Why We Haven't Found Osama

Newsweek's Evan Thomas writes a 15 page online article on why we haven't found Osama bin Laden. A few snippets:

Rather than send the snake eaters to poke around mountain caves and mud-walled compounds, the U.S. military wanted to fight on a grander stage, where it could show off its mobility and firepower. To the civilian bosses at the Pentagon and the eager-to-please top brass, Iraq was a much better target.

By invading Iraq, the United States would give the Islamists—and the wider world—an unforgettable lesson in American power. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was on Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board and, at the time, a close confidant of the SecDef. In November 2001, Gingrich told a NEWSWEEK reporter, "There's a feeling we've got to do something that counts—and bombing caves is not something that counts."

Others say intelligence dried up long ago and the U.S. is just searching for a needle in a haystack, and the chance of success is "zero." Yet, without any intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama or what he's up to, experts quoted in the article maintain:


...it is also true that Al Qaeda has been reconstituting itself in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that the terrorist organization is determined to stage more 9/11s, and maybe soon. "We have very strong indicators that Al Qaeda is planning to attack the West and is likely to attack, and we are pretty sure about that," says retired Vice Adm. John Redd, chief of the National Counterterrorism Center, which coordinates all U.S. intelligence in the so-called Global War on Terror (GWOT). Hank Crumpton, who ran the CIA's early hunt for bin Laden in 2001-02 as deputy chief of the agency's counterterrorism center and recently retired as the State Department's coordinator of counterterrorism, says, "It's bad; it's going to come."

I'm just scratching the service, this article is so long it's probably an excerpt from a book Thomas is writing.

As to success in the future, Thomas reminds us, "the mountains themselves have remained virtually impenetrable."

< Buzz: Chertoff Rumored to Replace Gonzales as Attorney General | Lawyer Geoffrey Fieger Indicted, Gerry Spence to Defend >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Brent Budowsky says ... (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by chemoelectric on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 11:54:32 AM EST
    ... that Bush is the first 'catastrophic' 'president' of the United States.

    There seems to be some merit to that view. He comes at a crucial moment and is something like an opposite of what was needed.

    bin Laden serves Bush. (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by 1980Ford on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 01:04:43 PM EST
    He is the foundation of the politics of fear and is more valuable alive than dead. Bush needs him as a constant threat.

    Nah (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 01:17:13 PM EST
    Not that he does not serve the Chimperor, he does, but OBL is replaceable. The reason he has not been caught is that he is too wiley for the chimp who is losing allies faster than the rising deficit.

    U.S. hasn't found OBL because (4.00 / 1) (#5)
    by oculus on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 01:25:47 PM EST
    our ally Musharaff will be toppled if we do.  

    Yes (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by squeaky on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 01:33:43 PM EST
    Wiley OBL is not there for nothing. We are working for him more than he is working for us.

    Iraq was not attacked (5.00 / 0) (#9)
    by Al on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 02:03:26 PM EST
    because it was a more spectacular target. Iraq was attacked as part of a plan to control the Middle East, including its oil, of which Iraq has a great deal. Bush has demonstrated clearly that he has no interest in Al Qaeda (at times he has even said as much). Since Al Qaeda perpetrated the 9-11 attacks, this means that the 9-11 attacks were used more as a pretext to grab control of the Middle East than anything else. Afghanistan was left to a ragtag collection of Canadian, Dutch, German, and British troops, with a token contingent of US troops, all of whom are struggling to stay out of harm's way, and effectively pinned down by Afghan guerrillas.

    that's the neocon model (none / 0) (#24)
    by BlueAubie on Mon Aug 27, 2007 at 07:04:43 AM EST
    The world is in constant warfare for resources according to the neocon theorists.  Fight or perish.

    Cheney was an advocate for reinvading Iraq before he was elected VP.  Soon after taking office, the spring of 2001, he convened an "energy commission" ostensibly to look at america's domestic energy requirements.    

    For some reason they looked at oil interests in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  Not too domestic.  There are public government documents on that.

    On August 6, 2001, the CIA put out a presidential daily briefing that stated that al-qaeda wanted to attack the US by hijacking airplanes.  One month later they did it.  Condi Rice called the intel "inactionable."  They didn't so much as call the FAA and tell them to look out for al-Qaeda, and give them what intel of known members that they had.

    Cheney promised to give up his stock options in Halliburton if elected VP.  He lied.  Halliburton was awarded a no-bid contract for Iraq, expressly by Cheney, and Cheney's stock options soared.  

