Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 2, 2011


Host: Ted Simons

Death of Osama bin Laden


  • Experts discuss the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden. Guests include Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, and ASU professor Steve Corman, director of the Consortium for Strategic Communication at ASU’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.
Guests:
  • Steve Corman - Director, Consortium for Strategic Communication at ASU’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication
  • Dr. Zuhdi Jasser - President and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy


View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Not long after the 9-11 attacks, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser became an outspoken voice against Islamic terrorists. In a statement released yesterday, Jasser called the killing of Osama Bin Laden a victory for the U.S. against the face of Islamist terror. Earlier I spoke with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic forum for democracy. Doctor, thank you for being here. We appreciate it. Your first thoughts when you heard the news about Osama Bin Laden?

Dr. Jasser: It was a sense of relief, a sense of victory. As a former naval officer, our 9-11 families not only suffered the ultimate sacrifice, but we've had many of our sons and daughters in the military going to Afghanistan and Iraq, and this was a mission. It was to find Bin Laden and bring him to justice and that's what we did by killing him and I think ultimately it will allow us to close the chapter on Bin Laden and move forward to really countering the ideology that created him.

Ted Simons: I want to get to that ideology in a second here, but were you surprised where he was found?

Dr. Jasser: It's always been said he was in Afghanistan or Pakistan. But the way he was in a mansion in a large home compound that should have been obvious, really I think if anything comes out of this, we should realize this old paradigm that you're either our ally or enemy, just because they’re our enemies’ enemies does not mean they're our friends. And I think Pakistan has proven either Zardari does haven't control of his country, or he’s been complicit or his intelligence services have been complicit which is really for what we’re finding. And I think the administration was really very wise in not telling Pakistan until after we did it – an operation on their soil – which says a lot for an ally, that we did the operation and then let them know that we did it.
Ted Simons: As far as what you're hearing from other Arab Americans, here in the valley and around the country, what is the reaction? Is -- what are you hearing?

Dr. Jasser: Basically elation. Relief that this can move on, that the icon of Bin Laden is representing a so-called Muslim, which many of us feel she not, he is our enemy. His first targets had been modern Muslims. So, this guy is evil, he's been in our community as Muslims -- I can't tell you how relieved we are and most Muslims I've spoken to and Arabs are glad to see him put to rest and come to justice, and you know, we're just like any other Americans. We are happy to see vindication and victory in this.

Ted Simons: Is there a sense of liberation? Kind of, in the sense this person, did you mentioned, who is almost personified something that Muslims aren't in America, it's -- just get rid of the guy, it's over, that aspect of it?

Dr. Jasser: Very much so. Because since 9-11, 9-11 with the videos that came after it, America looked upon Bin Laden as the enemy. He declared war against us in 1998, and then did the act, so he became the war. And now I think we can close the chapter, we can say that it's not about Bin Laden, it’s about the ideologies that created him, and many ways create a sense of satisfaction that we have accomplished that mission, that we went, we found him and brought him to justice.

Ted Simons: Talk about the ideology and whether or not in a changing -- let's stick with the Arab world, all sorts of upheaval, there lots of new ideas with democracy, lots of new ideas with getting rid of dictator -- that business going on is Al Qaeda… was Osama Bin Laden old news in that region?

Dr. Jasser: That's a great question. If you look at the threat, homegrown terrorism has been more of a threat to the United States than ever before. As I testified to Congress in march, we have had more acts against our homeland by homegrown -- remember, Bin Laden was a foreign operation. Homegrown terrorism now is a real threat from Portland to Baltimore, to Nidal Hasan's attack at Fort Hood, to the times square bomber, the Christmas bomber, these have all just been in the last two years, stimulated by folks like Gadan, other protégés of Bin Laden and other groups that have metastasized from Al Qaeda. We can't look upon Bin Laden as the end of the war. It is we're at more after threat than ever before. The Middle East is very tumultuous. I will tell you first of all that Al Qaeda and radical Islam is a product of the dictatorships in the Middle East. We may have thought it was stable, but in fact, the dictatorship of Mubarak produced the radical Islamicss from it. The dictator ship of the monarchy in Saudi Arabia has produced Wahabism and the Al Quaeda from it. -- if we're goings to reform and bring modernity, the democracy movement and uprising we're seeing are going to be part of that process. But we may see some steps backwards. Syria is devolving into possibly a civil war. And Libya is also. But this is good. My family came to the U.S. from Syria because we could practice our faith more freely here than Syria. But if they're going to get towards democracy and freedom they have to get rid of the thugs like Essed, and the dictators.

