Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Osama bin Laden, still dead after all these years ...

And in other news, Francisco Franco is still dead.
(Chevy Chase, Saturday Night Live)

Where is Osama bin Laden? In Pakistan, say some. In Iran, say others. In Afghanistan, John Kerry says with eerie confidence. Kerry might be right, some would say - because the mortal scraps of the world's number one terrorist have been decaying in a cave at Tora Bora for the past two years. Either that, or bin Laden died of wounds or kidney failure in some remote hideaway.

Charles Johnson at LGF has consistently taken the line that bin Laden is dead. Acidman likewise doubts that Osama bin Laden still has corporeal significance. And today Gregory Djerejian at The Belgravia Dispatch reviews the various pseudo-manifestations of bin Laden (video tapes, purported voice recordings) that have occasionally surfaced over the past two years, and concludes: "Folks, bottom line: we have to go all the way back to December 26th 2001 to see a video of UBL [bin Laden] that really seems to get close to passing a smell test evidencing that's he actually, you know, alive in it (and he didn't look too smashing in this one either)."

Instapundit wonders why the media hasn't bothered to sift through the evidence more thoroughly.

Update: Dan Darling, writing at Winds of Change, makes the case that Osama is still on his hind legs, or should be assumed so: "While it's certainly true that there is more to the current conflict than just bin Laden, I don't think his cult of personality should be under-estimated."

Darling points out that the CIA and European intelligence agencies are giving a lot of credence to the purported OBL audio message from last April, which offered a truce to European countries if they withdrew troops from Muslim territory. He also notes that the rumors of OBL's death may have been exaggerated by unreliable Pakistani sources; furthermore, the reports that OBL suffers from kidney disease may be an al-Qaeda ruse.

So if OBL is alive, where is he? Darling quotes Michael Ledeen on the possibility of OBL's refuge in Iran, where a vast subterranean facility (built with the help of China and North Korea) exists north of Tehran. OBL could stay safe indefinitely in such a place, so long as the Islamists rule Iran.

There are some counter-arguments than can be made here, and Darling does not ignore them. Why so many fake or highly dubious communications? Why, above all, does Osama bin Laden not defiantly parade himself before the world at every opportunity? Darling argues that OBL is typically not a publicity hound: "for him to go underground for long periods of time without communicating with the general public is by no means out of character, even during those periods of time when he is universally agreed upon to have been alive."

It seems to me that arguing over the authenticity of video and audio tapes is mostly fruitless, and so is arguing over the credibility of intelligence assessments on this subject, made by agencies that have been wrong time and time again.

The relevant question is: Why does al-Qaeda not take advantage of the tremendous propaganda value that Osama bin Laden represents, by making him a regular Rush Limbaugh?

  • They are not sophisticated enough to recognize this, being too busy pestering Allah with their blood-thirsty demands.
  • Osama bin Laden is a coward who fears that regular communications would jeopardize his own safety.
  • Osama bin Laden is too closely hounded.
  • Osama bin Laden is receiving refuge from a government that strictly limits his ability to communicate, fearing that it will be traced to them.
  • Osama bin Laden is pining for the fjords. That is to say: Defunct, deceased, shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the bleeding Choir Invisible.