It has been a year since Osama bin Laden became a ghost courtesy of U.S. Navy SEALs. I had long since come to the conclusion that Osama had become crepes suzette for the worms back in Tora Bora in December 2001, and I was somewhat stubborn in my belief. Yet he fooled me, the student of Araby Mark Steyn and a few other pundits. I shall be a big enough man to admit it. I was wrong.
Apparently, Osama took up residence in the wilds of Pakistan, where he believed he was safe. Doubtless like-minded pietists in the Pakistani army or intelligence community told him he would be safe there. They obviously were proud of their world-famous tenant. Well, they were asleep on the night of May 2, 2011, or they had the good sense not to get involved. When the U.S. helicopters swooped in, Osama was pitifully exposed. He had no guards that we know of, save a few women. Several doors collapsed before our tough troops, and pop! he was on his way to the 72 virgins in heaven or whatever Muslim theologians estimate the hereafter to be. At any rate, I am glad he is gone, and doubtless you are, too.
Now we know he spent his last days reading licentious literature and mixing up potions not unlike the West’s miracle drug, Viagra. Also, we hear from intelligence reports that he was heavily into Just for Men, another diabolical potion that originates with the hated West. He did not stay particularly fit. There was no jogging or windsurfing or bungee-jumping for him, as there is with select American politicians. There were just the womenfolk all around. Sometimes he assuredly admonished them with a good scolding or perhaps a stick. According to the Islamic specialist Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi in his Islamic best-seller “A Gift for Muslim Couples,” a husband can resort to “a stick,” can deny money and even “pull” his wife “by the ears.” Still, it is no substitute for a good workout at the gym.
Other morsels of intelligence were found in his redoubt in historic Abbottabad, the felicitously named town in which he breathed his last. He kept computers, another Western gadget, and pens and pencils, again Western utensils. On his hard drives, the United States has discovered valuable intelligence. Frankly, I doubt our intelligence community has been candid with us. But from what we have been told, Osama’s group, al Qaeda, has laid plans for the long haul. Its members have a strategy for making pests of themselves in Afghanistan once our heroic president vamooses. And they are setting up operations in romantic places like Yemen. Moreover, they recently allied with al-Shabab, a terrorist group in Somalia.
Their present leader is Ayman al-Zawahri, who we are told is not another Osama. He is, according to our intelligence community, “divisive.” He lacks Osama’s swarthy charm. But he does have plans for a long-term struggle. His problem is that al Qaeda has too many openings at the top. In fact, by the time this is published, even his position may be open. The skies above Afghanistan and Pakistan are full of U.S. drones. They pick up a message, say, from al-Zawahri ordering a pizza delivery, and poof! he could be gone. It has happened time and again.
Consider Ilyas Kashmiri. Osama tapped him to assassinate President Obama. Possibly, Osama did not like him, for no sooner had he been tapped than he was tapped - by a missile from one of those infernal drones. Or consider Atiyah Abdul Rahman, who was in charge of al Qaeda’s day-to-day operations and Osama’s main link to his network. Poof! He is no more. And then there is, or should I say was, Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born sheik at work in Yemen. Poof! He was incinerated by another drone.
So it has been a happy year against terrorism, but I would not let down our guard. We are not fighting the Cold War against technologically symmetrical forces. We are fighting a war against primitives, but all they need is a suicidal maniac with some advanced Western gadget to kill hundreds, perhaps thousands.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. He is author of “The Death of Liberalism” (Thomas Nelson, 2012).