I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Osama bin Laden died again - Vote Republican

The Terrorism Outrage of the Day for Bush followers, led by Matt Drudge, is that a 9/11 memorial in Arizona contains sentiments they consider "political" -- such as "Feeling of invincibility lost" and "You don’t win battles of terrorism with more battles.” Apparently, this is absolutely intolerable because nothing -- absolutely nothing -- is more immoral or outrageous than "politicizing" the 9/11 attacks.

Those, of course, are the same attacks which have so usefully served as the central prop for three consecutive Republican campaigns, as well as for most of the President's most controversial policies, such as his recent announcement that he would transfer certain terrorist suspects from our secret Eastern European gulags to Guantanamo, after which he demanded that Congress enact legislation authorizing him to use torture and creating the military commissions he wanted. That speech took place, as the President eagerly pointed out in the very first sentence out of his mouth, in the presence of "families who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks on our nation."

At the same time, Bush followers have spent the last several days declaring Osama bin Laden dead -- again. Instapundit beat his chest and roared: "REPORTS THAT OSAMA BIN LADEN IS DEAD. . . . Dying of typhoid in a cave doesn't sound very heroic." Instapundit's principal source for news, Gateway Pundit, had a post (on which Instapundit relied) entitled "Osama bin Laden Is Dead!" In that post, "G.P. News" announced: "Typhoid Got Him! Doctors were not able to reach his cave in time!" He also summarized a "report" from Jawa Report this way: "the report comes from an actual secret document."

Tom Maguire proclaimed: "Osama being considered to be dead works well for Bush, Musharaff, and Osama," but "AceofSpades" worried that "without Osama to kick around anymore, so to speak, the American public might give the GOP a Churchillian boot out of office." Michelle Malkin's Hot Air suggested that "Rove wouldn’t want this to come out too close to the election. Otherwise he risks a backlash from people disgusted at his cynicism." And on and on and on it went like this, from the crowd that would never, ever do anything to politicize the 9/11 attacks in any way because those attacks -- which they own -- are sacred and proprietary and should never be used to make a political argument.

Osama bin Laden has died more times than any human being in history. In fact, he died right around this same time in 2002, a few weeks before the 2002 midterm elections. From The World Tribune - 10/16/02:

TEL AVIV -- Osama Bin Laden appears to be dead but his colleagues have decided that Al Qaida and its insurgency campaign against the United States will continue, Israeli intelligence sources said. . . .

The Israeli sources said Israel and the United States assess that Bin Laden probably died in the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan in December. They said the emergence of new messages by Bin Laden are probably fabrications, Middle East Newsline reported.

How many times has the Administration or its close allies planted stories in the media indicating or strongly implying that bin Laden is dead, only for the stories to be proven entirely false? Let us count:

Michael Ledeen, National Review, January 9, 2006

And, according to Iranians I trust, Osama bin Laden finally departed this world in mid-December. The al Qaeda leader died of kidney failure and was buried in Iran, where he had spent most of his time since the destruction of al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Christian Science Monitor, 12/21/2005

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Wednesday that he doubts Osama bin Laden is in any position to command the worldwide operations of Al Qaeda. The BBC reports that Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters on a flight to Pakistan that bin Laden could still be hiding along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, but it was hard to know since the terrorist leader had not been heard from in more than a year.

Pakistani Ausuf - October 24, 2005

The Pakistani newspaper 'Ausaf' which is based in the city of Multan in the Punjab Province is reporting that Osama bin Laden died last June in a village near Kandahar in Afghanistan. According to the newspaper report, Bin Laden was campaigning at Bamiyan, fell very ill, returned to Kandahar where he died and was buried in the Shada graveyard in the shadow of a mountain.

National Review -April 30, 2005

Was chatting with Jim Robbins. He keeps hearing this morning that the president might have some OBL news tonight? A new Islamist website is reporting that bin Laden is dead...and Musharraf has for the first time said that OBL is in his country.

CBS News - 7/17/2002

FBI counterterrorism chief Dale Watson said Wednesday he believes Osama bin Laden is dead — the first time a senior U.S. law enforcement official has publicly given an opinion on the al Qaeda leader's status.

CNN - January 19, 2002

Pakistan's president says he thinks Osama bin Laden is most likely dead because the suspected terrorist has been unable to get treatment for his kidney disease. "I think now, frankly, he is dead for the reason he is a ... kidney patient," Gen. Pervez Musharraf said on Friday in an interview with CNN.

Most of our "counter-terrorism" efforts have been like this -- like a Three Stooges routine. The reality is that we have no idea whether bin Laden is dead (the latest report, for instance, suggests the whole thing is a sham and he's alive) because we know so little about him, his whereabouts and his activities, because virtually all of our military and intelligence resources are devoted to a war in a country which never had anything to do with terrorism directed at the U.S., and in preparing for a war with another country which doesn't either. Bush followers are doing what our government has been doing for the last five years when it comes to bin Laden -- stumbling around in the dark, dealing only with baseless, fact-free insinuations, and ignoring him (by necessity) except to grasp desperately for him when some domestic political gain can be squeezed out of him.

In the hands of Bush followers, terrorism and Al Qaeda are big toys, things to be tossed around aimlessly for fun and diversion when one wants to escape the stresses of the real world. Their discussions of these issues -- including from our Government -- are on the level of comic book hysteria or a National Enquirer gossip article over celebrity couple break-ups ("the report comes from an actual secret document"!) and are about as unserious and frivolous and uninformed as can be imagined. Terrorism plots and Osama bin Laden's latest death are playthings that get dragged out for fun and political profit.

But worse than the endless political exploitation of 9/11 attached to the most transparently hypocritical protests that 9/11 must never be politicized (all of that is old news) is the sheer ineptitude of the administration's efforts to capture the individual we have long been told is responsible for the slaughter of several thousand innocent people (and scores of other attacks in pursuit of the War of Civiliziations).

Our country's handling of the Al Qaeda terrorist threat is as inept and just pitifully incompetent as its handling of the war in Iraq (and, as the consensus of the intelligence community recognizes, nothing has done more to worsen than former than the latter). But the media will tell you time and again that it is a "great win" for Republicans whenever terrorism is discussed because they are so tough and powerful with the terrorists and only they are serious enough to protect us. Whatever Bush followers might be when it comes to terrorism, "serious" is not one of them.

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