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Saturday, September 23, 2006 

To be dead, or not to be dead, that is the question.

(Apologies for the appalling post title.)

The rumour mill is going into overdrive. Is bin Laden dead? A leak from the French security services, themselves informed by the Saudis, suggests that everyone's favourite bearded cave-dwelling terrorist may well have kicked the bucket, his organs having failed due to typhoid.

Like with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the death of bin Laden has been suggested numerous times before. Numerous reports from various sources have previously told a world waiting with bated breath that the Saudi has perished, all of which have proved to be wrong so far, unless you believe that the US did capture bin Laden during the raids on Tora Bora and has since been used every time the Bush administration has got into trouble, most notably days before the 2004 election. (Which, if you do incidentally, makes you even crazier than him.)

A more appropriate question is: does it matter if bin Laden is alive or dead? While bin Laden's influence has been both over and underestimated, he's already gone someway to reaching his aim of attempting to awaken the Ummah from what he regards as its slumber. Bin Laden, after the end of the jihad against the Soviets had one of two options: he could either target the autocratic, corrupt rulers of the Middle East, or the Great Satan, the United States. He decided upon the latter, especially after being spurned by Saudi Arabia when he offered his services to defending the country from Saddam Hussein. They accepted the Americans into the home of Islam instead.

If Bin Laden is dead, then his legacy is already assured. Who else apart from the Japanese can claim to have struck the Americans at their heart in such a spectacular, grotesque, horrendous fashion? Ayman al-Zahawiri, who has always been the spiritual leader of al-Qaida and the true scholar, is more than ready to take up the mantle, and is in rude health, despite have the occasional missile fired at places he had apparently only recently fled. While al-Qaida was never the monolithic group some have alleged it to be, the mantle of suicidal Islamic extremism has been spread across the globe, with autonomous local cells capable of operating without any leadership being the true successors to the organisation. The war on terror has backfired so utterly, that if bin Laden is dead, he's almost certainly sleeping deeply, making a snoring noise that sounds suspiciously like laughter. It'll be a long time before he turns in his grave.

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