by rahnuma ahmed
[Today’s special piece is dedicated to two professors of international relations, Dhaka university, whom I had the pleasure of watching on private TV channels, responding to news of Osama bin Laden’s death. One of them, while replying to its expected impact on Muslim extremists, spoke (only) of the latter’s `distorted mindset’ while the other, more forthcoming, spoke of how the world was still a better place because of US leadership. Political naivete, I guess, has a certain overarching appeal. I will write exclusively on this some other day].
Justice has been done, declared US president Barack Obama, in a televised address to the nation on May 1 night. Osama bin Laden, leader of al Qaeda, has been killed. Years of painstaking work by the US intelligence community had led to a possible lead last August, which indicated that the “mass murderer”—whose organisation had carried out the “9/11 attacks,” who had “openly declared war on the United States”—was hiding away in Abbottabad, deep inside Pakistan. A small team of Americans had conducted the targeted operation. Bin Laden had been killed in the ensuing firefight. No Americans were harmed. No civilian casualties either. Senior administration officials offered more details in a subsequent press briefing: 3 adult males (Laden’s adult son, 2 male couriers) were also killed. As was a woman, who was used as a human shield by a combatant.
But considerable evidence indicates that bin Laden had died much earlier, as documented by David Ray Griffin, in his book Osama bin Laden. Dead or Alive? (2009). Griffin, a theology professor, has, post 9/11, gained repute as “one of America’s most careful and judicious political analysts” (William Christison, former senior CIA official).
His book suggests that “some covert operators have been fabricating tapes to keep Osama bin Laden alive in the public’s imagination,” writes Terrell E. Arnold, former deputy director of the US State Department Office of Counterterrorism, while Christison says, powerful forces, both in the US and among some of its allies, “undoubtedly want a clash of civilizations.” They may have “acted secretly in the past.” They probably continue to do so now. Why? In order to justify the US war in Afghanistan. In order to create situations, “real or false, to bring about more warfare.”
In his address to the nation, Obama intoned, after September 9 “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda, an organization headed by Osama bin Laden.” Overlooking what Rex Tomb, chief of Investigative Publicity for the FBI had said when asked why 9/11 is not included in the allegations against bin Laden, whose name was among the FBI’s list of Ten Most Wanted Terrorists. “The FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11.” Sticking to the war-on-terror propaganda, Obama went on, “in Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support.” Overlooking yet another fact, that the Taliban government had been willing to hand over bin Laden, but on the condition that proof be provided of his involvement in the Twin Tower attacks. Surely, a rational response, no? He continued, “around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists… Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan.” Words that helped gloss over the fact that the CIA had disbanded its unit tasked with hunting bin Laden in late 2005. Because he was no longer a threat? Because he was dead?
Bin Laden probably died in December 2001, says Griffin. First, because the CIA’s regular interception of messages between Laden and his people stopped on December 13, 2001. Second, on December 26, 2001, a Pakistani daily published a report which said, “A prominent official in the Afghan Taleban movement…stated…that he had himself attended the funeral of bin Laden and saw his face prior to burial” (as Muslim rituals decree). Third, from a video made in late November or early December 2001, Dr Sanjay Gupta (CNN’s medical correspondent and brain surgeon) had surmised that Laden was probably in the last stages of kidney failure: a sort of frosting over of his features had occurred — grayness of beard, paleness of skin, very gaunt features (according to US intelligence, he needed dialysis every three days). According to international news reports: in July 2001, Laden had received treatment for kidney disease in the American Hospital in Dubai (October 31, 2001, Le Figaro). The night before 9/11, he’d been receiving dialysis in a Pakistani hospital. He had also ordered two dialysis machines. Dr Gupta thinks he’d possibly suffered a stroke too, for in the video, he did not move his arms. The left side, not even once (The West’s Immortal Terrorist, New Age, December 21, 2009).
To survive beyond several days, or a week at the most, in Nov-Dec 2001, he’d have to be glued to his dialysis machine. Very difficult in those trying Tora Bora times. While the idea that Laden not only survived near-renal failure, but lived almost another ten years while leading the life of a fugitive, I find absolutely preposterous! Fourth, says Griffin, in February 2002, his body guards were captured away from Laden, indicating that the man himself was dead.
People in a position to know, think so too.
In an interview with CNN, Pervez Musharraf, then president of Pakistan, said, “I think now, frankly, he is dead for the reason he is a … kidney patient,” adding, photographs of Laden on television, show him “extremely weak” (January 18, 2002). President Hamid Karzai: “I would come to believe that [bin Laden] is probably dead… The more we don’t hear of him, and the more time passes, there is that likelihood that he probably is either dead or seriously wounded somewhere” (CNN, October 7, 2002). In July 17, 2002, CBS News quoted Dale Watson, “the top official for counterterrorism and counterintelligence in the FBI,” as saying, “I personally think [bin Laden] is probably not with us anymore.” On July 11, 2002, the New York Time carried an article by Amir Taheri, editor of a Paris-based journal, who began his article with the lines, “Osama bin Laden is dead. The news first came from sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan almost six months ago: the fugitive died in December and was buried in the mountains of southeast Afghanistan.” Israeli intelligence sources were quoted in a World Tribune article as saying that bin Laden was dead, his heir had been chosen, and that “new messages by bin Laden are probably fabrications” (October 16, 2002).
