How secretive and shabby the Americans are

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How secretive and shabby the Americans are

Bob Ellis

There was no rejoicing in Times Square when Hirohito died, though he ordered the killing of 2350 Americans in Pearl Harbor. I remember no such gladness when Hitler died, or Ho Chi Minh, or Mao Tse Tung. Or Che Guevara. Or Salvador Allende. Or Joseph Stalin.

These laughing, flag-waving, crowded scenes outside the White House and across America have no precedent (except, perhaps, in the South when Lincoln was shot) and it is to be wondered why they occurred.

There was a magical-realist quality to Osama Bin Laden. He looked like the risen Christ, and was often thought dead and came always back to life. His broadcasts needed always to be authenticated because the CIA wanted him dead. He’d humiliated them so enormously they kept saying he was dead. He was ‘on dialysis’, they asserted, wrongly; he had to be dead by now. 9/11 was so clever. He had to be dead.

And once again they are covering up, and in denial.

As with John F Kennedy, whose brain was stolen, his car washed of its blood, film of his autopsy made to vanish, his alleged assassin murdered and that assassin’s evidence unrecorded, burnt or discarded, we have here, now, a significant body, the corpse of the world’s most wanted man, ‘buried at sea’. Why do this? Why even think of it, when identifying him forensically was critical to the peace of the Arab and Muslim world?

Uday and Qusay weren’t buried at sea, nor the twenty-four-hour burial rule applied to these two cosmeticked enemy stiffs. Saddam was helicoptered home to his tribal city (by Mike Kelly MP and Minister for Cheese) for interment in his clan’s sacred ground. Why treat Osama any differently? Why put his body where it couldn’t be checked over? Why not have an autopsy? Why not give their most famous son back to the rich Bin Laden family, and see them set him down in their family plot? What right do Americans have to a fallen enemy’s corpse? Where did that new rule come from? How dare they?

Clearly they feared the sight of his widow, wounded in the fire-fight, at the graveside of him and his dead son, and the sight of his grieving daughter and his other sons would humanise him in an inconvenient way. Clearly they feared his grave would become, like that of Karl Marx or St Thomas a Beckett, a pilgrim shrine for apostles yet unborn.

But there were other, forensic reasons too.

A coronial enquiry, with witnesses, would show if women were fired upon, or children. It would show if Bin Laden took his own life, as Allende did, it seems, or if his bodyguard, sworn to kill him in such a circumstance, shot him as well, in the back, perhaps.

It would show if he had his hands up, and he was therefore killed against the rules of war, or if his wife said, ‘Please, no.’ It would also get from his wife and daughter evidence of who had lodged them in their splendid quarters, who paid the bills, who took the children to the local school, and what Mushareff knew, and what Azari knew, and indeed what Benazir Bhutto knew, of his five-year stay, if that is how long it was, only three minutes’ walk from an army academy, the West Point of Pakistan.

How shabby the Americans are. How secretive and stupid.

One thinks of the 600 plots to kill Castro: the poisoned face cream, the poisoned wetsuit, the exploding cigars, the former girlfriend who, after sex, couldn’t do it, even when he offered his gun. How low grade they are. How creepy. How overpaid for their shoddy scheming and their bungled midnight raids.

And Osama Bin Laden was buried at sea. Full fathom five thy father lies. Of his bones are coral made. Those are pearls that were his eyes. Imagine Hitler, buried at sea. Or Trotsky. How stupid can they be?

For there is no end to it now. As with Elvis, his voice, his image will recur on websites for fifty years. Was it him? Did he survive? Is he still alive? He must be. He must be. His widow will charge his American assassins with war crimes for killing and wounding civilians: her son, herself, her daughter. His family will spend millions cleansing his name. The Sunni clergy will denounce the blasphemous travesty of his last rites, not on family ground but the cruel sea.

Karzai will demand compensation for the towns destroyed in America’s vain search for him, in the wrong country. The Saudi royals will be shown to have given him money and Bush to have known this while his father took fees from them. A good few Pakistani colonels will be tortured and shot. The Navy Seals that shot him (in the face, not the legs) will get jobs on Fox News. The Taliban will seize Pakistan and its WMD. And his legend, like Che’s, will grow luminous, and more and more twelve-year-old suicide bombers go into supermarkets whispering his name.

And all they had to do was keep the body, film its autopsy, open it to media view and give it back, in due season, to his family for a proper Sunni funeral, as they did Saddam and Uday and Qusay, in the green, green grass of home.

What klutzes they are. And how dearly we all must pay for their clumsiness, in a rejuvenated al-Qaeda and acts of terror without end, in this country too. And an atomic war, perhaps.

And it’s a pity.

PS. Osama was unarmed, we now are told, but he ‘resisted’ and so was shot ‘above the left eye’ and ‘part of his brain was blown away’. This, and other details, might explain why Barack Obama spent so long rewriting his speech, his worst thus far on a great specific occasion, and why he seemed uneasy giving it. What, we may ask, is he now to say of a murder committed by uninvited American troops on foreign soil, illegally?

And what is he to do with an illegally kidnapped widow, daughter and sons, and their ongoing education in Abbottobad?

And, indeed, with the question, why are we in Afghanistan?

And with the further, larger question, why, if Osama Bin Laden was for five years in Pakistan, and Pakistan’s rulers knew of it, we are not making war on Pakistan today? In reprisal? As we did on Afghanistan?

Why are we in Afghanistan, by the way?

Is there any reason left?

Bob Ellis is a writer and commentator

What a silly article. The misplaced historical comparisons, the misdirected indignation, the far fetched predictions.