Bin Laden's 'targeted killing' teaches Arabs a lethal lesson


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The Independent Online

Bin Laden got his just deserts – those who live by the sword tend to die by the sword – but did he get the "justice" that President Obama talked about?

Many Arabs – and this theme was taken up by the Arab press, which spoke not of his killing but of his "execution" – thought he should have been captured, taken to the international court in The Hague and tried for his crimes.

Of course there will always be those, in the Middle East but especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who believe he was a brave martyr murdered by the proxy arm of "Zionism". In reality, he was a has-been. His promises of overthrowing the pro-American or non-Islamic Arab dictators were fulfilled by the people of Egypt and Tunisia – and perhaps soon by Libyans and Syrians – not by al-Qa'ida.

The real problem, however, is that the West, which has constantly preached to the Arab world that legality and non-violence was the way forward in the Middle East, has taught a different lesson to the people of the region: that executing your opponents is perfectly acceptable. One may say that after thousands of innocent lives were taken so bloodily, Bin Laden could expect to be killed, unarmed, in a presumed safe house. Muslims, on the other hand, will conclude that the Americans adopted the same methods the Israelis use on their Palestinian enemies.

"Targeted killing", the Israelis call it, when they fire missiles or release bombs on their enemies, often killing the innocent as well as the guilty – just as the Americans often do in their drone attacks against al-Qa'ida and the Taliban in Waziristan.

But in the end, his unarmed death has turned him into a greater martyr than if he had been killed in the "firefight" that Obama originally claimed.

All in all, the man who created al-Qa'ida lived just long enough to realise it had totally failed in its objectives. And having met the man and talked to him for many hours, I sometimes wonder now if he wanted to go on living.