Tag Archives: Osama bin Laden

Local Proofers Believe Osama, not Obama

6 May

Ladies and Gentlemen, WNY’s most pre-eminent birther has now morphed into a bin Laden proofer:

It is my opinion that the Navy Seals did invade a compound in Pakistan a few nights ago and did, in fact, kill someone. That someone was most likely a person recruited by the CIA 10 years or more ago, around the time of the 9-11 attacks or prior to it when they knew they were going to be needing an enemy to vilify and a living one at that. It is my belief that this double was offered a large salary, possibly to be deposited in foreign banks of his choosing, a number of women to be his “wives”, and a compound to live in in Pakistan with his only duties being that he would stay within that compound for an undetermined period of time and pretend to be Bin Laden to all those he met and when asked to do so, including the women who would become his wives and the children he would produce with them. It is also my belief that the CIA and the US political establishment knew that they might someday need a moment like this but Bin Laden #2 really had no idea what ultimate purpose he would serve.

You should read the whole thing, because there are people who (a) believe this crap; and (b) aren’t institutionalized. (Past Coniglio posts available here). Osama bin Laden wasn’t important because the FBI poster doesn’t reference 9/11, because the Bush Administration de-prioritized his capture, and because, naturally, Obama is lying.  But Osama? He was telling the truth when he said he had nothing to do with 9/11 even though he’s repeatedly admitted his involvement over the past 10 years.

The Death of a Symbol

2 May

I had imagined this day many times, the day we learned Bin Laden was dead. I was already in Saudi Arabia on 9/11, deployed for a boring (and hopefully, short) Operation SOUTHERN WATCH tour, enforcing the no-fly zone over Iraq. Half way around the world, it was mid-afternoon when the World Trade Center was hit, and at first I thought the news coverage was a bad mid-day movie on AFN.

We had a lot of optimism as the war started, as successes built quickly. I had friends back in the US who were jealous I was already deployed – they thought the war would end too soon, and they’d never get a chance to go. As the Taliban government fell and we knew Bin Laden was on the run, our war in Afghanistan was looking more like our snatching of Manuel Noriega in Panama than a drawn out quagmire.

Of course, we didn’t get Bin Laden on my first tour. Like many, I had fallen into a habit of checking the news regularly, thinking Bin Laden’s capture would be the next headline. As 2002 dragged, Bin Laden assumed the role of unscratched itch, an annoyance we had not yet remedied. But more bad-guy targets remained, and within the military, we talked about invading Iraq nearly from the 12th of September. By the end of 2003, we had toppled the Baath government, yanked Khalid Sheikh Mohammed out of a safehouse in Pakistan in just his undershirt, captured a bearded Saddam Hussein in a spider hole, and it seemed like a matter of time before we had Bin Laden as well. I was genuinely surprised when he did not appear in flex cuffs on TV just in time for the 2004 Presidential election. 

I returned to the Middle East in late 2004, this time to Iraq, in a new role as a bomb technician, and to a much different fight. Still we believed the wars would ended quickly, but underneath, frustration was building. By the time I started my second tour in Iraq in mid-2006, Bin Laden was nearly forgotten – we had other local bogeymen, lesser shades of the true evil, that were occupying our time. I was eating a burned, tasteless meal in a Kirkuk chowhall when we saw the news we had killed al-Zarqawi, chief of Al Qaeda in Iraq. I felt a sense of relief, but it was short lived – IEDs were laid as normal later that same day. Nothing changed.

With Bin Laden a no-show at the 2008 Presidential election as well, and the wars stretching on and on (and now in a third theater), like many Americans I had almost forgotten him. Nearly a decade since I had cable news perpetually on, muted in the background just in case we grabbed him, I had given up hope of dramatic finality. The sense of closure and satisfaction waned with each name we crossed off the list. KSM’s groggy mug and Saddam face down in the dirt were replaced with a smoking crater and a mangled body – we killed Zarqawi with two 500 pound JDAMs. Into Obama’s administration, we didn’t even have those final pictures, as video of Predator strikes is rarely released or leaked. The only news footage we regularly saw was of mistaken strikes, killing journalists and innocents. I had decided some time ago that Bin Laden would probably die of kidney failure in a Lahore safehouse, and no one would know.

