Monday, May 2, 2011

Dangers of being 6'5" Tall: Osama's Burden

This blog is written after seeing scenes of jubilation of american youth (some dressed as superman or someother superhero) on TV following the courageous attack of American (I don't know why we say American when we mean US) commandos into the mansion of Osama Bin Laden near Pakistan's military academy. Bin Laden was guarded by his loyal followers whom, miraculously, nobody had noticed all these years!! If true, it would really mean something incredibly smart about Osama and his disguise considering he was 6'5" tall.

I am at heart and by tradition a Buddhist and am a fan of the original Gandhi of the non-violence strategy. I avoid stamping on insects and ants. I dont like hunting down of living beings even if they have long been dead physically.

All nations have had more than their share of losses in un-necessary war-like activities. The deaths when the towers came tumbling down are tragic.

Yet, I cannot imagine how a man can be so dreaded by US that he had to be hunted by all the sophisticated US and NATO spy and satellite technologies and be killed as a terrorist so disdainfully, seretly, and so quickly as soon as they found him just to fulfill a ten-year promise made by a not-so popular past president.

Obama himself rode to office riding on the unpopularity of the earlier president's policies. He promised and tried an early pullout from Afghanistan. He was told of the realities of life by his Afghan advisers and Obama became more of what a regular WASP president would have been. Obama required to fulfill the ten-year promise to boost his WASP image now threatened by the republican right.

Osama Bin Laden was unknown to me until the twin-tower calamity. His name influenced my life because of the way he frightened some of the more prominet residents in the apartment complex I lived in. These people were small, very small, compared to Osama.

The story below may not be directly related to Osama, but reflects on the mentality of smaller people.

Some years ago, shortly after 11/9/2001, when the twin towers of New York collapsed, Osams Bin Laden became a household name. With the help of George Bush's publicity Osama became less of a villain than a more convincing president of America could have made him. Muslims in general became suspect, however, in the middle-class families all over the world. More than the Muslims, suspicion fell on dependents of smugglers and building mafia who reportedly financed housing complexes. Osama was declared a dangerous terrorist in India and anyone who dared support Osama was in danger of being declared a public enemy. Builders took special care to be seen to as enemies of Osama.

It so happened that I had a friend who was lean and tall and had a beard and looked definitely more wicked than Osama --- which was not that difficult because Osama certainly looked more pious than say images of Saint Francis Xavier in Goan Churches; in my eyes Osama looked something like the white Jesus Christ as imagined by Renaissance artists, except that Osama did not have blondish hair. This friend of mine visited the society where I lived to pay me a social call. At that time, signing the security register of the housing society was irritating to most. It was treated as a joke to younger people who are always spontaneous and true in their judgements. When asked to enter their name, my friend's daughter, who was just entering her teenages, entered it as Osama Bin Laden and family.

This was the opportunity the committee members of our housing society were waiting for, since I had made some spontaneous and true comments about their functioning. In the middle of the night a police inspector came with some members of the committee to say that I should go to the police station because of my association with the dreaded terrorist Osama Bin Laden whom we did host as our guest as per the entry in the society register. I was sleeping soundly and was very irritated at being woken up. I followed the police officer, half dressed and holding my loose pajama with one hand. The housing committee members and their families and friends were waiting in eager anticipation of seeing me being hauled to the police station. I became furious, gestured with my one free hand, perhaps held a fat committee member by his collar even at the risk of my pajama falling, threatened them to come and fight with me man to man if they were men at all, sent the inspector packing and went back to the apartment to sleep.

That was perhaps the most painful impact of Osama on my life.

I also admired the Bin Laden family for another reason. Osama Bin Laden, would have no problem getting genetic code. His tribe is indeed big, Osama being the 17th child of 52 children, Some virility that!

The hunt for Osama Bin Laden itself was undertaken with typical American efficiency. Osama Bin Laden was 6'5" tall and would have had difficulty in disgusing himself, say as a belly dancer in a burqa. So there was no point in looking for disguises that he may have used, except for the obvious one of shaving his beard. Osama Bin Laden did not shave, perhaps because his followers would not have recognised him.

