Catch

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The fact is that the man we recently saw on the videotape, may be bin Laden himself or his double! How would you know? Some sources propagated the idea that there are no less than four doubles of the same man! If such “clones” exist, where on earth have they vanished? Maybe it is not easy to find a single man, but what about the four others? Not a clue? This is then a legend that circulated widely in the world. Behind it was indubitably the same man. The un-anesthetic, insolvent, yet ethereal bin Laden!

Again, nothing proves that he has fled Afghanistan. At this very hour, when everybody is looking for him under each stone of the Afghan mountains, he might very well be sheltered somewhere on the same land, at the nose of the American soldiers! After all, this is not the first time they failed to reach him. Bob Woodward and Thomas E. Ricks have reported how the CIA in 1999 secretly trained and equipped approximately 60 commandos from the Pakistani intelligence agency to enter Afghanistan for the purpose of capturing or killing Osama bin Laden. ” The operation”, they say ” was arranged by then-Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his chief of intelligence with the Clinton administration, which in turn promised to lift sanctions on Pakistan and provide an economic aid package.”[1] It was neither the first time nor the last that a plan was set in motion with that purpose. The record of failures and missed opportunities, if it does not impress the present administration, enhances the legend of a man gifted with an incomparable sixth sense that has, so far, made him invisible, if not invincible! Compared with him, the mythical Che Guevara seems almost a kid. An Arab dictum says: If you know how to steal and do not know how to hide, you know nothing! Apparently, bin Laden is a professional in both activities!

In 1999, the clandestine operation é decided less than 12 months after U.S. cruise missile strikes against bin Laden’s training camps in Afghanistan- was part of a broad action including massive bombing raids and Special Forces assaults. Curiously enough, the man who in October 1999 aborted the plan and refused any involvement with the Americans for its execution is the same man who in October 2001 é observe the amazing concordance of the dates! é accepted to work hand in hand with Mr. Bush to carry out a broader operation! It was actually General Pervez Musharraf whose coup against Nawaz Sharif put an end to the aforementioned plan. Furthermore, he refused to continue the operation after overthrowing Sharif, despite substantial efforts by the Clinton administration to revive it.

The war against Taliban, which started on October 7, was not meant to end terrorism,- neither Mr. Bush nor any of his men rocked themselves with such a lullaby- but only to fight it on one of its numerous domains. Even before the defeat of Taliban, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged the difficulty of seizing bin Laden. Recent history shows that it is not always easy to catch one or even a dozen men on their own territory. In this context, it is not unlikely that the true reason behind stopping the Desert Storm’s machine short of overthrowing the Iraqi government in 1991, was rather the impossibility to reach Saddam than the fear of being considered as an invading force, as Bush (the father) pretended. Moreover, neither Saddam nor bin Laden are the first “wanted” men to escape the American hunters. If we begin with Nasser in the sixties, for instance, we would find a long record of “missing” men on the list of the “wanted”! Those “missing”- if they are not naturally dead today- are still running, and generally in good health. Not only they have challenged the mighty America, and deliberately failed to answer “present” when they were pressured to, but their own record proves to whoever takes the time of thinking it over, that they could live and sometimes even prosper with a Damocles sword hovering on their necks.

Men like Cuba’s Castro, or Libya’s Kaddafi, or the late Syria’s Assad, or all the Palestinian leaders with Arafat é America’s new friend! – at the top of the list, not to say anything of the Russians, the Chinese, and of so many Asiatic, or African “damned” é like Mandela é who, at some period were not acceptable to the American establishment.

This is neither to justify their behavior nor to belittle America’s power, but just to put politics in the sphere of men’s relative acts. In our time, so many naive people are prone to believe that political actions belong to eternity. Thus, their leaders are kind of half-gods, or saints, or supermen! Mr. Bush himself talked about a “crusade” against Taliban, then retreated and explained that he did not mean it in the religious sense, which almost everybody in the Islamic world have understood. Yet, we can observe that some players put the strain on the “religious nature” of some political conflicts. To follow them on this ground is to embark for an endless trip across a dark tunnel leading nowhere, but to a blind chaos.

An ex-adviser to Pakistani Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, wrote: ” if US strikes bring the Taliban regime down but fail in getting their real target, the terrorist network and its alleged leader, it would be only a spurious victory.” [2] Is this what is happening today? ” Osama bin Laden and his associates”, he added, ” will probably slip outside Afghanistan and find a less welcoming base of operations. Their network will have to pay greater attention to evasion and concealment. But their operations will probably continue.”

