Friday, January 20, 2006

On terrorists who come and go

Okay, so bored and frustrated by all of the attention directed at Iraq, Osama bin Laden released one of his signature creepy vague threat tapes to al Jazeera yesterday. The CIA has authenticated and voiceprinted and done whatever else they do to confirm that it is, in fact, Osama bin Laden, although at least one voice-authentification expert has expressed doubts. New and fancy about the tape is bin Laden's expression of his willingness to establish a truce. If you believe that, for the record, I've got some lovely oceanfront property yadda yadda yadda,

In response to the tape, Dick Cheney said that "it's no accident that we haven't been hit in more than four years."

Now, I hate to cause trouble, but I have to wonder about other things that haven't happened in the past four years. For instance, gas prices haven't been within smelling distance of a dollar in more than four years. The budget hasn't enjoyed a surplus in more than four years. Aliens haven't attacked in more than four years, an African-American hasn't been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in more than four years, and a sitting American president hasn't received a blow job in the Oval Office (or I'm guessing at all) for more than four years. Some of these are a result of the Bush administration's policies, some of them aren't, and some of them are pure coincidence. But what Cheney is doing there is a logical fallacy known as cum hoc ergo propter hoc, confusing correlation with causation. Obviously, terrorists haven't attacked within the US in the past four years because Bush is doing everything right.

My fear here is that this new video is going to become the administration's justification for the extra-warm water they've been in these past couple of months. They've been trying to convince us that if the NSA is listening in on our phone conversations without warrants, it's for our own good, and that if they're torturing detainees, that's also for our own good, and now look! Osama bin Laden is going to hit again! He said so himself!

I'd like to know if this came as a surprise to Bush et al. They certainly haven't given any indication to the public that they saw this coming, which I do understand (no need to let the enemy know you're on to him, after all), but now that it's out in the open, I'd really like to know whether or not they had advanced notice from the unwarranted eavesdropping they've done, or if they've managed to torture it out of someone. If they did have advance notice, I'm also interested in knowing if they had any plans to do anything about it; after all, a memo titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" didn't really get anyone leaping to action.

Mostly, though, I'd really like to know why bin Laden and his palmcorder are still wandering around to begin with. 'Cause another thing that hasn't happened in the past four years is the capture of Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or Ayman al-Zawahiri. CIA Director Porter Goss once had an "excellent idea" of where bin Laden was, but blamed "weak links" in the war on terror for our inability to actually step on him.

Ever since September 11, we've had two things stressed to us by the Bush administration: we have to fight the terrorists over there so we won't have to fight them over here, and the people responsible for the attack on the US have to be brought to justice. But somehow, that last message has gotten a bit muddled in the current campaign to win the hearts and minds of Iraq, or bring them democracy, or find WMD, or whatever reasoning we're using now. What I want to know is how not capturing Osama bin Laden figures into the administration's plans to keep us protected from terrorists.

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