Charles Graham - Better off without Bin Laden, martyr or not

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WHEN those passenger planes slammed into the twin towers 10 years ago and vaporised thousands of innocent lives, I vividly recall images of the killers’ supporters jubilantly dancing in the streets, celebrating the carnage.

In some ways it beggared belief even more than the acts of the zealous terrorists themselves. How could anyone harbour such loathing that they could revel in the deaths of civilians of so many nations and faiths?

The answer was the twisted words of one Osama Bin Laden, a man whom the world at large came to revile and fear after 9/11 but who, like other great orators such as Adolf Hitler, wielded huge brainwashing power by playing on the deepest terrors and mistrusts of his followers to deadly effect.

A decade ago the demand for Bin Laden’s head on a plate from George W Bush was one that many of us could relate to, the feeling being that if you could cut off Al Qae’eda’s head, the body would wither.

As the years went by and the world’s most wanted man continued to elude capture, there was a gradual shift in opinion. Perhaps he wasn’t so important after all.

Al Qae’eda was emerging more as a brand that fanatical Muslim fringes clung to for justification for their acts of murder rather than being an international organisation of any great structure.

Latterly it had also been claimed that Al Qae’eda’s popularity was past its peak: an increasing number of adherents’ deserting it, either because its messages weren’t striking as much of a chord or because more Muslims seemed to be dying from its activists’ hands than anyone else.

But Bin Laden was still an international bogeyman, taunting the West from his bolt holes. And all the while he was at liberty he was able to at least give the appearance of having the upper hand, no matter how much scuttling and hiding he was having to do.

Now, we are told, he has finally gone to meet his maker and his long-promised bevy of virgins (God help them).

My sincerest hope now is that the world can be shown incontrovertible proof that Bin Laden really is dead.

That gruesome photo of his gun-blasted face circulating on the internet is a fake and, incredibly, his body has already been allowed to be buried at sea.

It’s Hitler again: the Russians found him supposedly dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his bunker, took a couple of dodgy snaps then chucked his corpse in a river; leaving the door open to speculation that he evaded capture (the corpse being that of a double). Quite a few folk subscribe to the idea that he enjoyed ripe old age in South America.

If there isn’t proof - proper photographs, DNA and so on - Bin Laden is only going to end up the subject of similar mythical-but-they-might-just-be-true tales.

It could be argued that Bin Laden is just as much or little an inspiration to extremists dead as he is alive. These types don’t half love their martyrs, after all.

But quite frankly I’d much rather he wasn’t walking the earth anymore and would like to think that justice had finally caught up with him.

Some of the grievances that fuelled Osama Bin Laden’s manifesto of death are not crazed rantings but opinions that win support from many parts of the world, whether they be the Palastinian question, Guantanamo Bay or America’s continuing presence in Afghanistan.

His policies, however, wouldn’t have been out of place in hell.

Not only has he masterminded the deaths of untold numbers of civilians (many of them Muslim), he has also disgraced the noble religion of Islam and invoked suspicion, fear, hatred and persecution of those good people who also read the Koran but have nothing else in common with him.

Let the world give thanks that he has gone.