Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 21, 2008

Hunting for Bin Laden - Again

The Pentagon and the CIA are again focusing on catching Osama Bin Laden. I wonder why I have not read anything about that new effort in the mainstream news.

In a recent interview for the Real News Network Pepe Escobar and Pakistan/Afghanistan expert Barnett R. Rubin talk about the issue (5 minutes into the interview). Rubin blogs on Afghanistan at Informed Comment: Global Affairs.

When Escobar pushes the issue the well connected Rubin acknowledges that there is an intelligence and special operations 'surge' in an attempt to capture Bin Laden before the election. The intelligence agencies, as Rubin heard from them, are not very happy to be part of electoral campaign, but will the issue give a new try.

Earlier Rubin says he has heard that Bin Laden is suspected to be in the northern area on Pakistan's tribal regions and probably moving back and forth between the districts Nuristan on the Afghan side and Bajaur on the Pakistan side and maybe even further north.

South-West Asia and Central Asia, administrative map (pdf)

You will remember that recently 9 U.S. soldiers were killed in Wanat village in Kunar province slightly south of Nuristan when parts of their outpost were overrun. It was never explained why the outpost was positioned there at all. In Nuristan the U.S. also recently bombed and killed 47 people who were on their way to a wedding. Something undisclosed is going on there?

Catching Bin Laden, for real or pretended, would be a perfect October surprise.

But even if Bin Laden is where he is suspected to be, the physical terrain and 'human terrain' of that area is so complicate that I doubt that any 'surged' operation there will succeed. Consider the fascinating tribal relations, history (recommended) and languages in that area of Nuristan and Kunar (via Registan).

There are five feuding main tribes with various feuding sub tribes speaking a total 15 different language variants. There is also no infrastructure to talk of and a very mountainous area to cope with.

I regard the chances for the U.S. to capture Bin Laden there as quite low. Contrasting that the chances of 'collateral damage' of such a 'surge', i.e. accidental or intentional killing of civilians, is quite high.

Posted by b on July 21, 2008 at 18:30 UTC | Permalink


Don't forget doggerel

Posted by: biklett | Jul 21 2008 18:37 utc | 1

Catch the dead guy? That doesn't really sound all that hard. Oh I get it, they just want to pretend to catch the dead guy. They can waste and steal billions of dollars and get their sick fantasies off of torturing the indigenous population that way, and the American people are past caring about it.

Posted by: JimT | Jul 21 2008 19:00 utc | 2

I sometimes think he is dead, and sometimes I think he is living large at some undisclosed location. The fake tapes of him that just happen to come at the right time saying the right things to help the present American Administration lead me to side with "dead man leading revolution", but I just don't know.

Will we ever know what really happened?

Posted by: Buckaroo | Jul 21 2008 23:46 utc | 3

Didn't Bush say bin Laden was 'irrelevent' a few years ago? My mother used to say: Don't throw stuff away. Everything comes back into fashion eventually -- even bin Laden, I guess.

Posted by: Ensley | Jul 21 2008 23:53 utc | 4

Any talk -- or attempt -- to capture Original Gangster is just cover for moving on Pakistan.

Posted by: Antifa | Jul 21 2008 23:59 utc | 5

maybe they've known where he is for awhile and they didn't catch him because he is/was a more valuable asset uncaught. i wouldn't be completely shocked if they brought him in jessica lynch style, or saddam style or some dramatic happening. i think people might be a little suspicious if they brought him in on the eve of the election. unless john mcCain personally went over there and shot him w/a ten gauge.

or they could claim they found him, do a wag the dog, pitch a big battle and claim they got him. show a dead man. oh i have no idea.. just ramblin'.

Posted by: annie | Jul 22 2008 1:10 utc | 6

I agree, Antifa. That, and a way to get McCain elected in November.

One of the most interesting facets of the entire bin Laden saga has been that he is not officially wanted in connection with 9/11 but rather with the earlier bombing of US embassies in Africa. When asked why he wasn't wanted for 9/11, the FBI said they don't have enough evidence to accuse him. Here's the current FBI's 'Most Wanted' poster -- with absolutely no mention of the 9/11 attacks.
FBI bin Laden poster

Of course, Bush the Brilliant sees it differently.

