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Editorial: Bin Laden died a failure

Osama bin Laden should have been killed or captured in the months immediately after 9/11 when he was fleeing from his Afghan mountain hideout into Pakistan, where he eventually found refuge in a Pakistani garrison town, holed up in a prison of his own making.
But in a sense it was a good thing that he lived as long as he did. The United States and the other countries where his devotees plotted the slaughter of innocents have had their revenge. But it was not a revenge we could have imagined, even in the hot fury that followed the destruction of three iconic American buildings, four airliners and over 3,000 lives.
In his final days, bin Laden vainly urged his dwindling and demoralized band of al-Qaida followers to launch another dramatic attack against America. The response was a telling silence.
His organization was in chaos, most of its leaders dead and their replacements assassinated, coldly and mechanically, as soon as they emerged. Also dead, as bin Laden surely knew soon after he was forced into hiding, was his dream of restoring a mythical Islamic caliphate stretching from Spain to Indonesia. In his long hours of enforced idleness he must have reflected bitterly on the empty grandiosity of his caliphate.
Bin Ladenís 19 hijackers thought their names would live forever among their enemies. Most Americans would be pressed to name even two of the hijackers, Mohammed Atta, because he was their leader, and Hani Hanjour because of his alliterative name.
Bin Laden had grand plans of purifying and revitalizing Islam. Instead most Muslims loathed al-Qaida because his followers murdered so many of them and for the disrepute his medieval orthodoxy brought their religion.
When the Arab Spring came and hundreds of thousands of young Muslims took to the streets to overthrow tyrants like Egyptís Mubarak ó accomplishing in weeks what al Qaida had failed to do in 20 years of trying ó bin Laden and al-Qaida were not even afterthoughts.
There will be other terrorists and other attacks because there are always violence-prone young men and women willing to follow a charismatic leader. We fight them all the time, most often successfully.
And surely none of them reflect that bin Laden died in the company of only two followers, his courier and sole contact with the world beyond his walls, and the courier’s brother, all that remained of the vast Islamic army he planned to lead.
ó Scripps Howard News Service

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