Osama's Victory 

United States gave Bin Laden his martyrdom

NEW YORK--The assassination of Osama Bin Laden was masterfully orchestrated to appeal to American media consumers. But it will play poorly overseas.

It was a success for President Barack Obama, certainly. He'll see a much-needed bump in the polls. But it won't last. The CIA's ballyhooed Bin Laden takedown couldn't have been handled any worse. The War on Terror, if it ever existed, is a war for the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of Muslims.

"Bin Laden wanted to die as a martyr. In this sense, his wish was obliged," notes Stephen Diamond in Psychology Today.

Nothing was more important to Bin Laden than to be seen as a soldier in a clash of civilizations. Claims that he hardly saw combat during the anti-Soviet resistance of the 1980s hurt him. The son of a Saudi billionaire and a mother's boy, he wanted to prove himself.

Thanks to Navy Seals, his status as a martyr is assured.

To Islamist groups, the United States and the West are enemy No. 2. Their biggest foe is pro-American Muslim dictators and autocrats.

As with most actions carried out by small terrorist groups against superior enemies, the operations attributed to Bin Laden were intended to provoke the United States into overreacting, exposing it as the monster he said it was. The invasions of two Muslim countries, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and the secret prisons fit into Bin Laden's narrative.

Everything about Bin Laden's killing squares with the jihadi narrative. The operation violated the sovereignty of a Muslim country, a constant complaint of radical jihadis. Armed commandos invaded Pakistan. Infidel soldiers shot up a house and crashed a helicopter down the street from a military academy. Pakistanis see American drone planes buzzing overhead and missiles blow up houses indiscriminately. Taking out Bin Laden without asking Pakistan for permission is an act of war to which the country's poverty permits no response.

Much will be made of the disrespectful treatment of Bin Laden's body. In an echo of George W. Bush's selection of Guantanamo as an extraterritorial no man's land, the Obama administration claimed that it buried Bin Laden at sea because no country would accept his body within the required 24 hours after death and to avoid his grave would becoming a shrine. However, Bin Laden's Wahhabi sect allows neither shrines nor burial at sea.

But it will inflame Muslim purists. Worse than that, dumping Bin Laden into the ocean feeds an image the United States would be smart to shake: a superpower hell-bent on occupying Muslim lands, stealing their oil and trashing their religion.

Islam teaches combatants to respect their enemies. The death of an opponent is tragic but never trivial. A vanquished enemy should be dispatched quickly, presumably to be chastised by Allah in the afterlife, but he is never to be mocked. A Muslim should not enjoy war or combat, nor gloat when victorious. When the powerful crush the weak, as was the case with the killing of Bin Laden, dancing around makes one look small.

It also makes us look dumb. As anyone knows, the worst thing that could have happened to Bin Laden would have been arrest followed by a fair trial.

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