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The Tentacle


May 3, 2011

Baksheesh and bin Laden

Roy Meachum

The world almost universally praised Barack Obama for accomplishing the elimination of Osama bin Laden in a little more than two years, accomplishing a feat George W. Bush failed to pull off in eight years.

 

Mr. Bush and his vice president, Dick Chaney, offered congratulations to the man now sitting in the Oval Office. Other Republican leaders bit their tongues rather than praise Mr. Obama. Meanwhile, the electorate celebrated, gathering in throngs before the White House and on New York’s Ground Center. A San Francisco rally produced a tee-shirt emblazoned simply: “Obama Got Osama.”

 

Republican President Bush held the nation’s highest office on September 9, 2001, usually reduced to 9/11. It was the day that Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida struck terror in the nation’s hearts and psyche. By early afternoon, when the smoke cleared, nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives.

 

We were told the evil mastermind lived in Afghanistan; Mr. Bush ordered strikes in the suspected areas. Nothing. Despite the president’s noble words of good intentions, the chief terrorist continued to taunt the free world with more threats. Combined with the invasions of Baghdad and Kabul, the United States suffered its historically low point in Muslim countries, complicated by our dismal record in not catching bin Laden.

 

The reasons became apparent that it was not all Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney’s ineptness. Beginning in 1979, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan intelligence organized resistance. There was no doubt in Washington minds that Islamabad fostered the growth of the Taliban. When the Red Army marched north to Russia, the Islamists took command of Kabul and its regions. They were firmly dependent on the Pakistani handlers that they must have consulted when Osama bin Laden returned, after being kicked out of his native Saudi Arabia and later from Sudan. After all, he was very rich and could pay for accommodations.

 

Having lived and worked in Cairo, I appreciate the role baksheesh plays in the Arab world. Pay-off money makes that world go round, usually hidden behind some attribute. In Pakistan’s situation, it is sovereignty. No longer in power and dependent on U.S. dollars, former President Pervez Musharraf proclaimed:

 

“America coming to our territory and taking action is a violation of our sovereignty. Handling and execution (by U.S. forces) is not correct. The Pakistani government should have been kept in the loop…”

 

It should be noted Abbottabad, the town where bin Laden was discovered, contains a sizeable army base; its population is mostly retired colonels and generals, and there’s a military academy turning out future officers. We can scarcely imagine what a hint of Mr. Obama’s intention might have meant. It didn’t happen, and Pakistani intelligence lost an abundant source of baksheesh.

 

The best thing that can be said about George W. Bush is he played by the rules, keeping all the involved players in the loop and against an enemy that operated behind the Quran while breaking all Islam’s Holy Book principles and teachings.

 

By the way, having visited Asia, the Special Forces, led by U.S. Navy SEALs and directed by the CIA, did not go in to take out Osama bin Laden Sunday evening, but early Monday morning when the sun was going up.

 



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