“If they kill me, it will be martyrdom for me. If they expel me, it will be a hijrah for me and I will call people to Allah. If they imprison me, it will be a place of worship for me.” - Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328)
Granted that in the unipolar world we now live in, there is no room for anything but a monolithic narrative, yet one would expect that those who craft this narrative would at least have the decency to keep it consistent; this, sadly, is not the case. The world was first told that Osama bin Laden had put up a fight and shot at the Navy Seals’ Team Six that stormed his alleged hideout in Abbottabad; that he used one of his wives as a human shield, that there was a “firefight”.
The White House changed the narrative within 36 hours and confirmed that none of this was true. In fact, Bin Laden was unarmed, was shot in the head and chest, and his wife had been wounded in the leg while rushing towards the kill team. This means: he was assassinated in cold blood by a kill team illegally sent into Pakistan. The lame excuse that the operation took place under the US policy of finding and killing him wherever he was found, would make no sense in any court of law. But a court of law is what we do not have in the unipolar world; international law now stands suspended.
We were told that Bin Laden lived in a million dollar mansion, but anyone who knows what one million dollars can buy in Abbottabad, Pakistan, would immediately know that there is no truth in this claim; only one or two Western journalists have pointed out this flaw in the narrative. What no one has so far (to my knowledge) pointed out a greater falsehood of the whole narrative: we have been told that the operation lasted just 40 minutes!
Putting bits and pieces of the official narrative together, one wonders how this could have been practically possible. After all, they came in their helicopters, landed, attacked the compound, killed the two courier brothers, then went up to the second and third floors, searched for and found Osama in a bedroom, fired at him and killed him. Then they dragged him down the stairs (blood all over the stairs), searched through every room, every drawer, took out hard drives from the computers. We are told, they emptied all the papers they found into their bags, destroyed their own helicopter which had crashed earlier in the operation and took the bodies of those they had killed and loaded them onto their remaining helicopters. All of this, we are told, was done in 40 minutes. Obviously someone was not wearing a watch.
So, the question is: why did they limit it to 40 minutes in the first narrative? A larger question is: why did they cook up a narrative with so many flaws? A still larger question is: how is it that we are now left with only one narrative which burst into view on that fatal morning of September 11, 2001 when the world woke up in shock and went to sleep in awe?
Perhaps we should revisit the beginning of this narrative and go back to its background – barely visible to many, but still traceable nevertheless – to the summer of 1978, when Nur Muhammad Taraki toppled the government and paved way for a full-scale invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets in 1979. By 2001, there was hardly a family left in this poorest of all countries which had not seen death and destruction. A whole generation had grown up knowing nothing but war.
To cut it short, let us just skip the part of the narrative detailing the emergence of Osama bin Laden, as this part has been repeated ad nauseam. Let us just go to the next question: When the Soviets left – more true would be to say when the Soviet army was defeated and driven out – why no one in the international community sought justice. Why did we not hear: let us set up an international tribunal to try those who have committed heinous crimes in remote villages of Afghanistan. Rather, the Soviets were allowed to just leave, as if their coming and going had no legal consequences for the so-called international community. Then the quick unravelling of the Soviet Union itself pushed that phase of history into a barely visible background.
It has been different for the Americans. There was no counter balance left in the world when bombs started to rain down from Afghan skies and hence there was little possibility of anyone standing up to them and say: before you push this wounded country further into the Stone Age, let us have an international court of justice which can scrutinise your narrative, establish truth, and pass a judgment on what really happened on that fatal September day when 3000 men, women and children were killed in a manner that had never happened in the entire human history. This did not happen. Instead, the world witnessed a brief spring of alternate media, where one could see gruesome pictures of American crimes in Afghanistan, and later in Iraq: rape, murder, torture, kidnapping, American soldiers smoking cigarettes next to their victims, posing for photographs, water boarding, electrical shocks, and the rest.
Yet, that brief spring of independent, alternate narrative was simply stumped out by the brute force that now reigns: First came embedded journalists, who had no eyes to see save those given to them. Then, in the wake of death and destruction of over one million human beings in Iraq, we saw an unprecedented accomplishment, perhaps as collateral damage: the bleak silence of all voices other than his majesty’s.
This did not happen overnight, but took steady, cold and calculated planning and manoeuvring. Not everyone was silenced but what remained of the few world-class journalists was made dysfunctional, obsolete. Most of them finally became tired of repeating a narrative that produced no results, that moved no one, and that had no force left in it. Alternative media outlets, which had sprung up in the wake of a global anti-war movement, simply disappeared from the scene. What was left of any independent narrative was hunted down, systematically destroyed, or silenced into submission.
In this gruesome monolithic age, only a dim light remains; what the great Bard of Avon had said four centuries ago is still true: “But it is no matter. Let Hercules himself do what he may, the cat will mew, and dog will have his day.” Thus, the probe launched by the Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon may yet spin an alternative narrative, telling us about the systematic torture at that American heart of darkness called the Guantanamo Bay, as he investigates “perpetrators, instigators, necessary collaborators and accomplices” to the torture of Guantanamo prisoners.
The writer is a freelance columnist.
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