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I Found OBL Years Ago

For nearly ten years, no one could find him. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent, more blood spilled than one could ever imagine, all in search of one person.

Yet Osama Bin Laden was everywhere — on t-shirts, packaging, painted on trucks, you name it. Around the world, Osama’s image had become as recognizable as Mickey Mouse.

In 2006, I became intrigued by the notion of so many people searching yet not finding Osama Bin Laden, producing a photo essay titled “Where is OBL?, focusing in Indonesia where I was living at the time, viewing this phenomena from the perspective of how well-marketed, clearly visible and how common it is for Osama to pop up out of nowhere. Even in areas like Indonesia, where the vast majority of the population is just like you and me: non-confrontational and just living our lives.

Here are a series of images where I’ve seen Osama:

OBL, spotted on the back of a truck driving through central Java.

Bin Laden on a t-shirt worn by a supporter of cleric Abu Bakar Bahire during his court trial on his alleged connection to the radical group Jemaah Islamiyah, which has connections to Al-Qaeda.

Osama as window tinting on the back of a mini van in Yogyakarta.

Osama Bin Laden in a candy store, central Java.

OBL on a t-shirt wandering the streets of Jakarta selling snacks.

Osama Bin Laden spotted on the streets of Ambon, next to Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri and Vice President Hamzah Haz.

Osama riding through the congested traffic of Jakarta on a becak.

He even turned up on a 2002 calendar located in mosque where drug addicts were kept to wean themselves off heroin.

I saw Osama Bin Laden everywhere.

As events unfolded late in the evening of May 1, I began looking in the archive for other places I’d seen Osama…for example, here on a roadside shop of a sign maker in Tanzania:

Osama, hanging out with a rapper and a mother with child at a sign makers shop just outside Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 2006

And throughout Pakistan, Bin Laden was indeed always there, like here at a October 2001 rally in Peshawar:

Field recording of pro-Osama Bin Laden supporters in Peshawar, Pakistan, on October 15, 2001. Fascinating how one fellow says he not only loves OBL, he also loves fly fishing.

[wpaudio url=” Rally-Pakistan.mp3″ text=”OBL Rally, Pashawar, Pakistan” dl=”0″]
(iPhone and iPad)

Even more wacky, Osama — along with flying missiles, jet fighters and tanks — on a package of mint flavored pan masala or beetle nut I found in a roadside shop at the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan near Quetta back in 2003:

Never knew Osama was "fine" and mint flavored.

Yet it took until this past Sunday to realize he was in a fairly nice home in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Some may think we’ve reached a closure in this decade-long period of our collective humanity. In some ways, we have. In other ways, maybe not completely. Only reflections upon history along with the elapse of time will tell.

Will close with words from Martin Luther King Jr., reminded to me from countless repostings on Facebook over the last 48 hours.

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence and toughness multiples toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.” ~ Martin Luther King







1 They seek him here they seek him there… | Geography is the deciding factor { 05.05.11 at 02:03 }

[…] check out John Stanmeyer’s blog , he found him a few more times than me. Share and […]

2 pd { 05.05.11 at 21:02 }

Fuck obl, live by the gun die by the gun..hard man my arse…

3 Abhishek Bali { 05.09.11 at 01:42 }

I never thought that he would be on tshirts,pan masala and hoardings.surprisingly shocking!

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