Sunday, July 15, 2007

Terrorists Get Old, Too

Time works its will on everyone, even fanatics. Those who don’t strap explosives to themselves and ascend to their 72 virgins are not immune to the coming of age.

Here is Osama bin Laden in the latest terrorist video, looking wan and grey, reduced to a 50-second cameo, waxing philosophical:

"So this whole broad life is summarized by him who was inspired by God, the Lord of the heavens and earth, praised and exalted is he. This glorious prophet who was inspired by God summarized this entire life by these words...Happy is the one who was chosen by God as a martyr."

That elegiac snippet of uncertain vintage suggests aging and the loss of fire in the belly. In Wordsworth’s words, “Whither is fled the visionary gleam?”

But compared to Carlos the Jackal, bin Laden is still in his prime. Venezuelan-born Vladimir Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, who bombed his way to fame in the 1970s, in an interview from a French prison this week, called the current Islamic terrorists the Gallic equivalent of whippersnappers.

“They are not professionals,” Carlos scoffed. “They’re not organized. They don’t even know how to make proper explosives or proper detonators.”

In his day, Carlos pointed out, killing people at random was amateur night. He selected his targets to make a point.

Comforting as it is to know that terrorists get old and flabby, like the rest of us, it would be churlish not to wish them an early death to escape these mortal pangs.

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