Friday, September 07, 2007


I don't think it's him. Osama Bin Laden, I mean. Bin Laden is actually a fairly handsome man, based on validated photos; this guy is ugly. He seems to have changed his turban. The face doesn't narrow as much toward the chin as in earlier photos, the nose seems broader at the base, and why would he suddenly trim the beard? Isn't he Mr. Islamic Fundamentalist, who never trims his beard? Not to mention, why would he suddenly dye his beard? The beard in that photo is dead black, and earlier Osama photos have shown everything from streaks of white to full gray. I think they have a younger body double for the photos, operating on the theory that one Arab man with a full beard looks much like another, and the quality of the videos is crappy. I'm not sure about the voice; but they could have a voice double too. Chris Regan, on Fanatical Apathy the other day, linked to a video he did in which he imitated FDR, and it was brilliant; I've heard FDR recorded, and I couldn't tell the difference. If Chris Regan can do FDR that well, Al Quaeda could train a mimic to talk like Osama.

Personally, I think Osama Bin Laden has been dead for at least a couple of years. Remember, this man's kidneys were bad: he was on dialysis. And he couldn't just drop into the local hospital for treatments: he had to carry the dialysis machine, and power for same, around with him from hideout to hideout. He has/had the money to do all this, no doubt; but it seems like a situation where it wouldn't take too many things going wrong all at once to be fatal over a relatively short period. I don't think he made it out of Tora Bora. But his mystique is so strong there's a powerful incentive for the remaining inner circle of Al Quaeda to keep releasing videos of him (with the background carefully blurred), to convince the world that he's still there and still a threat. Nobody else has that kind of mana.

The final reason I don't think it's him? This absurd suggestion that Americans should convert to Islam if we want to end the war in Iraq. That's just stupid, and while I dislike Bin Laden, he's not (or was not, if I'm right) stupid, and I don't think he would waste valuable broadcast time on a suggestion that is about as rational as the Pope suggesting that all Muslims should convert to Catholicism. That statement came from a not very bright ideologue, whose religious impulses overrode his brain; and nobody ever said that about Bin Laden.

Furthermore, if we all did convert to Islam, it wouldn't do a thing about the war in Iraq; and Osama Bin Laden knows that (assuming he's still alive). That's a local civil war among internal groups, most of whom hate Osama Bin Ladin and Saudi Wahhabism as much as they hate Americans. Shias versus Sunnis; Shias versus Shias (check out Basra and environs); everybody versus the Kurds; and the vast majority of the combatants are Iraqis. No matter what the neocons say about "Al Quaeda in Iraq". Sure, there probably are some foreign jihadis running around hoping to achieve martyrdom while taking a whack at the Great Satan; but they're a minority. How many times do we have to say "civil war"??


  1. Anonymous6:24 AM

    Your argument makes quite good sense to me. My sweetie said as soon as she saw the picture that it was not Bin Laden.

    Be interesting to see how this gets exploited for perceived political advantage. I tend to think that Bush needs Bin Laden, who apparently helped Bush in the 2004 election, so Cheney could well know that Bin Laden is dead, but he has been more useful "alive," even if as wallpaper.

    Perhaps they were simply driven over the edge by the successful attacks on 9/11, given that on 9/10 Star Wars was important to them and Bin Laden's machinations were not, and somehow in their unhinged post-9/11 mindsets, every simple-minded, Constitution-shredding, reality-devoid action to "protect the American people" was appropriate. It's challenging to try to make sense of people whose actions don't quite seem to make sense, or at least do not add up to any kind of coherent, competent whole.

    But whatever, they are miserable bastards.

    Anonymous David

  2. Anonymous David, were you listening to Terri Gross yesterday too? Her interview was with Jack Goldsmith, who was head of the Justice Dept. Office of Legal Counsel for about 9 months before he quit in disgust. Goldsmith quoted some conversations he'd had with David Addington, Cheney's chief of staff (among other posts he's had) - and the things Goldsmith quoted Addington saying made it quite clear to me that your analysis is right. 9/11 terrified these people, it really did unhinge them, and they will do literally anything, including turning the U.S. into an anti-terrorist police state, if they think they can later point to it and say, "It was to keep them from attacking us again." If you didn't hear the broadcast, go pull it down from the archive - it's worth listening to.

