Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.”     Adam Smith

September 8, 2007

Osama bin Laden: Source Or Symbol ?

by Doug Mataconis

Fred Thompson has only been in the Republican race a day and he’s already causing controversy:

ABC News’ Bret Hovell and Jennifer Parker report: Former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., has only been an official Republican presidential candidate for a day. But his comments are already drawing fire from his GOP rivals.

“Bin Laden is more symbolism than anything else,” Thompson said while campaign in Iowa Friday. “I think it demonstrates to people once again that we’re in a global war.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., publicly disagreed with Thompson, arguing the al-Qaeda leader poses a significant threat to Americans.

“He’s more than a symbol,” McCain told ABC News when asked about Thompson’s comments. “He’s motivating and recruiting using the internet as we speak. He’s a threat. He’s a threat.”

McCain said bin Laden poses an enormous threat to Americans because of his ability to communicate, motivate and recruit people who are dedicated to the destruction of the U.S.

“It’s very important that we get him. I’ll get him,” McCain said.

I disagree with some of what Thompson says about the connection between Iraq and the War on Terror, but he does have a point here. Capturing and killing Osama bin Laden, both noble goals given the acts he has coordinated against Americans and others, is a noble goal, but, at this point, it seems clear that neither will entirely end terrorism as a threat.

But it’s easy to have a nice convenient target to point to, so it’s understandable why the other Republicans are reacting the way they do.

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  1. Osama has never failed in ensuring his tapes get released at the most politically opportune times – not for ‘Al-Qaeda’ – but for the Neo-Cons and the Bush administration.

    On the eve of the Iraq war, during Colin Powell’s infamous presentation to the UN, an audio tape in which bin Laden claimed he was allied with Saddam Hussein surfaced, a gift-wrapped present for the Neo-Cons who had consistently been proven wrong in their assertion that there was a connection between Iraq and 9/11.

    The Osama tapes are about as genuine as a used car salesman convention, and have been proven fraudulent on countless occasions. They are nothing more than crude propaganda unleashed in a desperate move to put the genie of what really happened on 9/11 back in the bottle.

    Comment by This Planet — September 8, 2007 @ 7:11 am
  2. This Planet,

    And your physical proof of the government’s involvement in 9/11 is what? Because I’m betting that it’s been addressed on this site ( )


    I’d rather that our troops were chasing after bin Laden than wasting more time in Iraq. At least there the military force would be legitimately related to our national security.

    Comment by UCrawford — September 8, 2007 @ 10:00 am
  3. Mr. Thompson is correct to note the Mr. bin Laden is a symbol, but incorrect to suggest that the symbolism is unimportant. In politics, symbolism is enormously important. Mr. bin Laden symbolizes to the Islamic world determined, effective resistance to the Christian West. He inspires thousands of young Islamic men to join in the fight.

    Killing or capturing Mr. bin Laden will not change this. The potency of the symbolism he represents is based on his past actions, not the future. As a symbol, he is now divorced from reality in much the same way that Che Guevara, a vicious murderer, became a symbol of romantic revolutionary resistance due to one photograph.

    Comment by Chepe Noyon — September 8, 2007 @ 10:24 am
  4. That’s a good point Chepe. As much as I want to see Bin Laden suffer a slow painful death, I would hate to see him become a martyr. Maybe that’s one reason he hasn’t been found yet? Symbolism is enormously important because so much of this war of civilizations is psychological.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 8, 2007 @ 12:29 pm
  5. Let’s run with with this idea of “we don’t want him to be a martyr”. What then would be the best resolution? I suppose that, as long as he’s free, his power increases or stays the same. If he’s killed, he becomes a martyr. Thus, it appears that our best bet is to capture him (not very likely; he’d probably die fighting) and have a long, long trial in which every little detail of his life is examined. It shouldn’t be difficult to get information on hypocritical behavior (bedding women, drinking alcohol, the usual). Then just play all that out in court over a five year period.

    That’s probably the best we can accomplish with him.

    Comment by Chepe Noyon — September 8, 2007 @ 1:11 pm
  6. Sounds like you’ve been consulting Miniluv, Chepe.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — September 8, 2007 @ 1:49 pm
  7. That might actually be a good idea Chepe. The question then would be whether or not his followers would believe it or dismiss it as Western propaganda.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 8, 2007 @ 3:49 pm
  8. Back to what Doug was saying, the other Candidates are attacking because they’re scared of Fred Thompson. They’re glad to have an easier target than Ron Paul.

    Comment by Chris Kachouroff — September 8, 2007 @ 7:26 pm

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