Where in the World is Osama?
It is an established and historical fact that Governments lie to their own people about most things. The following article will review the realpolitik and hypocrisy of Western Governmental and Intelligence disinformation about current events, and will argue that Osama bin Laden, as an “intelligence asset,” was allowed to live until he no longer served a purpose.
President Obama addressed the nation on 1 May 2011 to confirm the news that Osama bin Laden had indeed been killed. Ignorant American youth cheered “U-S-A, U-S-A” and “God Bless America” outside the White House, as if this was some sort of high school pep rally. It would seem that America, after almost a decade of hunting for its own Waldo, in the guise of bin Laden, had scored a major victory against jihadist terrorism. But had it?
The events of May 1st point towards the reality of bin Laden and his long association with America’s intelligence agencies. To understand May 1st, we must first revisit the various claims of his death by kidney failure or his death in December 2001 at Tora Bora; then we must look at the claims of his survival after 2001. Logic demands that only one of two suppositions is true, in that he either died sometime in late 2001 or he died sometime after 2001, but the irony is that in either case we shall find the fingerprints of American Government collusion in the bin Laden myth.
It was late December 2001 when Fox News reported that the Pakistan Observer had claimed that bin Laden was “already dead.” From this point on, we have numerous reports of the “probable” or “likely” death of bin Laden. Some of these included comments from Pakistani President General Pervez Musharaf in January 2002 and Afghan President Hammid Karzai in October 2002. By October/September, as reported by the World Tribune, even U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources were indicating that he had “probably” died in late 2001. None of these claims of a probable death came with any verifiable evidence.
There are only two outright claims that bin Laden was dead. The first was by Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik, a former U.S. State Department Official, on the Alex Jones radio show on April 24th, 2002, and the second was an interview given by Benazir Bhutto to Sir David Frost on Al Jazeera that aired on 2 November 2007. A close review of the interview reveals that, although she said bin Laden’s name, she meant to say Daniel Pearl (who had been killed by Omar Sheik). Moreover, in all interviews previous to and after the Frost interview, she stated bin Laden was alive – thus we can dismiss her misstatement.
Was Dr. Pieczenik’s claim in 2002, which he reiterated again to Alex Jones in 2011, valid? Did bin Laden die from Marfan’s syndrome as Pieczenik claims or did he die from liver disease? There are media stories that bin Laden was treated for something in Dubai at the American Hospital Dubai between 4-14 July 2001. And apparently he met with someone from the CIA. The hospital reportedly denied that bin Laden was ever there. What is fascinating is that, in an interview reported by the Sunday Times (London), bin Laden himself stated, “My kidneys are all right. I did not go to Dubai last year. One British newspaper has published an imaginary interview with [an] Islamabad dateline with one of my sons who lives in Saudi Arabia. All this is false.” There is no hard evidence that Osama bin Laden had either of the stated medical problems. Moreover, there is no evidence that he died from either condition or from wounds suffered at Tora Bora in late 2001. What we find in the public record are statements that are fundamentally unsubstantiated. The only credible source is Dr. Pieczenik, however outside of his statements on the Alex Jones Show, he has not offered any evidence to support his claims.
So having eliminated the one supposedly credible claim (Bhutto’s) that bin laden was dead, and being unable to verify Dr. Pieczenik’s claim, we are left with nothing more than a pattern of claims of the ‘probable’ death of bin Laden. Therefore, due to lack of any substantiated material, we shall make the assumption that bin Laden was still alive in December of 2001.
It is relevant to note that reports of bin Laden’s death all seem to emanate from the original claim made in the Pakistan Observer. We soon find that the Pakistan Observer is not neutral; in a December 25, 2001 article in the NY Times there is an indication of close ties between the Pakistan Observer and Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Moreover, the NY Times rightly observes that “Since Sept. 11, Pakistan’s newspapers have rarely failed to produce a daily menu of reports claiming exclusive knowledge of events relating to the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Mr. bin Laden.
Many of these accounts have later proved to be exaggerated, wrong or even invented. Thus, it is not inconceivable that a larger disinformation campaign regarding bin Laden originated from ISI-influenced sources like the Pakistan Observer. And, as we shall see, bin Laden, the CIA and ISI have a long mutual history.
