What if the Killing of Bin Laden Is the Beginning of The Great American Retreat?
"I'm sorry, you know I can't disclose my location."
It was the spirit of my long-deceased friend, James Jesus Angleton, whom I'd reached via ouija board for what I hoped would be a highly informative conversation, but the way he spat out that phrase suggested I may have asked the wrong question. I wanted to know if he'd had the chance to talk to Osama bin Laden's ghost, and yes, I knew that if Angleton said "yes" it would finally tell me where he was residing.
ML: "Sorry, I didn't mean it that way, but you know there are lots of questions about the operation that sent him away from this level."
JJA: "And how! We can talk about it, love to. It's a counter-intelligence playground, there are scads of different ways to interpret it. But the version from the White House is probably one of the least likely, and the fact that they've changed their story -- including key details -- suggests that they wanted to cover up the genesis of the operation."
ML: "You mean you don't believe the story about tracking the courier?"
JJA: "Well, duh, of course we tracked couriers. But unless you sit down and talk to the courier, and unless you decide to believe what he says, just watching a courier doesn't give you operational intelligence, like the floor plan of the villa and the number of people inside, and the condition of the target and are there weapons there, blah blah."
ML: "So you're saying that we needed a human source?"
JJA: "At least one, maybe more. It's best if you have more than one, it gives you some confidence that your information is accurate."
ML: "And that source or sources? Who could they be?"
JJA: "Just to be precise, we should not be so antiseptic in our language. I'm saying that Osama was betrayed. Somebody who knew the details -- or maybe several somebodies -- delivered him to us. So the question is, who betrayed him? And why?"
ML: "Good, now we're getting someplace. And then there's another question, a very big question: what did we pay the traitor?"
JJA: "Right, that's always a key issue in espionage."
ML: "Yeah, the spooks love to talk about their tradecraft, about how potential recruits have weaknesses, some want money, some want sex, some are in it for political or ideological motives..."
JJA: "Don't pay too much attention to stories about recruitment. The most important agents are usually walk-ins. We didn't recruit a single major spy during the Cold War; they came to us. Every last one of them..."
ML: "Well you should know! So who walked in?"
JJA: "Probably the Paks. They work with lots of AQ terrorists, as we know. Second choice: A high-ranking al-Qaeda person, someone of the stature of a Zawahiri."
ML: "The Paks? But everyone in Washington is saying that we were being taken for a ride by the Paks. They had to know bin Laden was in that villa, but they never told us. The bastards were taking our money at the same time they were protecting our number one target."
JJA: "Yes, yes. Which means they had the opportunity to betray him."
ML: "Why would they want to do that if they were in cahoots with him?"
JJA: "There are many possible reasons. One is that things were going badly with us -- look at all the tough language coming from the likes of General Petraeus and from leading members of Congress and several spoon-fed journalists -- and the gift of bin Laden would make for a happier Obama administration."
ML: "A happier America, in fact."
JJA: "Precisely so. The Paks don't want to lose all that money, and an angry America at a time of huge budget deficits is risky for them."
ML: "So we promise to continue the cash flow in exchange for bin Laden?"
JJA: "And more."
ML: "What more can we offer?"
JJA: "An end to all the violence out of Afghanistan. No more Predators, Hellfires, incursions..."
ML: "Which serves Obama's purposes as well, wouldn't it?"
JJA: "Just so. And, going back to the list of suspects, it might serve the interests of an important part of al-Qaeda. Like Zawahiri..."
ML: "I don't see that, sorry."
JJA: "My fault. I left out a couple of dots there. The war in Afghanistan is going badly for al-Qaeda. We've been slaughtering them for many many months, just read the military reports. So their recruitment is down, their fund-raising is down, their morale is down. Inevitably, this sort of thing produces divisions within the organization. Some of them want to fight on, others say let's cut our losses and focus on the opportunities elsewhere...the world is changing, after all..."
ML: "Like Egypt?"
JJA: "Like Egypt. Zawahiri's country, which is a lot more important to the future of the jihad..."
ML: "and Caliphate!"
JJA: "Well said, and Caliphate, than the backwater/hellhole that is Afghanistan."
ML: "I think I'm getting it. But bin Laden doesn't want to admit defeat in Afghanistan, and Egypt might appear too big for a small organization like al-Qaeda, and so there's an internal rift."
JJA: "Yes. Which gives bin Laden's enemies inside al-Qaeda a motive for betrayal, either on their own or via the Pakistanis who have been protecting them all these years."
ML: "So maybe it's a three-cushion shot?"
JJA: "Maybe. We agree to pull back, maybe even out. Al-Qaeda -- the anti-bin Laden part, anyway -- makes the same deal (they relocate to Cairo or Luxor). And all the Paks want is a guarantee from us concerning the operation."
ML: "Which is?"
JJA: "Which is that Osama is NOT going to be interrogated."
ML: "Right, of course! Because they don't want him to tell us about..."
JJA: "About THEM. And also about others, by the way. About Zawahiri, about the Saudi deals, about all the help AQ has gotten from Assad in Syria. It's quite a long list. All of them want him dead. None of them wants him interrogated, and least of all on a witness stand, be it military or civilian."
ML: "So that explains many things about the operation, doesn't it?"
JJA: "It explains why no Pakistani, not a soldier, not a cop, not even a curious citizen, ran over to see what was going on at the villa for three quarters of an hour, despite all the noise. It explains why there was no reaction whatsoever from the Paks when we invaded their air space and operated inside --well inside -- their borders for what was probably several hours. "
ML: "Yes, I've been trying to call attention to that."
JJA: "That's my boy! It wasn't totally a joint operation but we undoubtedly agreed on some rules. We would kill him -- apparently one of his daughters is now saying that we captured him without resistance and then executed him, which tracks with my view of things -- and they would give us time, and calm, at the villa."
ML: "And so all the chest-pounding about Pakistani duplicity is a deception."
JJA: "Of course it is. But there weren't many who were doubting it, were there?"
ML: "Nope. Everybody wanted to celebrate. My friend Toby over at the London Telegraph was one of the few exceptions."
JJA: "A Brit, not one of the American herd..."
ML: "Well thanks, Jim. Just one more thing if you are so inclined?"
JJA: "Pray tell."
ML: "If you happen to run into bin Laden..."
With that, the ouija board flamed out. But he gave us a hell of a tale, didn't he?