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Elvis has left the building… and so has Bin Laden

On this anniversary of the attacks in America by Al Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri has produced a video taunting the USA that an article in the Daily Telegraph rightly describes as sounding desperate:

Things may not be rosy for America, particularly in Iraq. But coming from the leader of an organisation that has lost its operational base in Afghanistan, and whose members are hunted and arrested by the intelligence agencies of scores of countries around the world, Zawahiri’s analysis had a ring of desperation about it.

Reaction from ‘on high’ to the tape is also interesting:

Intelligence agencies will be scrutinising the video for evidence of hidden messages and clues to Zawahiri’s whereabouts. But it raises other questions, not least the fate of Osama bin Laden, who has been heard, but not seen for many months.

“He is not popping up on television and he is not showing himself in a way that he can be captured,” Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, said last night, “I believe he is still alive, but I can’t prove that. He clearly is in hiding and he is on the run.”

It seems to me that the notion Bin Laden is still alive becomes more preposterous by the month. If Zawahiri, who is debatably the ‘chairman of the board’ of Al Qaeda, can make a video for propaganda purposes, then so can the biggest fish of all, Osama Bin Laden. For Bin Laden to produce such a video would yield a veritable propaganda blockbuster which would rally the faithful and infuriate his enemies at a time when it is hard to see how anyone could reasonably claim that things are going well for the bad guys.

So unless we see Bin Laden’s ugly face on our screens wagging his finger at us infidels sometime before the Presidential elections in the USA, I will stick to my firmly held assertion that he is rotting in a collapsed tunnel somewhere in Afghanistan and continue with my Elvis analogues when people claim the contrary. And like Elvis, no doubt we will get sighting of him for the next 30 years as both sides have a vested interest in claiming he is alive (one to make him a Robin Hood figure, the other to disarm arguments against whatever ‘needs to be done’).

Yup, I will believe them when Elvis himself walks into a studio in Nashville and does a ‘muezzin remix’ of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’. Bin Laden is dead and may he not rest in peace.

23 comments to Elvis has left the building… and so has Bin Laden

  • Verity

    It’s so obvious OBL is dead that one wonders what strategy the US Government is executing in pretending to believe he is still alive. There must be a point, but I cannot think what it could be.

  • mike

    Bin Laden dead and buried? I may be a raving atheist but I’ll say Amen to that.

  • Things need to be seen to be doing well (“We stomped those Taliban mofos and kicked Saddam’s butt! I guess we can trust our leaders to nail the bad guys”)…

    …but not TOO well (“Well I guess we have to put up with having our civil liberties abridged beacuse after all, Bin Laden is still out there!”).

    I suspect it could be something like that 🙂

    I cannot see any other reasons that make much sence.

  • Hank Scorpio

    I agree wholeheartedly. There’d be no reason for Bin Laden to stop producing his little screeds to the faithful via Al Jazeera if he hadn’t already joined the choir invisible.

    Whether he’s dead from our bombs, or dead from a lack of kidney dialysis is immaterial, but I think that to assert in the media that he’s still alive is either manifestly for political benefit or a stunning example of naivete.

  • Gazaridis

    If they pronounce Bin Laden dead, and he pops up again with another video, the political consequences would be enormous. Until they find him or his remains he will be assumed to be alive, because to say that he’s dead when he isn’t would just hand an even bigger propaganda victory to Al Qaeda, as well as throw any election away.

  • EddieP

    OBL is dead and his travelling companion Mullah Omar is dead also. There have been no videos of either one in nearly three years. Our government must have a reason to “keep him alive” but I fail to grasp it.

  • Verity

    Hank Scorpio – Even Colin Powell and State cannot be that slow. As Perry say, it is for some political advantage, but I cannot imagine what it could be. (I don’t believe it’s got anything to do with civil liberties as most Americans know OBL’s a smear on a wall somewhere.) There must be some advantage in having the Islamofruitcakes thinking the West believes OBL’s still walking among us and is ready to spring a surprise at a moment’s notice.

    But he so clearly isn’t. And even if he were, the only weapon he ever had on his side, while extant, was surprise and, with the West on the alert, he wouldn’t even have that.

    But clearly, pretending to believe he’s still alive is strategy. Incidentally, has anyone at the top other than Powell ever expressed the believe in OBL’s continuing existence. Cheyney? Rice? Rumsfeld? The president? Or is this a little freelance project of State?

  • Euan Gray

    But clearly, pretending to believe he’s still alive is strategy

    Suely it’s only prudent?

    If he’s alive and we say he’s dead, then he turns up somewhere, we look like chumps. Possibly burnt & broken chumps somewhere, too.

    If he’s dead and we err on the side of caution & presume he’s still alive, then there is less chance of the anti-terrorist mood fading so quickly & the effort to hunt down & eliminate the terrorists will be a lot easier to maintain.

    It’s only common sense, FGS. There is no need to see rebid statist conspiracy in everything that happens…


  • I agree with Euan. Pronouncing him dead without the evidence of a body is most unwise. It hands a HUGE propoganda victory to the enemy in the event that he does, indeed, pop up somewhere.

  • Verity

    Euan has an unanswerable point.

