The Null Device

OBL action figures

The most popular toy in Pakistan these days: the Osama Bin Laden action figure, which comes with military jeep and bodyguards.

"As you know, Osama is very popular in the whole world," said Imran, a young boy eyeing up the goods on offer at a Karachi toy store. "The same thing is happening in Pakistan.

Bin Laden, it seems, has become a sort of Islamic Che Guevara in that part of the world. I wonder how long until overpriced OBL-themed fashion accessories (sewn by child labour in the third world) show up in the ritzy boutiques of the West.

There are 12 comments on "OBL action figures":

Posted by: mark Sun Dec 8 08:53:20 2002

I wonder if OBL merchandise will be used to pervert his ideals the way they did with Che. If so, this time I'll actually cheer when it happens.

Posted by: mitch http:// Mon Dec 9 07:30:12 2002

I want to know where I can get the Iraqi weapons declaration CD-ROM.

Posted by: acb Mon Dec 9 07:52:58 2002

Apparently they're still bowdlerising it in case untrusted parties privy to it use it to advance their own weapons programmes.

Posted by: mitch http:// Wed Dec 11 07:13:22 2002

I hadn't thought of it like that! We used to have The Anarchist's Cookbook, then we had The Encyclopedia of Jihad, and now we have How to Make Your Own Doomsday State In 10,000 Easy Steps.

Posted by: acb Wed Dec 11 08:33:15 2002

I'm not sure I'd characterise Iraq as a doomsday state. Unsubtly thuggish dictatorship, yes. But they don't have the sort of Kool-Aid apocalypticism that, say, North Korea does. (Or, indeed, the cultish messianism of Gaddafi's Libya.)

Posted by: mitch http:// Mon Dec 16 03:59:47 2002

By 'doomsday state' I mean one which can in principle kill everyone on Earth. The USA and the USSR were the first in that category, of course.

Posted by: acb Mon Dec 16 05:19:53 2002

I think that technology has been somewhat democratised since then. We're not that far from seeing disgruntled postal workers with WMD capabilities.

Would Iraq have been aiming for doomsday state capabilities, or just the means to annihilate Israel and unite the other Arab states under its dominion?

Posted by: mitch http:// Mon Dec 16 07:21:28 2002

Table of contents for the CD-ROM!

I don't think anyone has aimed to be able to kill *everyone*, but once you industrialize these things (whether that's warhead production or bioweapon growth media), the sky's the limit.

Posted by: acb Mon Dec 16 07:38:28 2002

Delivery mechanisms not withstanding. Lobbing Scuds at Tel Aviv or Tehran is one thing; reaching Washington or London is another matter.

Posted by: mitch http:// Tue Dec 17 06:36:36 2002

Yes, I wasn't thinking of delivery methods, just number of lethal doses. Although you can fire a Scud into in any coastal city in the world if you can get a freighter within range. (I wouldn't be surprised if those recently intercepted Scuds were actually meant for an Al Qaeda cell in Yemen, but that after the interception everyone agreed to pretend that the Yemeni government had ordered them.)

Posted by: acb Tue Dec 17 07:48:01 2002

Is there any evidence of Al Qaeda being interested in ballistic missiles? After all, they're rather hard to operate clandestinely, and host governments would be rightly nervous about allowing extremist whackos to have them, given the relative lack of plausible deniability and massive retaliation that they would bring.

Posted by: mitch http:// Tue Dec 17 23:05:19 2002

The Taliban may have had a few Scuds, but I've never heard of an Al Qaeda missile procurement program. Still, there's a first time for everything, this idea has been talked up by Rumsfeld as a risk, and AQ do study western military thinking (see essay on "fourth-generation warfare" by "Abu Ubeid Al Qurashi").