10 years is a very long time to be searching for one man, 13 if you start counting from the time the bombing of the US embassy inNairobi happened. In that time, colossal sums of money (in the region of trillions, if not higher) have been spent in waging the wars launched as part of the fight against terror. Many thousands of lives, military and civilian, have been lost in those same wars. Many others have also been lost in random attacks by Al-Qaeda and its sympathisers on a variety of targets including nightclubs, trains and buses in different locations around the world (the attack of July 7/2007 that claimed the life of Anthony Fatai –Williams comes to mind). Fortunately, some plotters were halted in their tracks – Richard Reid, Mutallab, and the Glasgow airport would-be suicide bombers are examples.
Yet, despite the success of security officials in preventing more and bigger attacks, the legacy of the last 10 years is one of fear. It’s a fear that has permeated every aspect of our lives and has reshaped the way we negotiate the world from the way we travel to the way we behave in public spaces. It’s a fear that has caused people of Arab descent to live under a shadow of suspicion for the better part of a decade. Now, Osama Bin Laden, the man who inspired all this has been eliminated but the fear and the destruction remains. My question is this: how much longer is it going to take for us to dismantle the ugly legacy that has been created in response to this man? Will things ever go back to normal again?
A Few Words on Pakistan
What does being an ally to the United States mean? Does it require a country to expend its time and resources pursuing the USA’s objectives to the max? Is it really fair to expect other countries to treat the USA’s concerns with the same priority that the USA would? I understand that it would be perhaps ideal if they did so but isn’t it a favour not a requirement on their part? The way I see it, there’s a difference between being an ally to someone and being an agent for them and the same applies when dealing with countries.
While the government of Pakistan was helping the US with the war on terror, they were also distracted by their own internal problems and the need to secure their powerbase against threats from various militant factions in the country. In that atmosphere, their lack of attention to seriously searching for Bin Laden leading to their failure to catch him may be disappointing but is ultimately not that surprising. I realize that this is a difficult line to maintain especially when Pakistan was receiving American dollars to support it in fighting terrorism. However, I don’t think Pakistan was deliberately shielding Bin Laden and so far, there hasn’t been any solid evidence that this was the case. I think that the fact that the US forces had the kind of access they did to carry out Sunday night’s operation is in itself a strong sign of cooperation on the part of the Pakistani government. Though the turn of events may be embarrassing for Pakistan, I don’t see any grounds for considering it an enemy state as has been suggested in some of the commentaries I’ve read following the killing of Osama.