Monday, February 21, 2011

The Strange and Remarkable Case of Osama bin Laden

I am not ordinarily much of a conspiracy buff. Many conspiracy theories strike me as not even remotely plausible. For example, that there was a conspiracy to plant a false birth notice in a Honolulu newspaper in 1961 so that a secret half Black Muslim named Barack Hussein Obama , even though not a citizen, would become President of the U.S. some 40 plus years later and change our country to that faith. I don’t care if he resided in Indonesia for a time as a child, or that his father was from Kenya, this is just too far-fetched for me. In other cases I wonder about something for a long time but eventually resign myself to never knowing. For example, I still wonder to this day who it was that arranged for a male prostitute to visit the White House regularly and for no apparent reason. This has always struck me as particularly bizarre. I have my own suspicions as to who might have been powerful enough to have arranged this and kept it quiet, but as there is no evidence whatsoever I rarely mention it anymore.

There is something about the case of Osama bin Laden that I find fascinating and I cannot help but wonder about it. How is it possible that an unusually tall Saudi man who has been on the wanted list for years has never been captured or killed? We know (or at least think we know) that Osama was born in March of 1957. If he is still alive he will turn 54 next month. He is reported to have taken his first wife when he was 17, and as of 2002 he is said to have 4 wives and about 25 children. He attended University for a while but it is not clear that he graduated. In 1979 he went to Afghanistan to fight against the Russians. In 1984 he established an organization called Maktab al-Khadamat with a man called Abdullah Azzam. This organization provided funds for various terrorist groups around the Middle East. In 1988 he split from Azzam because he wanted to be more active militarily, and in that year apparently al-Qaeda was born. By 1990 he had returned to Saudi Arabia as a hero. But when Kuwait was attacked by Iraq he wanted to lead an attack to defend that country. He was rebuffed in favor of allowing American troops into Saudi territory, a move that infuriated him. He became critical of the Saudi Government and kept it up until he was banished and exiled to Sudan. He kept criticizing the Saudi Government until in 1995 they were said to have cut off his allowance (of some seven million dollars a year). In 1996 he returned to Afghanistan where he met Mullah Mohammed Omar. During the 1990’s Osama apparently kept on funding terrorists, he apparently still had money or at least access to it. Finally, after other terrorist actions, and some involvement in Bosnia, he conceived the 9/11 attack on New York. At first he denied this but by 2004 admitted to it. When the U.S. attacked Afghanistan to find him, Osama managed to escape capture at Tora Bora and has not been seen since except on an occasional and sometimes questionable videotape.

President Clinton first put out an order to capture or kill Osama in 1998. This means that for 13 years Osama bin Laden has been free and apparently in hiding. This also means that in spite of the entire might of the U.S. military, our 80 billion dollar a year intelligence apparatus, our spy planes and satellites, our sophisticated communications, and a 50 billion dollar reward, he has eluded us. I find this more than remarkable, I find it incredible. While it is true that our intelligence agencies (all 17 of them, I believe) were not intelligent enough to foresee the collapse of the Soviet Union, know about WMD’s in Iraq, or recently the uprising in Egypt, one might think that in 13 years they would have at least found Osama’s whereabouts, if not have captured or killed him. They haven’t, and not only that, they don’t even know if he is still alive. We’ve been told for years that he must be living in caves somewhere in Pakistan. He was not found in any of the caves they once overran and investigated. Our Secretary of Defense, Gates, said in 2009 we have had no reliable information about Osama for years. How, I wonder, is this possible?

There are some obvious questions one can ponder in this case. Why, for example, did Osama escape at Tora Bora? It was because the U.S. refused to commit ground troops at the time that would have been able to capture him. So why were no ground troops offered? Similarly, why were all Saudis in the U.S. at 9/11 allowed to get on flights out of the country without even being questioned? Who was President at that time? George W. Bush. It seems that during the Russian/Afghan war Osama bin Laden was regarded as a CIA “asset.” Who was President during this time? George H.W. Bush, who had previously been director of the CIA. Who stood to gain anything by the continued existence of bin Laden? George W. Bush did, he needed an excuse for attacking Afghanistan and keeping up the fight against international terrorists. Is it possible that Osama bin Laden continued to be a CIA asset and thus no serious attempt was made to actually capture or kill him? Consider also that in 1995 the CIA was prepared to apprehend him in the Sudan but was denied authorization. The Taliban offered to turn him over in 2001 but President George W. Bush refused the offer. I have no idea why these attempts were thwarted, but he’s never been captured or even found. He has, somehow, lived a remarkably charmed life. Who has been (literally) “thick as thieves” with the Saudis for years? Who walks hand in hand with them? The Bush family. Who has gained enormously from this relationship? The Bush Cartel. It is even suggested by some that George W. Bush stood to gain from 9/11. I have a bit of trouble with that, although Bush certainly used it as an excuse to attack Iraq, a twisting of logic, lying, and reality I have yet to understand how he got anyone to believe.

There have been many claims over the past few years that Osama is dead. Some say he was a kidney patient on dialysis and could not have survived in the caves without proper care. Others say he died of untreated lung disease, a stroke, kidney failure, massive organ failure, typhoid fever and murder. On the other hand, there are claims of people having seen him in recent years, and claims that he appeared to be in reasonably good health. As late as 2009 there are reports of seeing him and in 2010 he was said by someone to be in northern Iran. The fact is, we obviously do not know to this day whether he is dead or not, or even where he may be. Given the apparent hopelessness of our quest, I would not be surprised if Osama, having been reinstated as a hero by his royal relatives, was not a bit more plump, living comfortably at home in Saudi Arabia, having achieved his desired victories: defeating the Russians, destroying the twin towers, getting the U.S. Military out of Saudi territory, and laughing as he sees billions of people taking off their shoes at airports, and gleefully watching the U.S. spending itself into oblivion as did the Russians (and exactly as he planned). I suspect at least some of his 4 wives and 25 children are with him, his grandchildren playing happily at his feet, and all living a comfortable and private life in a luxurious villa. Not bad for a young man of 54. Of course if you prefer, you can believe that an intelligent, sophisticated, university trained millionaire with 4 wives and 25 children has been huddling with them in caves in the remotest area he could find for the past ten years. I’m damned if I know, but I do know it is a strange, remarkable and mysterious story.

With apologies to Leigh Hunt

Osama bin Laden (may his tribe decrease!)
Awoke one night from a nightmare of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight of his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
an agent, writing in a secret code.
Destroying peace had made bin Laden bold,
And to the agent in the room he said:
“What writest thou?” The agent raised his head,
And with a look both sly and treacherous,
Answered, “The names of those who hate the West.”
“And is mine one?” Said bin Laden. “Aye, of course,”
Replied the agent. Bin Laden spoke again,
But eerily stiff, and said, “I pray thee then,
Write me too as one who randomly kills his fellow men.”
The agent wrote and vanished. The next night
he came again, and with a gushing shame,
Showed the names of those addressed,
And lo, Osama’s name led all the rest.

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