Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Iabhor the idea of taking a mobilephone call at the dinner table but my friend Douglas Brinkley, eminent historian and editor (of Ronald Reagan and Hunter Thompson alike) has three small children and when his wife calls he rightly answers. So on Sunday night in Houston, Texas, at the home of the bountiful Michael and Nina Zilkha, we got an early notice that the President would soon be on the air. I have lived in Washington long enough to know that presidents do not break into weekend TV to bring bad news: only to react to very bad news, or to claim credit for something worthwhile. I can therefore claim to have guessed right away that either Osama bin Laden was in custody, or had achieved his goal of martyrdom.

I remained deep in the heart of Texas for the next two days, and didn't come across any gung-ho celebrations.

Had I been in DC, I would only have gone down to Lafayette Square out of curiosity. On screen, the event had a College Republican look to it: the only placard waved read 'Bush/Cheney 2008'.

The most striking thing was the age of the participants: most must have been in high school a decade ago. Perhaps the national disease of amnesia isn't as prevalent as some people believe.

I t used to madden me, back in 2001, when craven commentators were so fond of saying that even if bin Laden was killed, many more jihadists would 'spring up in his place'. This weak fatalism ignores many things, not least the effect of jihad in recruiting brave Americans to the side of resistance. I know several people who immediately gave up a great deal to join the armed services. Matt Pottinger, for example, finished watching the obscene video of the butchering of Daniel Pearl and left his job at the Wall Street Journal to join the Marines. He later helped sponsor an all-female unit within the Corps, trained to work with Afghan women. He was radicalised: this process is not a one-way street. Look at the calibre and humour and bravery of the Seals, and ask yourself if the sadistic riff-raff of the suicide-murder faction have anything to compare with them.

Did we torture our way into bin Laden's lair? The answer seems to be no. It was the assiduous cultivation of a single source that did the job. …

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