Sunday, January 22, 2006

ABC NEWS HAS A PIECE about how Osama bin Laden seems to have found a safe, comfy sanctuary for as long as he needs and wants it, in some remote region of Pakistan or Afghanistan.

The architect of mass murder on several continents, the man whose fanaticism, cruelty and leadership have changed the world, has surfaced once again on a new audiotape first aired Thursday on the al Jazeera television network.

The new audiotape marks the 19th time since the attacks of 9/11 that bin Laden, the mastermind of the deaths of thousands of Americans and others around the world, has spoken to the world.

Each time, somehow, bin Laden has found a way to smuggle his words and threats from his hideouts in remote Pakistan and Afghanistan and get them to al Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar.
After the new tape, one thing was clear.

"He's alive," said Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism chief who is now an ABC News consultant. "And some of us had begun to doubt that because we hadn't received an audio or a videotape in 13 months."

What's also fairly clear from bin Laden's continued survival is that he has found a place to hide.

"He's fundamentally alive because he exists in a sanctuary in Pakistan," said former U.S. Army Gen. Jack Keane, now an ABC News consultant.

Keane, deputy chief of the Army when the hunt for bin Laden began, said Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was essentially powerless in the remote tribal areas where bin Laden hides.

"There's no rule of law there," Keane said. "There's no police there. There's no enforcement of government authority. There's no true Pakistani authority there. And they are in a sense protected. In every sense of the word, it is a sanctuary."

On the new tape, bin Laden heaps contempt on President Bush, who once pledged to get him "dead or alive," and directly threatens Americans with fresh attacks. Our homeland security preparations, he boasted, mean nothing to him. He says he is patient and will strike again.

"Those operations are under way," bin Laden announced in Arabic. "And you will see them in your midst as soon as they are done, Allah willing."

Clarke said bin Laden's reappearance now was ominous.

"He's saying that attacks will take place very soon in the United States," Clarke said. "That's very specific. That's not the kind of thing that he says, I think, lightly."
The former senior officer of the U.S. Special Forces who spoke to ABC News anonymously suggested bin Laden might be living fairly comfortably right now.

"If he's living in the village -- and he probably does move around to different villages and different homes; they have lots [of] money, and there's lots of money in that area, in any event -- I think he's eating very well," the former officer said. "I think he's probably got more than ample and satisfactory living conditions."

He said his old colleagues thought bin Laden might be trying to disguise himself.

"One hears from friends and colleagues and so on that he has changed his appearance significantly, maybe even had some reconstructive facial surgery, shaved," he said. "I think in my own personal opinion, that's why we have not seen a video of him in well over a year."

Clarke says that bin Laden's direct command of al Qaeda may be weakened by his isolation, but that may be a small consolation.

"He probably doesn't have much of an operational capability left," Clarke said. "But how much does it take? It took 19 people to do 9/11."

So the United States spent billions of dollars in a war that has cost thousands of lives, American and Afghan, and Osama bin Laden not only is still alive, but has a highly secure hiding place where most likely no one will be able to find him. Al Qaeda is still in operation, and it has more followers and admirers than it did before 9/11, thanks to the war in Iraq, which has bled America of both its human and economic treasure, and fueled terrorist recruitment even while our own military is having trouble meeting its recruitment goals.

Most important, the United States and the rest of the world is still threatened by the mass murdering terrorist mastermind of 9/11.

One would think that the stars of the conservative blogosphere would be incensed about this. But they're not. Instead, right-wing blogger luminaries like Michelle Malkin and whoever the guy is who writes Little Green Footballs are incensed about the wording of an AP caption:

Via the always eagle-eyed Little Green Footballs, check out the caption on the Associated Press photo of Osama bin Laden running today at

The caption reads: "Exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden is seen in this April 1998 file photo in Afghanistan. Al-Jazeera aired an audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006, saying al-Qaida is making preparations for attacks in the United States but offering a truce to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan."

Malkin fumes:

Got that? Osama isn't a mass-murdering terrorist mastermind. He's just a poor, exiled dissident who disagrees with civilization.

Why is Michelle Malkin more upset that the AP refers to OBL in a photo caption as a "Saudi dissident" rather than as a "mass-murdering terrorist mastermind" than she is about the fact that this mass-murdering terrorist mastermind is still at large and free to plan terrorist attacks more than four years after 9/11?

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