Monday, May 2, 2011
BIN LADEN AND HIS FOLLOWERS
May 2, 2011
Posted by Jon Lee Anderson
In the summer of 1989, I spent several months coming and going from the Afghan battlefield, where a wide array of Afghan mujahideen forces, along with hundreds of overly zealous Arab jihadi volunteers, were battling to oust the Soviet-installed regime in Kabul. At one point, I had to be smuggled out of the battle zone by an armed escort of Afghan fighters after a group of the Arabs said that they wanted to kill the unbeliever they knew their Afghan comrades had with them. I didn’t know it at the time, but these men were the early core of Al Qaeda, and their leader was a recently arrived, rich Saudi wannabe, Osama bin Laden. Safely back in the Pakistani border town of Peshawar, I spoke about what I had seen, and what had happened to me with Abdul Haq, a senior Afghan mujahideen commander. He told me, with a kind of uncanny clairvoyance, that it was urgent for “us” to start looking beyond the immediate battle in Afghanistan, and past even the challenges of the Cold War, to a new threat that was arising. “The danger we all face comes from these Arab jihadis,” he told me. “These are the biggest threat to all of us.”
Now the picture is changing again. There is an inescapably delicious irony to the timing of Osama bin Laden’s death, announced Sunday night. It comes in the midst of a widespread revolt in the Arab world, the very wellspring of Al Qaeda, which the terrorist movement had not masterminded and, thus far, has seemed incapable of exploiting, much less leading. For the man who had conceived of himself the ultimate arbiter of violent change, it must have been tantalizingly heady to witness, but ultimately frustrating. In Libya, instead of a rogues’ gallery of hate-spitting disciples who behead hostages (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed come to mind), there is a wide cross-section of society that includes some Libyan jihadis, shopkeepers, pro-Western businessmen, and students—something like a civic alliance. Libya’s revolt is not part of some global jihad; it is about the people overthrowing their own dictator, a very particular despot who has ruled their collective destinies for forty-two years. The uprising in Syria appears to have the same components. In other words, both appear to be part of a social phenomenon that has already swept aside dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, leaving behind new tensions and new freedoms—an atmosphere that, possibly, is not receptive to Al Qaeda’s lethal clarion call.
Whatever else happens, and whatever baleful challenge will now be issued by Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s Egyptian deputy and presumed successor, Al Qaeda will have been weakened, perhaps terminally. With the death of their leader, the will of the many bin Laden wannabees out there in Pakistan and Yemen and Nottingham and wherever should be diminished—because one of the things that fueled them in the first place was his notional invincibility. Such vertical, quasi-religious death cults always rely upon the leader, because the leader’s survival is the key to perpetuating the belief that utopia is possible. In Peru, after the Maoist Shining Path’s leader, Abimael Guzmán, was captured, the movement, which had come close to seizing the capital, effectively died. The same happened when Abdullah Öcalan, the longstanding chief of the P.K.K., the Turkish Kurdish separatist movement, was captured a few years ago. Everyone will know, from now on, that Al Qaeda is probably ultimately doomed. It may continue to cause trouble, and even a great deal of it—the forces of jihadism are not finished in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, or in places like Yemen. But with bin Laden dead, it may be easier to see the way ahead; the end is, if not in sight, at least discernible, somewhere down the road.
Imagen: Caricatura de Osama bin Laden
Posted by Claudio Ferrufino-Coqueugniot at 8:11 AM