Saturday, April 07, 2007

We Are Haunted by the Spectre of a Dead Osama

Under George Bush, we have had to suffer great insult as well as great injury.

The injury occurred on September 11th 2001 when the world's greatest geopolitical power on record lost 3,030 innocent lives to the most brazen and cold-blooded mass murder in American history. So, what could possibly amount to an insult substantial enough to rival that? It's obvious:

The insult is the distinct possibility that Osama bin Laden might die - or has already died - a natural death, like 95% of the rest of the world population. In other words, after poking America in the eye on 11-September 2001, he neither dies of wounds suffered as a result of our just (but abreviated) retaliation against Afghanistan, nor as a prisoner-of-war captive in our custody. Instead of being squashed as a hapless poster boy of terrorism, he gets to die a celebrity's death, in bed, as the world's world's most successful and unpunished jihadist?

World political leaders have been wary of being identified with any premature obituaries of bin Laden. Speculation over his possible death has circulated ever since American forces lost contact with him in November of 2001; and ever since Bush outsourced the pursuit of this butcher to free-lance Afghan warlords and muhadjeen so he could consummate his daddy's uncompleted termination of Saddam. Remember how Bush pulled our crack US Special Forces ground forces from Afghanistan just before the Battle of Tora Bora? Not only that, as Richard Clarke has written, Bush also did not commit the additional thousands of troops necessary to complete and stabilize the liberation of Afghanistan:
I can’t prove this, but I believe they didn’t want to put in a lot of regular infantry because they wanted to hold it in reserve. And the issue is the infantry. A rational military planner who was told to stabilize Afghanistan after the Taliban was gone, and who was not told that we might soon be doing Iraq, would probably have put in three times the number of infantry, plus all the logistics support ‘tail.’ He would have put in more civil-affairs units, too. Based on everything I heard at the time, I believe I can make a good guess that the plan for Afghanistan was affected by a predisposition to go into Iraq. The result of that is that they didn’t have enough people left over to go in and stabilize the country, nor enough people to make sure these guys didn’t get out.
Since then, America has been haunted by the uncertainty as to Osama's life, death or location. George Bush, of course, is clueless and oblivious of the shadowy angst that afflicts Americans.

Bin Laden last appeared on video in 2004. There have been poor-quality audio tapes purporting to be of his voice surfacing since then. But last year on the fifth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, not much issued forth from bin Laden or his putative 'spokesmen'.

More recently, the French newspaper L'Est Republicain's in an exclusive report on 23 Sept 06 reported leaks from within the Direction Generale des Services Exterieurs (DGSE) pertaining to the death of Osama bin Laden. This may have been the result of a calculated leak from within the French equivalent of Britain's MI6 which has the responsibility for intelligence gathering abroad.

The newspaper says the information about bin Laden, received by the DGSE on September 19 and graded confidentiel defence, was passed to President Jacques Chirac and PM Dominique de Villepin on September 21.

The contents of L'Est Republicain's report suggests that the newspaper had direct access to this DGSE material: quoting from what appears to be an internal memorandum, it states that a "usually most reliable source" had learned the pertinent information from Saudi Arabian secret services.

Other sources revealed a report suggesting that bin Laden had traveled to Pakistan about a month earlier to seek immediate medical treatment for a severe bout of typhoid which had partially paralyzed his lower body.

The authorities subsequently received information that he had died on September 4: Saudi security agencies were urgently seeking more information, focusing on where bin Laden may have been buried.

Cui bono?

At this point, we have to ask
  • Who would benefit from a factual proof of Osama bin Laden's natural demise?
  • Who benefits from suppressing the fact of Osama bin Laden's passing?
Al Qaeda would certainly not benefit from a factual announcement of the Emir's death. He is worth more to their jihadists as an immortal legend than as a martyr. Should a cadaver be produced and DNA-certified as bin Laden's, al Qaeda loses its putative status as a centralized base operations. Of course that doesn't prevent its brand from being franchised by hundreds of local jihadists all over the world. Were it not for the hornet's nest that Bush has stirred up with his illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, these zealous anarchists would amount to little more than frenzied and faddist nihilists similar to last century's Red Brigades.

And George Bush certainly would not gain from a certification of Osama's death. (Unless it could be established that he died of wounds inflicted by American or NATO forces.) Without a lurking Osama to kick around, Bush has no tangible enemy, nor any tangible casus belli, in Iraq or even Afghanistan. His nebulously conceived global war on terror will have lost what little focus it had.

I submit it is this possibility that bin Laden has permanently evaded retributive American justice is what eats away at our confused mission in Afghanistan. (Despite what our Dear Leader promised, it turned out that Osama could both run and hide.) You can say that's another story, but you have to wonder if it doesn't also eat away at our American psyche? Why else are Americans so uncomfortable and amnestic about Bush's 'mission' in Afghanistan? Our dead, wounded and scarred from 9-11 remain, unavenged.

What is the mission in Afghanistan?
  • Pursuing and capturing of Osama bin Laden?
  • Defeating of al Qaeda?
  • Defeating of the Taliban?
  • Suppressing of Heroin Crops
  • Feeding NATO's appetite for (finally!) a combat raison d'etre?
  • Promulgating democracy?
  • Providing cover for our un-provoked, unnecessary, illegal, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UUILUIUOI)?
Take your pick. But I say, if the mission is not getting Osama bin Laden, "dead or alive", it's not my mission.