Eight years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Osama bin Laden has slipped from the forefront of the war, as well as from the minds of professors and Americans.
The last eight long, tumultuous years were riddled with podium-pounding candidates and pundits alike, ever-spewing their stilted rhetoric. The last eight years were filled with white-knuckled fists clenched around waving flagpoles, professing the undying spirit of our nation. And they saw arms firmly locked and heads somberly bowed in prayer for the courageous men and women who were swept up in the churning tempest of a seemingly pointless war.
The anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks fell upon our nation for the eighth time earlier this month, but the malevolent mastermind of it all, Osama bin Laden, has yet to be apprehended, even if he still managed to make a video appearance.
But does anyone care?
With hopes to analyze the competing claims about his health, location and influence, I sought the opinion of some of the most educated intellectuals in the area to get to the bottom of bin Laden’s whereabouts and health.
Surely they would provide me with some fresh analysis and enlightening perspective. Time after time, however, disappointing e-mails poured in from Temple, La Salle University and even the University of Pennsylvania doctorate-holders in the international relations field.
Their responses were woven with the same discouraging words. Phrases like “not my area of expertise” and “I can’t help” continually arose, emphasizing my unceasing rejection.
It seemed no one wanted to touch the issue with a 10-foot pole except political analyst David Ray Griffin, author of Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive?
The book alleges that bin Laden met his end years ago, but his death was subsequently covered up and utilized by Western powers in order to go forth and take advantage of the dilemma that is the war on terror.
Now this was something of substance, I thought. I took a step back, anticipating the entirety of the manipulative Western political machine to come crashing at my feet.
Upon closer scrutiny, however, the credibility of Griffin’s conspiracy theorem fell to that of an aging fisherman, recounting with vigor and conviction implausible tall-tales about the one that got away.
Dr. Daniel Chomsky, a Temple professor of political science, said only this on the matter:
“I assume that if U.S. officials had solid evidence that they had killed [bin Laden], they would certainly have squeezed every bit of publicity out of it.”
It then dawned on me. While I was busy trying to pander to the typical media fear-mongering so commonly associated with the release of a bin Laden tape, I had missed out on a simple truth. The real story was that there is no story.
By and by, Americans appear to be caring far less about bin Laden and his formerly formidable terror network and much more about other issues of importance, the continuing economic downturn and looming threat of nuclear proliferation.
Have Americans reached the conclusion that there’s nothing scary about a gangly, gray-bearded senior citizen sitting Indian-style in a cave somewhere in Who-cares-istan?
In fact, publications, such as the United Kingdom’s the Times, have recently said bin Laden is “like a fading gangland boss vainly trying to rekindle his notoriety” in his newest tape, while the New York Times described his terror organization, Al Qaeda, as “a couple of hundred desperate men.”
Political theory professor Joseph Schwartz reflected the sentiment behind this growing movement.
“He’s probably more [of a] symbol than an active strategist,” Schwartz said. “While capturing, killing bin Laden would be viewed as a triumph of Western policy, I’m not sure it would lessen the terrorist threat.”
Though bin Laden appears to be fading into the sunset with all the Ayatollahs and Central American dictators of American conflicts past, I personally won’t be undermining the terrorist’s capacity for destruction.
After all, it only takes a few 747s, several die-hard faithfuls and a bit of flight training to once again send our country into the devastating frenzy and panic inflicted upon our soil eight short years ago.
Chase Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.