American scientists perfected the science of calculating the height of a man from the length of his shadows. Helicopters with cameras roamed around over Afghan tribals looking for 6'5" men on foot leading a group of people. They then gave orders to eliminate that group by missiles and rockets making sure that the killing of the entire group was achieved. There was little repentance for these acts, as America was at war to protect its institutes and no sign of life in an hostile environment was considered really safe.

One of my imagined friends who was once 6'5" tall surfaced today breathing more easily after Osama's death-announcement. He was looking considerably shorter than what he was. He had gone to Afghanistan to teach Hindi film songs to radio artists when the Osama thing happened. He realized he was in terrible danger because of his height. He had worn stilts to look seven feet tall and escape the attention of cameras. He had lost a leg in a landmine explosion. His life was in so much danger because of the cameras because of his 6'5" original height. He removed his other leg also and with short artificial legs he lost 3-4" and escaped to a less dangerous height.

My imagined friend looked at the news and dismissed them. He had lived in Afghanistan with so many 6'5" tall Bin Ladens all waiting to be captured by US forces. There are so many Osama Bin Ladens nowadays, he said. They have all been kept in very well guarded American prisons.

The true Osama Bin Laden, he said, was killed long ago in a carpet bombing in the Afghan hills. It was a difficult task to convince people that Osama Bin Laden was alive. Even Musharaf would say that Bin Laden was dead. It was advantageous to both the sides to have others believe that a dreaded terrorist like Bin Laden was alive. It helped the profits of the gun-running and gun-making industries. It also helped the TV channels to up their lagging TV profits with a Osama video tape with the assistance of experts who insisted that the Osama images and voices were genuine.

The US had the technology to make genuinely profitable errors. The other NATO countries wanting to make the same profit, found a fraud Bin Laden almost immediately. But they had sent back the man to his own family with a civilized reprimand.

I do not have to say anything more, my imagined friend said, as he hobbled off, looking more like Osama images.

There are many other things my imagined 6'5" friend said, without actually saying them. I only imagined him saying that.

The first thing he said is that there are no tall 6'5" leader in Indian politics. The last tall leader we had was Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan Saheb from Baluchistan. You have only midget Khans of the 5'6" types.

Americans at the Pakistan Military Academy were asked to vacate on the pretense of some epidemic outbreak. It seems that during the 11/9 collapse of the twin towers the Jews were also forewarned and they stayed away. This charge has been subjected to serious statistical analysis of Government reports. The percent of death among Jews was 18%. A remark was made about this: "Given the nature of business done in the towers, I would expect that a quarter to a third of victims would be Jewish - probably higher at senior manager levels. Perhaps the next step, Robert, is to determine the seniority of Jewish victims within their organisations, using the bios that are available. How many senior managers died? How many partners? Or were they substantially lower-order employees?"

The planning of the attack on Osama Bin Laden took several days and it may not have been necessary, perhaps, that a secret attack served any purpose, except for propaganda that helped Obama. One could have surrounded the mansion, given its location in Pakistan's military heartland, walked up to the doors, captured and filmed Osama's last terrorist moments.

It would have had more effect on people if Osama Bin Laden was put to trial as they did in the movie Judgement at Nuremburg. I suppose the execution of Jews is less humiliating than the deaths of innocent peole in Twin Towers. They probably did not want to make the same mistake as they did when showing the execution of Saddam who behaved with incredible dignity typically unbecoming of the images they are expected to have.

Osam Bin Laden took part himself personally, it is said, in the exchange of fire with the commandos. This was to be the valid excuse for killing Osama in self-defence and not bringing him to trial that the American people would have loved to say. This is what Obama had said when he wanted the world to see the fair trial of Guanatnamo Bay prisoners.

Osama Bin Laden was shot in the head. I suppose the commandos were so well trained or so equivalently unimaginative that they avoided Osama's fire, walked coolly upto Osama, and shot him in the head. If I was not naive I would have thought that Osama was shot in the head to hide his identity.

President Obama had promised in public that Osama would be given a proper Muslim burial as per his religion. Osama's body was rushed by helicopter and dumped into the sea. Another example of meticulous planning, because it is not easy to find a grave for a tall 6'5" man in a land of pygmies.

Only the vast expanses of the ocean would have been large enough for a 6'5" man whom the world of smaller men saw as a terrorist.

His height and stature may have been his burden.

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