Bin Laden is dead, but I want more

Published: May 5, 2011

Without proof, the man will become larger than life and will never really die after all.

Osama Bin Laden is dead, but you knew that already. You’ve heard about it a million times by now and probably swapped inane conspiracy theories back and forth. It seems like a great moment in history doesn’t it?

The most wanted man in the world, a six feet plus Arab who evaded and dodged the world’s most powerful military and intelligence sources for over a decade has finally been hunted down like a common criminal and eliminated once and for all.

Pakistan awoke to the news with surprise. It seemed so surreal, so theatrically staged. Obama proclaimed the news with the haughty dignity of a twice-removed prince about to reclaim the throne again (at least for another four years). Americans rejoiced a plenty as if all the world’s problems and all the world’s woes were solved. As if fundamentalism and terrorism had finally been eradicated from the face of the earth and they need never fear again. If only we could be so sure.

Maybe now the world is safer and this was just a crazy dream where the fear of unguarded bags at public locations and sharp objects on planes almost created a clash of civilizations. Even so, the events of that fateful day when smouldering, crumbling towers fell to the earth may never be vindicated by a covert strike in a not too important city in Pakistan. Somewhere in this nondescript town, as twilight embraced the sky and helicopters hovered precariously, justice was finally being delivered. And after it was all said and done, according to full Islamic rites, the harbinger-of-doom’s bullet-ridden corpse was laid to rest in the depths of the sea, never to be seen or heard from again.

Give me proof

Like many others, I am impressed by the story, but I want more. Something, anything that proves he really is dead.

A body perhaps, photographs of his corpse, something to convince me that this is true and we can move on with our lives, filled with hope for tomorrow.

Maybe it’s a desire for closure, a sign and a verification that this embodiment of hate is no longer among us. Almost all the individuals I’ve spoken to have agreed that the story itself is not credible enough.

What they, myself included, want is proof – photographs, videos, a set of dental records – anything that confirms what we want to hear most.

When Saddam Hussain was captured, we believed it because we saw it. Those familiar images of a disheveled and bearded Saddam covered in hair as a tongue depressor was jammed down his throat was enough to convince us that the man was caught. The problem with Bin Laden’s death is, sadly, that the man himself was too big for his death. One would imagine that this prophetic acolyte of hate, who fanned fiery flames of death and destruction, would somehow die in an equally explosive fashion. And while parts of his death do sound incredible, without visual evidence, this event just seems so insignificant.

Fuel for conspiracy theories

From an American perspective, withholding visual evidence makes sense. Why provide documentation which may just inflame the Muslim world unintentionally? After all, as long as the al Qaeda knows he’s dead, that’s all that matters. Who cares if the international community believes it or not? There is far more benefit in keeping this visual proof under wraps than there is in publicly releasing it. And as long as this paradigm prevails, one thing can be certain. Conspiracy theories and crackpot talk concerning his fake death will abound plenty. Or, worst-case scenario, the man will become larger than life (since we Pakistanis have an attraction to martyrs) and will never really die after all. I can understand the American desire to keep any visual evidence of his death hush-hush. But I speak for many when I say there needs to be some proof confirming the truth.

We need to move on

So while the world celebrates, this is just another day. For me, Bin Laden was already dead. I assumed he died in the remote mountains of Afghanistan a long time ago. It was hard to believe that a man requiring dialysis for his kidneys would survive in a cave between Kandahar and Jalalabad. Whether he was still functional as a commander or strategist to al Qaeda is open to speculation.

His death may make him a martyr or create a loss of morale for al Qaeda but it certainly is not a victory against terrorism or extremism. Our struggle is just beginning, as long as we realise that his death signals our start to end the seeds of evil he had planted. But until his death remains an unconfirmed vision, we may just stagnate in disbelief and desperation. Perhaps this is just one of those moments that is meant to have some meaning but it doesn’t. There’s no sense mourning a man who was dead to me already or who may still be alive right now.

And if it’s true that he’s dead, let’s see some proof so we can lay this demon to rest and work on picking up the pieces of the shattered worlds he left behind.


Hamza Usman

A writer with a Bachelor's in Political Science & History and a Master's in Global Communications. He tweets at @hamzausman.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Asif

    I also dont belive they got Osama. They just need a excuse to get out of Afghanistan. Osama is dead a long time back.
    I can trust devil, but never Americans & Israelis.Recommend

  • Saba Khalid

    Excellent Article. Exactly my point. It wont be long before America makes someone else from the Muslim World take the place of Osama and be denounced as Evil as him. They create them, then they capitalize on their fall.Recommend

  • Fruitforbidden

    A balanced thick piece. The fact is, we’d have to move on without proofs! We always have. For America, there’s never a need to provide proofs for their “claiming” something should suffice for the whole world! That’s the nasty truth behind OBL, behind Al-Qaeda.. and all things evil.Recommend

  • hassan

    Oh fine, you want proof right ?

    Okay, we don’t believe Osama was there and he was killed.

    But, it is a fact that, from the compound at Abbotabad, some 18-20 people lived there and now have been taken into custody by our Army/Government.

    Can we ask our Government something about the people captured from the building: Who are they ? Do they have visas to stay for a permanent period? What nationalities are they? What are their versions? Surely they can tell if he was Osama or not? What about the lady now in custody? How long were they staying? Who helped them to stay?

    5 days have gone ! Have you bothered to ask our own government answers to these? Why are they silent?

    Truth hurts, that is why, no one wants to ask for proof or evidence about the people now in the custody of Government.!!Recommend

  • Nobody

    I agree with the writer, I want more, but I understand the hesitation as well. But I still don’t believe this is a conspiracy, I believe he was killed on May 1st, in a raid, in Abbottabad, by US operatives, but I understand why those who are doubtful want to see pictures. Good riddance. Recommend

  • Cautious

    No amt of proof would satisfy the conspiracy theory crowd – 911 is proof of that. You can place a cup of truth in front of someone but you can’t force them to drink it. OBL is dead and your never going to see him make another public appearance – that’s a fact.Recommend

  • Tanzeel
  • Ahmed Aziz

    Our conspiracy mind is at work again. If he was dead long time ago.. or dead on 1st May does not matter.. he is dead. He was forging and ideology based on death of innocence anyway. He was not a hero, he was a maniac. Anyway, Osama is just a tip of the iceberg. We have bigger problems like the Taliban, our hate for the minorities, the draconian blasphemy and hudood laws, our disregard for human life in Karachi and other places in the country, people like Mumtaz Qadri being made heroes, women being raped and dehumanized. The fabric of our society is like a layer of thin ice. So forget about conspiracies, they dont matter, we have bigger fish to fry. Recommend