A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bin Laden's End

Mistah Kurtz — he dead.
—Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

For some reason that was the first quote to come into my mind on hearing Usama Bin Laden was dead; those words from Conrad's Heart of Darkness, famously evoked in Eliot's "The Hollow Men" as well. Oh, and I guess Apocalypse Now, too. A corrupt man dies, and few will mourn.

Operationally, this may mean little. The regional franchises of Al-Qa‘idaAl-Qa‘ida in the Arabian Peninsula,  Al-Qa‘ida in the Land of the Two Rivers, Al-Qa‘ida in the Islamic Maghreb — are pretty independent operationally; Bin Laden has been isolated to protect him, and had become a symbol more than a real mastermind. His death may make him a martyr among those groups, but symbols work both ways, and this will be a potent one for survivors of those who died on 9/11.

In some ways the wave of revolutions in the Arab world have made Bin Laden an anachronism.

I'm sure I'll have more to say tomorrow.

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