Display bin Laden’s body. Then make it disappear. Then destroy the al Qaeda legacy.
What fortuitous timing – no sooner do Arab protesters across the Middle East repudiate al Qaeda’s revolutionary model, than US hit team eliminates Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani mansion and snatches the body.
Now it’s important to keep the momentum going, and to deny the enemy any propaganda victory.
That means finishing off bin Laden’s ideological legacy and the popular appeal he enjoyed among Muslim extremists. In doing so, we can stomp out al Qaeda even in places where we can’t see or find its operatives.
First, a repetition of the first point: Al Qaeda stood discredited in the eyes of Muslim Arabs from Tunisia and across North Africa, up the Levant to Syria. The mass protests against authoritarian regimes, several backed by the US, had stolen away much of al Qaeda’s appeal, and proved that much of that appeal was fundamentally quite shallow.
Secondly, the US and its allies have to decide what to do to destroy bin Laden’s legacy, both as an individual and as an ideological vanguard.
Here are some immediate thoughts of what should be done next:
1. Display the body. The free world, particularly the United States, has a right to make sure Osama bin Laden is really dead. Every American has a right to walk right up to bin Laden’s corpse and view it. We are entitled to know for a fact that the witch is dead. No shroud for dignity’s sake, please – bin Laden’s naked, bullet-riddled corpse should be put on display in lower Manhattan for all the world to see. The entire body should be digitally scanned, inside and out – and made available for everyone to take his or her own picture.
This isn’t as morbid a thought as it might seem. Bodies are routinely scanned and photographed during autopsies, their digital images preserved. And across most of the world’s cultures they are placed on display prior to burial or cremation. For us Doubting Thomases out there – we need to see in order to believe.
No future Elvis sightings, please. Leave no room for conspiracy theories that the CIA faked bin Laden’s death, that bin Laden is living in comfortable exile somewhere, or that 20 years from now he’ll still be out there, calling the shots. All of us is entitled to see that the beast has indeed been killed.
2. Make the body disappear. The US made mistakes in the past by returning the bodies of dead terrorists to their families or hometowns for burial. This is a nice and sentimental gesture, but it had the net effect of spawning more extremism and terrorism. The graves that contained the physical bodies became shrines for extremist pilgrims, educational tools to propagandize young people, and models to inspire future terrorists.
Even though they were atheists, the Soviets understood the propagandistic importance of bodies. That’s why they mummified Lenin, put the remains in a mausoleum, and turned the corpse into the core of a personality cult. That’s why, too, the Soviets ordered the physical destruction of Adolf Hitler’s corpse, burning it and burying it and re-burying it before ultimately dumping the ashes in a river. There would be no pilgrimage point for future Nazis.
And so, after a thorough public examination, bin Laden’s body should be burned, its ashes flushed into the New York City sewer system.
3. Describe how bin Laden spent his last days and died. In what type of luxury did the al Qaeda leader live as his fanatical devotees crawled around their rabbit holes and scratched out a miserable existence? What did he surround himself with in that mansion outside Islamabad? Was he Spartan-like? Or did he live, perhaps, like the Tunisian and Egyptian strong men overthrown by their own people?
Was bin Laden, the puritanical Islamist, really just another religious phony? A total hypocrite whom it would prove shameful to follow? Did the CIA and SEALs find the types of disgusting double lives that our military discovered among the many suicide bombers who murdered in his name – the liquor, the cyber porn, the pederasty? What about his body? Did the autopsy reveal symptoms of the anal gonorrhea so prevalent among his totally un-gay followers in rural Afghanistan?
Did he go down fighting, or did he cower and plead for his life?
No need to give bin Laden a clean bill of health here – we’re looking at destroying his legacy, not being fair and balanced. If there’s anything truthful that can be used to discredit him, let’s use it.
If there isn’t, then it isn’t important to know. This is political warfare, not public relations.
Bin Laden may be dead (I’ll believe it when I see it), but al Qaeda is still alive.
I’m going to raise a mug of beer and munch a Hebrew National pork sausage to celebrate the brave CIA folks, Navy SEALs and others who took bin Laden down.
Then it’s back to work to destroy what the al Qaeda leader left behind. That means piling dirt on bin Laden’s legacy, destroying his appeal, and providing the world with all the necessary facts to heap humiliation on anyone who insists on continuing to follow his cause.