Posted by: Ensley | Jul 22 2008 1:14 utc | 7

The downside of a dead or captured bin laden is that he can't be responsible for future terrorist attacks.

Posted by: YY | Jul 22 2008 1:18 utc | 8

invoking amerika's boogyman is not a good sign as summer ripens and november looms large on the horizon. for those of us skeptical of 9-11's official narrative, we can spin off into the deep end quick with a teaser like this, but i do share ensley, annie, and antifa's suspicion that said boogyman is being used as a cover because he's more likely a complicit alphabet agency asset than the "terrorist mastermind" behind the demolition of three new york skyscrapers.

Posted by: Lizard | Jul 22 2008 1:55 utc | 9

I think you hit the nail on the head, YY. Goldstein will be around for years to come purely for propaganda value. I'm waiting for the Ministry Of Truth to give us his latest threat/boast/warning, but I may not see anything but a mocking of it on the sites I visit. And anyone wanting to know what really happened can always visit Wake The Flock Up

Posted by: JimT | Jul 22 2008 1:57 utc | 10

Well, let's see....

If, as someone reports (but I don't remember who), Osama bin Laden is languishing on a kidney dialysis machine, then he shouldn't be very mobile. Just find out where he is, and you have a chance to win the big prize ($1 million, unless mistaken).... Because he can't just--you know--scamper around like a mountain-goat from peak to peak, or from cave to cave, or from province to province....

If he can move at all, and if he moves between Nuristan and Bajaur, then it stands to reason that he might spend time on that dialysis machine at a caravanserey in Kunar.

And so: money being no problem in this case, you've already bribed every chieftain in Kunar to phone in a tip whenever a long caravan of Caravans (or Humvees, or whatever) suspends its forward motion at the caravansery.

Furnished with this hot tip, you promptly dispatch your big, bad jets to blow up every valley, hill, stream, road, man, woman, child and horse in the vicinity of the fix. True, the odds are no greater than 100,000 to 1 that you've scored the hit of your dreams. But even if you miss, you can always try, try again.

Now about that American outpost in Wanat: it was actually a branch-office of Citibank, holding the funds (or gold-bars) for the bribing of various chieftains.

So where are those thieves going to spend their ill-gotten gains?....Well, as luck would have it, Halliburton has opened a branch-office of its own nearby, itching to sell some AK-47's and such to the any gun-hungry client with cash on his hands (preferably euros, though dollars are also welcome).

Most of the big spenders come by their money honestly (trading on the opium futures market), but others find an easier, softer way....

Posted by: alabama | Jul 22 2008 2:42 utc | 11

they could have nabbed him near tora bora, but didn't (on purpose?) hmmm...

Posted by: Lizard | Jul 22 2008 2:52 utc | 12

Bigger news: Radovan Karadzic, the most wanted Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitive, was captured on Monday night, Serbia's National Security Council announced.

Hillary must be positively giddy, bidding out cogent Clinton videoplets to the MSM, after nearly a month off camera, how she got "tough on war criminals" and all that.

Obama, for his part, has stepped in the bear trap by calling for ramp up in force strength in Afghanistan. Whether it's right, or it's wrong, America is a nation of quitters as Saddam taunted, and now the only reason to keep troops overseas (and grow overall troop strength by 650,000!) is because the US economy is so bad, even the bureaucratic tax welfare dole system can't absorb all the returning veterans.
Imagine being trapped overseas for a decade, until the US economy recovers.

Couldn't they just be put to work building wells, latrines and levees in Kabul? After all, the "other national security interests" $180B is there, the Pentagon just has to point, and shoot. Might as well get something for our tax dollars besides "clear and hold", have them go rebuild community bazaars throughout AF,
instead of just paving military roads, bigger Bagram, and HVAC for the barracks.

Obama has much bigger fish to fry back home, planning his strategy now, before the shyte hits the fan and 20 staffers are screaming at him 20 hours a day, "now what?"
He needs to pull a Dick Cheney and go deep-cover, with occasional satellite video feeds from somewhere in the world, where he's meeting with political and economic leaders now, before the election, making the deals, gauging the trades, setting the benchmarks and mileposts, the common talking points, the pegs.