    Using these facts, I conclude the following:

    1.  The adminstration had a pre-existing mindset to invade Iraq, and they felt the easiest way to achieve this was with a terrorist event.  The American public would buy the argument that there was little difference between radical terrorist Islam and Saddam Hussein.  I do not suggest that they knew the World Trade Center, Pentagon and White House were targets.  I believe that they though the terrorist plan warned of on August 6, 2001, would be a typical hijacking- of the nature where a plane or planes are blown up on the tarmack or spirited away to a foreign country where the passengers are held hostage.

    2.  The administration was influenced by two things in their motivations to invade Iraq, (A) neocon endless warfare theory and (B) war profiteering.  A is fair enough, because the public should be educated enough to know what they are voting for when the vote republican (even if they don't).  But B is treason of the highest order.  

    The stuff of (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Alien Abductee on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 02:52:51 PM EST
    conspiracy theories:

    The Taliban fled for the hills. Bin Laden, it seemed, would be cornered. Indeed, on Dec. 15, CIA operatives listening on a captured jihadist radio could hear bin Laden himself say "Forgive me" to his followers, pinned down in their mountain caves near Tora Bora...

    As it happened, however, the hunt for bin Laden was unraveling on the very same day. As recalled by Gary Berntsen, the CIA officer in charge of the covert team working with the Northern Alliance, code-named Jawbreaker, the military refused his pleas for 800 Army Rangers to cut off bin Laden's escape...

    Frustrated, Crumpton went to the White House and rolled out maps of the Pakistani-Afghan border on a small conference table. President Bush wanted to know if the Pakistanis could sweep up Al Qaeda on the other side. "No, sir," Crumpton responded. (Vice President Dick Cheney did not say a word, Crumpton recalled.) The meeting was inconclusive...

    To catch bin Laden, the CIA was left to lean on local tribesmen, a slender reed. NEWSWEEK recently interviewed two of the three tribal chiefs involved in the operation, Hajji Zahir and Hajji Zaman. They claimed that the CIA overly relied on the third chieftain, Hazrat Ali--and that Ali was paid off (to the tune of $6 million) by Al Qaeda to let bin Laden slip away...

    So much for GOP Claims of being (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Molly Bloom on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 03:09:03 PM EST
    The National Security Party.

    No impressed with Franks thinking. Yes the Soviest (and the Brits before them) got bogged down in Afghanistan. They were trying to conquer, we were just trying to nab one guy. We weren't trying to hold any territory. Maybe we would have failed anyway, but it was worth the try and more defensible than trying to prove who has the biggest ... by invading Iraq.

    Simply compare what the media took as gospel (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Ellie on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 03:41:54 PM EST
    An unproven but much repeated allegation of a cup of coffee between someone in Iraqi intelligence and someone from al Qaeda in Prague was enough to connect Iraq to 9/11 and get the war drums pounding in that direction.

    Yep, the intel was that finely tuned: Iraqi guy. al Quaeda guy. Cuppa joe. Prague. 15-30 mins. Check please.

    But this microscopically tuned  global trackers uddenly became blind as a mole and dumb as a block of wood for everything else: Osama ... thousands of tons of WMDs ... pallets with billions of dollars of reconstruction money ...

    Anyone struggling to make sense of this should stop treating it as a political puzzle and look at it as a heist film.

    Why We Haven't Found Osama (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Edger on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 04:00:20 PM EST
    It would be the end of the war on terror fantasy.

    If the biggest boogeyman can be caught, the billions of little boogeymen who are just itching to swarm the beaches, overrun the land, kill everyone in their beds, and replace the constitution with Sharia Law, as soon as they smarten up enough to buy explosives to blow up an airport before they're arrested on the word of a paid FBI collaborating infiltrator. If they can get the pizza store to deliver a map of the airport. And there's hordes of 'em. Billions. Just ask AC.

    But never fear. Rudy Ghouliani will save the world. Have faith.

    When Rudy's president every day will be 9/11
    . Jeezus! It'll be better than being raptured!

    Ask any wingnut...

    That should be read as (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Edger on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 05:07:29 PM EST
    It would be the end of the war on terror fantasy.

    If the biggest boogeyman can be caught, then the billions of little boogeymen are nothing. Just nightmares, as in bad dreams.

    It's time to wake up, wingnuts...


    A Second Look at the Saudis (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Bill in Chicago on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 06:07:22 PM EST
    I don't object to the idea of giving "the Islamists--and the wider world--an unforgettable lesson in American power."  I just don't understand why we would not do that in the country most responsible for attacking us:


    The overwhelming majority of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals.  Yet the Bush administration refused to lift a finger against them.  Now, the overwhelming majority of the suicide bombers attacking our troops in Iraq are Saudi nationals.

