11 has had an effect on everyone’s life in the world, that is a given. But the real question that needs to be immediately answered is ‘where do we go from here?’ Is the ‘War on Terror’ over now that Osama bin Laden is finally dead? What will happen with Al-Qaeda, are they just going to whither away? What about Libya, and Syria and Yemen and Bahrain? What do we do about these nations that are in turmoil, and most of all what about the Drone strikes are they of any use in Pakistan now?
The war is still continuing in Afghanistan, the Taliban are still there and it seems that they might actually be part of the government if these secret meetings with ISAF are to be believed. If the Taliban do come into power than can we really say that even with the death of Osama bin Laden, the mission has been accomplished?
The creation of the Tehrik-e-Taliban is directly related to the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s participation in it. The TTP will continue their fight, even after the death of Osama and therefore these celebrations for the ISI and the government that coordinated with the White House will be short lived. Osama was not even found in the tribal regions, would Pakistani’s be more irritated knowing that the drone attacks may have been useless in the first place if their primary purpose was to find Osama?
On my travels in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden was never brought up, not because people were scared to talk about him, but because people actually did not care about him or what he had to say. Pakistani’s are sick of terrorist attacks that have been taking place around the country; they are sick of a continuous war in their own backyard (tribal areas) and want the drone strikes to end. Even in areas where there has been a rise in anti-American sentiment, Osama bin Laden is still irrelevant. This is a trend that will continue (though Libya may change that) these organizations will sideline themselves if they continue to bomb their own people.
Americans are just as likely to be killed by a terrorist attack as they were yesterday, which is very unlikely. Pakistani’s and Afghans however are in more danger of an immediate backlash from Al-Qaeda. Like the success of the Lal Masjid to the killing of Baitullah Mehsud there has always been an increase in violence.
I am not sad that Osama is dead, he has done a lot of harm to the world, but neither am I happy, because his death means nothing. People are still dying around the world, the economic environment is still volatile and Afghanistan and Pakistan are still a mess. I welcome a change in perspective, the cloud of 9/11 hopefully can finally be lifted, and hopefully Osama’s death will bring forth a change in American mindset. Now that the thought of revenge is over Afghanistan might actually have a chance.
Ps. I wonder if the Raymond Davis fiasco was related to bin Laden.