Bin Laden

Wat een prachtig mooi artikel in de Washington Post:

And as if to prove that dreams are prompted by anxieties, the new video of Osama bin Laden arrived right on schedule, just as the country was preparing to mark the second anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. The fact that there was nothing particularly threatening in the images, just a walk in the woods, makes it, by the perverse logic of dreams, all the more threatening.


Because of our voracious need to read some sense into this odd tape, of bin Laden and his lieutenant Ayman Zawahiri wandering through lovely dells and vales, it begins to make more sense than we can be certain it was intended to have. It begins to mean things in all directions.

The cautious reading would stay within the parameters of the visual evidence. If, as the satellite network al Jazeera says, it’s a real tape made sometime in April or May, then he was alive as of this past spring, healthier than we thought and living in the mountains, which makes sense given what we know of his presumed last whereabouts somewhere on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But mountains aren’t that simple. Intelligence analysts will no doubt scan the tape for every geographical clue they can find. But mountains are also mythic space, which means, in this strange war by video valentine, that bin Laden is everywhere.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come?” reads the 121st Psalm. Mountains aren’t just a place one retreats to, but a place of refuge, a place closer to God. Bin Laden may, in fact, be harried to the last limit of his strength — the mountains may be his only choice for survival — but simply by walking through them, calmly and with a nicely turned walking stick, he seems to be almost transcendently at peace.


Bin Laden is wandering in a surreal, biblical place, green and serene, and the apocalyptic language is somehow fitting.

The tape shows not just that he’s alive, but that he’s alive and in a better place. If you were carefully controlling your own mythology, this is precisely the kind of tape that would be inspiring right now. Osama in the clouds. Osama among the cedars.

And if you were savvy about the meanings of these kinds of images in America, you’d release this tape just now, not only because of the proximity to the 9/11 anniversary, but because this is the season when Americans come off their summer vacations. We are back from the mountains, back to work, back to breathing the eerily familiar, clear, crisp air of early September, remembering what that air smelled like two years ago. And there’s bin Laden, still on holiday.

Het helpt natuurlijk ook niet dat Bin Laden er uitziet en zich op video gedraagt als een vriendelijke, zachtaardige, man. En dat hij er uitziet als een mooie, grote, rijzige christusfiguur.

Moeilijk te demoniseren hé meneer.

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