Bin Laden’s Legacy…

It was only a year ago when Mr. Obama announced what has perhaps become the greatest victory of his tumultuous and controversial presidency.  In the dark of night a small group of our nation’s finest warriors descended into a compound in the middle of Pakistan and took the life of the most infamous terrorist the world has ever known.  After killing the man in near cold blood the body was identified and unceremoniously dropped at sea, leaving the rest of the world to constantly question both the authenticity of the official account and the deeper meaning of the man who somehow, someway managed to change the course of human history.  Time however, while it offers ample opportunity for reflection and further examination of evidence, does not always yield to deeper understanding.  And a full year later we are still left to question the significance of this man and his war which has shaped the course of each of our lives for the last decade of our existence…

What do we truly know of the man anyway?  How did an obscure classically trained civil engineer and descendant of the greatest developer in the history of the Saudi Kingdom rise to such prominence?  How did his readings of Wahhabi Islam, his discourses with his many mentors, and his experiences at the flashpoints of America’s global jihad against the Soviet Empire shape the course of his life?  To what extent did he become an agent of the Saudi Kingdom, the Sudanese regime, the Pakistani intelligence services, the Afghan mujahedeen and Taliban, and the global superpower as he we worked pragmatically for whoever would pay the bills and provide sanctuary while he cultivated his ideas of global jihad?  At what point did his Al Qaeda, the organization, the idea, the brand truly come into existence (reports are still inconclusive and change depending on who you ask)?  How did his vision of global, regional, and local jihad evolve and change over time?  And when did he truly meet his end?  Was it shortly after 9/11 at the hands of American bombs or kidney failure?  Was it sometime afterward?  Was he truly the man who died in that shadowy raid a year ago deep in Pakistan?  Is he still living somewhere, someplace trying to make sense of the world that has been irrevocably changed in his name?  Or did the man never even truly exist in flesh and blood at all?  The truth is surely out there somewhere, but unlike most of my contemporaries I will offer only questions, no conclusions.  For in a world full of secretive and deeply compartmentalized security and intelligence services, I’m not really sure anybody has all the answers.  Just remember rule number 1:  Always check your sources…and never believe anything a government, mainstream or alternative media source, established expert, conspiracy theorist, or random internet blogger has to say…

Surely though just like any one of us,  Bin Laden’s life was a product of a causality which goes far beyond his alleged bankrolling and masterminding of the attacks of 9/11 and the creation of his global brand and organization.  And while his tapes and public writings shed a sliver of light onto the man it is worth reminding ourselves that each piece of evidence must be examined with utmost scrutiny in this world of competing powerful agendas, security states, and universal technological capabilities.  Upon deeper investigation (which I honestly have not had the opportunity to do enough of) while some of his tapes appear to be decidedly conclusive there are others that cast only deeper shadows onto the man so many of us know but so few of us understand.  Did Mr. Bin Laden really mastermind 9/11 along with Khalid Sheik Mohammad?  Did he really believe he could defeat the far enemy without bringing the imminent destruction of his organization and ideals?  Did he take pleasure in watching that enemy trip and stumble along its course for final revenge as it launched two wars, killed hundreds of thousands of people, catapulted his brand onto the global stage, and established an inflated security state based on anything but the ideals of freedom it professed to be spreading to the world?  The deeper you question the man, the less you realize you truly know.  Yet it is only through critical questioning that you can develop understanding.  And only through understanding can you begin to comprehend the causality of the last ten years of our lives.  Yet amid all the madness and unanswered questions surrounding of Mr. Bin Laden’s life, a key appears to be the understanding of his idea.  For ultimately if you can destroy the idea the truth about man, now apparently dead, doesn’t even matter anymore…