Bin Laden has already been “dead for months,” said Council on Foreign Relations member Steve R. Pieczenik, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under Henry Kissinger, Cyrus Vance, and James Baker, to radio host Alex Jones, on his live show, in April 2002. “I worked with Osama bin Laden in ’78, ’81” when, as we know, the US was funding and arming the “mass murderer” to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, “I found out through my sources that he had had kidney disease. And as a physician, I knew that he…was dying.” Videos of bin Laden that kept popping up meant that “someone in the government, our government, was trying to keep up the morale on our side and say oh we still have to chase this guy when, in fact, he’s been dead for months.” The subsequent war in Afghanistan after 9/11 was orchestrated “With the agreement of the bin Laden family, knowing fully well that he would die,” said Pieczenik. “And I think that Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, spilled the beans by accident three months ago when he said that bin Laden was dead because his kidney dialysis machines were destroyed in East Afghanistan.”
A high level Republican source told Alex Jones separately that Bin Laden was dead and that his body was being kept “on ice” until his death could be announced at the most “politically expedient” time. Alex had said at the time, bin Laden “died of natural causes,” his family has “given the body to the CIA, [and] they’re gonna roll him out right before the election…. They will claim they killed him right before the election” (Paul Joseph Watson, Inside Sources: Bin Laden’s Corpse Has Been On Ice For Nearly a Decade, Prison Planet.com, May 2, 2011).
Many had speculated that the moment would be pre-2004 election. But after CNN reported that Democratic insiders had been told that George W. Bush was going to use the Bin Laden body as an ace-in-the-hole if he thought he was in danger of losing the 2004 election, the Republicans settled for a fake Osama video tape instead. The one that Griffin calls the “October Surprise” video—or, the `secular’ video, where Allah is rarely mentioned and the only reference to Mohammad, is not to the prophet Muhammad, but to Mohammad Atta. The video was the “deciding factor,” according to both Bush and his opponent, John Kerry. Walter Cronkite, veteran news reader, labelled the entire farce, a Karl Rove-orchestrated “set-up.” That the CIA has indeed fabricated bin Laden videos was admitted by agency officials in a Washington Post article last year (CIA unit’s wacky idea: Depict Saddam as gay, May 25).
Obama announced his re-election bid for 2012 elections on April 4. But for bin Laden to be Obama’s ace-in-the-hole, he had to be resurrected first, and then killed, all in one go. By all accounts it has worked, Obama’s approval ratings have climbed to 56 percent, a 9-point improvement over last month.
Mainstream media has done its bit. It has not raised any critical questions. The photo-shopped picture of Osama, one that had been doing the rounds on the internet for two years, was published by Britain’s Daily Mail, Times of London, Telegraph, Sun and Daily Mirror on their websites’ front pages. After being exposed as fake, it was quickly taken down, as it was from the Associated Press website too. The Guardian blamed the image on `conspiracy theorists’ (May 2, 2011), a label generally used by western media to trash any well-founded challenges to the US government’s account of 9/11, who would rather have us believe that the Twin Tower attacks were carried out by men armed with box-cutters, a story which even the deputy assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration and a highly-decorated Vietnam veteran, Colonel Ronald Day, finds incredulous: “Half a trillion dollars a year and a bunch of guys over in a cave in Afghanistan were able to penetrate that half a trillion dollar network that’s supposed to provide Americans with national security?”
Al-Jazeera chipped in as well, with its headlined account of `A witness account of bin Laden’s death,’ with the more precise description in smaller letters beneath, `An Abbottabad resident recounts witnessing US raid on Osama bin Laden’s mansion in the Pakistani city‘ (italics mine). The witness who was interviewed, Jahangir Khan, did not speak either of his `bewilderment’ or `confusion’ or `amusment’ at the news that bin Laden had supposedly been a neighbour, as al-Jazeera’s correspondent Imtiaz Tyab says other residents had (not interviewed), but instead of his utter disbelief. “To be honest [I find] it unbelievable, it’s not true.” Instead of pursuing this any further, Tyab merely says “Interesting” and ends the interview (May 2, 2011).
Will bin Laden’s resurrection, death, burial in the deep blue sea (who knows what lay inside the coffin? whether it was bin Laden’s frozen body or an American hamburger, your guess is as good as mine) lead to the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan? An end to drone killings in Pakistan? A return of all mercenaries, an end to covert intelligence operations? Will the Patriot Act, the Foreign Services Intelligence Act be repealed? Will rendition, torture cease? Will Guantanamo be finally closed down?
Or will it provide the pretext for nailing Pakistan for good for having supposedly `harbored’ Osama, and that too, so close to the Pakistan Military Academy? With the Indian Home Affairs minister quickly chiming in that Osama’s death “underlines our concern that terrorists belonging to different organizations find sanctuary in Pakistan,” it seems more likely that the crusade will continue. That many more slaughters lie ahead of us.Show