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Osama Bin Laden. Retiring a Skin Job.

Blade Runner is one of my favourite films ever.  It’s dark, atmospheric, filled with uncertainty and ambivalence.  It asks fundamental questions about existence, about the nature of sentience and about the right of intelligent beings to exist.

But more than all that, it’s a cracking great yarn.  The place it inhabits is hot, rainy, sweaty, oppressive, dirty and yet vaguely familiar, as if someone took one strand out of our life’s fabric and rewove it a little bit off-skew, but only a little.

In that world, there are replicants — synthetic humans created to do dangerous work on the off-world colonies.  They’re stronger, smarter and better than us.  We call them skin jobs.

Skin jobs are not allowed to stay on Earth, and if they do, they get “retired” by a .44 magnum bullet between the eyes.  The real danger is self-awareness.  Society can’t contemplate the idea that the intelligent beings it created might begin to demand rights.

I love that movie.  I love Harrison Ford’s demented portrayal of Deckard, the blade runner whose job it is to retire the skin jobs while remaining obsessed with the big question.  Was he himself also a skin job, and if so, what the hell was he doing killing his own kind?

I can’t help wondering if there was a Deckard among the team sent in to retire Osama bin Laden, who was only one among many skin jobs created by the CIA to carry out dangerous work on America’s off-world colonies before he turned rogue.  And I can’t help wondering if the same Deckard took out the other well-known skin job, Saddam Hussein, or Noriega, codenamed pineapple.  I wonder what blade runner has been detailed to whack Muammar Gadaffy, another CIA creation?

Who can tell?  It’s all insane.  It’s all theatre, and I wonder why we continue to swallow the nonsense put out by the media about the evilness of people like Bin Laden.

Does it matter?  Does it make any sense?

The motivation is obvious.  Obama was in danger of being a one-term president, which is always embarrassing, and on this weekend of all weekends, he couldn’t stand idly by while the British Royals took over the airwaves.

Get those sexy drunken Sloans off my television, Obama growled at his Chief of Staff, and by Jesus the armed forces came across. There ya go, Boss.  Dead evil mastermind!

Let me ask you a question.  When is it all right for people to dance in the streets when someone has been killed?

We all witnessed those evil Islamists firing guns in the air and dancing after the World Trade Centre atrocity and we were all horrified, even though it later turned out that the footage was of dubious origin.  Damn.  Nobody could really say who these dancing people were or where they were celebratring, but at least they looked foreign and unshaven, so that’s all right.

Today, we were treated to more pictures of people dancing in the streets after someone had been killed, but that was fine, because the dancers weren’t Arabs but white Christians.  It’s one thing for Arabs to celebrate violence.  That’s just not on, but we all know Jesus was a great believer in celebrating the violent deaths of his enemies.

Kill everyone was the message of Jesus.  Right?

President Obama said that the world is a better place because of the death of  bin Laden.  President Obama, as everyone knows, IS Jesus, in a suit, holding a basketball, so that’s all right, but what he didn’t say was more revealing.  He didn’t reveal, for instance, how they finally got the World’s Most Wanted Man, and that’s because he couldn’t.  The reality is that it could not have happened before now.  Call of Duty : Black Ops is only out since last year and it was going to take time before a sixteen-year-old emerged who was capable of whacking the Boss at the first shot.   Big gamble.

Sadly for the Pakistani authorities, they don’t seem to have noticed the fact that Bin Laden was building a huge castle right in the middle of the neighbourhood where all the retired generals live.  When you consider that the Pakistani military control everything in the country, including the manufacture of cornflakes, that does seem odd.  Perhaps a retired colonel might have mentioned something to a retired Major-General.

I say, old chap, who’s building that giant fortress in the middle of our peaceful neighbourhood?

Damned if I know, old boy.

Walls twenty feet thick, and no-one noticed?  I don’t believe it.  The ISI is one of the most efficient intelligence operations in the world. Nothing moves in Pakistan without their knowledge.  Few things outside Pakistan happen without the ISI opening a file.  This is a serious organisation of spooks, and I have no doubt whatever that they knew precisely what was going on in Abbottabad.  If they didn’t, they would have to be thoroughly incompetent, but whatever else they are, incompetence is one thing you can’t accuse them of.

Therefore, it would be very hard to conclude that Pakistan was not protecting Osama bin Laden, as if anyone was surprised.  The shock is that America waited this long, and from what we’re told, in the end the operation was carried out with the support of Pakistani military.  After all , how did three foreign helicopters fly from India, a hostile foreign nation, through Pakistan’s airspace, without being shot down by the extremely well-equipped and trained Pakistani airforce?  It defies credibility.

I think Osama bin Laden has done some very evil things, including organising the attacks on the World Trade Centre.  Therefore, I have no sympathy for him.  But those attacks were used by Bush and Cheney to justify the invasion of Iraq — a country that had nothing  to do with the 9-11 attacks.

Cheney was always going to make money through Halliburton, who got the contracts for everything that happened in Iraq, but so was Bush, whose Daddy was on the board of Carlton — the world’s biggest arms dealer.  Every cruise missile fired was another few million in Dubya’s pocket.  Sweet.

Today, I heard Tony Blair saying that people responsible for thousands of civilian deaths could expect retribution, and I wondered if he included himself in that statement, since he took a decision to kill thousands of civilians in a country that had never attacked him.

See, it’s all right to kill thousands of civilians in a country that never attacked you, provided you have the power of the western media behind you.  There’s no danger of an attack force led by Clint Eastwood storming Tony Blair’s house or George Bush’s ranch, even though they killed far more innocent civilians in Iraq than Bin Laden ever did in New York.


How the hell do I know?  I’m just looking forward to Deckard retiring the leader of North Korea, another American skin-job, but in the case of Osama bin Laden, I can’t see the operation happening without the support of the Pakistani government.  You don’t fly over a town inhabited almost exclusively  by retired senior army officers without prior approval.


Elsewhere: Who benefits?








Crime Politics

9-11 and the World Trade Centre Attacks

It’s hard to believe that eight years have passed since two commercial aeroplanes flew into the towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and influenced the course of history.

I know where I was when I heard the news.  It came via a text message from a friend who had stood with me on the top of the south tower only two years previously.

Get to a TV, the message said.

I remember watching the replay of the first strike, like watching a cartoon, and then the disbelief as the second aircraft struck. 


If you ever saw the World Trade Centre in reality, you’d be ambivalent about it, because the twin structure was absurd. Nobody in New York liked it and I can understand why.  It was ugly.  It was brash.  It was unimaginative: a triumph of engineering over architecture.

I didn’t like it.  I didn’t like the faux-Gothic motifs at ground level.  I didn’t like the dull, straight-line purity of its form, an excuse for people with no creative ability to evade their responsibility.  As a building I just didn’t like it.

But I did like the sheer scale of the thing, and just like everyone else, I laid down on my back, on the plaza below, and stared up along the endless, vanishing-point side of the thing, trying to comprehend its sheer vastness.


Of course, just like everyone else, I’m also speechless when I stand next to a commercial aircraft.  Even though I know a little bit about the physics of the  thing, it still amazes me that such a brute of a machine can lift itself from a  concrete runway and power into the sky.  That is astonishing.

So here we are, looking at a great building on the TV screen, when an aircraft appears and vanishes into the side of it, and we’re thinking, shit, there’s a little plane that’s crashed into the WTC, until we realise that it isn’t a two-seater Cessna.  It’s an airliner with 300 people in it.  A big jet, the size of all our houses put together.  Twenty buses.  Big.


You’re looking at the people beside you and they’re all thinking the same thing.

What the fuck?

You’re watching smoke pouring out of the windows with real force. Real dynamic pressure and not just a few wisps drifting out from a small fire.  This is a conflagration.

People are jumping out of windows.  They’re floating downwards.

Autumn leaves.

You don’t know why this is happening, why these peaceful people are floating down from a thousand feet up, but you can guess, and you can imagine what it’s like at the sidewalk too as the floaters strike the concrete.  But really, you don’t know what this thing is that you’re looking at.

And so you sit there, in stupefied disbelief until something else happens.

What?  Well, here comes a second plane, and it slams into the other tower and then you realise this isn’t a terrible accident.  This is deliberate.

What the fuck?

You go quiet because you can’t process the information, and anyway the towers are too big to comprehend.  You turn to your friends and you ask the only relevant question: what the fuck?

There’s a little hiatus, while you wonder how they’re going to get the people out but suddenly everything takes a turn that perhaps even the attackers didn’t predict.  As fast as you can look at it, the south tower collapses.  The one hit by the second plane.

Everyone stares at the TV screen.  Nobody knows what to say.

What the fuck?

How did it fall down?

Somebody makes coffee and you relax a bit. What about that?

This is the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen in real time but then, because you know a little bit about such matters, but mostly because you aren’t fucking blind, you notice that the radio mast on the North tower is starting to wobble, and suddenly it dawns on you that this one is about to collapse too, but you don’t quite comprehend the meaning of it all.

It’s going to fall, you tell your friends.  It’s going to fucking fall.

You’ve been at the top of these towers, so you know how huge they are, and saying something like They’re going to fall makes no sense, but they are.

They are going to fall.


Only two years ago you were standing on top of these things.


Also on Bock:

The New Big Lie