Alias grace

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In recent years, thousands of Pakistani parents named their baby boys "Osama" in tribute to the al-Qaida terrorist leader. Following the fall of Afghanistan, very few boys will answer to that name. In fact, the name of Osama bin Laden will be cursed throughout the Middle East.

Osama bin Laden not only failed to deliver a victory for Islam, he and his Taliban protectors were defeated in a matter of weeks, hardly firing a shot. He has humiliated his followers throughout the Muslim world and that is an unforgivable sin in any culture.

Regardless of what fate befalls the hunted arch terrorist — death at the hands of anti-Taliban soldiers or capture by U.S. and British Special Forces — Osama bin Laden is finished as a hero in the Middle East. The defeat of the Taliban, the capture of his fellow terrorists and his lack of support in other countries has ended his mystique and destroyed his stature among Muslims everywhere. Already the father of one Sept. 11 hijacker is claiming his son was only a passenger and had nothing to do with the attack. No one wants to be associated with a losing cause.

The end of the Taliban is also the end of Islamic fundamentalists' dreams of establishing totalitarian regimes in the Middle East. Very few Muslims would choose to live under Taliban law and those who were afraid to speak out will now be emboldened to denounce such movements.

In Algeria and Egypt, where Islamic fanatics murder innocent civilians by the thousands, there will be renewed effort to end the terrorism. Syria and other countries that harbor terrorists will quietly close their facilities and end their financial support. Terrorism won't stop but it will become more difficult to conduct acts of terror and even harder to hide afterwards.

Afghanistan has taught everyone that there is no future in the past. America's first victory in the war on terrorism is a victory for freedom and will lead to major changes in the Middle East. There will be more pressure to establish more democratic and secular governments that better represent their citizens. Arab governments will quit blaming the West and Israel for their people's misery and open up their borders to trade and investment. The poverty and oppression that bred terrorism will give way to freedom and opportunity for everyone.

Perhaps one day, Osama's name will be remembered for something positive: starting a war that improved the lives of millions of people in the Middle East.

Bob Kingsbery, an international business consultant, writes from Mill Creek.