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Bin Laden: Equal opportunity killer

Some African Americans, out of a naïve or uninformed sense of Third World solidarity, may be tempted to lament Osama bin Laden meeting his end with a bullet to the head. Don’t cry for Osama. by Kenneth J. Cooper
NNPA News Service

Some African Americans, out of a naïve or uninformed sense of Third World solidarity, may be tempted to lament Osama bin Laden meeting his end with a bullet to the head. Don’t cry for Osama.

In their maniacal pursuit of Americans to kill, bin Laden and Islamic fundamentalists of his breed have not cared whether they take the lives of African Americans – or Africans, for that matter. Half of the passenger airplanes used in the 9/11 attacks struck New York, home to more African Americans than any other city. The plane that crashed in Pennsylvania was probably headed for Washington, D.C., where most residents are African American.

Not long after those surprise attacks, whose death toll of nearly 3,000 did include African Americans, an African American journalist suggested a frank, private conversation could calm down “Brother Osama.”  I had no idea what that journalist was talking about.

The pattern of Al Qaeda and affiliated crews killing blacks began before 2001.

Three years earlier, bin Laden’s operatives bombed two U.S. embassies in east Africa. The truck bombing in Kenya killed an African-American career diplomat, Julian Bartley, and his son, Julian Jr. The embassy in Tanzania was hit the same day. Charles Stith, an African American who is a longtime friend, was just weeks from being installed as ambassador there.

Predictably, most of the 200 people killed in the coordinated bombings were Africans. Every American embassy employs “foreign service nationals” hired in the host country. And who else besides locals are likely to be on the streets of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam?

In 1998, when I was working as a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post in South Asia, security concerns made me aware and wary of the indiscriminate anti-Americanism of Islamic fundamentalists. I covered both Pakistan and Afghanistan at the time the Taliban rose to power and was hosting bin Laden, who issued his fatwa against America, despite lacking the religious authority to deliver a Muslim edict.

One morning in 1997, I was in a hotel restaurant in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, about to take my first sip of coffee when the Post’s stringer called me urgently from Karachi, the country’s biggest port and financial center. He told me that four Americans had been killed there in a carjacking, almost certainly by Islamic fundamentalists.

The slain Americans were accountants working for a Texas oil company that did business in Pakistan. One was later identified as a Nigerian American. The heavily-armed attackers did not ask Ephraim Egbu to duck while they killed his three white co-workers. No, they blew his brains out too. Nor was the Pakistani driver spared.

I had known, before my posting in India in 1996, that a CIA agent had been killed in a similar carjacking in Karachi. In doing background research, I learned that his secretary – an African American – was shot to death, too. Before the second carjacking, I had a habit of taking an exercise walk from the Marriott hotel on the same route in Islamabad about the same time of day. Even though I could blend in with Pakistanis because of my light-brown skin, I started consciously varying my exercise routine when visiting the modern, planned city with leafy boulevards.

On 9/11, I was national editor of the Boston Globe, responsible for directing the paper’s coverage in New York and D.C. Instantly, my hunch was bin Laden was responsible, and I said so right after the second place crashed into the World Trade Center. I spent the next four years closely tracking bin Laden’s every utterance, reading detailed explorations of his mindset and wishing I had copied my file collected while monitoring his activities for the Washington Post.

It was about then an African-American journalist spoke of “Brother Osama.”  Later, after Barack Obama was elected president, a white pundit predicted in a national magazine that Al Qaeda would ease up on America with an African-American president in the White House. I thought that pundit was delusional, too.  Sure enough, followers of a downgraded and dispersed Al Qaeda have continued to hatch a series of plots against the United States.

President Obama harbored no illusions about bin Laden and did not ease up on him. All Americans – African American and European American, Christian and Muslim, and everyone else – should rest a little easier knowing the intensive manhunt finally caught up with the 9/11 mastermind. He got what he had coming.

(Kenneth J. Cooper, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, is a freelancer based in Boston. He also edits the Trotter Review at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.)

(Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com)

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