Then in January, he'd be the first president in history to hit the ground running.
Just start at the top and read off the list of countries and partners, trades and terms, finances and markets, bada bing, the media's pencils on fire taking notes, and that will be all, no questions, thank you for coming, see you in 30 days.

Instead, we're much more likely to get pompousassity, management-by-collective and the greatest growth of socialist tax dole welfare bureaucracy since John McCain first wet his diaper.

Posted by: Larry Michaels | Jul 22 2008 4:46 utc | 13

Tyin' in with the other thread "If an Osama Bin Laden on the run didn't exist amerika would need to create him".

If it wasn't for all the innocents in this case Afghani and Pakistani Pashtuns who will suffer big from Obama's strategy, the notion of amerika investing all it's military resouces chasing a chimera which can never be caught, has some appeal.

If it were only the mythic OBL being chased then no one would be hurt as amerika rushed to assert its manliness/godliness about the planet. Obama as Ahab and OBL as the whale.

But tossing a bucket of cold reality on that image leaves one simultaneously frustrated and appalled. frustrated at the waste of resources in a region where just a little effort (say along the lines of the reconstruction mooted upthread) can achieve a heap of benefit for afghani communities. Building a simple two lane highway in amerika makes little noticeable difference, but build it out beyond the black stump in afghanistan so the country becomes an interdependant community and positive changes would shower down.

And appalled. Appalled that many billions are gonna be spent killing off a mob of proud and honest peeps going about their own business. Costing out the 'enemy' deaths for the dollar comes to several million for each afghani corpse. Just a tiny fraction of that amount given to each afghani and that country would turn into an obedient client/consumer state ready to lick up as much excrement as amerika can send it's way.

You realise we've got the old story here - the same one that used to play back in the day when the USSR was up and running.

That is a dem administration gets itself so concerned at being thought to be 'soft on 'comminisam' that the dems were always far more over the top trying to make the lives of peeps who populated the old socialist states as miserable as possible.

They would do far worse than any rethug prez who had his eye on the bottom line costs of everything from kids education to commies murder.

Hence Vietnam,and other awful invasions. Or the sterilisation of Latin America's indigenous population by JFK's young nazi shock troops. Now that the dems are worried about being thought to be 'soft on terra', Obama and co will devote more energies into making the lives of every muslim on this planet as miserable as possible.

What a weak prick.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jul 22 2008 11:47 utc | 14

If getting their paws on OBL was the objective after 9/11, makes me wonder why the US didn't take up the Taliban government's offer to pick up OBL, have an extradition hearing and, based on the evidence presented, turn him over to the US or, in the alternative if they preferred, try him in their own court system. How conveniently this was forgotten when the war drums started beating.

It makes no sense at all unless the objective was either not to catch OBL so he could be used as a rallying cry to initiate wars against innocent countries, or perhaps there wasn't any evidence to present to a court -- to wit, the FBI's position. Either way, the US would lose their scary pumpkin: OBL was far more useful hidden in a cave than acquitted in a courtroom.

Posted by: Ensley | Jul 22 2008 14:56 utc | 15

there is a bigger game afoot here other than OBL. he is just a side show to keep the chattering classes chattering. the real game is to entrench in afghanistan to keep the chinese and the russians from reachin the gulf (via pakistan and iran respectively).

Posted by: a | Jul 22 2008 18:49 utc | 16

Binny is deceased. He was on dialysis, very ill. He died in Dec. 2001.

this, first, top of google gathers some of the facts / non facts:>whtreallyhappned

His family has not been able to announce or confirm his death, because as hyped up poster-boy ‘terrarist’ - carefully groomed by the US to take the on role of villain and adversary - as well as somewhat of a family outcast - he remains more useful to the US ‘alive’.

A death from chronic illness hardly fits the script of masterminds. No Hollywood movie would have killed him off at that point. The plot would specify that he is in hiding, sends messages, and then spectacularly resurfaces. The US has been following this script with clumsy fakes - they are intended for the sheeples only and need not be convincing - everybody else knows it’s a joke.

