When I look at the operation that killed Osama, this is the main question I have right off the bat:
First of all, one needs to find who owned, constructed, financed, allotted the place where he lived. It was a “custom-built, over a million-dollar home in a rich neighborhood of Islamabad’s suburb, bang next to the military academy without telephone or internet”. Heck, there won’t be more than 150-200 houses that expensive in the ENTIRE nation!! So what in the world was going on?
This compound – house and the rest of it was built in 2005 with walls, that were 12 to 18 feet high, topped with barbed wire. Four people apart from Osama were killed: One of bin Laden’s sons, two couriers and a woman being used as a human shield. Also, one helicopter was destroyed within the compound.
This place is a mere 800 meters from the Pakistan Military Academy, one of the country’s main training facilities for army officers and most of the residents of the neighborhood around there (Bilal Town) are civilians and businessmen. In fact, several rich people who fled the Bajaur tribal region due to anti-militancy operations launched by Pak Army reside in the area.
As Christopher Hitchens puts it bluntly in his article in Slate:
If you tell me that you are staying in a rather nice walled compound in Abbottabad, I can tell you in return that you are the honored guest of a military establishment that annually consumes several billion dollars of American aid. It’s the sheer blatancy of it that catches the breath.
There’s perhaps some slight satisfaction to be gained from this smoking-gun proof of official Pakistani complicity with al-Qaida, but in general it only underlines the sense of anticlimax. After all, who did not know that the United States was lavishly feeding the same hands that fed Bin Laden? There’s some minor triumph, also, in the confirmation that our old enemy was not a heroic guerrilla fighter but the pampered client of a corrupt and vicious oligarchy that runs a failed and rogue state.
The reaction of the residents explains what went on there:
Muhammad Saadullah, a student, told PTI, “I heard several big explosions and firing and got out of bed. I saw two helicopters hovering over the area and then there was more firing.” Saadullah said local residents came out of their homes but were told to go back inside by troops who had taken up positions in the area. “This is a very peaceful city and we never expected that something like this would happen here,” he said. (Rediff)
“After midnight, a large number of commandos encircled the compound. Three helicopters were hovering overhead,” said Nasir Khan, a resident of the town. “All of a sudden there was firing towards the helicopters from the ground. There was intense firing and then I saw one of the helicopters crash,” said Khan, who had watched the dramatic scene unfold from his rooftop. (HT)
This time around also Twitter was first off the block in terms of the news, as one of bin Laden’s neighbors live-tweeted the U.S. raid even before learning that bin Laden was its target. And then Keith Urbahn, erstwhile chief of staff for ex-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, broke the news after hearing credible rumors of the attack. These reports quickly went viral, with traffic peaking at more than 4,000 tweets per second, as per Twitter officials.
Intriguingly, Osama was buried in the sea – ostensibly to obviate any form of reverence around his grave. If there was a physical grave then it could have become a live memorial and become the hub of all kinds of terrorists.
As Osama passes into history, the question that is critical is – will his legacy too? I don’t think so. Because it wasn’t his legacy alone. It was of all those who sheltered him as well. Those who saved him can be expected to save his goals and legacy as well. Are we willing to call them out??