Salman Rushdie Gets It: Abbottabad is “Pakistan’s West Point”

Salman Rushdie calls bullshit on Pakistan authorities’ feigning of surprise that Osama bin Laden was in their midst:

Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man, was found living at the end of a dirt road 800 yards from the Abbottabad military academy, Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point or Sandhurst, in a military cantonment where soldiers are on every street corner, just about 80 miles from the Pakistani capital Islamabad. This extremely large house had neither a telephone nor an Internet connection. And in spite of this we are supposed to believe that Pakistan didn’t know he was there, and that the Pakistani intelligence, and/or military, and/or civilian authorities did nothing to facilitate his presence in Abbottabad, while he ran al Qaeda, with couriers coming and going, for five years?

Ding-dong the witch ain’t dead.

The witch is the Pakistani general (or generals) who not only knew where Osama bin Laden was, but arranged secure and fancy digs for him. An ongoing danger to humanity is Islamic fundamentalist sympathizers within the Pakistani military because it has 60-100 nuclear weapons. In a time of political crisis in Pakistan, one or more of these weapons could find its way into the hands of the very people who were shielding Osama bin Laden. For all we know, it has already happened. 

If, after all, it took a decade to find Osama bin Laden under such circumstances, why should we be at all confident that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are secure—or where our intelligence services think they are?

And this raises the issue of Iran. When Iran acquires its own nuclear weapons over the next decade, what makes us think that we will ever know, exactly, which “safe houses” they might be in (or if they’re even in Iran at all and haven’t been smuggled out to terrorist groups elsewhere)? 

The discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden is prelude to a nuclear crisis, not the end of something. Bin Laden is (or ought to be) a symbol for how a nuclear weapon can be concealed and then, with a surprise, revealed.

What an unpleasant revelation that day will be. No jubilation in those streets. 

Like George Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” debacle, celebrating the killing of Bin Laden in the inane terms of therapeutic “closure” is folly. Bin Laden closure is this decade’s “Mission Accomplished.”

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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One Response to Salman Rushdie Gets It: Abbottabad is “Pakistan’s West Point”

  1. Longtooth says:

    It’s debatable that finding Ben Laden in Abbottabad makes it more likely that Pakistani nukes will fall into radical hands. We were pretty sure he was hiding somewhere in Pakistan, just not in such an improbable location. The Pakistanis’ have a history of playing both ends against the middle. They tend to go after radical organizations that threaten them internally while often playing blind to those who specialize in attacking the west or resisting the occupation of Afghanistan. When the American occupation ends, ostensibly in 2014, Pakistan will want desirable relations with whoever holds power in Afghanistan. Those well likely include a representation from among the Taliban and borderland tribes. More broadly, however, Ben Laden’s status in the region transcends simply his al-Qaeda and Taliban and connections. Having fought alongside the Afghans against the Russians, he was widely regarded as a hero and guest. The whole region has a strong cultural aversion to giving up such people to foreign powers, particularly infidels. That is probably the strongest reason why the Taliban wouldn’t give up Ben Laden prior to the American invasion. It was almost certainly a substantial factor in his escape at Tora Bora after the invasion. I think the Pakistani government may have concluded that the best long run political currency for them was in not aiding Washington in his capture if not also harboring him outright.

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