All let the US get away with it, through fear, but also because they have their own interests in defining some wispy common enemy - Al Q, Muslims, for obvious reasons, 'sand niggers' sitting on oil reserves. The family has steadfastly said - we have heard nothing from him, implied, no comment, and leave us alone.

The remaining part of AlQ (if it exists) also prefers to keep the memory of the Hero alive, as even for fake stuff everyone goes OOh and AAh; that includes sheeples in ‘arab’ countries; and keeps their position visible, permits them to go on selling Binny, even as the perp of 9/11 (they know that is false I suppose.) In this way, all parties collude.

The Repubs are upfront about it: 2004: quote: U.S. Sen. John McCain, campaigning in southwestern Connecticut on Saturday, said Osama bin Laden’s video message to Americans will likely energize President Bush’s re-election campaign. “I think it’s very helpful to President Bush,” said McCain, R-Ariz.>link

Controversial figures like Kola Booth (Binny’s mistress for many months, US author of “Diary of a Lost Girl” and so on), and others who have known him are also better off with Binny hiding. Binny dead and gone, it might be time to move on, lose sympathy, status, etc.

Here is Kola’s, she lives in Calif., afaik, most succinct pol. statement (that I have been able to find):

I’m not so Pro-Israel—I’m Pro-Africa. Africa’s greatest enemy of all time is the Arab Muslim Empire—they enslaved us for one thousand years and have committed untold atrocities and genocides against the East African people. Though the white man is a kind of Satan, and though the Black man is Satan for selling his own children into bondage and assassinating the image of his own mother, because he himself wants to be white—I can assure you that Africa has known no greater Satan than the twins, Arab and Islam. I was born to an Arab father and I was born Islamic, and on behalf of the people of Sudan and as a Black African woman—that is what I have to say. By any means necessary, I am for Africa.>link

London wife interviewed by the Guardian:>link

Trendy terror hyped for some hope of revenue - Wafah Bin Laden, now failed pop star.>link

Regular cash-in-on-the-celeb connection, Binny dead is worthless. No hagiographies will be written, no keepers of the tomb will found foundations, his posthumous sayings will find no publisher who will make money. Presumed alive, the shadow of mystery and threat is worth something.

Musharraf on OBL death:>link

Posted by: Tangerine | Jul 22 2008 19:05 utc | 17

@Tangerine and others.

I also assume that Bin laden is dead. Than again, Rubin and especially Escobar have some credit with me. Why are they talking (Rubin reluctantly) about this now in a side media and not the major press outfits?

Did they fall for a ploy? I wonder ...

Posted by: b | Jul 22 2008 19:29 utc | 18

Yes, I too tend to think that bin Laden is most likely dead. It would have been difficult to survive so long in such difficult circumstances, unless he's melted back into a Pakistani urban population, and is living comfortably in Lahore.

What is more certain is that al-Qa'ida itself is certainly dead, and not worth pursuing. We've had nothing more for years than the occasional video of dubious origin. The videos, or some of them, could well have been of US origin, sourced by US official or quasi-official analysts from websites subsequently inaccessible by anybody else. Al-Qa'ida in Mesopotamia had nothing to do with the original. Al-Qa'ida is no longer more than an idea, a fictional idea, an ogre for the US, and an inspiration, it is true, for many Muslims.

Posted by: alex | Jul 22 2008 20:23 utc | 19

Dunno about Escobar, he is a great journalist, but he’s been over the top about Binny’s continuing existence. Maybe he is fascinated by all the strands, the story potential?

You had totally vanished from the face of the Earth for more than a year. You are the most wanted man in the world. You re-enter the global stage just with your voice, a mere whisper. The simplicity of it. What politician would not dream of such power?