    This is not a coincidence.

    Well, you know why. (none / 0) (#16)
    by Edger on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 06:16:24 PM EST
    There would be no reason to take over Iraq. And therefore no justification for bombing Iran.

    they thought about it (none / 0) (#25)
    by BlueAubie on Mon Aug 27, 2007 at 07:31:35 AM EST
    They thought about invading Saudi Arabia before 9/11.  Cheney's energy commisssion was looking at their oil info along with Iraq before 9/11.  


    They didn't have the boogeyman running the show in SA like Hussein in Iraq.  The royal family was also at odds with Osama, at least to a degree.  Invading SA would have been a huge shock on the world oil market.  That's like, 10 Iraqs.  France and Germany were already balking.  At least Britian was on our side, and Russia was mostly silent.  WMDs?  Hell we sell them their weapons systems.  And uh, public or not, they are probably nuclear.  Iraq was a hard enough sell.  Just too many problems with a war of this magnitude even for the neocons.

    Don't think Cheney and the oil lobby wouldn't have liked to invade if they could have worked it out though.  But not for the right reason.


    An Unforgettable Lesson In American Power (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by john horse on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 08:39:32 PM EST
    So according Newsweek, the Bush administration decided to not go after Bin Laden but to invade Iraq instead because "the United States would give the Islamists--and the wider world--an unforgettable lesson in American power."

    Well I think they succeeded in providing an unforgettable lesson in American power but not in the way that they had intended.  The Iraq fiasco showed that there are limits to military power even when your country is the world's only military superpower.  This was a lesson that Bush and his conservative friends never learned from Vietnam and apparently still haven't learned.  An unforgettable lesson in American power.  Think about it.  All the deaths and casualties.  It was all about a fireworks show.

    And what have we accomplished.  The administration now claims that Al Queda is weaker today than they were in 2001.  Yet they are also claiming that our opposition in Iraq is coming primarily from Al Queda.  As a reader at Talkingpointsmemo has pointed out "In 2001, they highjacked four airliners using box cutters and today, according to administration spin, they have the entire United States Army bogged down! How do people sit there and not start laughing, I don't know."  

    Admin mistook Iraq for a 'crappy little country' (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by sailmaker on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 09:34:19 PM EST
    Michael Ledeen,  neocon extraordinaire,
    "every now and again the United States has to pick up a crappy little country and throw it against a wall just to prove we are serious."

    The admin thought that after 12 years of santions, and years more of U.S. oil embargo, Iraq = Grenada, ripe for rolling over. In addition, we would get bases that we gave up when we nominally left Saudi Arabia, get more oil, and 'teach those brownies a lesson they wouldn't forget.'

    Well, we can see how that worked out.  We look very serious at being stupid. This admin is not sharp on history or logic. Iraq does not equal Grenada.  It has a population and area roughly that of California. How they thought they were going to hold it for less than $20 Billion with less than 200,000 men, with no reconstruction plans (or money) and no plans (or money) for those permanent bases, never mind the religious/ethnic/political problems, I have no idea.

    The hypocrisy of the right (5.00 / 0) (#23)
    by BlueAubie on Mon Aug 27, 2007 at 06:37:35 AM EST
    When I read articles like this, I have to wonder what the average republican would be saying right now if Bill Clinton was the President.  We all know the hate they gave him over Monica, so just imagine if he let Osama flee to sanctuary when the military had him dead to rights.  

    As it is they don't criticize Bush/Cheney/Rice a single word for this blunder.  

    Bush had 90% approval ratings immediately after 9/11 to go after Osama and co.  That means most of us supported him in that time for that purpose.  THe WORLD supported us.  He failed miserably at his true mandate and gave the general public a "bait and switch" into Iraq.

    Surely that is one of the greatest blunders any administration has ever made.  Meanwhile Fox News, Cheney, Rove and their W-puppet imply that WE are the terrorists if we don't support him on anything he damn well pleases, no matter how stupid or illegal.

    Blue (1.00 / 0) (#27)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Aug 27, 2007 at 10:22:33 AM EST
    As it is they don't criticize Bush/Cheney/Rice a single word for this blunder.

    Perhaps you missed Senator Warner yesterday on MTP??

    Perhaps you have missed Gingrich's comments??

    As for Clinton, perhaps you missed Algore declaring him history's greatest President??

