An explosion of excited chatter greeted the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by American Special Forces. What impact would this have on al Qaeda? Will they retaliate? Will they be weakened? Inanely parroting the US President, the UK Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, in a BBC interview today (2nd May), grandly declared that the ‘World is a safer place’.
It has been noticeable when listening in to the opinions of the pundits and politicians, that virtually none of them discuss al Qaeda in the context of the Arab uprisings.
al Qaeda were confined to the sidelines as impotent on-lookers as ordinary Arab and African people achieved more in a matter of weeks than al Qaeda’s brutal two decades campaign of bombings and murders of almost exclusively innocent people.
The Arab uprisings has thrown the failures of al Qaeda into sharp relief. al Qaeda’s tactics were used by the west as an invite to invade Afghanistan and Iraq and to justify the monstrosities of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. al Qaeda always were and will always remain a blind alley. Arab and African youth desperately looking to challenge the injustices of the societies they lived in were guided by al Qaeda to suicide in an appalling waste of hope and talent.
While it’s understandable that the relatives of those killed by al Qaeda celebrate, others should remember that tens of thousands of innocent people lost their lives as a result of the military adventures that the west mounted in response. The behaviour of the west in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan also gave a great lift to the al Qaeda recruitment drives. The only winners in the war on terror have been western defence companies, the opium trade, corrupt local politicians and yes, the al Qaeda franchise.
The uprisings have served to undermine al Qaeda as a viable option to challenge the west and their proxies. The youth have learnt through their own experience that their unity in action is far more powerful than bombs and suicide vests.
A real measure of al Qaeda’s support or more accurately, lack of of support, has been shown up by the uprisings. In the protests there is very little in the way of calls for Sharia law, anti-western slogans or any of the other demands that one would associate with the fundamentalists. In fact, Osama Bin Laden’s death has been met with little more than a shrug of the shoulders in Arab countries where many saw him as a peripheral figure. The demands for democracy and political rights are an anathema to al Qaeda, in this they share a common cause with and are closer in their outlook to the tyrants than they are to ordinary Arabs and Africans.
It is not the death of Osama Bin Laden that will weaken al Qaeda, it will be the inspiration of the Arab uprisings.