He sobers down and turns to addressing the reader rather than Binny directly but can’t resist an off-the-cuff, laudatory, crack-pot, literary reference:

Bin Laden may have never read James Joyce, but he is applying to perfection the Dubliner's motto: silence, exile, cunning.> AsiaTimes, jan. 06

Posted by: Tangerine | Jul 22 2008 21:03 utc | 20

I was curious, searched on Bin Laden in the Asia Times, it shows that he is, like for so many, a vital icon, and that his status is presumed to be alive-alive-oh. (I guess the Joyce ref. got to me here.)

One article on the first page (there are almost 3 000 refs to Binny in this paper) treats his death as a meta-story, very telling that.>link

It must be editorial policy, why I have no idea. Maybe Pepe Escobar goes overboard because he disapproves?

Posted by: Tangerine | Jul 22 2008 21:34 utc | 21

Since I believe none of the possible motives for continued or escalation of Afghan military activities as reasonable or rational, it must be some kind of an institutional obsessive compulsive behavior.
Victory here is even more an elusive concept than that in Iraq.

Posted by: YY | Jul 23 2008 2:26 utc | 22

oh and drunk as well.

Posted by: YY | Jul 23 2008 2:28 utc | 23

The Pentagon and the CIA are again focusing on catching Osama Bin Laden. I wonder why I have not read anything about that new effort in the mainstream news.

- b

Why advertise it? There are many occasions when that's the last thing that you want to do. Put yourself in the shoes of the SOF guys. I will also add: We've never *stopped* hunting. Though under Rumsfeld it was made progressively, painfully difficult.

Zawahiri is actually the bigger fish and odds are better that it will be him, rather than bin Laden, if it is to be either of the two within the remainder of the year.

Rule of thumb: Wherever your attention's not trained - that's where the movement is.

Posted by: pat | Jul 23 2008 4:45 utc | 24

Would it change the election dynamic were it to occur before Nov.?


Important as it is to those who are doing it, the at-large status of either just isn't high on the list of voter concerns. Understandably. It's been almost seven years and al Qaeda determined at some point that keeping its head down is the better part of valor. So there's not a lot to be had politically in killing either. And for the Pakistanis, there is NOTHING to be gained from it, the joke being that when bin Laden or Zawahiri is successfully targeted in Pakistan, the Pakistanis will make sure they were successfully targeted someplace else. Right next door preferably.

Posted by: pat | Jul 23 2008 5:05 utc | 25


i just came back from a summer blockbuster tonight, and wouldn't you know what i got instead was a big, steaming pile of propaganda.

the funniest part was how, at the end of the film, "the hero" willingly becomes "the villain" because Gotham needs a controllable antagonist after witnessing how the uncontrollable anarchy THE JOKER represents is pursued with psychotic enthusiasm.

the case being made is that "the people" need a villain, or boogyman like Osama, to keep them from slipping into chaos. it's obviously a little more nuanced than that, but after the commercials, and the previews, and the longer than necessary feature presentation, i'm too spent to make this sound cohesive.

really at this point i'm willing to entertain the idea that Heath Ledger was killed to ensure this film became shrouded in the mystique of the phenomenal character Ledger created so an otherwise unremarkable film that champions a billionaire vigilante with CIA-grade spy gear protecting that symbolic amerikan urban landscape (Gotham, Chicago) would be a box office bonanza, thus lodged prominently at the forefront of our pop-cultured brainpans.

and finally (like that last fist-full of popcorn you automatically shove down your throat) for anyone who realizes there might be racial overtones to this current election cycle featuring a chicago politician "of color", there's a great scene where "the prisoner" ferry (mostly black) and the civilian ferry (guess) have a chance to blow each other up...but they fuck with your expectations, and the symbolic, gigantic black man (prisoner) throws their detonator out the window, while the frail-suited, balding white man (civilian) puts their detonator back in its little box at the last second, then sits down...thus proving to THE JOKER that his dark interpretation of human nature is flawed and--miracle of miracles--there just might be a chance that Gotham is worth saving...

that's why, at the end, to exasperate his noble suffering (because he "can take it") this noble billionaire vigilante hollywood calls bruceBATMANwayne becomes the boogyman society needs to keep it safe from the true enemy of top-down control:

bottom-up chaos.

Posted by: Lizard | Jul 24 2008 6:24 utc | 26

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