    It's called partisanship. Repubs do it. Demos do it.

    Eeven birds do it.....

    As for the article..... When I read something like this...

    Rather than send the snake eaters to poke around

    my eyes glaze over and I throw it in my file labeled:

    "Warning. Author shows extreme bias towards military and CIA. Read with caution and have BS filter turned on to maximum."


    DA (1.00 / 1) (#30)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Aug 27, 2007 at 02:56:17 PM EST
    As for your new round file rule,

    Why do you think it is new, or a round file? In fact it is quite old and square. You assume and you assume and assume and assume....

    And I do wish you would quit attacking Clinton for his private acts..


    A long litany (none / 0) (#2)
    by koshembos on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 12:26:09 PM EST
    First, the quality of the intelligence we are getting now is low or even worse. If you compare the current state of all intelligence services to that of Israel, for instance, you are appalled. The Israelis know not only where every person is located, but in many cases their itinerary. There are other good intelligence services around.

    Second, personally I don't accept the talk about "It's bad; it's going to come." It's an attempt to hedge their bets. "We know nothing, but to sound well prepared let's say that it's coming" sort of saying. If we are so knowledgeable, how come not even a single Al Qaida operative was caught in the US; there should be several of those.

    Third, it is not clear that Al Qaida has reconstructed itself in its former model and former approach. It's more likely that they morphed into a more decentralized organization that is better suited to fight the US. No more a single vulnerable location that requires starting from scratch after destruction. It seems that the generals are once again fight the previous war.

    we haven't hardened targets (none / 0) (#26)
    by BlueAubie on Mon Aug 27, 2007 at 07:56:43 AM EST
    When intel guys say, "it's bad, it's going to come" what they mean is that the US is wide open to attack from anyone who is already in the US or can get in.  

    The terrorists flew into "symbols" of the US- tall buidings, pentagon, white house.  If they wanted maximum casualties they would have hit nuclear power plants.  They actually thought that was too much and decided not to do it.

    Do you ever think about the quantity of deadly chemicals that cruise through densely populated urban areas on our railways?  And how totally unprotected those rails are?

    Remember the Oklahoma City bombing of the Federal building.  (not al-qaeda).  I'm scared to go into football stadiums.  Upper decks over lower decks.  RVs.  

    Blow up some little levee in New Orleans, 1000+ dead, after the city was largely evacuated.

    I predict that history will show the biggest failure of this administration was to make terrorism about war and politics instead of civil engineering.  Yes, we will have to get hit again much much harder before we wake up.  It's not just the republicans who are stupid.  The democrats aren't criticizing them strongly enough.

    This administration uses the fear of terrorism- which is something you better be very, very scared of- to destroy our Constitution instead of destroying the obvious opportunities for terrorism.  

    Evil can be in anyone's heart.  Big Brother/NSA will never find them all, even if we give up what's left of our democracy and let them have their police state.  

    It's not just about al-Qaeda and radical Islam.  It's about the Timothy McVeighs, Columbine, and Virginia Tech whackos setting their sights higher while we doze in our continuing pre-9/11 slumber.


    huh?? (1.00 / 0) (#31)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Aug 27, 2007 at 02:59:10 PM EST
    instead of destroying the obvious opportunities for terrorism.

    Holy (none / 0) (#29)
    by Wile ECoyote on Mon Aug 27, 2007 at 12:35:46 PM EST
    black helicopter alert, batman!

    Cat Bob Stevens Dylan make lovechild satire (none / 0) (#6)
    by Dadler on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 01:28:46 PM EST
    Osama, those mamas,
    Are calling for you
    Through tears and cheers
    And burqa seams, too.
    The wind she's a blowin'
    And all sides're mowin'
    Down mama and nana
    And junior boy blue.
    Get out of the cave
    You long skinny knave
    And show us your heart
    is still beating and fleet.
    Get up off your jihad
    And tells us if your God
    Knows Fallwell's number
    on Afterlife Steet?

    That said and done
    It's been so much fun
    Pretending your reach
    Extends to the sky,
    When we really know
    You withered long ago
    In a cave with a leak
    You did already die.

    But damn if your ratings
    Don't help with our matings
    Our malevolent coupling
    Of fear, greed and lies.

    Lord almighty, woo-hoo-hoo-hoo.

    And, of course, a coupling of THREE things... (none / 0) (#8)
    by Dadler on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 01:34:54 PM EST
    ...is just plain bad chops.

