FUBAR

Troops almost captured bin Laden

US forces in Afghanistan came so close to discovering Osama bin Laden in the winter of 2004-2005 that his supporters were on the verge of killing him to prevent his capture, a US magazine reported Sunday.

Bin Laden’s entourage, ordered to kill the Al-Qaeda chief and themselves to avoid capture, were about to take the drastic action using a special code word when nearby US troops moved off in a different direction, Newsweek magazine said in its latest issue on sale Monday.

Terror database yields few arrests

The US government’s terrorist screening database flagged Americans and foreigners as suspected terrorists almost 20,000 times last year, but only a small fraction of those questioned were arrested or denied entry into the United States, it was reported Saturday.

The Washington Post said these numbers were raising concerns among critics about privacy and the list’s effectiveness.

A grim view of a failed war

Iraq’s government will become more precarious in the coming months and a drawdown of US forces could increase sectarian violence, American spy agencies said in a grim report Thursday.

The new intelligence estimate also predicted that security improvements made over the past six months will erode if the US military narrows its mission to supporting the Iraqi security forces and fighting Al-Qaeda.

The US intelligence community “assesses that the Iraqi government will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months because of criticism by other members of the major Shia coalition” as well as Sunni and Kurdish parties, the new estimate warned.

No surge in electricity

It was supposed to be a happy-talk news briefing by an Army general about progress in rebuilding Iraq. It turned into a cry of woe about the disintegration of the supply of electricity to Baghdad.

The briefing, as reported by The New York Times, led to questions to Karim Wahid, a respected Iraqi official, who told reporters that a key reason why there are only two to six hours of electricity in Baghdad on any given day is that armed militia groups now control electric dispatch centers and refuse to share power.

It shouldn’t happen to a dog

I’ve never been one of those fawning pet owners, the kind who dress up their animals in funny clothes and won’t let them be dogs. I guess I can understand some of the extremes when they substitute for children and human companionship, and I have rarely found many humans as loyal as a dog once it decides to latch on to you.

A tribute to the Big Mac

Cleveland has its Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum to celebrate the likes of Mick Jagger and the Beatles. Washington has its Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to highlight such milestones as man on the moon.

North Huntingdon, near Pittsburgh, is honoring another type of human achievement by turning the words “twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheese picklesonionsonasesameseedbun” into a tourist destination.

Stopping MySpace predators

The recent headlines might send a chill up any parent’s spine:

Suspect Accused Of Using Facebook To Lure 15-Year-Old Boy. Seven Teenaged Girls Assaulted By Men They Met Through MySpace.Com.

Social networking Web sites, such as MySpace, Facebook and Friendster, are a virtual playground where millions of children log in looking to make friends near and far.

Pentagon fails to protect troops in Iraq

The Pentagon expects to deliver only 1,500 mine-proof armored vehicles to Iraq by the end of the year, less than half the number promised a month ago, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Press secretary Geoff Morrell said the Pentagon will not be able to meet its goal of delivering 3,500 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles by the end of the year.

“If we could get 1,500 to theater by the end of this year that would be a positive development,” he said.

Will we be ready next time?

Two years ago, the CIA sent to Congress a report of several hundred pages done by its inspector general detailing the agency’s errors and missteps leading up to 9/11. The CIA fought strenuously against its release. Based on a heavily edited 19-page summary, it’s easy to see why.

Much of the summary spells out what was previously known or guessed at, and it did find that there was no “single point of failure” that allowed 9/11 to happen or “silver bullet” that would have prevented it.

Helping a friend

The guy has been a friend of John Powers since their middle-school days in Cumberland, R.I. When Powers headed for the University of Rhode Island, his friend headed for the Marine Corps.

His friend came back from Afghanistan in 2005.

“I saw his life fall off the face of the earth,” says Powers. “He couldn’t get a job.”

It has been two years, and still Powers worries. His friend will be OK for a couple of months, then get caught in that dark, frightening confusion that the Marines never prepared him for. He’ll stop calling.