Tuesday, November 18, 2008

HAS OBAMA PROMISED TO TRACK DOWN A DEAD MAN?

Robert Baer, Times - In a talk to the Atlantic Council this week CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden said Osama bin Laden is alive. I'll take his word for it. But bin Laden's strange disappearance makes one wonder what exactly happened to him. The last relatively reliable bin Laden sighting was in late 2001. A video that he appears in last year shows him with a dyed beard. More than a few Pakistani intelligence operatives who knew bin Laden scoff at the idea he would ever dye his beard. They think the tape was manipulated from old footage, and that bin Laden is in fact dead. But then again, they would have an interest in making us believe bin Laden is dead, since it would relieve American pressure to find him by any means necessary, including going into Pakistani territory. . .

I asked a half dozen of my former CIA colleagues who have been on bin Laden's trail since 9/11. What surprised me was that none would say for certain whether he is alive or dead. Half assumed he is dead, the other half assumed he is alive. I suppose a lot of their timidity has to do with the still open wounds about the CIA's missing an event like Saddam's destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. It would be so much easier to miss the death of a single man.

The important point of Hayden's Atlantic talk was that Muslims have turned against bin Laden, realizing that his campaign against the West has ended up killing more Muslims than it has Islam's enemies. Al-Qaeda may be picking up adherents in North Africa and Yemen, preparing its return, but it certainly is no longer in a position to destabilize Saudi Arabia or any other Arab country. And, although Hayden didn't say it, there is no good evidence bin Laden is capable of mounting a large-scale attack. He failed to pull off an October surprise, as many in the FBI and CIA had feared he would.