Monday, March 16, 2009


I have thought for years that it is likely that Osama bin Laden is (to steal a phrase or two from Monty Python)..."off the twig! He's kicked the bucket, he's shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible!" He is, to put it bluntly, an ex-terrorist.

Now some plausible discussion of this very real possibility:

Negative evidence alone compels the conclusion that Osama is long since dead. Since October 2001, when Al Jazeera's Tayseer Alouni interviewed him, no reputable person reports having seen him—not even after multiple-blind journeys through intermediaries. The audio and video tapes alleged to be Osama's never convinced impartial observers. The guy just does not look like Osama. Some videos show him with a Semitic aquiline nose, while others show him with a shorter, broader one. Next to that, differences between colors and styles of beard are small stuff.

Nor does the tapes' Osama sound like Osama. In 2007 Switzerland's Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which does computer voice recognition for bank security, compared the voices on 15 undisputed recordings of Osama with the voices on 15 subsequent ones attributed to Osama, to which they added two by native Arab speakers who had trained to imitate him and were reading his writings. All of the purported Osama recordings (with one falling into a gray area) differed clearly from one another as well as from the genuine ones. By contrast, the CIA found all the recordings authentic. It is hard to imagine what methodology might support this conclusion.

Also in 2007, Professor Bruce Lawrence, who heads Duke University's religious studies program, argued in a book on Osama's messages that their increasingly secular language is inconsistent with Osama's Wahhabism. Lawrence noted as well that the Osama figure in the December 2001 video, which many have taken as his assumption of responsibility for 9/11, wears golden rings—decidedly un-Wahhabi. He also writes with the wrong hand. Lawrence concluded that the messages are fakes, and not very good ones. The CIA has judged them all good.

There are some very interesting reasons why the CIA and US government might have a compelling intelligence interest in maintaining the fiction that Bin Laden is alive and in control of a world-wide terror network. I am not sure that all of Codevilla's ideas have merit on this subject, but he provides some very interesting reading and some new ideas that are worth thinking about and weighing carefully--because his ideas have some very big implications for how we go forward in conducting this war.

For example, if the real source of terrorism in the world is not these supposedly "stateless" groups like Al Qaeda or Hamas or Hezbollah, but are in reality, actual states, Codevilla suggests that:

...insisting on Osama's supposed mastery of al Qaeda, and on equating terrorism with al Qaeda, is official U.S. policy because it forecloses questions about the role of states, and makes it possible to indict as warmongers whoever raises such questions.

Focusing on Osama bin Elvis is dangerous to America's security precisely because it continues to substitute in our collective mind the soft myth that terrorism is the work of romantic rogues for the hard reality that it can happen only because certain states want it to happen or let it happen.
Provocative stuff indeed. Verging on the crackpot, but interestingly compelling.

Meanwhile, over at The Jawa Report, Rusty explains to us why we know that Osama Bin Laden the Islamic Pimpernel is alive and surfing the internet:

Osama Bin Laden is not in a cave. Or, if he is, it's one very sophisticated cave.

How do we know? Because he told us so yesterday in bin Laden's latest video message.

Read on to discover the rationale behind this intriguing remark. Personally, I think it is more evidence that bin Laden is bin dead and his "messages" come from another source, determined to keep the morale of the jihadi troops up at all costs.

Meanwhile, Osama bin Dead is well on his way to becoming in the eyes of the typical Middle Easterner a legendary, latter day Robin Hood or some sort of perverse Scarlet Pimpernel who beheads the "aristocrats" of the west as opposed to rescuing them.

Elvis? Robin Hood? Scarlet Pimpernel?

All this theorizing about the ex-terrorist reminds me of what Hercule Poirot would say about the hunt for bin Laden; that it's fun to shake up those "leettle gray cells" and see what new ideas might spring forth.

They seek him here, they seek him there,
Those Infidels seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? or is he in hell?
That damned, elusive OBL...

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