Saturday 10 December 2016

Terrorist-in-chief Bin Laden has left baleful legacy across the world

Patrick Cockburn

Published 03/05/2011 | 05:00

A NYPD officer stands in front of memorials at the site of the Twin Towers in New York yesterday
A NYPD officer stands in front of memorials at the site of the Twin Towers in New York yesterday

The killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by American Special Forces feels like the closing of a traumatic chapter. Two destructive wars, countless terrorist outrages across the world, the staining of the reputation of the world's most powerful nation: they all flowed from the September 2001 terror attacks on the United States.

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And now the architect of that original globe-shaking atrocity has, finally, been wiped out. A decade of running and hiding by the world's most notorious terrorist ended yesterday with a bullet to the head in an anonymous house in a quiet town north of Islamabad.

Crowds, waving the Stars and Stripes, celebrated in front of the White House yesterday. Relatives of those killed when planes scythed into the Twin Towers wept for joy in Lower Manhattan. For them this was, understandably, a moment of catharsis. Yet the truth is that in the struggle against Islamist terrorism, Bin Laden's death is likely to be of symbolic, rather than practical, importance. The killing might well demoralise those around the globe who still regard Bin Laden as a spiritual leader, a totem of resistance to the West. But in terms of operational significance, his importance was negligible.

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