    As a matter of fact, there are so many things of serious impact that they haven't done (how about scanning cargo containers at ports?), that it's clear they're flailing - but my point was - the terrorists have succeeded with some very highly placed people in the U.S. government. Those people are, in fact, terrified; probably more than you and I. There is no one up there with the balls to say, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

  3. Anonymous8:25 PM

    I caught him on another venue, but yes, he is who inspired this take on these people.

    Oh, had an FDR been president when the Towers came down. I often comment regarding the Great Depression that we drew FDR and Germany drew Hitler. We were not so lucky in 2000, when we could have had Gore but got the mental midget with the childlike fear reflex.

    Anonymous David

  4. I tend to regard events on the idiological world stage as isostatic: That is to say Bush needs Bin Laden as much as Bin Laden needs Bush. Each feeds off of the other image as a pretext for whatever flavor of idiological point they wish to make at any convenient moment. Pentagon planners had been preparing for a Mideast invasion for at least 30 years, and we know that Cheney & the Wolf met with Bush in Texas to plan out the Iraq contingency when the Florida election thing was still in doubt.

    9/11 was the perfect occasion to depose Saddam and set up a puppet government which would grease the contracts for Chevron and BP. Unfortunately, the Pentagon didn't look at the problems on the ground: Iraq had been pieced together just like Yugoslavia and wouldn't survive without an "iron-fisted" dictator (like Tito and Saddam) laying down the law. The Iraq campaign was never about democracy or Al Quaida or any of that crap. It was about oil, and it always will be about oil. The Bush family has had a long history of servicing the Royal Saudis. The Bushes (and Cheney) were bascially doing the Petroleum Shuffle the minute they hit Washington. Colin Powell stood that as long as he could and then resigned in disgust.

    The war also was the perfect opportunity the Republicans needed to further gut the domestic budget and pay off the war profiteers. So much for Clinton's balanced budget. Lower the ceiling and raise the floor. Feeling kind of squeezed? Join the club.

    Smirk the Jerk learned early how to suck cock. You just get on your knees, open your mouth, and pray to god.

  5. Of course it was about the oil. Almost nobody doubts that any more, especially because of all the permanent bases we're building in Iraq. Why would we need those if we were seriously going to turn the country over to the Iraqis?

    But I think the neocon masquerade that they were taking freedom and democracy to Iraq has, in the end, done them in. "Democracy" means Iraq had an election; an election, in a country that's 60% Shia, means that the Shia community (which has been the majority underdog for generations) now controls the government and parliament. What incentive do they have to pass the fabled oil law that Dubya has made one of their "benchmarks"?? They want to control the oil contracts themselves, of course. They will never pass the law Dubya and "Uncle Dick" want, and why should they?

    Here's a prediction: the U.S. oil firms will never get the control of Iraqi oil that they thought they wanted. And the main reason they won't will be the democracy that we insisted on installing.

    Remember another thing about the Iraqi Shias: George I (i.e. George H.W.) screwed them royally after the 1991 war. He let them believe he'd support them, and then stood aside as Saddam gassed and strafed them. Think they don't remember? Iraq may once, before Saddam (and us), have been an educated and civilized country; but the events of the last 15 years have knocked it back to tribalism. Right now the family and the tribe are about all an Iraqi can rely on. Tribal societies carry grudges.

    Here's another prediction: if we ever do withdraw, within a year Iraq will either be a Shia theocracy ruled by Muqtada Al-Sadr, or it will be a semi-democracy ruled by SCIRI and its Badr Brigade. Either of those governments will oppress the Sunnis the way the Sunnis oppressed them when they were on top; and there will be a continual low-level insurgency because of that. And it will be the U.S.'s fault, for starting this mess in the first place.

    If we don't withdraw, the existing situation, including the appalling drain on the U.S. treasury for something we are getting NO benefit from (including NO help in the soi-disant "war on terror"), will continue indefinitely.

    Colin Powell once told Dubya that Iraq was subject to "the Pottery Barn rule" - you break it, you've bought it. Dubya didn't believe him. He should have.