Whatever excuses might be made for Hone Harawira's on-air farewell to deceased al Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden, it has to be said that it was spectacularly ill-judged.

Seen in context - the original interview on TVNZ's Maori-language news programme Te Karere is easily located - it can, in part, be construed as consistent with Maori tikanga: Harawira farewelled bin Laden as he travels to "your ancestors who wait for you beyond the veil of death".

But asked whether the dead terrorist "fought for self-determination of his people and for his beliefs", Harawira spoke of bin Laden's people mourning "for the man who fought for the rights, the land and the freedom of his people".

That's piffle. Bin Laden was a pitiless mass murderer and should no more be excused for his sincerity than Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong or Pol Pot, who were all sincerely committed to their causes.

In any case, Harawira should have known what impact his statement would have and it is somewhat pathetic for him to cry foul about "racist media" reports.

That said, there are disturbing elements about the killing of bin Laden. You don't need to have been directly bereaved on 9/11 to think that the man got what he deserved. But the unseemly cheering and chanting in the US that greeted the news was uncomfortably reminiscent of the reaction in some parts of the Arab world to the original attacks.

In almost 10 years since 9/11, the US-led "war on terror" has cost more than 100,000 lives in Iraq alone (two-thirds of them Iraqi civilians), including 4400 US troops. The bill is US$1.2 trillion and counting.

If the assassination of bin Laden is a victory, it is a hollow, Pyrrhic one. If it is a triumph, it is symbolic only. And the world is not a safer place now that he has gone: there is no shortage of successors ready to do his filthy work.

With most of the Arab world embroiled in a struggle for democracy and freedom against despotic regimes, many of which have enjoyed US sponsorship, the geopolitical landscape has changed. Any exultation should be muted indeed.