The significance of Robert Gates’ comment yesterday about al-Qaeda has not been noted by the mainstream media. Gates said that “I think it has been years” since the US government has had any solid information about Usama bin Laden, adding that US intelligence believes that the fugitive terrorist might well be moving about in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. To be so unenlightened in spite of billions of dollars being spent in the pursuit of the shifty Saudi is enough of a tragedy, but the comment is even more significant in that it completely undercuts the Barack Obama Administration’s case for increasing the number of American troops in Afghanistan.
Many both inside and outside the government now believe that Usama bin Laden is dead and has been so for quite some time, possibly since 2001. This view is based on the lack of any credible intelligence demonstrating that he is alive and also on the relative insignificance of al-Qaeda in the conflict in central Asia. In short, al-Qaeda is not what it used to be and might even be leaderless. President Obama certainly is aware that there is an alternative narrative about the international terrorism problem, one that diminishes the threat. Nevertheless, one week ago he addressed the American people, stating that it is necessary to have 100,000 soldiers in Afghanistan to defeat terrorism. Is there anything lower than sending American soldiers to their deaths for a lie? If Obama is really sending troops to central Asia to prop up client states in Afghanistan and Pakistan for fear that they will crumble and be replaced by something much worse, perhaps he should have had the integrity to say so in full knowledge that the American people would show him the door. Unfortunately, the word terrorism has become the trump card played when you don’t know what to say or the new improved bottle of snake oil that you produce from behind the counter when the old stuff you were selling has lost its zip.