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Roger L. Simon
24 Jul 2012
A Night at the Los Angeles Public Library

We live in times when the different sides in our country speak languages as far apart as Chinese and Italian. … Read More.

17 Jul 2012
Confessions of a Flip-flopper

Do not share this column with your friends, unless you really must. And, please, no Twitter or Facebook. It's … Read More.

13 Jul 2012
Birth of the Cool

Back when I was a kid, I desperately wanted to be cool. I endlessly played my Miles Davis "Birth of the … Read More.

The Reluctant Assassination of Osama


The New York Times, quoting administration sources, says the president was in control and fully committed to the Osama bin Laden assassination. I am more skeptical.

Did Barack Obama really want to assassinate Osama bin Laden? He probably did at some point, because he gave the ultimate order, or allowed it to happen. But I suspect the president was deeply ambivalent.

It's not just his postmodern worldview that suggests this reluctance. It is the discombobulated aftermath of the killing, the weirdly botched reportage featuring such events as Cabinet members in the situation room supposedly watching a (we learned) nonexistent streaming video of the action and the statement that bin Laden — under surveillance for months from a CIA safe house — was living in a posh million dollar mansion.

That was dialed down within a day or two to $250,000 and then revealed, in videos, to be close to a slum. In fact, OBL's squalid living conditions made the hated Guantanamo seem like the Four Seasons. If the SEALs had taken him alive, it would have been an upgrade.

Indeed, it was those SEALs that were the only ones who performed their part with professionalism. Everything else seemed ad hoc, as if thrown together at the last moment after, one guesses, various parties finally convinced, or possibly even forced, the president to act.

There was little preparation for the aftermath with no apparent plan of how to inform or not inform the public of this cataclysmic event when such a decision was in many ways as important as the action itself. What resulted was an embarrassing blabbermouth display of public contradiction.

Some of this can be justified by the fog of war, but not to the extent we saw. Something more was at work, and I think it was a reluctant president.

Still, Osama is dead. Huzzah.

And we get to see something of who or what he was. It's a strange case. On one level his absurdly bad dye job on several of the videos — not to mention the one with the now grey-bearded al-Qaida chieftain channel-surfing himself on television — could almost be seen as funny. It makes him look like a cheesy huckster from the far reaches of the cable listings.

On another level, however, the videos are bloodcurdling, revealing a bizarre psychopath lost in his own weird narcissistic world.

Bin Laden was an odd bird indeed, but odd in the sense that serial killers and mass murderers are odd, trapped in their own paranoid universes, not unlike Charles Manson, who lived under similar conditions at the Spahn Ranch.

And just like Manson, Osama was able to attract acolytes. Unfortunately, however, in the case of the Saudi, those acolytes were exponentially more powerful and numerous, including, evidently, a significant portion of the Pakistani intelligence service and military. Indeed, he undoubtedly still has millions, even hundreds of millions, of acolytes.

You might think that the promulgation of these videotapes would give some of them pause, but I suspect it will only be minor, if at all, and that the monster will become a martyr of Che-like proportions, mythologized even by (or especially by) those who participated in turning him in. The "strong horse" may have been felled, but his persona and ideology will live on. The societal mental illness that created and housed bin Laden runs too deep.

To find out more about Roger L. Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at



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