Putrid Modern Hell #13

by HST UK on July 4, 2011

“You cannot win a War on Terrorism. It’s like having a war on jealousy.”
– David Cross

Osama Bin Laden is ‘apparently’ dead, and I say ‘apparently’ because for Bin Laden to be dead in the eyes of the general public – we need to see a gratuitous headshot in a photograph that doesn’t look photo-shopped. This picture might show half of Bin Laden’s face blown off, meaning that we cannot actually be sure that it is him, but we still need to see the picture of a dead man who has been brutally killed because this generation has no sense of taste or decency.

On the morning of September 11th 2001 I remember flicking on the TV shortly after the first plane had hit. However I was preoccupied because I had a driving lesson that was about to commence. I went outside, because my driving instructor had just pulled outside of my house; I got into his car, and asked him if he had heard the news about a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Centre towers. He hadn’t, in fact he did not believe me when I told him. I was quite surprised by that, I mean why would I make something like that up? Prior to 9/11 I was not even fully aware of the World Train Centre towers. Sure I knew of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and CBGB’s, but that’s where my knowledge of buildings in New York ended.

After the dust had quite literally settled a ‘War on Terror(ism)’ was called by George W. Bush. This involved coalition forces going to Afghanistan to track down Osama Bin Laden, the alleged mastermind behind 9/11. Now, I remember reading a book a couple of years before 2001 titled Jihad, written by a former SAS soldier called Tom Carew. Carew detailed the Russian conflict in Afghanistan, and how the Soviets were forced into an ugly battle against an enemy that would never die, in many ways it was Russia’s Vietnam. This book more or less suggested that a war could never be won in Afghanistan. Therefore as soon as I heard that the ‘War on Terrorism’ would be fought predominantly in Afghanistan, my initial thought was that this would not end well. Bizarrely ‘Tom Carew’ turned out to be a pseudonym for a man named Philip Sessarego who fictionalized his time in Afghanistan; in fact he had never even served in the SAS. He was found murdered in a garage in Belgium in 2008. So my views were influenced by a work of fiction written by a conman.

Then again Osama Bin Laden appeared to be almost a work of fiction. Strange footage of a tall messianic figure with white robe, and a prominent black beard was on every news network post 9/11, a mixture of Satan and Jesus Christ, charismatic but aloof. Bin Laden was a new name for many (including myself), but a man whose agenda was formed decades before the towers went down, as he raged against U.S. Foreign Policy plotting many evil deeds.

Significant details of Osama Bin Laden’s death and the disposal of his body has been shrouded in government secrecy in a time when openness prevails. Since the advent of Wikileaks there has been a growing sense of public entitlement to sensitive information. The U.S. Government however takes the old fashioned view that revealing such information is likely to incite possible terrorist attacks, and put many lives at reach. To be honest, before news of Bin Laden’s death I’d imagine a great deal of folks had written the face of al-Qaeda off as either dead or retired. His absence even made us temporarily forget the threat of terrorism. Perhaps the world was a safer place when we were safe in the knowledge that Bin Laden had vanished. Now, his image remains in our minds, the spectre of reprisal attacks loom across the Western World.

I wonder about where we stand on the ‘War on Terrorism’. Has killing Bin Laden meant, like in the end of every good Hollywood Action movie, that we’ve won? Or are we waiting for Simon Peter Gruber to play wicked games with us.

It’s nonsensical to talk of a War on Terrorism; we knew that back in the Bush years. What we currently face is the lack of a media presence, an enemy, a bad guy. Colonel Gaddafi has returned to our screens as Libya continues to spiral into a tailspin of Civil War, but although batshit mental, he isn’t a dictator that we might fear. He’s not affected our freedom, only the freedom of his own people. There are dozens of other despots committing atrocious acts against their own people across the world, though nobody has the media profile of Bin Laden. In an age when image rules over substance and rationality, the man whose final photograph we may never see has become the face of 2011.

When we watch news that doesn’t directly affect us in the Western World we can do so almost apathetically; detached from the horror of ruinous violence. When it’s our holiday destination, our tube stations and our neighbours across the pond that are targeted we sit up and take notice; even though the majority of us who live in unglamorous towns and cities of little political significance are safe from a threat that we are all supposed to be on high alert about. The Western World as a whole waits, not in fear but in anticipation.

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