By DALE McFEATTERS
This past week has been "war on terror" week in the nation’s capital, with President Bush holding almost daily events highlighting progress in GWOT, the global war on terror now having its own acronym.
It was almost like old-home week. The almost-forgotten Osama bin Laden made a big-time appearance in Bush’s speeches, being mentioned 16 times in one and appearing in such heady company in the world of evildoers as Hitler and Lenin.
We tend to forget about bin Laden except when his minions drop off one of his incoherent audiotapes at al-Jazeera and we’re reminded that the old boy hasn’t given up his dreams of restoring the caliphate in the Mideast with himself presumably as caliph.
The Pakistani government is talking about making peace with the autonomous tribes along the border with Afghanistan where he has presumably been hiding. The Pakistanis say this will mean no letup in the hunt for bin Laden, but it sure looks like it’ll be easier for him to duck out of his cave from time to time for a little fresh air. No one believes, as has been uncharitably alleged, that he is living in Karl Rove’s basement.
And, lest we forget, another old hand made a reappearance _ Mullah Omar. Remember Omar? He was head of the Taliban in Afghanistan and bin Laden’s host. The president released a letter from bin Laden to Omar, written after 9/11 but before the invasion of Afghanistan.
After the usual invective, bin Laden confidently predicts that U.S. intervention in Afghanistan would lead to our economic collapse and ultimately our disintegrating and shriveling into a Third World power as happened to the Soviet Union. A few months later, Omar was also a fugitive in a cave where he remains to this day.
Bin Laden asked God to look after Omar in the "afterlife," which is unintentionally ironic since, thanks to bin Laden, the rest of this one isn’t going to be too comfortable for him.
By mid-week, 14 more al Qaeda operatives reappeared in a presidential speech, this time on the occasion of their transfer from the CIA to the Department of Defense, which will ultimately try them.
Unlike some of the other mopes at Guantanamo Bay and some of the administration’s other sketchy arrests in the war on terror, these are serious, serious bad guys. They include senior al Qaeda operative Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh and Abu Zubaydah. Mohammed is believed to have been the mastermind behind 9/11, and Binalshibh would have been one of the hijackers if he could have gotten into the country.
The CIA has been sweating these guys for three to four years and the administration suggests that they have been drained of any actionable intelligence.
Inadvertently or not, the president ensured that in the unlikely event of their release, the al Qaeda operatives will not be returning to a hero’s welcome. According to Bush, once in custody they pretty quickly ratted out their friends and associates. Those knives back at the cave will not be out for the welcome-home dinner.
The first one of this lot to go on trial will be only the second person tried in connection with 9/11. Remember the first? Zacarias Moussaoui? Less and less, right? The same will happen to these guys. We remember Hitler and Lenin. We won’t remember them.
(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com)