“We will kill bin Laden. We will crush al-Qaida. That has to be our biggest national security priority,” so said candidate Obama during an Oct. 7, 2008, presidential debate.
This comment echoed those Obama had made six years earlier during his celebrated, October 2002, anti-Iraq speech in Chicago, the broadside that enabled him to flank Hillary to the left.
“You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with bin Laden and al-Qaida,” the then obscure Obama blustered six months before the Bush administration would launch its “dumb war” in Iraq.
For the next six years, most ambitious Democrats and the media embraced a pseudo-hawk position like Obama’s. Iraq was a “distraction” from the real war on terror against al Qaida and bin Laden, a “diversion,” a “sideshow.”
So conventional has this wisdom become that to Google “Iraq” and “sideshow” now produces some 7 million hits. As is evident in such numbers, a whole lot of people, influential and otherwise, have made a major emotional investment in the continued pursuit of bin Laden.
A major investment perhaps, but not a wise one. As national security guru Angelo Codevilla argues persuasively in the March issue of The American Spectator, “Osama bin Elvis” is dead and has been for the last seven years.
For starters, no reputable person has seen him alive since October 2001 when he was interviewed by Al Jazeera. The audio and videotapes that he has allegedly made in the years since have convinced no one but the CIA.
More intriguing, the genuine Osama never took credit for 9/11. “I stress that I have not carried out this act,” he told Al Jazeera on Sept. 16, 2001. A month later, he would credit himself only with “incitement.”
The evidence Codevilla presents suggests that Osama died of pulmonary infection before the year 2001 was out. It was not until after his likely death that the so-called “confessional video” surfaced.
“The fact that the video had been made for no self-evident purpose except to be found by the Americans should have raised suspicions,” Codevilla wryly observes.
That the video was accepted at face value can be traced to the CIA’s institutional bias in favor of the idea of rogue agents and against that of state-sponsored terrorism.
This bias found a particularly receptive audience in a “peace and prosperity” Clinton White House that had neither the cojones nor the competence to deal with its terrorism at its source.
The bias became dogma among Democrats as soon as the party’s 2004 presidential candidates discovered its value in attacking Bush’s Iraq strategy. The lamentable Richard Clarke built his career in its sands.
If, however, bin Laden and al-Qaida are as ineffectual as Codevilla suggests, whose then was the unseen hand behind September 11? Here, he hints at an answer that has become fully taboo among the chattering classes.
Codevilla begins with the safe observation that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and his core group of Baluch cohorts planned and carried out not only 9/11, but also the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993.
According to Mideast expert and Harvard Ph.D. Laurie Mylroie, Saddam used the Baluch, his fellow Sunnis, extensively during his war with Iran in the 1980s.
Before the news became politicized, mainstream journalists casually reported how Iraq had armed and financed at least 4,000 Baluch to run operations into Iran.
The 1993 KSM group, writes Codevilla, included “Abdul Rahman Yasin, who came from, returned to, and vanished in Iraq, as well as Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of that bombing, who came to the U.S. from Iraq on an Iraqi passport and was known to his New York collaborators as ‘Rashid the Iraqi.'”
Codevilla does not make any claim of Iraqi state sponsorship more specific than implied above. He does not mention, for instance, that the WTC blast took place two years to the day after Saddam’s humiliating withdrawal from Kuwait.
He does, however, make a definitive case that the KSM group was not operating at the direction of the less competent and experienced Osama in 1993. He notes too the lack of hard evidence tying the KSM group to Osama in 2001.
It was during my own early research into the destruction of TWA Flight 800 on July 17, 1996 – National Liberation Day in Saddam’s Iraq – that I became aware of the KSM group and particularly its fondness for aviation terror.
Ramzi Yousef has taken credit for the destruction of TWA Flight 800. Whether he deserves it or not, he did indeed ask for a mistrial the day after the crash – chutzpah defined – arguing that a terrorist attack on an airliner in New York would surely prejudice a New York jury against a man accused of plotting to blow up American airliners.
Yousef was in in prison for his role in Bojinka, an ambitious but doable plot to blow up a dozen American airliners over the Pacific on a given day. Yousef may have also played a tutorial role in the destruction of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995.
All of these plots took place before KSM hooked up with bin Laden in late 1996. At the time, the largely apolitical, religiously indifferent Baluch had no known grudge against the United States.
Their inspiration was likely pecuniary, and, if so, Codevilla suggests, their support came discreetly from a state sponsor. As to who that sponsor might be, there are not many choices.
That sponsor might well have appreciated the cover that the boastful bin Laden and his ragtag troops could have provided the KSM group and exploited it with seeming impunity.
After his election, Obama may have actually learned at least some of this. In a January 15, 2009, statement that should have gotten more attention than it did, he conceded that he was not sure “whether [bin Laden] is technically alive or not.”
Given that the party in power, the media and the CIA all have a desperately vested interest in retelling the story that they have told America for the last seven years, do not look for any admission of error.
Do not be surprised, however, if Osama suddenly shows up in pieces too small to be autopsied.