By Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent
In the movie (I never saw the play) con men movie producers search for the worst, most offensive play they can imagine, so that it will flop and they won't have to pay their investors.
The producers find it in a glowing tribute to Adolf Hitler, the misunderstood artist, a man of culture, panache and style. “Hitler was a great dancer,” the playwright tells the producers.
They buy his play on the spot.
Hitler, according to his many biographers, also loved music. He was a fan of oil paintings, too. But who cares if the 20th century’s most vile human could waltz like Fred Astaire?
Al-Qaida’s statement today was equally misguided. It could have been written by the same man who loved Hitler, the dancer.
The statement began by saying of bin Laden, “You Lived a Compassionate Life and You Died a Martyr.”
It's not the first quality that comes to mind.
The statement continues like a love poem, extolling the kinder, gentler side of the world’s deadliest terrorist. It describes bin Laden, on the run for a decade, not as a fugitive, but as a traveler spreading his message like a monk, wandering the earth in search of justice.
“Congratulations to the Ummah of Islam (the Islamic community) with the martyrdom of her pious son Usama; as after a life full of work and efforts, determination and patience, encouragement and jihad, generosity and open-handedness, migration and traveling, advices and good management, wisdom and practicality.”
Al-Qaida also tried to explain away the fact that American troops were able to gun down its leader face to face.
“The Americans were able to kill Usama, that is not shameful or disgraceful, and wouldn’t the men and heroes be killed except in the battlefields. Every fate has an ending, but can the Americans with their media, agents, machinery, soldiers, intelligence and forces kill what Shaykh Usama lived for and killed for the cause of?”
Osama bin Laden is dead. Al-Qaida wants the world to remember him as a compassionate philosopher – a Socrates killed by the state for refusing the status quo – not as what he was, a mass murderer of innocent civilians.