See the man on the left? I’m speculating that this was a dying man.
Just one day after a purported audiotape from bin Laden surfaced early this week, a terror attack took place at an Egyptian beach resort, killing more than 20 people.
I just started doing this blog, and I don’t like to come out right off the bat sounding like I subscribe to conspiracy theories. I certainly don’t. I just happen to suspect that Osama bin Laden never made it out of Tora Bora alive in December of 2001.
Not that it really matters much in the larger scheme of things. This isn’t whistling past the graveyard. I don’t say this out of fear or denial, or out of hope that any threat from Al Qaeda diminishes in his absence. Al Qaeda does not depend upon him for its survival. I don’t claim to even know it for sure. I’m merely speculating, but the evidence and my gut instinct suggest to me that he has been dead for quite some time.
For one thing, I can’t understand why he would only make statements via audiotape rather than videotape. There’s no way we could pinpoint his location if he was videotaped in front of a bedsheet. IMHO, the videotape that was played on Al Jazeera just before the 2004 presidential election was questionable. It was distant, murky, and seemed uncharacteristic of the bin Laden we’d always seen, both in gesture and in manner of speech. I don’t want to get into the whole matter of which intelligence agencies considered it authentic and which ones did not. Besides, bin Laden has dozens of brothers and Al Qaeda has plenty of technical savvy. I wouldn’t say it was outside of their capabilities to put together audio and/or a crude video that could pass a voice-analyzing test.
Second, there was this report from a source in the notoriously undisciplined Taliban right after the fall of Tora Bora in December 2001 regarding bin Laden’s death and funeral. Its closeness to the events at hand lend it a certain credibility.
"The Coalition troops are engaged in a mad search operation but they would never be able to fulfill their cherished goal of getting Usama alive or dead," the source said.
Bin Laden, according to the source, was suffering from a serious lung complication and succumbed to the disease in mid-December, in the vicinity of the Tora Bora mountains. The source claimed that bin Laden was laid to rest honorably in his last abode and his grave was made as per his Wahabi belief.
About 30 close associates of bin Laden in Al Qaeda, including his most trusted and personal bodyguards, his family members and some "Taliban friends," attended the funeral rites. A volley of bullets was also fired to pay final tribute to the "great leader."
If it happened this way, Al Qaeda would never let the world know.
It increasingly appears that the mantle of leadership is being shared somehwat uneasily between Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is probably in hiding somewhere between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is in charge of Al Qaeda operations in Iraq. Zawahiri is the more senior figure, but he is vulnerable to a challenge to his leadership in that he has to remain in hiding in isolated spots and doesn’t have access to mountains of cash like the younger Zarqawi. Like bin Laden, Zawahiri would prefer to see all muslims united. Zarqawi, on the other hand, is a Sunni who has been absolutely sectarian in his attacks against the Shia. This has caused no small amount of tension between the two men. This is the biggest reason why I think bin Laden is not around anymore. I don’t think he would have stood for the attacks on the Shia mosques, and he would have had enough clout to stop it.
In July of 2005, a letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi was intercepted. Zarqawi is being scolded for the beheading of hostages and for the sectarian attacks against the Shia. (Apparently, there really are deep Sunni – Shia divisions. The Shia await a messiah-like figure called the twelfth imam, which the Sunni consider a heresy):
The position on the Shia: This subject is complicated and detailed. I have brought it up here so as not to address the general public on something they do not know. But please permit me to present it logically:
I repeat that I see the picture from afar, and I repeat that you see what we do not see. No doubt you have the right to defend yourself, the mujahedeen and Muslims in general and in particular against any aggression or threat of aggression….
People of discernment and knowledge among Muslims know the extent of danger to Islam of the Twelve'er school of Shiism. It is a religious school based on excess and falsehood whose function is to accuse the companions of Muhammad of heresy in a campaign against Islam, in order to free the way for a group of those who call for a dialogue in the name of the hidden mahdi who is in control of existence and infallible in what he does. Their prior history in cooperating with the enemies of Islam is consistent with their current reality of connivance with the Crusaders.
We must repeat what we mentioned previously, that the majority of Muslims don't comprehend this and possibly could not even imagine it. For that reason, many of your Muslim admirers amongst the common folk are wondering about your attacks on the Shia. The sharpness of this questioning increases when the attacks are on one of their mosques, and it increases more when the attacks are on the mausoleum of Imam All Bin Abi Talib, may God honor him. My opinion is that this matter won't be acceptable to the Muslim populace however much you have tried to explain it, and aversion to this will continue.
Indeed, questions will circulate among mujahedeen circles and their opinion makers about the correctness of this conflict with the Shia at this time. Is it something that is unavoidable? Or, is it something can be put off until the force of the mujahed movement in Iraq gets stronger? And if some of the operations were necessary for self-defense, were all of the operations necessary? Or, were there some operations that weren't called for?
And is the opening of another front now in addition to the front against the Americans and the government a wise decision? Or, does this conflict with the Shia lift the burden from the Americans by diverting the mujahedeen to the Shia, while the Americans continue to control matters from afar? And if the attacks on Shia leaders were necessary to put a stop to their plans, then why were there attacks on ordinary Shia? Won't this lead to reinforcing false ideas in their minds, even as it is incumbent on us to preach the call of Islam to them and explain and communicate to guide them to the truth?
And can the mujahedeen kill all of the Shia in Iraq? Has any Islamic state in history ever tried that? And why kill ordinary Shia considering that they are forgiven because of their ignorance? And what loss will befall us if we did not attack the Shia? And do the brothers forget that we have more than one hundred prisoners — many of whom are from the leadership who are wanted in their countries — in the custody of the Iranians? And even if we attack the Shia out of necessity, then why do you announce this matter and make it public, which compels the Iranians to take countermeasures? And do the brothers forget that both we and the Iranians need to refrain from harming each other at this time in which the Americans are targeting us?
Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable — also — are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages. You shouldn't be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and their description of you as the sheikh of the slaughterers, etc. They do not express the general view of the admirer and the supporter of the resistance in Iraq, and of you in particular by the favor and blessing of God.
Zawahiri, however, might not be the more powerful man at this point. After the latest round of attacks in recent months, Zawahiri has backed off, and is singing a different tune: