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by Tess Lawrence | Contributing editor-at-large

Just a single letter differs in their first and last names, but Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden and Barack Hussein Obama could not have been more different.


Obama and Osama


Last night when the 44th President of the United States, in the 17th month of an arduous first term, looked his nation and the world squarely in the TV monitor's eye to announce bin Laden's death, he not only pinioned himself to the pages of international history but also booked a second term in The White House.


He said he could and he did. Such is the audacity of hope. Eat your heart out Dubya, Donald and Dick. Goodbye the D Generation. You losers.


It may have seemed unexpectedly late on a cold Washington Sunday night when African American Obama made his announcement, but make no mistake about the timing.

It was a deliberate strategic attempt in subtle crowd control and crisis management, in the hope that the inevitable wild and joyous nationalistic celebrations could rage well into the night and hopefully subdue somewhat before the gatherings around the water cooler or in the hoodz on Monday after the long night's day.

It is a fine line between sorrow and revenge, between anger and angst; even finer when the right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution.


As President Obama's speech unfolded and we learned in part, of the extent and chronology of the siege of Abbottabad (about 60-70 kilometres north of Islamabad) I contemplated the personal and political calibre of Barack Hussein.


I thought, you are one cool dude Mr President.

Never mind all the pros and cons. Just for a moment.

I thought of the months of political warfare he has endured both inside and outside of Congress and the scorn and ridicule he has endured since taking office. Of the savaging of his health and other reforms.

And of how the promise of that Obama we saw in the election campaign was becoming more opaque, drowning in the inevitable compromises that must be made with both sides of an increasingly impatient and belligerent House.

As I watched, I thought of how his birthright as an American citizen was put to the test. Of how the 49 year old Hawaiian-born embodiment of the American Dream was constantly under challenge to prove he was indeed born in the USA and not just borne to her shores.


Donald Trump


Even on the very day(s) their Commander in Chief was personally directing secret meetings to capture Osama bin Laden, his fellow Americans were challenging not only his presidential legitimacy, but also his religious status.

As if being a Muslim is an indictable offence.

As if the American Constitution was as religiously bigoted as the British Monarchy against which it had revolted.

Whilst the nation that voted the likes of George Dubya Bush into office is the same nation that voted a black man with a Muslim middle name into the Oval Office, as disenchantment with Obama's administration grew, so did the offensive racist bigotry — much of it fuelled by people who had taken oaths of office and who were aided and abetted by mainstream media flunkies.

Even as Obama was despatching a small squad of America's elite US Navy Seals to Pakistan, he had little choice but to also despatch a special legal emissary to Hawaii to act as a human courier to bring back a sworn copy of his birth certificate — and upon her return he called a special Press Conference to present the Birth Certificate and post it on The White House




He was despatching the SEALs even as he was dealing on an almost hourly basis with the likes of the irritating and inherently dangerous Donald Trump, who possesses the classic prerequisites for a despotic dictator, complete with dyed and preposterously effete coiffure — an elaborate combover confection, dressing to the political right.


Yet, even as he was despatching the SEALs, Obama, in good nature and humour still graciously presided over the Annual White House Foreign Correspondents' Dinner, singling out The Donald, delivering punchline upon punchline and with each, striking closer to the cold coinage of Trump's bigotry until even his fellow guests on his own table clearly felt so uncomfortable at their own clapping and hysterical laughter upon noticing that The Donald had stopped laughing, so they did too.

Even as he was despatching the SEALs, Obama sustained his legendary energy levels and thwarted and deflected each personal and political attack, working virtually 24/7 on the 9/11 mastermind's case, juggling several time zones and overseeing and directing the bin Laden operation.

Would you or I or anyone ever have guessed this?

You never want to play poker with this dude.

Little wonder that he's regarded as a smooth operator and a disarming negotiator.


America has been politically hoarse with grief since Osama bin Laden's audacious attack on its sovereignty and soul on that time-suspended slo-mo where-were-you-I-was-dying-I-love-you Tuesday, on September 11, 2001.


How could it be that 19 of his Al-Qaeda male acolytes, some whose flying lessons consisted only of take-off procedures – double the fries but hold on the landing lessons – could hijack with impunity four commercial passenger airlines carrying hundreds of human beings from all walks of life, race and religion and use them as organic shrapnel — turning those planes into human clusters bombs.


Two of them torpedoing into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre remain as one of the prevailing images that define the birth of the Millennium and this century — as well as the death of an America and a world we once knew. Thousands died; even those who weren't there; loved ones and survivors.

Some will tell you they might as well be dead. Buried alive in their sadness and memory.


It was Ground Hero on that day. And not just on Ground Zero.


Passengers and crew on the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 grappled with hijackers and prevented the terrorists from heading towards Washington DC, choosing instead to sacrifice their lives for the greater good, crashing into a field of lost dreams in Stonycreek township, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The fourth plane is the one that is least talked or written about. Because it struck the very fulcrum of America's security and intelligence systems and brings even greater ignominy to them both. It was the Pentagon.

Now just how could such a thing happen?



Within a cluster of minutes, Osama and the boys had torched some of the stars on Old Glory. Three States on The Star Spangled Banner now had blood on them. Mostly American.


Let the record state that September 11, 2001, was an inglorious day for America's home security. Several months before that date, FBI operatives warned HQ in writing of the suspicious behaviour of particular Arab students learning to fly. The warning was ignored.

The world watched in real time at those unforgettable scenes; as the Twin Towers took the hits and buckled, its concrete entrails coughing blood, dust, steel and human beings.



As The Falling Man fell, thus did we fall with him. In our dreams he never hits the ground. I won't let him.


You all know what happened next.

President George W Bush packaged the Al-Qaida Brand for Osama bin Laden and became his propagandist. He came up with the slogan 'The War on Terror' and stupidly referred to it as a 'Crusade.'

This ill-advised gaffe (sure) immediately played into the semtex and bloodstained hands of bin Laden. Bush elevated his Nemesis to rockstar status. Who needs friends when you've got enemies like this?

Then again, we mustn't forget that Dubya was once in business with Osama bin Laden's big brother, Salem who was killed in 1988 when he flew his plane into powerlines in San Antonio, Texas. Still a bit of a mystery.

Planes seem to be thematic in bin Laden's life. And death. His father Sheikh Mohammed was killed in 1967 in a plane crash in Saudi Arabia. The plane had an American pilot.


Even one of the helicopters used in the Abbottabad heist had a wardraid malfunction. At this stage it is unclear whether the chopper was a Black Hawk made in Sikorsky, Connecticut — or was a Black Hawk Boeing Chinook combo.


Whatever it was, the SEAL TEAM SIX – Naval Special warfare Development Group – had to blow it up and the second chopper was used to evacuate the Special Forces and bin Laden's corpse to safety.


It is believed that Osama bin Laden, resisting arrest, was shot twice—in the chest cavity and through the head above the left eye, the impact tearing away part of his skull.



In an act of typical cowardice used by terrorists and suicide bombers, when confronted with the inevitable, bin Laden grabbed the nearest dispensable thing next to him; a woman — and used her as a human shield.


Strange how these older men are reluctant to get to Jannah, but are always encouraging younger people to strap on a suicide belt with a one-way ticket.

At the time of going to press, it remains unclear whether the woman was killed or injured by the SEALs, under instructions to take no prisoners in the event of a firefight.

It is believed she could be Amal al Ahmed Sadah, bin Laden's fourth wife, a Yemeni woman he married when she was seventeen—the same age he was when he first took a wife.

One of bin Laden's sons, Khalid, was also killed in the operation. It is believed about 25 people in the complex were killed. I am still trying to find out what happened to the bodies of bin Laden's immediate family and others.

As soon as bin Laden was shot dead, the image was immediately transmitted via a locked code to the President, who was on standby, to confirm the death and that the operation was a success.


Bin Laden compound - blood-stained floor (courtesy Network 7 Newsnet)


This was also done as an additional precaution, in case the evacuation chopper itself was shot down or blown up.

It could so easily have been. Given that Pakistani Defence Systems were under way because of the unauthorised invasion of their air space.

Bin Laden's corpse was flown to Jalalabad in Afghanistan for identification and measuring — and photographing.

DNA taken from bin Laden's relatives – including from the brain of one of his sisters – was used to confirm the corpse was indeed that of bin Laden's and not one of his several human decoys.

There is much yet to be said and written and done about Operation Geronimo-E KIA. (E for Enemy and KIA for 'killed in action'—an increasingly familiar phrase to families of defence personnel — no such ID for civilians).

This year marks the 10th anniversary of 9/ll.

There's no escaping the fact that another kind of hell was unleashed upon the world that day.

We daily bear the scars of what happened next. To our peoples. Around the world. We seem to be reconciled to war and the business of killing.

Directly as a consequence of 9/11 thousands of us are dead, wounded in body and spirit, and dying.

As I write, all over the United States – not just in Washington or the hallowed emotional rubble that is still Ground Zero – Americans are celebrating bin Laden's death amidst an outburst of patriotism and a reclamation of a justice of sorts.

Also, as the earth's orb turned and a new dawn summoned the world's different time zones, the ramifications of bin Laden's death is being dealt with summarily, continent by continent; favoured leaders and heads of state were given the heads up and the fraternal spiel.


Pakistani military beefs up security around the US consulate in Karachi


Even before the livestream broadcast, people started to assemble as rumours leeched through the paint on The White House walls, that the President was about to make a public address - and further, that America had cut off the bearded head of the Al Qaeda snake.

As the first wave of euphoria subsides, there are salient questions yet to be answered.

Given that the multi-million dollar Abbottabad home occupied by Osama and his family is just metres away from the Military Academy, it is preposterous to suppose that Pakistan intelligence –ergo Pakistan government – was unaware that Osama bin Laden was domiciled in that house.

It is not surprising that despite the polite but meaningless mention of Pakistan's role in the operation by the President and other world leaders, the fact is Pakistan is regarded by US, British and Australian intelligence as utterly corrupt, untrustworthy and in fact, collaborators with bin Laden and Al-Qaeda wannabes and others.

Please hold that thought. It is possible that a core group of mainly British-trained Pakistani operatives were, in fact, working with US intelligence.

What has been at play in Operation Geronimo is old-fashioned intelligence and information gathering, involving the patient and painstaking cultivation of sources, informants and trust.

Basic Spooking 101. Ditto diplomacy.

It took President Obama a matter of months to achieve what George W. Bush failed to do in years.

I'm looking forward to the movie and the TV series already. First The West Wing. Now, The Best Wing.

US-based American Emmy award-winning journalist and crisis management guru, Jim Moore, who co-wrote the bestseller Bush's Brain – How Karl Rove made George W Bush Presidential, puts his views undressed of spin and sentimentality. He did not dance in the streets.

He told me this morning that "I think Pakistan's leadership is guilty of an ongoing betrayal of the US”.


Jim Moore continued:



James Moore: within months of his book on Bush being released, his name found its way onto a terrorist watchlist.
"They get billions of dollars of our tax money every year and yet they were giving safe harbour to bin Laden.


"There is no way the military did not know he was hiding for six years in a walled mansion, purpose built for security and protection.

"We have been funding the people who have been caring for this killer, and we are more the fools for it.

"I am saddened by the people dancing in the streets of America. I understand the emotional response but our TV screens in the past have been filled with video of radical Islamists shooting their guns into the air, dancing and chatting while celebrating the death of Westerners.

"We have tended to call them uncivilised and yet we somehow think when we act the same it is different.

"In the scheme of things, it is one more death in the war on terror.

“This resolves nothing. There are generations of young Muslims who are angry at the West and killing bin Laden will not abate their desire to strike back, particularly at the US and other participants in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

“US Intelligence has let it be known that there was sketchy data regarding al Qaeda's Doomsday Scenario to be implemented if bin Laden were to be killed.

"The death of the terrorist leader has now prompted the more disturbing question of 'what’s next’ "

Professor Robert Springborg, of the Naval Post Graduate School at California's Department of National Security Affairs Institute, also has an incisive perspective.


This morning he told me that the “killing of Usama bin Laden by US Navy Seals has substantially strengthened President Obama's position in foreign policy”.



Professor Robert Springborg said:

“He has already claimed direct oversight of the operation itself and presumably it will become public before long that negotiations with the Pakistani military that made it possible will also come to light, further reinforcing the image of Obama as a hands-on manager of delicate national security affairs.


"This should terminate attempts by Republicans to portray him as soft on terrorists.

"As regards the Middle East, the Arab Spring, combined with US behind-the-scenes management of the NATO campaign against Libya, also provides both opportunities and justifications for President Obama to embark upon new foreign policy initiatives in the region.


Central Intelligence Agency Director nominee, Leon Panetta


"This huge boost to his foreign policy credentials comes precisely at the time at which he is in the process of strengthening his national security team by bringing in General (David) Petraeus as head of the CIA and replacing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates with the politically astute Leon Panetta.

"The critical question is how will he employ his newly enhanced powers during this turbulent period in modern Middle Eastern history?

"At this very moment he is being tested by the Egyptians, whose new Foreign Minister (Nabil Elaraby) has called upon the US to support the declaration of a Palestinian state, leaving Israel as the sole state opposing it.

"Until the killing of bin Laden, the upcoming election and relative weakness of Obama suggested that the prospects for the US using the threatened declaration to place serious pressure on Israel seemed remote.

"Now, however, the newly empowered Obama can seriously contemplate using the pressure of a UN endorsement of the declaration of Palestinian independence to pressure (Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin ‘Bibi’) Netanyahu.

"If indeed that is the case, the killing of bin Laden will paradoxically have contributed to building peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians."

When Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize after only nine months into his Presidency there was much criticism that he had been prematurely awarded the Honour.


Even in his acceptance speech he acknowledged this: "I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labours on the world stage".

How sweet it would be if the Arab and Semitic Springs would merge to make a mighty River of Peace.

There's the audacity of hope again.

What are you doing this coming Sunday Mr President?

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