Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Osama at large: full text

This is still up on the Guardian site, where the faithbased legions have been frothing. Go check the comments...

Osama bin Laden is still alive, unharmed and making videos. If the White House wasn't so incompetent, you might think it was no coincidence.
Ian Williams

September 10, 2007 9:00 AM Guardian Unlimited

The US senate, in all solemnity, sat last week and voted to double the reward for the apprehension of Osama bin Laden to $50m. So $25m was not enough to motivate the military and security forces of the world's superpower to catch the slippery Saudi? Or is it possible that there is another reason why Osama, for all the rewards being offered, has still not been caught?

Reading Cif commenters can often lead one to the conclusion that not a sparrow falls unless it has been shot by Islamic militants, poisoned by the CIA, or had its sense of direction befuddled by the Trilateral Commission. In my experience most such "plots" are just an attempt by bystanders to rationalize unbelievable and culpable stupidity on the part of governments.

On September 11, 2001, I lived down by the World Trade Centre, watched it happen, and lived in the poisonous fug of the noxious funeral pile for the rest of the year.

The Murdoch tabloids at the time carried front page pics of the beturbanned Osama Bin Laden which all the downtown shops prominently displayed:"Wanted, Alive or Dead," they proclaimed. Understandable. And then they disappeared as the war drums began to beat against Iraq, too be replaced with the omnipresent triptych of Osama, Saddam and the burning WTC.

Of course neither the tabloids nor the cable news media went out of their way to point out that Osama bin Laden was a former protégé of the CIA and its Pakistani surrogates, which is why one of my earliest hopes for a silver lining, that Americans might realize that foreign policy was not something that exclusively happened to foreigners, soon evaporated.

But reading the transcript of the latest OBL tape - which apart from its invocation to Islamic conversion could indeed read like a Guardian editorial on geopolitics - does raise the question of what he is still doing at large, with access to video cameras, hair dye and barbers?

Is it significant that OBL did not discourse on issues such as gay marriage, evolution, abortion and faith-based organizations, where his black heart beats in close harmony with those of the conservative right?

Conspiracy theorists should be asking the question: "Objectively, who benefits from allowing this malevolent, self-confessed mass murderer to remain at large?"

Well, think about an administration that has used the terrorist bogeyman to justify outright war on two countries and threatens another. One that has declared economic and diplomatic war on others; that has used the terrorist threat to build up its arms budget to unprecedented heights; that has extended the prerogatives of the president beyond all constitutional measure - and invented a whole set of them for the vice-president.

Would all this have been possible if Osama bin Laden had been brought to justice and revealed to be just a ramblingly discursive, albeit murderous, faith-based fanatic?

It's a tough call, and on the face of it, it's more plausible than the average conspiracist plot to think that OBL is out on license to allow the Bush administration to frighten voters when they go to bed.

But on the realist side, the spectacular incompetence and mendacity of this White House is demonstrable. They did indeed get the wrong man and go after Saddam Hussein who had nothing to do with 9/11 - while letting the man in the turban escape.

On the dilemma front it's the equivalent of choosing between the proffered conversion to Islam or the callow conservative brand of fundamentalist evangelism espoused by the White House.

But I rather discount the chances of anyone collecting the senate's munificent reward until after the coming debacle in Iran, which we will, of course, have to bomb in case the Ayatollahs there are sheltering the man who regards Iranian Shi'as to be heretical abominations.

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