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ON THE OTHER HAND: Obama vs Osama


Peter Laurie

ON THE OTHER HAND: Obama vs Osama

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What do Osama bin Laden’s death, the uprisings across the Arab world and Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world have in common?
Answer: they are a hinge of history. Normally a “hinge of history” is one event that unleashes a slew of consequences, like the assassination of the Archduke of Austria in 1914 that precipitated World War I.
In this case we have not one but three separate events. Their common thread is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the Arab peoples and their relations with the rest of the world. The age of Arab authoritarian rule is ending.
Not only will Muammar Gadaffi and Bashar al-Assad of Syria eventually go, but the tide of popular democracy and human freedom will not stop until it has washed across the Arabian Peninsula, engulfing Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.  
The corporate and political elites of the West and their chattering flunkies deplore this movement because it might threaten the stability of oil supply and the security of Israel. Many leftists, including those in the Caribbean, hate to see the demise of Gadaffi because he is bankrolling their hallucinations. But halting this movement is as impossible as it was to stop the winds of change that battered the colonial empires.
The beauty of events across the Middle East and North Africa is that they do not depend on the United States or Europe. They rest entirely with the people of the region, who have broken out of that paralysing paradigm that held them hostage to fate for too long: either repressive autocracy or Islamist extremism.
The capture and killing of that iconic exponent of Islamist terrorism and mass murder, Osama bin Laden, comes just at the right time, symbolizing the political and moral bankruptcy of the policies he advocated. It is the end of an era. He deserved the bullet in the head and the watery grave. No doubt the conspiracy nuts will have a field day with this one.
Of course, Islamist terrorism will only be finally uprooted when we deal with its major financier (Saudi Arabia) and its major organizer (Pakistan).
Bin Laden’s death also gives Obama the perfect excuse to withdraw from the quagmire of Afghanistan. That, after all, was one of the main aims of invading Afghanistan.
Moreover, Obama is cleverly moving General David Petraeus, one of the likely objectors to a quick withdrawal, from overseeing Afghanistan to heading the CIA, and putting Leon Panetta, the CIA chief who found Osama, to lead the Department of Defence and mastermind the withdrawal.  
Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech, his major outreach to the Arab world, carefully set the stage for the events that were to follow. He called for democracy and human rights in the Arab world, reiterated America’s determination to relentlessly pursue al Qaeda, and laid out a proposal for a fair and enduring peace in the Middle East.
This last piece of the puzzle is now falling into place.
The Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, urged on by the interim Egyptian government, have agreed to unite. Despite its foolish rhetoric, Hamas will inevitably recognize the right of Israel to exist. And then Israel will be confronted with a democratic and united Arab region that will force it to negotiate in good faith.
Obama’s prestige and poll numbers will rise spectacularly because he got Osama. This will strengthen his hand against Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu. Peace will triumph.
On a happy note, the royal wedding was a lovely bit of escapism in depressing circumstances. We all need fairy tales.
I like William. He obviously doesn’t take himself or the monarchy too seriously; he married a fine girl of sound middle-class stock; and he doesn’t speak with that atrocious upper-class-twit accent of his father and the other royals. Long live the British monarchy – for Britain.
We need our own ceremonial president in Barbados.

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