Geopolitics

The Second Death Of Osama Bin Laden

Editorial: This year's “Arab spring” was the death knell for Osama Bin Laden's ideology of international jihad. Still, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to restrictions on civil liberties in Europe and the United States, his legacy l

The Second Death Of Osama Bin Laden

The timing could not have been better. The man who embodied international jihad for so long died just as the "Arab spring" delivered a serious blow to this totalitarian fantasy.

Osama bin Laden's political demise began when Arab peoples rose in the name of democracy and not in the Islamist caliphate envisioned by Al Qaeda.

What U.S. President Barack Obama announced May 1, when he reported that American commandos in Pakistan had killed the Al Qaeda founder, was in many ways Bin Laden's second death.

Politically speaking, the first end for the Saudi dissident occurred when protestors in Tunis and Cairo started brandishing their revolutionary banners. They carried no message of anti-Western hatred, no threat towards "crusaders, Jews," or towards America – Bin Laden's usual targets. What Arab protestors around the world called for instead was freedom and democracy, values the jihadist leader deeply loathed.

In the Arab world, at least, bin Laden had already lost the battle – quite simply because the current uprising is not carried in the name of the Islamism so dear to the Al Qaeda leader. Bin Laden's vision called for the establishment of an Islamist caliphate that would somehow solve all the problems facing Muslim countries, maybe even the entire world.

Bin Laden died just as the ability of Islamic terrorist groups to mobilize and train their fighters was waning. This is not to say there will be no more terrorist attacks in the world. The death of Bin Laden will not put an end to the killings and kidnappings carried out by Al Qaeda's North African affiliates. The recent bombing in Morocco is an unfortunate case in point.

The cult of violence in its most ferocious form is not the only thing that Bin Laden leaves behind. It is not overstating the case to say he marked the beginning of the 21st century – both profoundly and tragically, shaping the world's strategic landscape.

Convinced that it should wage war in response to the 9/11 attacks, the United States is still stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan. These interventions have not only had huge military and economic costs, they have also durably tarnished America's image in the Arab and Muslim world. Even if Present Obama can benefit from Bin Laden's death at home, the Afghan mess is far from over for him.

Al Qaeda also proved that a small group of people could successfully organize large scale murder. Had Bin Laden been able to kill 3 million people in New York City instead of 3,000, by unleashing a chemical or biological weapon, he would most certainly have done so.

The possibility of such an attack has made the fight against terrorism a top priority for most countries. In both the United States and Europe, the obsession for security has led governments to restrict certain civil liberties. Osama bin Laden's horrific heritage lingers on.

Read the original article in French.

Photo - Jaques Delarue

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Society

"You Ass Tulip!" - What Turkey's Creative Swearing Culture Can Teach Us

Profanity is a kind of national sport in Turkey. But it can also be risky business, sometimes leading to lawsuits or even death. One political scientist researching Turkey’s unique way of conjuring curse words explains what the country's inventive slurs reveal about its fears and prejudices.

Street scene in Istanbul

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ISTANBUL — “Take your mother and get lost!” That’s the literal translation of what Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the authoritarian Turkish president, once said to a farmer 15 years ago when the man complained about economic problems.

The Turkish people were shocked by his choice of words, but it was the farmer who was led away by police and later forced to make a televised apology. As he recently explained in a newspaper interview, he is still dealing with legal proceedings as a result of the incident because he is accused of insulting the president, not the other way round.

Erdogan’s behavior was certainly unusual for a head of state, but many Turks also saw it as honest and authentic. “In Turkey, working-class people often use rude words, which are seen as more straightforward and sincere,” explains Ahmet Özcan, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University, who is currently working on a research project about Turkish slang.

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