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Bin Laden Through the Looking Glass
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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.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Osama bin Laden 
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  1. Winston says:

    Philip, one of the more puzzling posts, it seems to me.

    – Bin Laden has been dead since 2001? From earlier this year: “Osama bin Laden urged Muslims to launch a jihad against Israel, seeking to harness anger over the Gaza offensive with a new message posted on the Internet on Wednesday. . . .It was bin Laden’s first tape since May and came nearly three weeks after Israel launched the offensive against Hamas . . .”
    – The “American people would show him the door” if Obama said our troops are being sent to prop up client states? Exactly how would they “show him the door”? Besides, the propping up is clearly part of the justification – one that is quite obvious to the public, whether Obama said so specifically in that speech.
    – Finally, our fecklessness with respect to Bin Laden has been obvious from the moment Bush went into Iraq instead of finishing the job in Afghanistan. It’s kind of late to complain about it.

  2. My favorite exchange in today’s House hearings with Gen. McChrystal and Amb. Eikenberry (and there were very few even worth noting), was when Rep. Rob Andrews asked McChrystal if he would say there was a “robust” presence of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. McChrystal said, “no.” Andrews said, then where are they? McChrystal said “in Pakistan.” (i am paraphrasing at this point). Andrews says, so we have 30,000 troops headed into Afghanistan, where the al Qaeda is not robust, what are we doing to “destroy” al Qaeda in Pakistan, where they are robust?

    “It’s all about governance,” said McChyrstal (presumably with a straight face, i was listening to CSPAN).

    Encouraging good governance in Islamabad.

    If I were al Qaeda, I’d want to be in Pakistan, too.

    But seriously, the U.S military and CIA are dropping plenty of bombs from the sky, and have reportedly — and secretly — unleashed Blackwater mercenaries on Pakistan. Plenty of work for McChrystal’s old Joint Special Forces Command buddies, too. Not exactly stuff he’d want to bring up at a hearing, I’m guessing.

  3. I agree with Mr. Giraldi’s assessment that it would appear Bin Laden has been dead for a number of years. He’s propped up as necessary, like a warped version of Weekend at Bernie’s…

  4. Dennis Dale says: • Website

    But seriously, the U.S military and CIA are dropping plenty of bombs from the sky, and have reportedly — and secretly — unleashed Blackwater mercenaries on Pakistan. Plenty of work for McChrystal’s old Joint Special Forces Command buddies, too. Not exactly stuff he’d want to bring up at a hearing, I’m guessing.

    Prompting the question for those of use who haven’t seen the hearings, did a Senator at least bring it up?

  5. This blog is insulting…to snake oil salesman! As slippery as they were, at least they didn’t order the senseless deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. One cannot claim the same for Barack, a man in charge of the world’s largest killing machine.

  6. “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.”

    All the more reason to spell out what exactly it is that spurs on jihadist ideology. Our foreign policy is a contributing factor but it certainly is not the main one as jihadists are ideologically opposed to all non-Islamic states. In short, it is that drive that constitutes Islamist terrorism. This threat can only be remedied if this is clearly laid out before other nations so they in turn can impress the Muslim state leaders–who also have much to fear from jihadists–can uproot the radicals in their midst. This is the case that paleocons must make to dilute the potency of this snake oil and dispel this bogey of terrorism.

  7. Winston – There have been a number of messages from bin Laden but I have been reliably informed that they could be clever composites made from the thousands of hours of recordings and videos he made from the 1990s onwards. There has been no source considered credible by US and other intelligence agencies who has actually seen him face to face since late 2001.

    By “showing Obama the door” I meant that his telling the truth about why we are in Afghanistan would not have been popular, hence the playing of the terrorism card, and the Democrats might well pay a heavy price in the next election.

  8. Dennis — I’ve been trying to sift through the press accounts and i cannot find question/statement in that House hearing that may have referred to the predator drone strikes and/or blackwater (xe) mercenaries in Pakistan. (if anyone has managed to find a transcript i would love to see it) I do recall at one point McChrystal being asked whether the army could conduct incursions “over the border” after al Qaeda. The general’s response, again, i am paraphrasing, was that Pakistan was not under his area of command and he would not comment specifically.

  9. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Personally, whether bin Laden is dead or not yet, he has honestly succeeded in making a joke out of the U.S.A. in our military response to the attacks on 9/11. We didn’t even make it to losing 3,000 in the 9/11 attacks. Not even 10,000 in our military campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The deaths in Afghanistan alone, notably civilians, could be easily orders of magnitude more than what we have lost from the extremists. The proportionality just doesn’t seem to be even there, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or lastly, Iraq. I agree with the remarks that Obama’s address was timed. Why wouldn’t it be? With 2010 elections coming soon, what better to pull the “terrorism” card out right now, and justify the threat and decisions of various members of Congress. I am not going to assume the threat of “al qaeda” is totally extinguished, but come on, we have not been turning up very many actual terrorists in our operations for quite some time now, much less the 9/11 attacks have since been left pretty “extraordinary” (casualties and magnitude have not been repeated in the U.S. and elsewhere, in a single attack). I personally don’t feel all that certain at this point about our “need” to fight in Afghanistan.

  10. Neuyawker says:

    Geez, I’m not sure how to handle this. The head of DoD is publicly asked a question regarding an intelligence matter of the first order. Being fully and constantly aware that every word of his that becomes public knowledge is scoured for meaning and interpretation, he gives an answer. And it’s taken for gospel? In that context? As for the rest of this conjecture based imagining, well, what can be said?

    It does have a James Jesus Angleton surrealist nature to it though, doesn’t it?

  11. “Adam Yahiye Gadahn was indicted in the Central District of California for treason and material support to Al Qaeda.”

    Silly FBI. We know that there is no such thing as a terrorist.

    “Adam Gadahn said in a video entitled “The Mujahideen Don’t Target Muslims” that the organisation was being framed by the United States and Pakistan and blamed the media for helping implicate Al-Qaeda in the attacks.”

    Hardly an original thought. I’ll bet he read that here at TAC first.

    Unless he was , like, using satire.

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