Ted Simons: You mentioned taking a couple steps back. The death of Osama Bin Laden, we could see retaliation. We might see certain strikes here and there. Again, in what's playing in Syria and what’s playing in Libya, does this death factor much, or is that a little -- is he old news in that region?

Dr. Jasser: You know, they're doing to look for reasons to attack our homeland, to attack American citizens. Yes, we should be more vigilant after this operation that happened, they may act. But they were using the royal wedding four days ago as an excuse to act the they were using other events we have to act against our assets and our citizens. So this is a constant war, we need to be constantly vigilant and not to be concerned about doing the right thing which is what our Seals did.

Ted Simons: What do you make of what we did after the death with the burial at sea?

Dr. Jasser: I'll tell you, as a Muslim, I was offended to think that our government wants to somehow give this evil monster an Islamic burial, I have yet to meet a Muslim I've talked to, none of them would say a prayer verse over his body. We never talked about that with Saddam Hussein, him getting an Islamic burial. Neither would any Muslims that are self-respecting think about a funeral for the dead for him from an Islamic standpoint, we -- dumping him at sea was a good idea. You don't want him to have a burial place he could become a martyr and become a monument for his Jihadist movement. But at the end of the day, I was a Navy Doc., and I read today about a navy seaman that was a Muslim that read his Arabic scripture. If my C.O. would have asked me to my Quran over him, I would have done everything I could to refuse that order.

Ted Simons: Last question, how big is this news? In general? Obviously a cathartic experience for Americans, but around the world, including America, how big is this?
Dr. Jasser: I think if you look at 9-11, it was not the first salve in the war against radical Islam which started in 1979, but it was big news. It was us waking up to the threat of radical Islam. The death of Osama Bin Laden, the capture of him is big news, because he was the mastermind behind that plot, and I think especially for 9-11 families, we don't even have a valid monument yet at 9-11. And I think this will allow that chapter to close. It's very big news. It is big as far as the threat, as far as the global security status and what our sons and daughters are fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, in our homeland security? Not really. He's almost irrelevant in Al Qaeda, almost irrelevant as far as courtesy is concerned, but in the story, in the narrative against Al Qaeda, it's a body blow, and it's a significantly big event looking at now almost 10 years since 9-11.

Ted Simons: Dr. Jasser, good to have you on the show.

Dr. Jasser: Thank you. It's a pleasure.

Ted Simons: Joining me now with his perspective on the death of Osama Bin Laden is ASU professor Steve Corman, who has served as a defense department consultant in the counter terrorism arena. He directs the consortium for strategic communication in ASU's Hugh downs school of human communication. It's a group involved in countering ideological support for terrorism. Thanks for joining us.

Prof. Corman: Thanks Ted, happy to be here.

Ted Simons: Psychological implications of the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Prof. Corman: It kind of depends on who you are. The reactions have run the gamut. Probably the most prevalent one, especially in the early going, was outright disbelief, that Osama had been killed. And so they're expressing disbelief, they think it's western media propaganda, they won't believe it actually happened until Al-Zawahiri gives a eulogy.

Ted Simons: The idea of being buried at sea gets the conspiracy theorists ratcheted up much more.

Prof. Corman: Of course, there's no body to show, no pictures have been released. So all kinds of conspiracy theories can bloom.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about these symbolic importance of Bin Laden's death.

Prof. Corman: Symbolically it's very important. First of all, for Al Qaeda, so many of the extremists for many of the extremists he was a charismatic figure, they believed he enjoyed special protection from god, going back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan where he miraculously escaped being killed several times. And obviously now that's not true. And another thing is the seeming irrelevance of Al Qaeda in the recent uprisings in the Middle East. Obama (sic) had been trying for 20 years to get rid of Mubarak and people like him who they considered a leader in the Middle East, and in all that time of trying here in two weeks, youth movement ousts the leader. So all of this is contributing to a seeming marginalization of Al Qaeda in these sorts of Muslim affairs.

Ted Simons: We talked about that earlier in the show, it almost seems as though Osama Bin Laden is old news in this parts of the Muslim world.

Prof. Croman: In some parts, but for a dedicated cadre of followers, he was really an important leader. So I think the psychological impact of that in the long term is going to be a big loss.

