Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden? Administration is said to be changing course in the hunt

I remember on the afternoon of my layoff (Dec. 13, 2001), I coworker said, “Bill, you should take your severance and take a few months off. Maybe you could work on collecting the $25 million for finding Osama bin Laden.” The FBI still has an official offer for information on its Ten Most Wanted site, here. Note the alternate spelling on the poster, "Usama bin Laden". The poster mentions the 1998 Embassy incidents in Africa specifically, but curiously does not specifically list 9/11. The poster seems to call for John Walsh and his program "America's Most Wanted."

Oh, sure. Like an “amateur” blogger is really going to attract the one tip that leads to his capture, despite all the listening and eavesdropping by the NSA and CIA for seven years. There are plenty of “eagle eyes.” Not to mention all the spying all over the world enabled by the Patriot Act and its upgrades.

Remember Morgan Spurlock’s recent film “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?" (film website here; I reviewed this in April 2008 on my movies blog). He thinks we shot ourselves in the foot. We try too hard.

Or, if you believe the New York Times Magazine story Sunday (covered here that day), a lot of the problem is pragmatic: Pakistan, especially its military, seems to have little incentive to bring him to justice.

Today (Sept. 10), Craig Whitlock in the Washington Post carries this report on, with a front page story, “In the Hunt for Bin Laden, a New Approach,” link here. American forces are also not allowed to operate in many of the tribal areas near Peshawar. Much of the effort will consist of use of the unmanned Predator drone spy plane, which carries the risk of civilian casualties. Drones have been effective before, as in a particular instance in Yemen.

It seems that intelligence officials don’t spend a lot of effort on the possibility that Bin Laden could have left the area completely and escaped across the Indian ocean through Karachi, where there are many familial contacts.

Bin Laden’s single minded "moral" or "religious" tenacity over decades seems to stun the West. Peter Bergen tried to explain this in his 2001 book. According to Bergen, the issue is not so much bombastic Western lifestyles as specific complaints about the occupation of sacred lands by "infidels." That theory doesn't track with Bin Laden's behavior on his videos. The media put a bin Laden tape on the air quickly after President Bush started operations in Afghanistan in October 2001, and Bin Laden seemed to be trying to hold American civilians personally responsible (a tactic that I remember from radical Leftism of the early 1970s). On Dec. 13, 2001 (the day of my layoff), Bin Laden gloated over the way the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center had been destroyed on Sept. 11.

Even so, one wonders if the administration knows something now, and if the capture or death of Bin Laden will be the “October Surprise” of this year’s election.

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