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Time to Destroy the Bin Laden Legend

by JOSH SHAHRYAR

03 May 2011 02:02Comments
scaled.jpgOrdering misery and death while living a life of ease.

[ comment ] I wasn't shocked to find out Osama bin Laden had been hiding in Pakistan. After all, for the past decade, most people aware of the situation knew that Bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and other high-value terrorist leaders were and are living in Pakistan. What surprised me was the shock that it caused around the world. No, really, he was hiding in a comfortable little house in a nice city in Pakistan and not in some cave in an inhospitable mountain in Afghanistan.

That Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence has elements that support terrorists around the world is not really a surprise. But the fact that Bin Laden was found so deep inside Pakistan's heartland and only half a mile away from one of its premier military academies -- Kakul is about as important to Pakistan as West Point is to the United States -- speaks volumes about the role of not just the ISI, but the Pakistan government as a whole in turning a blind eye toward him. That pleasantly surprised me.

The reader might wonder why it was a pleasant surprise. Well, part of the mystique of the whole al-Qaeda jihad thing was that Bin Laden and his cronies were supposedly barefoot bandits taking on a superior power equipped with money, resources and, um, central air. This myth, constructed carefully by al-Qaeda and fanned by sympathetic media in the Middle East, had for years helped inspire new recruits for the movement.

These efforts had turned Bin Laden into a modern-day incarnation of a Muslim general from the early days of Islam -- think Khaled bin Walid. Fundamentalists Muslims praised this poor, pious figure who was willing to forgo his hundreds of millions of dollars in inheritance and make his home in the mountains, away from his family, and take on the world's number one superpower.

Few bothered to dig deeper and explore the overt and covert support that Pakistan continuously afforded Bin Laden. Fewer still pondered how it was possible for an insurgency of the magnitude waged by the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan to continue without millions -- possibly billions -- of dollars being poured into the region by rich sheikhs who are sucking the oil dry from the bedrock underneath the Persian Gulf.

I was in Abbottabad twice, once in 2002 and again in 2004. It is perhaps the most important of the cities in northern Pakistan that were established by the British. Abbottabad -- Abbott's dwelling -- is named after Major James Abbott, who founded the city in the tradition of Indian hill stations as a place for the officers of the Raj to spend their summer holidays in the mid-19th century. It has a milder climate than the areas to the south and west, where temperatures are almost always above 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.

I was immediately in love with the city. It has lots of trees and cleaner roads than Peshawar, where I grew up. Best of all is its very pleasant population, which is a blend of Hindkoans -- a smaller ethnic group in Pakistan that speaks Hindko, a language closely related to Punjabi -- and Pashtuns -- the ethnic group that dominates Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province where the city is located and the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.

As I strolled the streets with some friends the second time I was in the city, the thought kept nagging me: "If only we could move here. The people are nice, the weather is nice, and hot damn...the women are beautiful!" I guess I wasn't the only one thinking that. Bin Laden's million-dollar compound began to rise among the pretty houses of Bilal Colony -- a more affluent part of the city -- the next year.

Unbeknownst to his admirers and the rest of the world, he chose a home over a mountain -- with at least one of his wives and several of his children.

The mythical warrior who sought to defeat America was a cowardly little comfort-seeker, who while sheltered in a pleasant city, sent thousands of people to their deaths in the rocky mountains and blistering deserts of Afghanistan, Iraq, and God knows where else.

He used the money sent by his friendly sheikhs to lead a cozy life. If the terrorists ever audited their accounts, I'm sure they would have exclaimed, "I think there's a million bucks missing from this account, Abdullah!" This needs to be publicized to let all his blind followers know the truth about the lifestyle enjoyed by their legendary warrior.

Knowing where he was killed to me is a double whammy. Not only is Bin Laden dead, cracks have appeared that can shatter the legend of the supposed barefoot bandit with high morals and the resilience of a wild beast. At the end of the day, he was just a mortal man, concerned about himself above all.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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