I was lying out in the lovely sun getting my vitamin D today, which is imperative in the winter month for those of us with MS, and of all the things I could be thinking about, I was thinking about Osama Bin Laden. Don't ask me why I was thinking about him... when I should have been concentrating on my cells turning UVB into vitamin D but I was!
I remember where I was, what I did and how I felt that fateful day almost 10 years ago when the world changed forever. I went to bed early on September 11th 2001. The following morning I got out of my bed and opened my bedroom door ready to start the day when my house mate (and dear friend), Cathy pounced on me, almost breathlessly asking, have you heard what's happened? Nope. I've been sleeping... soundly! I perched myself in front of the TV and every station was showing the same thing... planes flying into the towers – was I awake or was this some kind of nightmare, a Hollywood stunt? I was horrified and shocked. What was going on? I couldn't, for the life of me, drag myself away from the set.
Perhaps by 1pm I decided I should go on my usual early morning walk (it was slightly later than normal but better late than never). As I walked down my street, I could see Perth's skyscrapers. All I could picture was ominously low flying planes crashing into them and wondering if I would be covered in debris. I thought about people jumping from windows way up high and people on the street watching the twin towers imploding in on themselves. I thought of the families of those people trapped and killed in the towers - the trauma, the disbelief and horror of it all. Who would do this and why? Was it the beginning of the end?
For many years I think the "end" may have been far easier to deal with, than the invisible terror lurking just over my shoulders. I remember talking to my therapist about 9-11. She suggested it sounded like I had been traumatised by the event... hadn't everyone in some form or another? It rattled my psyche and reinforced that the world, indeed was a dangerous place. Average people like me, had never heard of al-Qaeda... let alone knew they held a massive grudge against the west.
So we all probably agree the world has changed since 9-11, but how has the world changed since Osama Bin Laden's death?
Hmmmmm lets see, what was I doing when I found out Osama Bin Laden was DEAD, er um, I think I was having my breakfast watching Sunrise (a current affairs, chit-chatty morning show). How did I feel... apathetic? Indifferent? Unmoved? Maybe I had a brief moment of relief. Hadn't we all forgotten about him before his death anyway... wasn't he permanently hiding or previously dead or something?
Since Osama Bin Laden's death does anyone feel any safer, or better maybe? Perhaps the lovely folks of America feel better. But I think it is unlikely they feel any safer, just like the rest of us. The jihād leader is brutally slain and even if he was just a "figurehead", I am pretty sure the jihādists are pretty bloody angry and are reading resumes as I write, looking for a new and scarier chief. I don't know about you, but I don't feel safer - a new leader will need to prove himself and outdo his predecessor. This equals new terror, more uncertainty and definitely more attacks to come.
Since Osama Bin Laden's death did the world change back to it's blissfully ignorant pre-9-11 self? Nuh-uh. What's gone down in the last ten years can't be undone. There are still thousands of people dead, there are still thousands of people grieving, there are still invasive security checks at airports, there are still people wary of Muslims and burqas and there is still no safe haven in the world where terrorism can't happen. What's done is done and we are scarred for life. Luckily we are a resilient bunch and what is new (and sometimes horrible) soon becomes normal and routine.
Did al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations just shut up shop since Osama Bin Laden's death? Ummm... NO! HELL NO, now they are angrier and looking for revenge. They are probably recruiting like never before. I bet there are many who would be willing to avenge their hero's death. Osama Bin Laden evaded death for ten whole years... is that a good deterrent? Not if everything I learnt about punishment all through my life and at university is correct. Punishment should be swift, otherwise you won't learn from it... and neither will anyone else. Not that anyone could forget about 9-11, but any future Osama Bin Laden's will be happy to try their hand at terrorism, knowing that they have a good life expectancy, can go into hiding, get married, have some ankle biters, send out secret memos and go down quickly in a blaze of glory - never to be forgotten.
Did the world's troops get yanked out of the Middle East since Osama Bin Laden's death? Nope. The troops are still fighting the war against terror - whatever that is (or was). As of the 6th of June 2011 there have been 2433 coalition deaths in Afghanistan as a part of ongoing coalition operations since the invasion in 2001. Australian's have been killed 28 times up to the 6th of June 2011 (there have been more in the last month), with 182 soldiers wounded. That is 182 Australian lives turned up-side-down - irrevocably changed forever and 210 plus families who will never ever be the same again. The organisation, icasualities (http://icasualties.org) puts America's death toll for this year alone at 243. What's my point? Did the world's troops get pulled out of the Middle East since Osama Bin Laden's death? They didn't and they continue to die because of Osama Bin Laden - his legacy lives on.
How different would the world be if Osama Bin Laden was captured immediately after the 9-11 attacks? Perhaps dramatically - he wouldn't have been able to continuously call all of his jihādist brothers and sisters to arms, maybe there would have been less attacks on places such as Bali and maybe we would have had just one huge hiccup and returned to our blissfully (little less) ignorant pre-9-11 self. Or perhaps it would have made no difference. Maybe after 9-11 we were set on a collision course with terrorisim regardless of Osama Bin Laden's input. I guess I will never know.
Is it better Osama Bin Laden is dead? Maybe for the families who lost loved ones. Was his death too quick and easy for him compared to those who died in the towers and those troops who have died? Would it have been better if he was prodded into a prison cell all on his lonesome and forgotten? Maybe, maybe not. Prison is not all its cracked up to be. Osama Bin Laden was human (I know right) and he would be entitled to three meals a day, clean clothes, likely have access to the media, ie a TV and newspapers and he would still likely be able to see his family. I did not rejoice in his death... but it really is hard to deny a human his basic rights, so maybe prison, as we know it may have been too easy for him. I don't have the answer about what was the best outcome for Osama Bin Laden - death or prison and I guess I don't need too now.
So how has the world changed for the average Joe since Osama Bin Laden's death.... well it hasn't as far as I can tell. I still have my beautiful family, I still have MS and I still have bills to pay but I do hope and pray the world will be a little safer as a result of his death and that less people suffer now he is gone…