On the Road

Goodbye Osama, Hello International Travel

Osama bin Laden is dead. One of the world’s most wanted men, the nemesis of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the architect of the September 11 attacks in New York, Osama was finally found not training suicide bombers in the mountains of Afghanistan, but chillaxing with one of his wives in a mansion in Pakistan.

While many would no doubt assume that a world without Osama is a safer world, the US Department of State was quick to put out a general warning, alerting “citizens traveling and residing abroad to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence following recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan”. Even from beyond the watery grave, Osama continues to stir up trouble and to muddle the best laid travel plans.

This should come as no surprise to any experienced post-9/11 traveller. Osama may have declared war on heretics and infidels, but a lot of the time he seemed more like the sworn enemy of anyone planning a trip. Draconian airport security, tougher immigration procedures, and heavy-handed limits on carry-on liquids were just some of the plagues inflicted on the unsuspecting traveller by Osama and his cronies. And now once again, thanks to Osama it’s apparently not safe to travel anywhere.

Of course you could argue that all this was more the work of Bush, Blair & Co. than of Osama himself. Either way, the fact remains that in the past decade there’s been a whole lot more surveillance and a whole lot less freedom available to anyone engaged in such potentially subversive activities as taking a flight.

Osama himself was quite the traveller back in the day; an international man of mystery gadding about the world, squandering the family fortune. He was known to have lived in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Admittedly a lot of the impetus to travel came from the fact that the guy kept getting himself kicked out of whichever country he was in. Whether it was the Saudi royal family or Mubarak or Gaddafi, Osama was very good at pissing off his powerful neighbours.

The official line is that this is an uncertain and thus bad time to travel, but if we all paid full attention to travel advisories then none of us would ever leave the house. You may not be possessed by an overwhelming desire to spit on Osama’s (missing) corpse, or to dance in the street, or to scrawl bloodthirsty victory messages on Facebook, but one very good way to commemorate being out from under the shadow (real or imagined) of Osama would seem to be to get out there as far abroad as possible. It’s only a matter of time before Osama is replaced by the next pretext, and then we’ll be back in the code-orange-code-red-remove-your-shoes-are-you-carrying-any-deadly-shampoos bullshit all over again.

So go visit Riyadh, just like Osama couldn’t after his Saudi citizenship was revoked. Or go visit South Sudan when it becomes the world’s newest country in July; you can pretty sure a lot people there will be glad to have a little less Osama in the world, given his connections to Khartoum. Go visit New York, but bring a wreath as Obama did instead of your Miley Cyrus mixtape. Visit Washington DC and stand outside the White House and wonder to what extent Reagan helped establish Osama’s career.

Or go visit a country that has nothing to do with Osama. Escape the endless cycles of conspiracy theories and go drink with the Garifuna or order a happy pizza in Cambodia. After all, Osama’s death doesn’t change a thing; the world is just as safe and unsafe as before. Just be careful whose wife or husband you hit on at the full moon party; there’s an empty place on the FBI’s most wanted list, and they’re always watching.

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Phil Johnson

Phil Johnson is an editor at Road Junky and more of his work can be read atHe keeps a his blog. You can also enjoy his bountiful wit via Twitter.