The US government’s intelligence services are either getting too imaginative or simply too paranoid about the “revival” of Usama Bin Laden, who, they know, is dead. Now they are imagining him coming back to life as a “virtual” Bin Laden or as a new “avatar” of Jihadism. In this ostensible flight of imagination, the American intelligence “experts on Islam appear eager to show their sheer ignorance and stupidity about the religion itself. Consider the following statement from the study that was commission by no less than the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the highest intelligence agency of the United States. It states:
Imagine that jihadist supporters create a detailed avatar of
Usama bin Laden and use his many voice recordings to
animate the avatar for up-close virtual reality experiences
that could be used to preach, convert, recruit, and propagate
dogma to the media. The Bin Laden avatar could preach
and issue new fatwas for hundreds of years to come, as
the fidelity of his likeness would be entirely believable
and animated in new ways to keep him current and fresh.
One cannot blame the intelligence agencies for being imaginative and proactive; however, those activities should be driven on the basis of their knowledge of Islam itself, since al-Qaida’s interpretation of that religion plays a crucial role in what they have been doing and what they will continue to aspire to.
There is no doubt that Bin Laden is held in high esteem among the self-styled Jihadists, and they would use his speeches and statements to make their points for the in-crowd. However, assigning the status of an avatar (a secular version of a saint) has no room in the Wahhabi ideology that drives all self-styled Jihadist organizations.
In order to fully grasp the entire background of this outlandish scenario one should realize that there are large numbers of people in the DOD, other intelligence agencies, and various defense contracting companies (which have mushroomed in and around Washington, Tampa, and other places with large military facilities inside the United States) who do nothing but develop such scenarios. However, almost all of those scenario developers have very-little-to-no knowledge of Islam, and a lot of them are unadulterated Islamophobes. When you pay enormous amounts of money to individuals
to develop imaginative (aka moronic) scenarios, one can expect nothing but those of low quality like the avatar scenario, which are substantially divorced from the realities of the streets of countries where the self-styled Jihadists are active.
After denigrating such scenarios, let me offer my own thinking on the subject of Bin Laden’s legacy. As much as he has been lionized by the United States’ national security community, even after his death, his real claim to fame was that he endorsed an audacious action plan of the magnitude of carrying out terrorist attacks on the United States’ homeland. Then, after dismantling the Taliban regime and cornering Bin Laden and his cohorts in Tora Bora in November 2001, he managed to escape into the chaotic area of Pakistan only as a result of the sheer Keystone-Cop-like thinking (and actions) of US officials like Donald Rumsfeld (George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense) and General Tommy Franks (Commander of the US forces that invaded Afghanistan). More than ten years after that incident, the United States failed to locate Bin Laden, even after spending billions of dollars and focusing the brunt of its electronic intelligences’ attention on Pak-Afghan borders, where he was expected to be hiding. He seemed to have disappeared into thin air. Those ten years were more crucial in making a legend out of Bin Laden by the US intelligence community.
After the assassination of Bin Laden in May 2011, a decision was made not to bury him anywhere. The Americans were fearful that his grave would become a gathering place of most, if not all, self-styled Jihadist groups. However, even if that were the case, how that potential would have become a constant source of the regeneration of Jihad is beyond me. Even without Bin Laden’s grave or without the benefit of his “fatwas,” which the aforementioned study gives great significance, the self-styled Jihadists are having a field day in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, etc., in their resolve to destabilize the existing regimes with the objective of eventually capturing power. However, they also know that the United States would not allow them to take control of the government anywhere. Syria seems to be an exception to that US rule, but the Obama administration has not taken any military action against them for two reasons. First, the self-styled Jihadists have the blessing and active support of the Saudis and the Qataris. The United States is not opposed to their objective of regime change in Syria, knowing full well that once the Assad regime is ousted, it (US) will swoop in to play an active role in the negotiations aimed at establishing a new regime in Syria, which is not hostile to the US and Israel.
By developing the “virtual Bin Laden” scenario, the US intelligence community is demonstrating a panicky state of mind. In the aftermath of the Arab Awakening, Washington appears to be less and less in charge of managing events in such countries as Libya, Egypt, and even Syria. That might be one reason why a new practice of “outsourcing” of US foreign policy to Riyadh and Doha has become a hallmark of the Obama administration. Now, we will have to wait and see what type of policies will emerge from the virtual Bin Laden scenario in the coming months. My best guess is that they are likely to be equally bizarre as the virtual Bin Laden scenario.