This morning I awoke to a text message from Chris Smith, asking me to turn on the television. He had sent it last night, and as I wandered to the radio to turn on NPR, searching for the coffee, I wondered what possible big news could break so late on a Sunday. While sleeping through the event was not a scenario I considered the last 9 1/2 years, it is perhaps symbolic of our nation’s level of attention.

Though I find them unseemly, I understand the cheering crowds gathered in Times Square, at Ground Zero, and outside of the White House. This is as close to a victory as we will have in this fight, as near as we will come to signing a treaty on the deck of a battleship or kissing a girl in a ticker tape parade. For some, a sense of closure is now possible, a demon has been exorcised, or, at the basest level, a pride in America, shaken and lately beaten down in the Great Recession, has been rekindled.

I will not be joining the crowds, though, even in spirit, because the wars Bin Laden set in motion endure, and those wars themselves have become a greater horror to me than the original attack of 9/11. A symbol of terrorism died yesterday, but the cancer has metastasized, and the cure has killed more than the original disease. I started losing friends in combat eight years ago, and have no assurance that I have lost the last. Today, our military forces will don gear, hump the Hindu Kush, fly combat air patrols, scout by helo, and disarm IEDs as they have done for nearly a decade. They will do so again tomorrow. We are little closer to finishing what Bin Laden started today than we were last week. And America itself must continue to come to grips with what it has morphed into in the wake of 9/11; the tip that ultimately led to Bin Laden’s death was obtained via waterboarding a detainee in Gitmo in 2004.

Osama and the use of “bin” as a homophone of “been”

2 May

Lucky for me I’m jet-lagged, so it’s not too off-putting getting up at 1:30 in the morning to hear the news that international bogeyman – our generation’s Carlos the Jackal – Osama bin Laden, has been eliminated in Abbottabad, Pakistan. One can only wish there was a Costellobad nearby.

Bin Laden has for some years been a largely ceremonial head of just about any grouping of disaffected Islamic youth who decide that extremist jihadism is a great way to rebel against society or their parents. His elimination is a day of celebration and remembrance, and I’m grateful not for what some commentators are referring to as “closure”, but instead for the sheer revenge factor. With bin Laden’s elimination, almost all of the people who planned the 9/11 attacks are either in custody or dead. That’s a fundamentally good thing, with credit going to both the Obama and Bush administrations.

Qaedatards pledge an oath of personal allegiance to bin Laden, and there’s really no one with his stature or charisma to replace him in that terrorist social network. Could al Qaeda be finished?

Since that fateful day in 2001, the United States has been fighting what has been termed a “war on terror”, but that’s an impossible war to wage. Terror is a feeling, not an army. Terrorism is something that has existed since time immemorial, whereby people or groups wage irregular attacks against military and civilian targets alike in order primarily to make people afraid, and secondarily to make some oft-facile point. Terrorism as a tactic is something that cannot be “defeated” in the traditional sense of fighting wars. It is something that needs to be monitored, infiltrated, prevented when possible, and punished when not. The best way to combat terror is to keep calm and carry on, and to remain vigilant against it.

In retrospect, I think, the biggest shock from 9/11 was how ineffective and sieve-like our security apparati were. We Americans have a short attention span, which means we tolerate window dressing (color-coded threat levels) over real effective change. We consolidated many agencies under the “homeland security” umbrella, and they’re supposed to be working together and sharing information.

I think bin Laden’s elimination, and the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks should lead to some “closure” of a real sort. The money, effort, and attention we pay to fight three separate and distinct wars in Asia and Africa could be so much better spent on solving longstanding issues here at home. Reforming the tax code to make it more fair and simpler, ensuring that Americans have access to quality health care that doesn’t bankrupt them, and otherwise saving or redirecting trillions of dollars spent now on multiple quagmires.

What I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is that Osama’s death won’t end terrorism. No act or omission by our government or military can ever end terrorism, any more than a war on drugs will end drug use. It’s a largely symbolic milestone.

But what a symbolic milestone it is. The killing of a mass murderer is a great thing to celebrate. The upcoming days will reveal more details about this operation and we’ll consume them with glee and awe. But since we’re the last superpower, we’re a huge target – both collectively and individually. Extremists and murderers will continue to want to become infamous by killing us.

Live your life. Be happy. Do things. Travel. Read. Write. Draw. Paint. Buy. Make. Invent. Love. Discover. The best way to defeat terror is to be. And to not be afraid.

(Image courtesy of Marquil at EmpireWire.com)