Not Just a Figurehead

If President Obama took the huge gamble of raiding Osama bin Laden in his hideout for the sake of justice, it would be hard to argue against it. The question was asked whether this was a mostly symbolic act, or a response to a still-active threat.

Maybe taking out a leader and planner has made the world a little safer…

The number of worldwide terror attacks fell to 10,283 last year, down from 11,641 in 2010 and the lowest since 2005, the State Department reported today.

What’s made the difference? The State Department cites the May 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda members killed last year including Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Anwar al-Awlaki, who was the head of Yemen’s Al Qaeda affiliate and had ties to the underwear bomber plot in 2010.

“The loss of bin Laden and these other key operatives puts the network on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse,” the report stated.

It only takes one, and everything could change tomorrow. The real answer is to build alliances and discredit the gangs who turn mother’s sons into suicide bombers. You can’t kill an idea, but killing a man who devoted his life to making war can buy time for better ideas to replace an ideology of despair.

A Good Call

President Obama has decided not to release photos of the body of Osama bin Laden.

This is a good decision for many reasons. For one, it would be beneath the dignity of the US to show a photo of a corpse, for another it would undo the gesture of burying bin Laden’s body at sea with respect for Islamic funeral customs.

There are still people who are convinced that the Apollo moon landing in 1969 was a hoax, no photograph will stop conspiracy theories, or persuade those who want to believe them.

The point of the burial at sea was to avoid creating a focal point for bin Laden’s followers. A photo would have served as a virtual shrine to rally around. I’m relieved that our country won’t hand such a propaganda tool over to those who wish us harm.

UPDATE: Sarah Palin wants the US to release the photos.

PROOF: When I worked in photofinishing in the 1970’s, using cheap 35mm film, I was able to convincingly retouch portraits and wedding photos using graphite and water based dyes. Now I have Photoshop. What kind of proof is a photo?

What Next?

In the short run, it seems sure that the death of Osama bin Laden will inspire attempts at revenge from the violent fanatics who followed his leadership.

But analyst Paul Cruickshank, thinks al Quaeda will not hold together without a charismatic central figure.

New York (CNN) — The killing of Osama bin Laden is “an enormously significant moment in the fight against al Qaeda terrorism,” and there is no one poised to take his place as the group’s leader, says CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank.

President Obama announced Sunday night that U.S. forces killed bin Laden in a mansion outside the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. The strike came as the nation approaches the 10th anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks on September 11, 2001, that killed almost 3,000 people in the United States.

“Even after 9/11, bin Laden continued to be the strategic guiding force for al Qaeda, signing off on the biggest operations, according to western officials,” Cruickshank, an Alumni Fellow at the New York University Center on Law and Security, said in an interview.

“He was the linchpin of al Qaeda. Without him, al Qaeda could fracture. There are lots of centrifugal forces within al Qaeda, people with different ideologies and agendas. Bin Laden was able to unify them. He’s irreplaceable. There’s no one with his level of charisma, fame or visibility.”

A vicious idea thrives on despair and a sense of injustice. Dealing with real and perceived injustice in the world is the challenge.