NEW DELHI – The image, caught on home video, is a defining one: a hunched Osama bin Laden, in pathetic, lonely domesticity, with a grey beard and a blanket covering him like a shawl, surveying the television wasteland for images of himself. How banal this epitome of evil turned out to be.
That is why Osama’s elimination by US commandoes is such a marvelous case study. Start with this question: Was it poetic or divine justice that Al Qaeda’s leader, whose group, born in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1988, was fathered by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and midwifed by the CIA, was finally killed by his figurative creators?
This question leads to two more that are anything but rhetorical: Where, in the end, does the fault for Bid Laden’s murderous decades lie? And will his death mark the end of global jihadist terrorism?
To be sure, street protests and a chaotic clamor of recrimination have gripped Pakistan, while dire threats float in the Internet ether and a bizarre indifference pervades the rest of the Muslim world. But events in the Maghreb and the Middle East seem to demonstrate that the streams of Arab and Muslim political life are flowing away from Osama’s murderous messianism.