But what do we know of this idea?  Much more powerful than men of flesh and blood our ideas are capable of long out living, outstretching, and out reaching us.  Ideas are originally the product of those who create them but become reality in those who examine, interpret, and cultivate them.  While they live and evolve just men they are not bound by the narrow concepts of mortality and geography thus making them exponentially more difficult to destroy.  Yet why did Bin Laden’s idea of jihad resonate with so many people?  Why did so many resource-strapped freedom fighters and resistance movements adopt his message just as they once did with the one of global communism during our parents’ time?  How did Al Qaeda become a global brand, a global network, answering to the hopes and aspirations of so many diverse groups of people?  How did the idea penetrate the minds of so many from the cities and towns of the Western world, to the deserts of the Trans-Sahel/Sahara, to the lawlessness of the Horn of Africa and southern Arabian Peninsula, to the war torn banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, and to the mountains of the Af-Pak frontier?  And why did so many diverse, idealistic, somewhat lost, and oftentimes deeply educated and intellectual individuals take up Bin Laden’s call to arms?

Of course a key to understanding any idea is a critical examination of its opposite and it is this reflection of Bin Laden’s war in Western societies that is perhaps its deepest and darkest legacy.  In the years since his initial attack on American soil we have seen our society grow far less free.  We have seen a strong and technologically capable security bubble penetrate our governmental and corporate cultures.  With the prospect of this endless war we have seen our vital economic security come more and more into question.  And through this manifesting security infrastructure the very terrorists our society captures appear to the critical eye as more the victims of various anti-social disorders than the products of diehard extremist ideology bent on creating maximum death and destruction…

It is quite troubling and disconcerting for me as a man who will have a large role in the future of America’s wars to truly and honestly examine this duality.  But it is that course, as a man who simply wishes to leave a better and more peaceful world for his future children which I must pursue.  Although I must admit that the further I seem to get down this rabbit hole the scarier my thoughts become and the more daunting the task of unraveling the causality behind America’s expanding security state appears to be.  In a nation where over 800,000 citizens hold Top Secret and compartmentalized security clearances, many of whom work in the private sector, finding bits of truth alone is certainly hard enough.  Determining causality and understanding appears to be nearly humanly impossible.  And then these emerging realities must be operationalized in order to create real and lasting systemic change…

Yet ultimately, the deeper I get into this process the greater purpose I can see for myself and my nation’s future military and civilian leaders.  If we ever want to see a world of peace for our children, if we ever want to finally defeat Mr. Bin Laden and his legacy, and if we ever want to give others the opportunity to build and shape new realities and conquer the real challenges of our globally connected human civilization, we must find a way to end this war.  And we must do it before irrevocable damage is done to our ideals of freedom, our dreams of peaceful democracy, and our possibilities for mutually beneficial human coexistence.

Ending a war has never been an easy task and ending one against a nameless and faceless enemy only adds additional layers of complexity especially in a world where powerful enemies still mean to do us very real physical harm.  Yet with every free thinker that I meet, with every renegade, every weirdo, and every diehard believer in the dream of ultimate peace I find just enough hope to continue moving forward with the task ahead, to keep thinking, to keep questioning, to keep expressing, and to keep evolving.  The task before us is formidable indeed, but just give us enough time and I have no doubt that we will pool enough of our resources, our ideas, and our understanding to finally deal the death blow to Mr. Bin Laden’s legacy…

There will be no parades, no medals, no ceremonies, and no celebrations for the end of this war.  Final victory will bring no new monuments, no memorial parks, and no rewards for those who will give so much in the struggle.  Many of our fellow citizens won’t even know or understand what the struggle was all about in the first place or be able to point out the time and place where it finally comes to an end.  And far too many of us who choose to dedicate our services to ending this war will never live our day of final peace.  But despite all our troubles, despite all our challenges, despite every insurmountable obstacle standing in our way, in the end there will be peace.  And that peace will be the greatest gift of all that we pass on to future generations.  Keep thinking, keep questioning, and keep evolving my friends…Here’s to ending this war…Loyal to the end…



2 MAY 2012, 1200(L), Sharana, Paktika, Afghanistan


About briangdonnelly

I'm pretty much a random traveler and free thinker. Right now I live and work with the Army in North Carolina. I grew up in Missouri but am from the northeast US and have traveled a lot with the Army and life in general so I can't say I really have a "home" except where I chose to catch a few hours or rack each day. Overall, life is pretty awesome and I'm looking forward to changing the world. Hit me up if you care... Peace, Brian
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