By 1989, Osama bin Laden was running Maktab al Khidamat (Office of Services – MAK) in Pakistan (he had been involved since at least 1984). MAK’s primary role was the distribution of recruits, money and equipment to the various mujahideen factions fighting the Soviets. MAK was a front for Pakistan’s ISI. The ISI worked closely with the CIA and was a major recipient of both covert Saudi and CIA funding that was directed to the war in Afghanistan. Given bin Laden’s ties to warlords like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his role with MAK, it is clear that the CIA was fully aware of his activities. This link becomes even more apparent when you look at Operation Cyclone (the CIA code name for the program to finance, train and arm the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.) As Jane’s Intelligence Review points out “From about the mid-1980s on, bin Laden worked in close association with U.S. agents, coordinating much of the intelligence and logistics that passed through Peshawar in northwest Pakistan in support of the mujahadin war effort.” In short, bin Laden had been a CIA asset for decades and killing him was not in the U.S. interest in 2001.
To understand this reality we must realize, as reported by the BBC and NBC, that the US invasion of Afghanistan was planned before the events of 9/11. Based on this fact, one can surmise that bin Laden was not the primary objective of the U.S. in mid-2001. Moreover, when the U.S. did invade, the CIA took the lead in the initial operations.
The crucial battle for Afghanistan occurred at Tora Bora in December of 2001, where Gary Berntsen, who was Commander of all CIA forces in Eastern Afghanistan and at Tora Bora, made it clear that bin Laden was present. Any basic analysis of the battle-plan at Tora-Bora shows that the back door into Pakistan had been left wide open. As the US Army’s Special Operations Command rather bluntly stated in 2007, “The fact that SOF [Special Operations Forces] came as close to capturing or killing UBL [Ussama bin Laden] as U.S. forces have to date makes Tora Bora a controversial fight. Given the commitment of fewer than 100 American personnel, U.S. forces proved unable to block egress routes.” What is more shocking is the admission in a 2009 Senate Report on Tora Bora of U.S. Government complicity in bin Laden’s “escape”. “The decision not to deploy American forces to go after bin Laden or block his escape was made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his top commander, General Tommy Franks…” . The implications of these statements are that bin Laden was alive and was allowed to escape.
The Battle of Tora Bora obviously raises the question why was he allowed to escape? It can be argued that based on a vague future terrorist threat from al-Qaeda led by bin Laden, the Pentagon, the White House and the CIA, by allowing their man to escape, were able to continue the expansionist policies of the Bush White House, as outlined in the Project for the New American Century – the blueprint of the Bush Doctrine. Who ultimately gains from this? The military industrial complex that runs the global arms kleptocracy. As of the end of 2011 according to the National Priorities Project, the U.S. had spent $480 billion dollars on the war in Afghanistan, and over $805 billion on the war in Iraq.
So, in the context of bin Laden being a long-time CIA asset, one can argue that if U.S. Special Forces had killed or captured him in Tora Bora in 2001, the basic justification for the Global War on Terror would have been eliminated and the subsequent (and false) claims of links between al-Qaeda and Iraq would have been meaningless. The U.S. would have been hard pressed to convince anyone of the need to invade Iraq or continue the war in Afghanistan. Thus, logic dictates that bin Laden was allowed to escape into Pakistan in late 2001.
If we reverse the timeline from May 1, 2011, as CBS news reported “…he had been there for the last five or six years.” This takes us to al least 2005, and from all intelligence indications between 2002 and 2005 timeframe he was most probably in the North West Frontier region of Pakistan along the Afghan border. What is obviously troubling is that he was living for years in a custom-built mansion in Abbottabad. His home some 800 yards away from the Pakistan Military Academy (also known as PMA or Kakul), Pakistan’s version of West Point, in what amounts to a military garrison city, which was only 75 miles north of the capital of Islamabad. What is even more incredulous is a unit of American soldiers was located at the PMA where they were training soldiers of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps. It is pretty clear, even with circumstantial evidence and established evidence of bin Laden’s links to the ISI and the CIA, that someone in the power structure of Pakistan knew where bin Laden was, and regardless of the current rhetoric from Washington, by default this means that U.S. intelligence knew as well, due to their long ties to the ISI. Maybe this is why SEAL Team Six executed an unarmed bin Laden rather than capturing him alive, and thereby letting him take his secrets of U.S. complicity in state-sponsored terrorism with him.
The public farce around the months of CIA surveillance to determine if it was bin Laden defies logic and for any reader foolish enough to still believe that the West is not deeply involved in state-sponsored terrorism, they should take the time to learn about Operation Gladio (1945-1991).
Where we ever really looking for ‘Waldo’? The truth seems to be the opposite – we always knew where he was, but we let our man live until someone in Washington decided there was no longer a need for him.
Sunil Ram was a strategic military advisor in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s and now teaches International Relations and the geopolitics of the Middle East at the School of Security and Global Studies at American Military University.
© FrontLine Defence 2012