Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Question Authority: I've had a question knocking around in my head for a couple of months. Is Osama bin Laden a true believer? Is he in it for the greater glory of Allah, or is he in it for the power, the cult, the authority? By all accounts he was a fiery young radical; but he's older now, he's got a large following (even if that following is shrinking at, er, greater than actuarial rates), and -- let's be frank here -- he's not exactly courting martyrdom personally. When we stormed Tora Bora with daisy cutters, I think he was on his way to some more hospitable locale, even as his folowers may have surfed the shock wave thinking heaven (not to mention those virgins) was just a few burning seconds away. In the pantheon, if you will, of false prophets, including the secular ones, how many really do buy their own schtick? Not Stalin, surely. He saw Marxism through his will to power only. Hitler? Nobody who employed Goebbels and his tactics could take himself completely seriously, though he may have bought into the German nationalism more than Stalin bought into "Mother Russia." On the smaller scale, the cult leaders seem to be more of the David Koresh stripe: "God bless you and have your wife in my chambers by 11:30 that she may receive the holy spirit." That sort of thing. Even someone as bone crazy as Charlie Manson seems to have gotten a deep-down kick from being followed, no matter the message, which was always a rag-bag anyway, from the Beatles to Jesus to the swastika on his forehead, like a guy making it up as he goes along.

What does Osama get?

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