Osama Bin Laden reportedly has died. This would be shocking news if true, but personally I think it's a ruse to allow bin Laden to 'retire' gracefully. First the news reports:
Reuters reports that French regional newspaper L'Est Republicain has reported that Osama bin Laden has died in Pakistan, saying that Saudi Arabia is convinced that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden died of typhoid in Pakistan last month. It printed what it said was a copy of the report dated September 21 and said it was shown to President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and France's interior and defence ministers on the same day. "According to a usually reliable source, the Saudi services are now convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead," the document said.
"The information gathered by the Saudis indicates that the head of al Qaeda was a victim while he was in Pakistan on August 23, 2006, of a very serious case of typhoid which led to a partial paralysis of his internal organs," the story says.
The report, which was stamped with a "confidential defence" label and the initials of the French secret service, said Saudi Arabia first heard the information on September 4 and that it was waiting for more details before making an official announcement.
Officials contacted by Reuters in Chirac's and Villepin's offices had no immediate comment.
A senior official in Pakistan's interior ministry said: "We have no information about Osama's death." Pakistani officials have doubts about the report of Osama's death. "No government has shared any such information with us so far, which is the normal thing to do under such circumstances," the official, who has close knowledge of intelligence matters, said on condition of anonymity.
A US counterterrorism official was also unable to confirm the report. "It's quite possible (that) there was some talk of this, but in terms of being able to confirm this, that I can't do."
The US State Department had no immediate comment and was looking into the reports. US officials have suggested that his death would be accompanied by a surge of e-mail and telephone chatter among bereaved al Qaeda members, if not an actual announcement from the militant network. But officials said they were not aware of any such chatter in recent weeks.
The French government has said it could not confirm the report and would investigate the intelligence leak.
The Washington-based IntelCenter, which monitors terrorism communications, said it was not aware of any similar reports on the Internet. "We've seen nothing from any al-Qaida messaging or other indicators that would point to the death of Osama bin Laden," IntelCenter director Ben N. Venzke told The Associated Press.
Al-Qaida would likely release information of his death fairly quickly if it were true, said Venzke, whose organization also provides counterterrorism intelligence services for the American government. "They would want to release that to sort of control the way that it unfolds. If they wait too long, they could lose the initiative on it," he said.
L’Est Republicain reported on its website on Saturday that it based its information on a document classified ‘defence secret’ originating in the French DGSE intelligence services. The DGSE document, printed with the report, reads in part, "According to a usually reliable source, the Saudi intelligence services are said to have acquired the information that Osama bin Laden is dead. The information gleaned by the Saudis indicates that the head of Al Qaeda was a victim of a very strong attack of thyphoid… in Pakistan on August 23, 2006." The document goes on to say that bin Laden’s geographical isolation rendered all medical assistance impossible.
Now let's look at an alternate view.
Let's say Osama did die. Al Qaeda is already distributed around the globe and acting independently of centralized command and control, and the death of its original organizer isn't going to affect them much beyond a personal sadness over his passing among his followers. It will have no effect on their activities.
We should, in fact, hope that this is true for one reason. His dying of 'natural' causes rather than being roasted with a Hellfire or obliterated with a Tomahawk at US hands eliminates the revenge factor. The added incentive to strike against the Great Satan just might make the difference between success and failure for a terror operation.
But note that the rumors originate from the Saudis. Could this rumor of bin Laden dying just be a psy-op means by which an aging and ailing Osama can covertly return to Saudi Arabia and live a life of quiet and anonymous retirement? It wouldn't be the first time he was let off the hook by the US. Remember his escape from Tora Bora when he was supposed to be surrounded?
The Saudi Government has enough clout with Washington, both officially and through its long-term business ties with the Bush family, to ensure that such a retirement could happen. The bin Laden family itself has extensive ties to the Bush business interests, so it isn't much of a stretch to suggest that Osama's family might well be pulling a few strings to protect a prodigal son who has returned home.
And that bold Bush promise to bring bin Laden to Justice? Make me laugh!
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