Is Osama Bin Laden a lame duck terrorist?
An esteemed reader recently argued that Osama bin Laden is a lame duck. He went on to explain that dead he would be a martyr, and captured alive he would be a political nightmare. This explains why the USA hasn’t taken the trouble to catch him. It’s an interesting argument, and it is an interesting situation. I mean, nearly eight years after 9/11, arguably one of the worst mass murders in history, the alleged and self-proclaimed perpetrator hasn’t been brought to justice? What the hell is going on here anyhow? This is clearly a mystery of the first order.
The first item of note is that this post is all conjecture. None of the evidence available to us peasants is of any empirical use, all we have are a few videotapes and audio recordings. And in this day and age, pictures prove nothing. So the best we can do is logically examine some of the possibilities and see where they lead us. For the sake of argument I am going to assume than Osama Bin Laden is a real person, and he was behind the 9/11 attacks and the ensuing videotapes. While granted anything is possible, I’ll leave speculation along other lines to some other day. Even with this caveat, there’s still a lot of territory to wander around in.
So OK, why hasn’t Bush killed or captured Bin Laden yet? I can think of three possibilities, and will examine each in turn:
The first is that the USA has simply been unable to catch or kill him. On first pass, this may seem unlikely, how can the USA with all the power it possesses be unable to track down one guy? Especially when his is one of the world’s most recognized faces, and he is at least 6′ 4″ tall? Bin Laden’s not going to be blending into any crowds. Still, Israel has been unable to kill Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah. Saddam Hussein survived numerous assassination attempts and “decapitation strikes.” The first and second in command of the Taliban are still at large. The fact is, if a fugitive has a good base of support, the world is a big place to hide in. As much as people might like to believe, it’s entirely possible that the USA has been unable to capture or kill Bin Laden.
The second theory is the aforementioned lame duck theory: Bin Laden is still alive, but the USA isn’t trying too hard to catch him because he’s more valuable alive. It’s superficially a very appealing for the reasons previously stated. The problem that I have with it, is that it leaves Bin Laden free to plot more mischief. If he pulled off another 9/11, or something worse, the results would be unpredictable. Especially if he tried to influence the US election, it’s by no means a given that another 9/11 would benefit the “war on terror” proponents like McCain, especially if Bin Laden managed to attack what should have been another well protected target like the Pentagon. So I’m going to say that I’m not too sure about this possibility, it would be a real calculated gamble on the Bush administration’s part, and they’ve never struck me as the calculating sort. At least not in regards to terrorism or foreign policy.
The last possibility is that Osama Bin Laden is dead, and the people who know this are keeping it a secret. There is some historical precedent for this. Stalin kept his knowledge of Hitler’s death a secret, and it remained a secret for decades. There’s any number of reasons why any of the parties involved might want to keep Osama’s death a secret. Al Qaeda for the simple fact that it would be disheartening for his followers if his death got out, and possibly more importantly, if he’s already dead the west will continue to waste resources hunting for him…and his apparent freedom will continue to inspire his followers. I mean, think about it, even if the USA is sure the tapes are fake and he must be dead, would they dare announce his death? Not without his body, the risk of him showing up alive would be political suicide.
And as has been previously stated, maybe the USA did kill Bin Laden and is keeping his death a secret to both confound his followers, and to inspire the military spending and scaremongering that is such a hallmark of the Bush administration. It’s possible, the USA has the technology to produce credible fake tapes. And it would explain why more and more of Bin Laden’s purported communications seem to be directed at the USA political scene. As I’ve said for years, if the Bush administration comes up with Bin Laden’s body at a critical moment, look for the freezer burn.
Is there any way we can choose which possibility is the most likely? Well, I’m going to go out on a limb and rule out the lame duck theory, simply because I think it’s the most unlikely. While capturing/killing Bin Laden would certainly entail some serious political risks, it would also be a tremendous political boon to the Bush administration and would eliminate the chances Bin Laden could pull off more attacks. I find it hard to imagine that Bush would deliberately choose not to put that feather in his cap if he had the chance. He’s got Saddam’s pistol on the wall of his office, Bush wouldn’t pass up the chance to hang Bin Laden’s AK-47 next to it. Especially now with the legacy thing looking so iffy.
That leaves the “Osama is dead” or “Osama is free” theories as our two contenders. And I argue that the election may give us a litmus test to choose between them. If Osama is dead, I suspect we will see another audio or videotape just before the election, trying to manipulate public opinion. This would be the last chance for the Bush administration to use the Osama myth they have created to their own ends, and with McCain down in the polls, what have they got to lose? On the other hand, if Osama pulls off some last minute attack on the USA or USA interests, one that involves carnage…I’m going to say that means Osama is still alive.
Is this a definitive argument? Of course not, as I originally stated, we simply don’t have enough information available to reach definitive conclusions. Let’s just wait and see what happens in the next week before the election. Even if Bin Laden doesn’t make a peep before the election, it might mean something. So I’ll revisit this issue after the election one way or the other. Let’s hope it’s the other, because I am frankly still worried about how my countrymen will react if there is another 9/11 type event. I’m not going out on a limb to say that sober reflection and critical analysis of the attack will not be the order of the day, far from it sadly.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, is central to illustrating the post, and it’s use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. If I knew who to credit it to, I would. For other views on Bin Laden and the election try here, here, and here.)