All truly great horror-movie villains never really die. Characters who’ve terrorised us for decades like Freddy Kreuger from the Nightmare On Elm Street series, hockey-mask Jason from Friday the 13th series and Deuce Bigalow from the Male Gigolo series always rise from their grave in the last frame, threatening us with the prospect of yet another sequel. So too with the greatest villain of our time, Osama Bin Laden, who has just released another video from the undisclosed location that everyone except the US Army knows is Pakistan.
I’m glad Osama’s back in the public eye, because it’s a wonderful reminder of George Bush’s total failure to capture him in the more than four years since September 11. And it coincides nicely with the decision to go after Saddam Hussein instead, and conflate the two supervillains in a ‘War On Terror’, now being recognised by the American public as the farce it has so clearly always been. And although I won’t go as far as to say that I’m delighted to see he’s alive and well, Bin Laden’s return, with the references to the London and Madrid bombings and the polls on Iraq designed to prove that he’s still alive and kickin’, ought to ratchet the pressure on Bush up several notches more.
Well, it would have, if bin Laden hadn’t proposed a truce if the Americans withdrew their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Such a withdrawal – from Iraq, at any rate – has been increasingly likely, with the Democrats finally making political capital out of the Iraq debacle (or, as the Daily Show likes so call it, “Mess-o-potamia”.) But now that bin Laden has demanded it, Bush can posture and say how he won’t negotiate with terrorists, etc. In fact, his Press Secretary, Scott McClelland, has already ham-fistedly said that “We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business.”
Or at least that’s the theory. The practice is that we instead dump $2 trillion on a protracted, completely unrelated conflict that make terrorist attacks a daily event in that country.
In fact, bin Laden could have chosen no better way to prolong America’s involvement in Iraq than by coming out and suggesting a truce. What, does he not understand media management in modern democracies or something?
I still don’t think American, or Australian troops, should be withdrawn from Iraq yet, though, on the basis that it would be almost as wrong to abandon the country as it was to invade it in the first place. But as soon as the Iraqi defence forces and police have been built up to an adequate level, they should leave immediately – their presence there serves as a constant justification to build support for the insurgents. And it’s not surprising that ordinary Iraqis aren’t exactly stoked about having American troops everywhere all the time. It’s annoying enough for us Sydneysiders when they’re just out drinking in Kings Cross.
As I write this, the ubiquitous CIA experts have verified that the person on the tape really is bin Laden. (Not that the CIA has the greatest track record when it comes to identifying him.) And he’s promised that Al Qaeda has more attacks on the way. So while we don’t know where he is, or what he’s planning, there is one thing we can virtually guarantee. This horror movie will have many more sequels.