    The only thing left to do . . . (none / 0) (#17)
    by Delia on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 07:38:27 PM EST
    is to dig out your old copy of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.  You know, the one where a bunch of fuzzy, teddy bear looking creatures armed only with rope and sharp sticks bring down the most powerful and sophisticated Evil Empire in the known Galaxy.  Only this time you won't be laughing and cheering.  You'll be sobbing.  Because it's us.  We're the Evil Empire, and we can be brought down by people hiding out in caves because we're led by arrogant morons who never learned the smartest thing Nietzsche ever said: "Power makes stupid."

    This is what happens (none / 0) (#18)
    by kovie on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 07:41:44 PM EST
    when you marry a stupid version of Robert McNamara (Rumsfeld) with an even crazier version of Curtis LeMay (Gingrich) to come up with a military strategery of historical idiocy and insanity, and then entrust a truly stupid president and his crazy vice president to implement it. And I'm grossly oversimplifying it since this obviously involved a whole "army" of morons and psychopaths.

    Although, I've found that one of the few truly effective ways to shut up a wingnut is to ask them point blank, "Where's Osama, and whatever happened to dead or alive?". That always deflates their spirits and leaves them speechless. It's like you took candy away from a very small and stupid child.

    Rebuilding America's Defenses (none / 0) (#19)
    by DanAllNews on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 08:13:47 PM EST
    the U.S. military wanted to fight on a grander stage recalls the PNAC paper which advocated overthrowing Saddam, not only to control the oil, and to establish a "democratic" foothold in the middle east -- but also simply because the war would serve as a showcase of modern American military technology, and thus, hopefully, intimidate other "threatening" states.

    The next Al Qaeda target in the US (none / 0) (#20)
    by Aaron on Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 08:20:01 PM EST
    Given bin Laden and Al Qaeda's enormous success with their virtually simultaneous attacks on both towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the White House, only one of which failed to achieve its target, and only failed to do so as a result of the X-factor which can never be totally taken into account, in that case it was the actions of informed motivated American civilians which prevented that fourth plane from reaching its target, I would suppose that the next major attack will be against some similarly symbolic and economically important architectural structures.

    Bin Laden understands what an invaluable resource these types of symbolic attacks represent in the kind of terror war he has undertaken.  He and the Islamic fundamentalists at the head of this movement can continually point to the enormous hole which still resides in the heart of Manhattan that they are responsible for.  That crater is an invaluable tool for recruitment and indoctrination of a new generation into the holy war.

    It won't be an easy thing, topping such a massive attack, perhaps impossible on the symbolic level, but I believe that bin Laden's philosophical approach to this war is undeniably sound, and Al Qaeda is planning a similarly grand strike sometime soon, though on their timetable, soon may be 10-20 years down the road from the last attack, a time period which is approaching all too quickly.

    Washington, DC would always be a good place to expect such an attack, but if I put myself in the mind of the jihadist planners, I would concentrate the next effort away from the East Coast, where the greatest awareness and preparation for possible terrorist attack has been undertaken.

    I think the most effective and accessible targets are now to be found on the West Coast of the United States, California and the surrounding states which represent the true economic heart of America on the Pacific rim. The target should be something which is relatively recognizable around the world, or a structure whose destruction will have a pervasive impact on the economy of the region, preferably both.

    Bridges and dams immediately come to mind, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Grand Coulee Dam seem to present some of the most opportune targets.  Dams are exceptionally vulnerable, and anyone with a structural engineering degree and a working knowledge of explosives could easily come up with a plan for damaging such a structure in a manner which would bring about its collapse, with just a little help from Mother nature.  There would be immediate massive destruction, and long-term ramifications for the entire surrounding region.  This type of attack would create an indelible scar similar to the one in New York, and the loss of infrastructure, something like 6180 MW of power generation, would blackout many of the towns and cities in the US and Canada for an extended period. It would also have a catastrophic effect on the region's agriculture since the dam provides water to irrigate a half a million acres in eastern Washington

    An attack on San Francisco's iconic bridge would be more difficult, but properly planned and executed, perhaps with fuel fertilizer bombs on semi trailers at both ends of the bridge, could knock out the bridge as a working structure for several years at least.  Add some fissile nuclear waste to such an attack, and you could irradiate the bridge and surrounding area rendering it unusable for generations perhaps.

    I don't know if Al Qaeda has the resources for such attacks yet, but I imagine that there are sleeper cells in this country whose members go to work every day and live quiet lives, probably in a professional sector, waiting.  They would be working on plans such as these, perhaps entirely independent Al Qaeda abroad, with orders to carry out their attack only when circumstances and opportunity allows.