Such a possibility may be an American nightmare, if additionally the rumors concerning bin Laden’s nuclear weapons reveal to be true. Do we need to remind anybody that it was the White House itself that recently gave some credibility to these rumors? In the ceremony marking the 100th day of the U.S. war on terrorism, President Bush announced steps to freeze the assets of two groups accused of having links to terrorists: the Umnah Tameer E-nau (UTN), which can be translated as “Islamic Reconstruction”; and the Lashkar éI- taiba (LAT). According to MSNBC, The White House alleges in a fact sheet on Islamic Reconstruction that Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, a Pakistani nuclear scientist, met with bin Laden weeks before September 11 and provided detailed information about how to make a nuclear weapon and the effects of a nuclear blast. [3] In one meeting, says the report, a bin Laden associate claimed to have nuclear material and wanted to use it to make a ” dirty bomb”, also known as ” the poor man’s nuke”. Mr. David Albright, of the Institute for Science and International Security, declared: ” It’s within the reach of many, many groups to fashion a dirty bomb”!

Now, what if al-Qaeda owns such a nuke? Where would bin Laden go with it?

A recent article of the Times tries to answer partially the second question. Pakistan, Kashmir, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and even Saudi Arabia are mentioned as possible destinations. In all these countries and in others as well, bin Laden may find supporters indeed. But to find a sanctuary is perhaps more difficult, at least momentously. Thus, in Pakistan ” several Taliban leaders have already sought refuge, with the tacit support of elements in the Pakistani Intelligence services”. [4] And if some of those places are hard to reach, because of the American and British naval vessels patrolling the Arabian Sea, or for any other reason, the fugitives may still wait some time until the conditions become propitious to relocating. Thus, The Times suggests for example, that bin Laden can escape during the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, ” posing as one of the 120,000 Pakistani pilgrims”. The suggestion is based on the hypothesis that ” he is regarded as a national hero by many citizensé, and that ” the authorities would be afraid of triggering a popular backlash by arresting him and turning him over to the Americans.” Mr. Beeston does not even omit the “audacious alternative” of hiding among the Arab population of great Western cities like Paris, London, or Frankfurt!

Thus, If while walking on the Champs-Elysées tomorrow, you catch a glimpse of someone resembling bin Laden, don’t be amazed! It is really he! And above all, don’t allow the surprise to disable your reflexes: the man is worth $25 million price!

Anyway, with all his millions, his friends, his allies, his followers and the rest of the “team”, he can afford not only to change of country but also of face. Why not? If he has the audacity of attacking America would he not be enough bold é and preventive é as to pay for a new look? Aesthetic surgery can do miracles nowadays. We had had so many versions of Michael Jackson that we forgot the original! If bin Laden makes this choice, all the Western Intelligence agencies and all the cops of the world can always try to find a needle in a sheaf of hay! It would be easier than catching him.

However, in this modern witch-hunt, two facts are quite astonishing. The first is that it is not really Mr. Bush who decided to freeze al-Qaeda presumed funds and assets. The story is somewhat older. Actually, President Clinton’s August 20,1998 Executive Order 13099 amended an earlier January 23,1995 Executive order (12947) by naming al-Qaeda and its aliases (the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, the Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places, the Islamic Salvation Foundation, and the Group for the Preservation of the Holy Sites), as an FTO (: Foreign Terrorist Organization). According to CRS Report for Congress [5], the effect of the order was to ban U.S. financial transactions with bin Laden’s organizations and to allow U.S. law enforcement to freeze any bin Laden assets in the United States that can be identified. The order also named bin Laden as an SDT (: Specially Designated Terrorist), along with Rifai Taha Musa, of the Egyptian Islamic Group, and Abu Hafs al-Masri (Mohamed Atef). Atef and the guerilla leader Ayman al-Zawahiri were indicted with bin Laden on November 4, 1998 for the Kenya/Tanzania bombings.

The question is therein: How come that Mr. Clinton’s Executive Order has never been executed? For if it has, what is the point of making Mr. Bush issue another quite similar decision?

We can find a relative answer in the aforementioned CRS report, which says in a paragraph entitled “blocked assets”: ” No assets have been firmly linked to bin Laden, in the United States or elsewhere, and hence none are frozen at this time, according to the Treasury Department’s report on terrorist assets for 2000.” [6] And this is the second astonishing fact. For the question is: how did they find them now?

Thus, on September 10, – the precise date of the CRS report’s first issue- nobody in the American administration knew a clue about these assets! But one day later, the same administration was able to know everything related to this subject and to take the measures that, apparently for unknown reason, have been delayed!

Can anybody explain this puzzle?

Notes:

[1]Washington Post: Oct.3, 2001.B.Woodward and T.E. Ricks. U.S. was foiled multiple times in efforts to capture bin Laden or have him killed.

[2]The Nation: Oct. 27,2001. Hussain Haqqani. Focusing on the Enemy.

[3]MSNBC: Bin Laden has nuke know-how. December 20,2001.

[4]The Times (of London): Dec.20, 2001. Richard Beeston. Bin Laden looks for sanctuary in a hostile world.

[5]CRS Report for Congress: Kenneth Katzman.Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors, 2001. (September 10,2001).

[6]Ibid.

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