Saturday, December 07, 2002

Death and Resurrection

Saturday, 7 December 2002

Anyone who survived the disco craze of the 1970's with their sanity intact is probably familiar with the legend of the mad Russian monk Grigory Efimovitch Rasputin as told in the Boney M song. Rasputin's evil sexual influence (so we are told) over the Tsarina Alexandra so incensed the Russian nobility that a small cabal led by Prince Felix Yusupov finally decided that enough was enough and the mad monk had to go. Prince Yusupov's own account of the deed - in which Rasputin is drugged, poisoned and shot and finally shoved under the ice of the River Neva wrapped in a carpet, where the demonic will which has kept him alive through this ordeal is finally overcome and the mad monk drowns - is widely regarded as the finest piece of short fiction in twentieth century Russian literature.

A lot of the talk about Osama bin Laden's Al Quaeda reminds me of the Rasputin legend. Maybe it's just the beards. But what evidence do we have that Osama really is still alive rather than quietly mouldering under a plie of rubble somewhere in Afghanistan? After the events of September 11, we had the video tape, which clearly showed (bin Laden's denials notwithstanding) that he was involved in planning the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Since then the quality of the bin Laden sightings has declined steadily: first a voice tape plus a few E-Mails, some of which US intelligence agencies regard as "credible". It's at least possible that the Bali bombing and the recent terrorist attacks in Nigeria are the actions not of Osama bin Laden's Al Quaeda, but plain old Al Quaeda, and an Al Quaeda that is very much in decline at that. Much has been made of the conscious symbolism of the World Trade Centre attack but to me it is starting to look like this was Al-Quaeda's best shot. Much of what has happened since, obscene as it is, has been pretty much a business as usual sort of terrorism directed at the usual targets.

It may be a little premature to suggest that the Global War Against Terrorism® is already over. Still, it would be a sad irony if we allowed what might basically be a spent force to frighten us into dismantling ourselves the very society that the islamo-fascists are determined to tear down.

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