Politics After Al-Qaeda

Faisal Devji

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Released by the Pentagon following the American assassination of Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad, an already “iconic” image showing Al-Qaeda’s frail leader watching footage of himself on an antiquated television set inadvertently reveals some truths about the War on Terror. For one thing it is difficult to imagine this setting as part of a command centre for global terrorism. And for another the international reaction to Bin Laden’s assassination casts doubt on the US narrative of war and victory on a global scale. Crucial about this reaction, after all, has been the fact that people around the world seemed interested in the event primarily because of the extraordinarily pugnacious public response it generated in the US, and not for any reason of their own. Thus even in countries like Britain and Spain, which not so long ago had themselves been the victims of Al-Qaeda’s militancy, there was little if any public demonstration of satisfaction at Bin Laden’s death, though it continued to be the subject of massive media coverage precisely as an element in American politics.

Faisal Devji is University Reader in History and Fellow of St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford.

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