October 16, 2004


Remember him? (Ian Mather and Brian Brady, 10/17/04, Scotland on Sunday)

SOMEWHERE in the mountains which straddle the 1,500-mile Pakistan-Afghan border is Osama bin Laden. The al-Qaeda leader is reputedly guarded by a 120-mile ring of tribesmen whose role is to warn of the approach of any troops. Inside them is a tighter ring, around 12 miles in diameter, made up of tribal elders who would warn if the outer ring was breached. At the centre is Bin Laden himself, protected by a few close relatives and advisers.

That is one theory. The other is that, days before the US election, George Bush will make an announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him!" In words echoing the triumphant declaration by Paul Bremer, the US civilian administrator in Iraq, that Saddam Hussein was in American hands, Bush will reveal the capture of public enemy number one, Osama bin Laden. It would be the perfect coup de théâtre. Democratic candidate John Kerry would congratulate President Bush and the US forces through gritted teeth. The netting of Bin Laden would almost certainly hand the election to Bush.

It would be overstating it to say that Bin Laden has been forgotten. But in the past six months the man who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks on America has slipped from the headlines. The ongoing insurgency in Iraq, the fate of Saddam, the bloody atrocities of Kenneth Bigley’s killer, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: these things have become the focal point of the war on terror.

By contrast, the last communication from Bin Laden came six months ago. Even the third anniversary of 9/11 passed without any word. No-one really knows where he is. The theories flow: he is captured, ill, deposed or dead.

Certainly, the failure to announce Bin Laden’s capture has proved to be one of Bush’s big weaknesses in the election struggle.

The bitter irony for the President is that Osama is most likely dead in a cave in Tora Bora, but his corpse will never be found.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 16, 2004 8:34 PM

A couple of weeks ago Fox broadcast an interview with the Cent Com Commander of Spec Forces. He could neither confirm nor deny, but he did point out many of the factors that would lead a reasonable man to believe that OBL is eating white grapes without gin. And he smiled while he said it.

Under a million tons of rocks caved in by a stick of jdams from a B52 in Tora Bora in December 2001? Perhaps. Under an avalanche in the Hindu Kush while trying to leave Tora Bora? Could be. Kidney failure while on the lam in 2003? Maybe. Lead poisoning? Why Not? Life is Short.

Life is usually cheap, but his was worth $25 Mil, so the odds are that he did not pass among his enemies or his non-friends. Either he met his end where he became bird feed or among friends who were anxious to conceal his death so they buried him more than a fathom deep and did not mark the spot.

Bush's problem is that he cannot prove that OBL is dead. Any assertion to that end will be meet with: "Yeah and where are the WMD?" So why say anything.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 16, 2004 9:37 PM

Check this guy's blog

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 16, 2004 9:44 PM

OBL dead is a martyr and an inspiration. OBL MIA is a loser, an irrelevancy and a distraction. Why, if you were the C-in-C, would you transform the second into the first?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 16, 2004 11:11 PM

Of course he's dead; the blabbermouth would surely have talked by now. And I think we killed him, but didn't announce it.

Now he remains forever "alive," a sort of Mad Baggins, useful to frighten the children and justify incursions. And as for the War on Terror in general, his legendary existence "lends tone to what would otherwise be an unseemly brawl."

Posted by: John Weidner at October 16, 2004 11:16 PM

Mr. Ortega;

It worked with the 12th Imam.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at October 17, 2004 1:16 AM

My expectation is he's hanging around with the other bin Ladens and Saudi princelings in the casinos, whorehouses, and restaurants of Monte Carlo and Marbella. The US knows where he is but the leadership of both parties and the permanent 'intelligence' establishment prefers getting the cash to ending a major terror threat permanently.

Posted by: Bart at October 17, 2004 2:34 AM

There was an article a few days ago saying that German intelligence was sure that OBL was still alive. That pretty much puts the last nail in his coffin.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 17, 2004 9:11 AM

Good point about the 12th imam. But wouldn't this would be the first time some pretender established his claim by actually disappearing instead of proclaiming it loudly and in person?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 17, 2004 12:27 PM