Reliable intelligence sources report that George Tenet has assigned a total of thirty CIA operatives to find Osama bin Laden. Considering that bin Laden might be anywhere from Indonesia to Somalia, this is not a lot of manpower. J. Edgar Hoover put more guys than that on the case to go after John Dillinger, "public enemy number one" in his day.
Downgrading the importance of finding bin Laden (Remember Bush shouting after 9/11 that we would "git him?") has been attributed to a number of different reasons. Saddam Hussein poses a greater threat and an easier target (Rumsfeld). Hezboullah and its terrorist training camps pose a greater threat and are an easier target and bin Laden is of more use alive and on the run than dead (Senator Bob Graham of Florida). Bin Laden on the run means more money for the CIA. (George Tenet).
The Rumsfeld thesis is based on Rummy’s desperate need to stay young and vital at seventy. To do this, he needs to have another big time war like the one in Afghanistan, where, it can now be told, he and the CIA paid off the warlords and hired their troops as mercenaries to route the Taliban and Al Queda fighters. This was no war of liberation by the Northern Alliance, fighting for liberty and democracy. What Rummy got to do was use his powerful toys, his drones with pinpoint accurate bombs that retired spooks say would have won the war in Vietnam had they been available. (One thing about a retired spook— he never gives up the ghost.)
Viscount Rumsfeld of Kandahar can’t wait to do it again in Iraq, so he can be promoted to Duke of Baghdad. One can imagine him, sitting at the dining table, holding a brandy snifter in one hand and pounding the table with the other: "So we bashed the wog in Afghanistan and Iraq with equal ferocity, what?" as a group of young officers sit around the table, listening in awe as the candles in the candelabra burn down to a flicker.
"Whatever happened to bin Laden?" a young officer inquires.
"Vanished," Rumsfeld mutters. "And who bloody cares?"
Senator Bob Graham on the other hand, has different motives. He saw the results in the Florida gubernatorial race and choked. Jeb Bush crushed McBride, the shining light of the Democratic Party in Florida, like a bug, winning almost the entire Jewish vote, thanks to W’s "Israel can do no wrong" policy. To out-Israel the Bushes, Graham puts Israel’s number one on its wish list at the top of his own list, to win back those voters for the Democrats, so if he is on the ticket in 2004, he can deliver the state and win the election, making him the most powerful vice president in the nation’s history. And Israel’s number one priority now is the destruction of Hezboullah, poised to attack Israel with missiles loaded and ready to go, right across Israeli’s border in Lebanon.
"But what about bin Laden?" a reporter asks Graham.
"Who?" Graham asks.
"They guy behind the destruction of the World Trade Center. The one who engineered the attack on the Pentagon."
"If you look at the big picture," Graham asserts, "getting bin Laden is not significant. After all, Clinton could have gotten him and turned the Somalis down. It’s better to have a guy like that on the loose to keep us on our toes."
And then there is the master of spies, the one who briefs our glorious president every morning, George Tenet.
"George, you makin’ progress on this bin Laden stuff?"
"You bet, Mr. President. Got thirty guys on it."
"Thirty? Is that all?"
"Well, sir, the budget is kinda tight. That’s all I can spare right now."
"You gettin’ any help from the FBI?"
"Mr. President, you know the FBI and us don’t speak. We hate each other. Besides, they’re idiots. Mueller has said so himself."
"Can’t you up that figure to forty? If not, how about thirty five?"
"It’s a tight squeeze, Mr. President."
"Are you tryin’ a tell me you need more money?"
"You are sharp, Mr. President, really sharp."
"Thanks, George. Let’s get you a few more billion."
"That’ll be great, Mr. President. Then we can get the job done."
Let it never be said that our government is not on full alert, ever mindful of the Arab consciousness, which says that if the USA has not captured bin Laden, it has lost and he has won. And as long as bin Laden is the winner, he will be a hero and will get more recruits, eager to commit ever more terrorist acts of devastating consequences.
Thomas Hobbes postulated that the only justification for the creation of the state was its promise to protect its citizens from invasion from abroad and to prevent unmitigated violence within its boarders. He would have been amazed at how the Americans accept what is going on now under the new motto of America: "Hundreds of billions for the Department of Homeland Security, but not one cent for safety."
Richard Cummings [send him mail] taught international law at the Haile Selassie I University and before that, was Attorney-Advisor with the Office of General Counsel of the Near East South Asia region of U.S.A.I.D, where he was responsible for the legal work pertaining to the aid program in Israel, Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is the author The Pied Piper — Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream, the comedy, Soccer Moms From Hell, and the forthcoming novel, The Immortalists. He holds a Ph.D. in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University and is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.