Ted Simons: Let's talk –excuse me - about operational standpoint. What you're seeing there. Again, if his -- if Al Qaeda is influence is a bit on the wane, the loss of Osama Bin Laden in terms of Al Qaeda's overall operation, what kind of impact?

Prof. Corman: Well, most people agree that for many years he hasn't been very heavily involved in operations of the group. And the fact that he was caught in a compound with no telecommunication, makes it pretty unlikely he was heavily involved in actually planning operations. So from that point of view, it's probably not going to affect the organization very much. It's unlikely to disrupt plans that had been already in place for attacks.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, was everyone seeming to think there's going to be some retaliation or attempts at retaliation, is that a pretty safe bet here in the near future?

Prof. Corman: I would be very surprised if it didn't happen. Because probably the second most prevalent reaction we've seen on the -- in the media on the extremist web sites calls for revenge, and they say if you crusaders think you have killed Obama (sic) and stopped Al Qaeda, there are a thousand Osamas ready to take his place. We're coming for you.

Ted Simons: In general, the Arab media, the Muslim media, and we can get to the extremist web sites as well, but just in general, how is the story being told? What's that narrative like?

Prof. Corman: It's that range of reactions from disbelief to calls of revenge. One thing that surprised me was the number of negative statements about Bin Laden that we've seen. So several people have said basically he was an embarrassment to Islam, he was responsible for the killing of thousands of Muslims, and he got what he deserved. So it's really run the gamut. One interesting thing is a contact in Pakistan told me today that the media there has been reporting his death in terms of usually reserved for the death of non-Muslims. So that's sort of an interesting development.

Ted Simons: It sure is. The extremist web sites I imagine are pretty much churning out the same old same old?

Prof. Corman: Of course. It's disbelief, calls for revenge, calls to carry on.
Ted Simons: I know your research has studied the narrative and the storytelling aspect of what some of these extremist sites and extremist folks are trying to do to get people to join their cause. Talk to us about that, and how is that changed with this news?
Prof. Corman: Well, one of the most prominent narratives used is the crusader narrative that. And of course that refers to town invasions of Muslim land and the 10th through 12th centuries. They use as sort of an analogy for what's going on today. And so they try to cast the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, for example, as an extension of the crusades. I think one thing this does to that particular narrative is it shows that the United States is accomplishing what it's set out to do in Afghanistan, and that combined with talks of leaving soon or starting to withdraw troops complicates that narrative for the Islamist groups.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask, regarding the death of Bin Laden and the way it was done with really just a superb operation as far as this whole thing was concerned, the general war on terror, countries more perhaps less inclined to help us? How do you see that?

Prof. Corman: Well, one thing that's interesting is that today there have been some calls out of the region saying, well, basically you've accomplished your objective, you have captured Bin Laden, now it's time to leave. Another thing is the whole issue of how Bin Laden could have existed in this compound 60 miles from the capital, closer to India than it is to Afghanistan and nowhere near the federally administrated tribal areas, how he could have operated in that fashion for so long without the Pakistani government knowing about it. They had a military academy near the place he was staying. So I think that's probably going to complicate relation with the Pakistanis.

Ted Simons: I was gonna- were you surprised that that's where they found this guy?

Prof. Corman: I really was. Ever since the Tora-Bora battles people thought he escaped to the badlands on the Afghan-Pakistan border and now we find him 60 miles from the capital.

Ted Simons: What do you think does to the U.S.? U.S.- Pakistani relation and Pakistan's standing really in the world? Three got some ‘splaining to do here.

Prof. Corman: Yeah. I agree. I've heard a number of government officials including Colin Powell this afternoon express the same sentiment. Are they really for us or against us, and how dependable are these people in the struggle against these extremist groups?

Ted Simons: And what do you think going to happen, here? Again, when you monitor some of the web sites and monitor some of the extremist groups, how does Pakistan's position after this information comes out -- you've got one of two things. Either Pakistan knew he was there and did nothing about it or the entire military complex is so inept, that the guy can stay in the biggest house in town and no one even knows about it.

Prof. Corman: I think part of it is that we haven't heard the whole story yet. So I've heard some suggestions that the Pakistani intelligence service was on site when the raid took place, contrary to what the administration said yesterday. So I think if a few more days will be required to see how this rolls out. But it probably doesn't bode well for U.S.- Pakistani relations.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

Prof. Corman: My pleasure, Ted.

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