When Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, there were many consequences, of which one was that the USA was suddenly bereft of a villain. The US, more than other nations, needs figures to demonise. Perhaps, that is one reason it has not killed a demonic figure before, at least not in the 20th and 21st centuries. But then, it has been a long time since the US demonised an individual, and perhaps it is not certain to handle the situation. Its use of a demon-figure has taken it back to the days of the early Republic, when it was far from the arrogant sole superpower of today. The American need for an enemy dates back to USAs extermination of an entire complex of civilisations before it emerged on the world stage, its destruction of the Red Indian civilisations, now reduced to a few reservations. Its existential struggle was against the Red Indians, which is politically incorrect now, the term Native American being preferred. This struggle is the central fact of American history, for the struggle to suppress the Red Indians outweighs both its Independence as well as the Civil War, both cataclysmic and continent-shaping events as they were. It must be noted that the struggle against the Indians began with the landing at Plymouth Rock by the Pilgrim Fathers 150 years before the Declaration of Independence. After the Civil War, the struggle continued, until the beginning of the 20th century. Indeed, the 'injuns necessitated the Indian wars, which kept the US army alive after the Civil War, and may well have marked the beginning of the military-industrial complex. The 'Red Indian had to be 'tamed. That meant he had to adopt the culture and values of the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) Founding Fathers, values which still prevail today, and which have seen the USA claim its ties to Europe through President Barack Obama. He claimed personal ties to various European countries on his recent visit through his white mother. Obama cannot really claim any ties through his Kenyan father to the other great American struggle, one which caused the Civil War, that of slavery. By the time this was achieved, the USA entered World War I, in which it had a relatively brief stay. However, there was enough time for Kaiser Wilhelm to be demonised, and after Germanys defeat, he was duly deposed and sent into Dutch exile. It was at the Peace Treaties ending World War I that the US played a prominent role, with President Woodrow Wilson making a trip to Europe before them. It was now that the USA propounded the view that monarchies were against 'democracy. This went against well over a century of dealing with European monarchies, including the aid that France gave the Revolution of 1776. The Red Indian had been finally subdued, but now that the USA was moving to the world stage, there had to be an internationalisation of the enemy. Ideally, the enemy should be at home, a visible threat, as the Red Indian had been. Though the Red Indian had been sent off to the reservations, he was available for depiction in the media. The most famous depiction had been in James Fenimoore Coopers The Last of the Mohicans, which gave rise to the concept of the 'noble savage around the time it was gaining currency in Europe under the influence of the Romantic Movement. The 'noble savage may be more 'authentic than Modern Man, but he is liable to extinction. Even the Western critique of modernity included the message of its final victory. The demonisation of the Indian proceeded, however, in a vast number of Hollywood movies. Hollywood played a crucial role in making bogies out of American villains, ranging from Red Indians to the latest crop of movies about bin Laden which are to be made. Though the war years saw the rise of the Hollywood Western, it was in World War II that the USA found Hitler as its main antagonist. If World War I had been against Germany, World War II was against Hitler. As a result, victory in 1945 did not have to be against Germany, as much as Hitler. He was demonised, pilloried, during World War II, before the discovery of the Holocaust, which enabled the creation of Israel. His defeat left the US looking for another enemy. This was soon discovered in the Communist world, in Marshal Josif Stalin of the USSR. This involved some particularly deft footwork, for Stalin and his USSR had been allies in World War II. However, it was achieved. This was an epochal decision, for it also marked the full-fledged US commitment to the capitalist struggle against communism, even though that had started more or less with the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. It would end with the fall of communism and the flying apart of the USSR, but as the world went nuclear after Hiroshima, it became a very scary place. The struggle against communism was made more complex by China becoming Communist, with the result that when Stalin died, the face of villainy did not become his successor Grigori Malenkov, but Mao Zedong. Mao did not have to die to be released from this status, for though China was involved in the Vietnam War as it had been in the Korean War, North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh captured the American imagination in a way the Chinese leader did not, perhaps because Vietnam was sucking in US troops in a way that made conscription essential. After USAs defeat in Vietnam, and then the subsequent collapse of communism, it needed another enemy, which it found in Islam. The first figure to be the face of the Islamic world was Imam Khomeini, who was vilified by the USA and lampooned by its media. However, Islam was seen as being useful in the fight against communism, and the USA played a pivotal role in bringing the jihadi forces to defeating the USSR in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the jihad had true followers and not just Al-Qaeda, but also the Taliban. Osama was ripe for elevation, with the East African Embassy bombings enough, even if 9/11 had not happened. Osama was only eliminated nearly 11 years after the 9/11 bombings, in Operation Geronimo, a name which raised a chorus of protest from native Americans, but which brought a reminder of the USAs first imperial obsession, which it incorrectly named after a misconception. Geronimo was an Apache Chief, who led his tribe against the US. He surrendered after having been one of the last Apaches not to accept the American occupation of the Southwest. The question remains about who the USA will make the next villain it loves to hate. That it will be from the Islamic world is perhaps inevitable. The war on Islam is not yet over. The face is needed so that the political leadership, which is essentially an elected front for the military-industrial complex, can sell wars easily. It began with the Indians, who were some voters neighbours, and it has gone on to far distant figures, like fascists, communists, and now Muslims. Where it will end, no one knows, except that this pattern of behaviour will only end with the end of American power itself. With Osama, the USA also crossed a line. This was the first time America had killed one of its 'faces. Previous figures died in many ways, but none were killed by the US. Indeed, capture and an ignominious death was a fear Hitler had, but the USA did not violate the rule that heads of state were to be left alone. But Osama was not just not a head of state, he was also one of the 'lesser breeds beneath the law of that quintessential poet of imperialism, Rudyard Kipling. The Red Indians were also not accorded the safety from being killed, perhaps because they too were 'lesser breeds, and the massacre at Wounded Knee, marked the end of the Red Indian. However, Muslims are not yet over. The next 'face might be the next head of Al-Qaeda, but not necessarily. As there is apparently no committee with the task, and with a deadline to meet, the face that will emerge will be one that will best enable the US establishment to tell the ordinary Americans that funds must be found for the war on terror. Also, there was a considerable lag from Imam Khomeini to Osama. This lag may well be repeated. If so, there might be some time before a 'face emerges for the Americans. n Email: maniazi@nation.com.pk