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After Osama bin Laden: In Arab world, America's troubled post-9/11 legacy lingers

The shrug that greeted news of Osama bin Laden’s death here in the Arab world was not surprising given that most never thought bin Laden belonged to them. His death offers an opportunity for reconciliation and accountability – for Americans and Arabs – for all the events that followed 9/11.

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The shrug that greeted news of Osama bin Laden’s death here in the Arab world was not surprising given that most across the region never thought Mr. bin Laden belonged to them. To the contrary, bin Laden was seen as an American creation and to some, in recent years, an American phantom, who surfaced to justify American policies and military presence in the region. The details of his recent life, in a comfortable suburban home in a country supposedly allied with the US, were further proof to the more conspiracy-minded here that he was essentially in US witness protection and was merely terminated when he no longer served a purpose.

But for most, not just the conspiratorial, there was nothing authentically Arab or Muslim about bin Laden. So similarly, it came as quite a shock when after 9/11, bin Laden came to define Arabs and Muslims in the American imagination. Many had expected the opposite, that victimization at the hands of Al Qaeda, which Arabs and Muslims had already experienced themselves, would instead provide an opportunity for Americans to see Arabs and Muslims as hardly monolithic and peoples with whom they had something in common.

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