Osama bin Laden has proved to be more elusive than the butterfly of love. More than 7 years after September 11th, 2001, and 12 years since the CIA placed him on the back of their milk cartons, Mr. bin Laden continues to roam the Afghan mountainside, or the hills of Pakistan, or…
And while it appears to be easier to track the whereabouts of nonagenarian ex-Nazis in Paraguay, the futile search for Osama bin Laden has not been for lack of trying.
§ According to London’s Daily Mail, in 2002 Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) recruited psychics to locate Mr. bin Laden. The MoD conducted an experiment to see if volunteers could ‘see’ objects hidden inside an envelope. They initially tried to recruit 12 professional psychics who advertised their abilities on the Internet, but when they all refused – perhaps they foresaw the results? – MoD were forced to use ‘novice’ volunteers.
The study involved blindfolding test subjects and asking them to see the contents of sealed brown envelopes containing pictures of objects and public figures. Twenty-eight per cent of those tested managed to guess the contents of the envelopes, which included pictures of a knife, Mother Teresa and an “Asian individual.” But most subjects, who were holed up in a secret location for the study, were hopelessly off the mark. One even fell asleep as he tried to focus on the envelope’s content.
After spending £18,000 of taxpayers’ money, MoD concluded there was “little value” in using psychic powers in the defense of the nation and the research was halted.
§ In 2005, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) disbanded its Alec Station, a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, according to a story in The New York Times.
Agency officials said that tracking Mr. bin Laden and his deputies remained a high priority, but the decision to disband Alec Station, named after the son of Michael Scheuer, the first head of the unit, reflected a re-focus of CIA resources on regional trends rather than on specific organizations or individuals.
Apparently, the closing of Alec Station had very much to do with the individuals assigned there. Agency insiders referred to the members of Alec Station as a cult, saying they had became so obsessed with al-Qaeda that they referred to themselves as “the Manson Family.” These two dozen or so “Family” members regularly issued cables to Agency heads about Mr. bin Laden’s growing capabilities and his desire to strike American targets throughout the world.
One can only wonder how many times senior Agency officials, after receiving the latest batch of admonitory cables from “the Manson Family ” at Alec Station, sighed resignedly, “Not again.”
§ President George Bush enlisted British Special Forces in an attempt to capture Osama Bin Laden before Mr. Bush’s term in office expired, according to London’s Sunday Times.
The U.K.’s Special Boat Service and Special Reconnaissance Regiment have been taking part in U.S.-led operations to capture Mr. bin Laden in the wilds of northern Pakistan. This effort was, according to British and American sources, “completely sanctioned” by the Pakistani government, despite a published statement from Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam warning that her country would not accept “indiscriminate action” on its territory by U.S. forces without first being informed that there was an al-Qaeda or terrorist target there.
In fact, the CIA and U.S military had already carried out special operations on Pakistani soil – and perhaps twenty more countries – pursuant to a 2004 confidential order, “Al Qaeda Network Exord,” signed by Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush. According to The New York Times, “Al Qaeda Network Exord” gave the military open orders to enter and operate wherever the U.S. felt al-Qaeda was hiding.
A U.S. intelligence source compared the “growing number of clandestine reconnaissance missions” inside Pakistan with those conducted in Laos and Cambodia at the height of the Vietnam War. One can only hope these operations will end more favorably for the U.S. than did that conflict.
§ Perhaps the strangest bit of news on Osama bin Laden came when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that Osama bin Laden had “at long last been found.”
“For more than two years, we combed the Middle East looking for bin Laden,” Rumsfeld said. “Frankly, it was starting to be an embarrassment. You can imagine our surprise when we finally found him hiding deep inside the darkest recesses of each and every one of our souls.” What? Was Mr. Rumsfeld suggesting that since toppling the Taliban regime in 2001, and with U.S. forces ranging along the rugged Afghan-Pakistani border in search of Mr. bin Laden, all we really needed to do was to take some transcendental look inward?
“We were so busy tracking the remaining members of the Taliban regime and freezing al-Qaeda assets that we missed what was right in front of us all along,” Rumsfeld said. “Osama bin Laden wasn’t hidden in a cave in the mountainous Pakistani province of Waziristan or huddled in the back of a Chitral meat market stall. He was lurking in the blackness within us all, right there with the laziness and the jealousy.”
Apparently, in addition to FBI intelligence reports, heat-sensing equipment to search in underground tunnels, aerial photography, eight Ultra-High Frequency Follow-On communications satellites, submarines, aircraft, ground units and global ground stations, all we needed to do to find Osama bin Laden was a little soul-searching; all we needed was love. (Queue the Beatles’ All You Need Is Love.)
“It just goes to show,” Rumsfeld continued, “that sometimes it’s easier to look for the man in the FBI dossier than it is to look at the man in the mirror.”
Man in the mirror – wasn’t that a song from that self-styled king of pop and alleged child molester, Michael Jackson?
§ In a press conference on the seventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino about the Bush administration’s ongoing efforts to find Osama bin Laden, calling him the mastermind of 9/11. Ms. Perino interrupted the reporter, claiming Mr. bin Laden was not the true mastermind of the attacks:
Q: But Osama bin Laden is the one that — you keep talking about his lieutenants, and, yes, they are very important, but Osama bin Laden was the mastermind of 9/11–
PERINO: No, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind of 9/11, and he’s sitting in jail right now.
Ms. Perino, apparently, was attempting to justify the Bush administration’s failure to catch Mr. bin Laden by suggesting he was not the mastermind. But in September 2006, former press secretary Tony Snow stated, “Osama bin Laden, mastermind of September 11th, the person that many people talk about and still have concerns about, calls this fight, the fight in Iraq, ‘the third world war.’”
It would seem that “mastermind” is a rather fluid term.
Ms. Perino suggested that it would take “superpowers” to catch Mr. bin Laden. “So there are human limitations to any — this is not the movies, we don’t have superpowers,” she said. It did not, however, take superpowers to corner Mr. bin Laden at Tora Bora in late 2001, where he escaped in part because of a lack of troops.
The failure of the exigencies of modern warfare notwithstanding, I suggest that what is needed here is a fresh approach towards Osama bin Laden’s capture or kill – whichever comes first. To that end might I suggest the following as means to find Mr. bin Laden:
• Hire a bounty hunter.
• Lower the limit on his Mastercard.
• Have his college alumni association track him down for a donation.
• Follow his groupies.
• Offer free fluff-and-fold service to any woman who has recently slept with him.
• Place an ad on al-Jazeera television offering free samples of “Just for Men – for Moustaches and Beards.”
• Publish a current photo of Charles Manson and announce that we’ve already caught bin Laden.
• Offer him a major role in an upcoming Martin Scorcese film.
• Ask someone who owes him money.
• Leave 2 tickets to the revival of “Guys And Dolls” in bin Laden’s name at the Will-Call window.
• Publish photos showing bin Laden and former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover auditioning for “A Chorus Line.”
• Offer him 0% financing on a Toyota Prius.
• Check overnight surveillance video from all local 7-11’s.
• Go into every cave in eastern Afghanistan and yell, “Shave and a haircut…” and wait for someone to respond, “Two bits!”