The treatment of Osama bin Laden’s corpse recalls the treatment of the corpse of another of America’s enemies, this one from another era: Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson draws the comparison between one “charismatic political outlaw,” the Saudi-born terrorist mastermind bin Laden, and another, the Argentine-American revolutionary and violent Communist ideologue, Che.
Guevara, who hoped to inspire guerilla wars around the globe, was killed by Bolivian forces aided by the CIA in 1967.
His body was put on display, fingerprinted, mutilated — his hands were amputated, placed in jars with formaldehyde and given to Bolivia’s intelligence chief — and dumped in a large pit.
As with bin Laden, the military did not want a place that followers could turn into a shrine.
Anderson’s biography of Che uncovered his secret grave; Che was exhumed and reburied in Cuba, a coup — no pun intended — for Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader and Guevara’s main amigo. Today, the Che Guevara mauseleum in Santa Clara is a tourist destination.
For bin Laden, who’s sleeping with the fishes of the Arabian Sea, a grave site monument’ss unlikely, but Anderson asks what the Pakistani military will do with the compound in Abbottabad.
They may find it awkward if their exclusive Abbottabad enclave—populated, as it is said to be, by senior Pakistani military officers and their families—becomes a pilgrimage site for bin Laden’s extremist followers. Presumably, Pakistan will destroy the house he lived in, but what will they do about the ground it stood on? Like the Bolivians, they can always resort to military secrecy and build a wall, but this one will have to be physical as well as figurative. This, too, will be awkward, because the walled vacant lot will be a permanent reminder that Osama bin Laden lived out his days in their midst. But maybe not. Who’s talking?