Flowers of Evil

A Convenient Hero Who
Became Our Boogeyman

In 1993, Osama bin Laden was referred to in the press as a ‘rich Saudi businessman,’ who was helping rebuild Afghanistan, after a bloody 10-year semi-occupation by the Soviet Union. ‘Rich’ was code for not being in it for the money; Saudi, that he was friends with many in the U.S. government. And businessman was meant as a compliment.
The bin Ladens did have business in the region and throughout the west. The conflict ended just before the 1989 Soviet collapse, one more powerful army, in a centuries-long list, failing to defeat the world’s biggest opium producer. The Mujahedin, the ragtag army recruited and trained to fight, now stood idle and able to new enterprises.
That December, The Independent ran a Robert Fisk mostly-supportive story on bin Laden’s presence in the mountains outside Kabul. Now that he’s dead, it may become even harder to determine whether he was already laying the groundwork for his evil masterpiece less than 10 years ahead. Or that he was even involved in the first attack on the New York’s Twin Towers, earlier that same year.
In a nutshell, that’s why the facsimile of the above Independent article is so eloquent, even after all this time from the tragedy of 9/11, of the way we easily fall prey to a manufactured version of reality. It’s also not hard to understand why so many conspiracies and falsehoods fester in the vacuum of such lack of transparency.
We still don’t know who was the monster who planned the mass murder of thousands of people, and that President Obama ordered killed last May. Then again, it’s obvious that he was much more than the act of unspeakable carnage that he’ll be forever known for. There was a time when he was even called a warrior for peace.
Many still think that to execute him, instead of bringing him to justice, was a missed opportunity to shed light on his particular leadership of terror, and the very nature of despicable acts of mass extermination. But chances are that politics and religion could have gotten in the way, and work to his advantage, and not to his victims.
In the end, we’re now the ones sending our young to die in Afghanistan, which won’t ever be ‘fixed,’ in the way that some very powerful and very dangerous people would like it to be. And despite all contrition and promises of redemption, we remain utterly dissociated and puzzled by the factors that led us to what happened today, 12 years ago. And the word factors here is an overstatement.
We’ll dutifully remember those who paid with their lives on that day, and the ones that followed it, in U.S. soil and in the distant lands. But we can no longer pretend that the thread linking that infamous day with what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan hasn’t already been ruptured long ago.
We’ll pay our respects and meditate on those lives that were not meant to be. Just don’t ask us to forget that, given the right conditions, we may be willing to consider someone a friend, just because he could be a convenient foe to those we don’t like.
We’d love to think that there can be no other Hitler, or Stalin, or Papa Duvalier, or Osama bin Laden. We’re afraid, however, than in Port of Prince slums, or in Syrian refugee camps, or in the squalor dumps of Gaza, hungry little children dream of one day grow up and be given a weapon to fight for something, anything, that can pass for the empowerment stolen from them at such young age.

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