A Canadian in Yemen: We all need to move on [Archives:2002/48/Culture]

November 25 2002

Hundreds killed in Bali. Hostages dead in Moscow. US Marine killed in Kuwait. Bombings in the Phillipines. Limburg burns off Yemen’s coast.
The last little while has been rough.
Apparently, these all show hallmarks of al-Qaeda. If not the senior organization, local copycats. And despite reports of his demise, such as those in this issue of the Yemen Times show Osama bin Laden may be alive.
Indeed, unmanned American spy planes have made their presence known in Yemen lately while searching for him and top al-Qaeda operatives.
I personally think the Big O may have escaped through snowy mountains at Afghanistan’s southern border, into one of Pakistan’s megacities after Tora Bora was bombed last November.
If he is here in Yemen, he won’t be easy to find. With no phone book or directory assistance, I can’t even find folks here in Sana’a. Jean and I live on a street with no name. For all we know, Osama has a command center around the corner on another street with no name.
But what if the world’s #1 fugitive is nearby? Should anyone care? No.
Why? Because to all intents and purposes, he is dead. And quite simply, the rest of us are not. The sooner we all realize this, the better.
Why do I say so? Consider these things.
Easy money to al-Qaeda is gone. The Taliban has no stable base. The West no longer shelters extremists in the name of tolerance. America is no longer perceived as weak on terrorism. And the West no longer feels immune from attack.
This is a new world that bin Laden can’t live in. His vision of things committed suicide on Sept. 11, 2001.
Now consider something else. To their credit, more Arabs are desiring legitimate thought these days, not the half-baked anti-Western fascism that distilled bin Ladenism in the first place.
A worthwhile report
Recently, for the first time, Arab scholars even wrote their own Human Development Report. Such introspection is an important step to gain political freedom, knowledge and gender rights for more of the Middle East’s 280 million Arabs.
That doesn’t mean the fight against so-called terror is over. But I laughed over an American news report on the recent Limburg blast. The excited gal informed viewers that bin Laden “haunts” this region. Really? Do we now battle ghosts?
Some Westerners, I fear, want to make bin Laden like a hidden imam of our time. Why? Because if he’s kept larger than life, it might be easier to bomb Iraq, something which, by the way, most Canadians do not support.
If we’re pre-occupied with terror’s evil, we can also forget what may be missing in our own lives.
No, Osama bin Laden. You are dead. The rest of us now need to move on, whether we live in the West, the Middle East or any other part of the world. We’ll move on in our homes, our schools, our jobs. Building our communities. Reconnecting with our souls.
We realize more that life is a precious gift that can be taken anytime, Sept. 11 or Nov. 11 or any other day of any year.
We’ll remember Edward Fine. He’s the New Jersey businessman whose photo symbolizes surviving 9/11. Suit covered in debris, dusty briefcase in hand, dampened cloth held to his mouth to breath, leaving a burning tower.
He should have been in an elevator when one airliner struck his building. But its door closed. And instead of perishing with others in that elevator, he escaped down 78 flights of stairs. Now there’s a symbol.
“Life is a game of inches and seconds,” is his take on things.
Inches and seconds.
That’s a good remembrance. For every country. For every today.
Thomas Froese
([email protected])
is an editor with the Yemen Times.