Rise and fall of Osama’s Mideast ap­peal

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Pat Buchanan

When Pres­i­dent Obama an­nounced that U.S. spe­cial forces had he­li­coptered into Pak­istan, bro­ken into a se­cret com­pound an hour from the cap­i­tal and killed Osama bin Laden, cel­e­bra­tions broke out all across Amer­ica.

The man who plot­ted the mass mur­der of 3,000 of us had at last re­ceived his just re­ward. Col­lege stu­dents ran to the White House to chant “USA! USA!”

Even if one be­lieves that re­joic­ing at ex­e­cu­tions of mur­der­ers is un­seemly for a Chris­tian peo­ple, the de­mands of jus­tice had been met. The world is a bet­ter place with­out bin Laden, who was de­vel­op­ing plans to blow up U.S pas­sen­ger trains on the 10th an­niver­sary of 9/11.

Yet, in Pak­istan and across the Mid­dle East, even in Lon­don, some came out to praise the “mar­tyr” and threaten re­venge.

In a way, this is the more in­ter­est­ing phe­nom­e­non. Why would peo­ple, who must be­lieve them­selves right­eous and moral, keen and wail at the death of a mon­ster who did what bin Laden had done?

Though Osama’s time was past, only 18 per­cent of the Arab world held a fa­vor­able view of him at his death, he was once among the most ad­mired fig­ures in the Is­lamic world.

In 2003, in Jor­dan, 56 per­cent of the pu­bic voiced con­fi­dence in Osama bin Laden. In 2005, in Pak­istan, 52 per­cent agreed. In July 2009, af­ter Obama’s Cairo speech to the Mus­lim world, 22 per­cent of Pales­tini­ans said the U.S. pres­i­dent in­spired con­fi­dence; 52 per­cent said Osama bin Laden did.

How to ex­plain this? Do Arabs and Mus­lims ap­prove of mass mur­der of in­no­cent civil­ians? Why did so many find so much to ad­mire in a man who planned the atroc­i­ties of 9/11?

In one man’s judg­ment, Osama was ad­mired be­cause he alone in the Arab world had the as­ton­ish­ing au­dac­ity to stand up and smash a fist into the face of the world’s last su­per­power, which had be­come one of the most re­sented pow­ers in the Mid­dle East. He was ap­plauded be­cause he had struck the most sav­age blow dealt Amer­ica since Bri­tish troops burned the Capi­tol and White House in 1814.

In short, the awe and ad­mi­ra­tion ac­corded bin Laden in the first half of the last decade were di­rectly pro­por­tional to the depth of Arab and Mus­lim re­sent­ment and rage at the United States.

He was ad­mired, for the en­emy he hated and had at­tacked. Nor is this un­usual. Why does Mao Ze­dong, who mur­dered 10 times as many Chinese as Ja­pan in World War II, lie in honor in a crys­tal sar­coph­a­gus in Tianan­men Square? Be­cause Mao is still seen to have ‘lib­er­ated” China from a cen­tury of rule by hated Ja­panese and West­ern im­pe­rial pow­ers and their lack­eys.

Why was Saigon re­named for Ho Chi Minh?

Why do his re­mains rest in honor in Hanoi? Be­cause “Un­cle Ho” is seen by his peo­ple as hav­ing driven out the Ja­panese, French and Amer­i­cans, and united all Viet­namese in a na­tional home.

Even Fidel Cas­tro, who brought the most suc­cess­ful coun­try in Latin Amer­ica down close to the level of Haiti, still has ad­mir­ers in­side and out­side Cuba. Why? Be­cause he de­fied the “Yan­quis” and threw them out, along with their quis­ling Ful­gen­cio Batista.

Like Mao, Ho and Cas­tro, Osama tapped into the most pow­er­ful cur­rent of the age: eth­nic na­tion­al­ism, the de­sire of peo­ples to be rid of for­eign rule and any op­pres­sive for­eign pres­ence, and to put up against a wall all in­dige­nous traitors who do the for­eign­ers’ will.

Lest we for­get, Osama was once an ally of Ron­ald Rea­gan’s Amer­ica.

We pro­vided the Stingers, and he pro­vided the money for the Afghan mu­ja­hedeen to ad­min­is­ter the death­blow to the Soviet Em­pire.

Some yet ar­gue that Osama and al-Qaida at­tacked us be­cause they hate our free­doms. Why, then, did they fight the Rus­sians?

Did they hate the free­doms en­joyed by Soviet cit­i­zens in Leonid Brezh­nev’s time?

In his 1998 dec­la­ra­tion of war, Osama gave three rea­sons. Amer­i­cans, he said, had de- ployed their infidel troops on sa­cred Saudi soil. Amer­i­cans were stran­gling a crushed Iraqi peo­ple with mur­der­ous sanc­tions. Amer­i­cans were en­abling Zion­ists to op­press and rob Pales­tinian Arabs of their lands.

Osama plugged his per­sonal war into the anti-Amer­i­can cur­rents run­ning in the re­gion.

It was whom he was fight­ing against, us, not the new caliphate he claimed to be fight­ing for, a utopian ab­sur­dity, that caused scores of mil­lions to ad­mire him, even if many were hor­ri­fied by his meth­ods.

It was when al-Qaida took to killing Arabs and Mus­lims that Osama lost the pres­tige he once had.

Osama is dead and gone. But the ideas he tapped into, the de­sire of Arab peo­ples to break free, to re­claim their sovereignty, to re­store their past great­ness, to be rid of the for­eigner and his lack­eys, are also the mo­ti­vat­ing ideas of the Arab Spring.

And as Vic­tor Hugo re­minded us, “Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come.”

Pa­trick Buchanan is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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