The Once and Future Osama

The corrupt, vanishing body has fascinated and puzzled societies for millennia.  Evita Peron’s power was more significant to Argentineans after her death than during her life.  Saints tend to be more useful in a state of persisting decomposition than one of living composure.

Now, it is the Bin Laden phenomenon which appears, yet again, with all its mind numbing force.  Facebook and Twitter are overheating with the announcements that America’s bug bear has been butchered in his cave, or should be say compound.  The body is being held in US custody.

The death of Bin Laden, who was supposedly assassinated by US forces while in Pakistan, is irrelevant.  It never mattered than he was alive to begin with, given the very operation his organisation was supposedly running.  The same mistake was made by the Red Brigades operating in Italy during the 1970s ? one cannot attack the capitalist system by merely murdering capitalists. The nodal points of business still function with a degree of effortlessness, resisting the slight bumps of assassination.  Ideas do tend to outlive their holders.  As Roland Jacquard claimed in 2002, Al Qaeda ‘no longer needs either [Bin Laden’s] physical existence or his funds; alive or dead, he has become a talisman for a diffuse, self-sufficient terrorist network with every intention of fulfilling its mission to “lead the world into the apocalypse”.’  One might as well start bumping off the managers of Coca Cola.

The stories of the intrepid Saudi royal cross-dressing as he was moving across the Afghan-Pakistan border, sneaking out of his cave complex in Tora Bora were the sort of stuff that should have made David Letterman swoon.  In fact, he may well have thought about it.  Then came suggestions that he was keeping company with a dialysis machine, tempered by the occasional pack of salt.  Bin Laden had become, in short, something of a hyper-real figure, someone who defied the laws of physics in being both dead and alive.  He was everywhere and nowhere at the same time, haunting the West with video footage, pronouncements and promises of permanent retribution in the name of an imminent Caliphate.

Now, for a little bit of necrophilia, or at the very least, over familiarity with the dead.  This chat about historical bodies being appropriated, used and re-used is not new.  The historical record is rich with them.  Here, we have an eerie similarity ? the body of Adolf Hitler, which did its rounds with the Soviets when its burnt out remains were discovered, persists in remaining interesting for a few overly keen observers.  Did he go to South America for a long spell of warm weather and a dash of tango?  Did he, in fact, perish in the bunker with dog and wife?  It certainly proved interesting to those who discovered the body, leaving  Red Army intelligence with a fine set of dental records.

Indeed, for the mystics and conspirators out there, there is another note: Hitler gave orders on April 30, 1945 to his personal adjunct, Otto Gunsche, that both the body of himself and his wife Eva Braun would be burned on their deaths.  Bin Laden’s killing only just took place.  The stars have aligned, and the astrologers have united.

Given that America’s business is business, the news has been greeted with a certain degree of enthusiasm by money makers and brokers.  Economists and financiers are delirious as they take the pulse of the stock market.  Shawn Price of Navellier & Associates Inc in Reno, Nevada was beside himself in financial ecstasy.  The markets were moving; there was a surge.  ‘It’s a short-term positive across the board both for domestic and international export-oriented companies.’  More dead Bin Ladens, please, seemed to be the urging.  They just might help eliminate those damn recession blues in the US.

Bin Laden, be he dead or alive, will have little impact where it matters: the security environment.  The war in Afghanistan will continue with its blood letting savagery, aimless in orientation and worth.  The terrorist franchises will still operate in their specific areas of interest.  One may even hazard the reverse ? that his death will spark more enthusiasm and a recruitment drive.  Bin Laden dead is far better in providing myth potential than a living variant.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek