Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda had lost relevance, and the chance of reprisal attacks following the terrorist leader’s death are slim, says veteran journalist Robert Fisk.
Fisk, who interviewed bin Laden three times before the September 11 terror attacks, says he was little more than “a name and an icon”.
“He was never a hands-on person, he never planned operations,” Fisk told TV ONE’s Close Up programme.
“Secondly, he was a middle-aged man. He’d become rather vain, clearly. In his videotapes he began to wear embroidered clothes I noticed. He used to dress much more humbly.”
Fisk said the wave of protests sweeping the Arab world showed al Qaeda had lost the battle for hearts and minds.
“We’re now in the middle of this huge Arab revolution, when millions of Arab Muslims are getting rid of their dictators because they want a secular, free, democratic society, which is the opposite of what bin Laden wanted,” he said.
“In a sense, al Qaeda has failed in its objective and it’s totally out of touch with the Arab Muslim world, which is the world bin Laden comes from.”
Fisk said he did not believe bin Laden’s death would bring about reprisal attacks, despite France and Britain’s leaders warning the West must be vigilant for revenge attacks.
“Before we start worrying about revenge attacks, we ought to see the irrelevance of al Qaeda now politically and the irrelevance of bin Laden himself,” said Fisk.
“Had we grabbed this guy in Tora Bora in 2001 and put him on trial, that would have been a resounding triumph. But we didn’t.”
However, former senior CIA analyst Ray McGovern had a different view , telling Close Up bin Laden’s death would make attacks more prevalent.
“It’s likely to lengthen the recruiting lines in front of al Qaeda recruiting stations.”
McGovern questioned why the US killed bin Laden, saying that would prevent them from finding out more about al Qaeda.