  • ian

    I’ve always assumed he was in a Saudi funded clinic somewhere.

  • …but for the fact there have been numerous but vague “we have reason to believe he is still alive” utterances from nebulous ‘official sources’. Of course that could just be tosh from the same media paladins who brought us sundry other recent ‘great moments in journalism’.

    Assuming it was not all the product of some fevered reporters desire to write something interesting, a least some folks who get paid by taxpayers seem to want to fudge the issue which suggests that there is more to it that ‘prudence’. I doubt Rumsfeld and Bush sat down and made a decision to play the ‘boogie man’ card (though you never know) but I would be surprised if some inside the spin machine did not see an upside to fostering the “Bin Laden is alive” idea.

  • Dalmaster

    They could have killed him 18 months ago, fully knowing it and with all the proof they’d ever need. If they told anyone, he’d be a martyr. Later, if one of those ambiguous tapes showed up – he’d be Jesus resurrected.

  • I agree, it’s likely he’s dead. I think the key is that he hasn’t been seen on video in 3 years. There have been audiotapes of him (supposedly), but it’s much easier to fake audio than it is to fake video. Plus, some of the audiotapes that have been released have been given conflicting evaluations by different intelligence agencies, i.e., the CIA says it’s his voice, the Swiss govt says it’s not.

    Also, OBL was rumored to have poor kidney function before 9/11 even to the point of needing dialysis periodically. If that’s the case, it’s very unlikely he had access to the care he needed to keep him alive.

  • So who do you believe, the Swiss government or the CIA? Ooooooo, that is a tough one

  • Euan Gray

    some folks who get paid by taxpayers seem to want to fudge the issue

    In the absence of firm evidence one way or the other, so would I if I had their job. Prudence, that’s all.

    which suggests that there is more to it that ‘prudence’

    Only if you’re already convinced that it is impossible for any state to ever do anything except maximise its own power at the expense of the downtrodden proto-capitalist people. Amazingly enough, governments do sometimes get some things approximately right. In the case of national defence, I’d rather rely only a half-way competent government of reasonably professional military and diplomatic staff than a bunch of anarcho-capitalists desperate to flog the weapons off to the highest bidder (who’d probably be an Arab oil sheik or independence minded Russian oligarch, but who cares, he’s got cash, eh?).

    Cynical? Moi?


  • I’ll agree with J that this is part of human nature. But, simply understanding will not make them want to kill us less. And, wishing we would all forget about 9/11 is only going to increase the odds that it continue to happen, and our ability to turn the tide gets tougher and tougher.

    For various reasons, nihilism in the form of Islamic extremism has taken hold throughout the world. Poverty, war, bad politics, Faustian bargains, polygamy, television, airplanes, and any number of other reasons can be blamed for it and may have had important roles. But, simple understanding does not change the situation we are in today. We know that human are capable of horrible things. But, we also know that in the right circumstances humans are capable of good things. It so happens that rule of law and property rights seem to enable societies where people can, for the most part, co-exist.

    So then, what other way to win this war than by creating such societies? We know that we can’t simply fight a traditional war against the terrorists. There is no Al Qaedia to conveniently attack.

    And so we are doing what we can based upon our understandings. We fight the terrorists where we can. We also pressure other countries to root out terrorists in their midst, as well as to reject the rhetoric and philosophies that the terrorist espouse. And we are trying to create free societies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Ultimately, we must succeed – not only for the future of these countries, but for the larger example they provide.

  • Apologies. My previous post was supposed to go under the “Never Forget” article.

    For some reason my initial attempt had an error, and I wasn’t careful enough when I retyped it in frustration. . .

    Very sorry. Both posts were excellent, as is this site. . .

  • gazaridis

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s looking increasingly likely that he’s dead (although this is pretty much irrelevant), and that many in power think this is the most probable scenario, but short of a body such an assumption simply cannot be made. It is making an importmant statement of fact with the mildest of sircumstantial evidence. Osama bin Laden MUST be found, dead or alive. Until then, he must be forever presumed alive because underestimating him would be disasterous.

  • Dan S

    Another reason not to announce he’s dead:

    How long would it take significant numbers of a certain group to start with the “OBL is dead! That’s it, we’ve won! Bring our boys and girls home?”

    Killing OBL is a positive step forward; it is not victory.

    Announcing it, once we know, is a two-edged sword that I’m sure will be considered carefully if it happens in a way that isn’t instant news.

  • All this talk of a dead/not dead Osama makes me want to resurrect my limmericks http://badhairblog.blogspot.com/2004.05.al-jazeera-confirms-shortage-of.html, but I’ll show some restraint and take pity on the visitors to this blog.

  • OBL probably is dead, but I can think of one other possibility that fits the facts. That is that he was severely wounded in Afghanistan but escaped alive, hence he can still do audio tapes but is never shown on video in case the sight of him as a physical wreck demoralizes his followers. A limbless, paralyzed or horribly disfigured bin Laden would hardly be the image of strength that al-Qaeda would want to project.

  • Pete(Detroit)

    That, or the Paki’s have him on ice, and we’ll see him trotted out in the next month or so…