Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Osama's is not the only terrorist safe house that needs swept out

Pakistani police officer secure a street close to the house, seen on background, where it is believed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan on Tuesday, May 3, 2011. Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari denied suggestions his country's security forces may have sheltered Osama bin Laden before he was killed by American forces, and said their cooperation with the United States helped pinpoint the world's most wanted man. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Amid the gore in the picture taken at the scene of the killing in Abbotabad you glimpse the ordinariness of daily life for the man formerly known as the world's Most Wanted.

At the bottom of the bed there's what look like a vacuum cleaner. A hose snakes from it across the floor.

Your first thought is maybe it isn't a domestic appliance at all. Maybe it's a spare part for a weapon of mass destruction.

Or an air filtration system designed for a biological attack.

The sort of things you'd imagine a terror chief might have lying round.

But no. It does indeed appear to be a vacuum cleaner.

(As a friend texted: "Aaargh! I'm even less house proud than Osama bin Laden!")

It's a strange mental picture is it not?

The notion of the al-Qaida Numero Uno giving the carpets a quick once over as the US Navy Seals came calling?

Most Wanted, he may have been. But old Osama does not appear to have allowed that to cramp his cosy, suburban lifestyle.

He was living in what would be called in these parts an upmarket, gated community. You can take the boy out of the Saudi Arabian penthouse ...

For bin Laden was essentially a rich boy who used his vast wealth to further his own perverse and evil ambitions.

Like many another terror chief he talked a good game about living rough. But ensured that his own safe house was handsomely equipped.

A psychiatrist would surely have had a field day with Osama.

What made this son of a very large and extremely privileged family turn to bloody mass murder?

Was it something as simple as a savage form of attention seeking?

He may have been the ultimate terrorist godfather - but now like many a lesser godfather he is sleeping with the fishes. Will we all remember where we were when we heard bin Laden was dead?

They surely will in America - even if we don't here. (Here the news came filtering through over the May Day break. Note to Yanks - for maximum media impact in future, try not to take out international terror chiefs on bank holidays.)

The Americans were never going to rest until they had hunted him down and settled the score for 9/11. (And whatever their critics might say, fair play to them for that.)

But there needs to be a consistency in these things. Osama himself once pointed out there was a telling discrepancy in the way the American administration treated white Christian terrorists (specifically the IRA, he noted) and the way it treated dark-skinned Muslim terrorists.

Or take someone like Gaddafi who has gone from international pariah to much-hugged statesman and back to crazed dictator in just a few short years.

Overall, it would seem a fairly basic point that you can't decisively defeat terrorism if you're ambivalent about what constitutes a terrorist.

For now though, the West is braced for a backlash to avenge bin Laden.

But his death is a comforting proof that even the most elusive of terror chiefs can be routed.

And nothing punctures the image of the once invincible Osama more than that shot of that bloodied bedspread amid the trappings of domesticity - in the safe house that became a place of execution for the High King of Terror.

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