WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The American media miss things. Moreover,
the media are capricious. A few months back, journalists were in a fever,
remonstrating with the White House for withholding intelligence on the Sept.
11 terrorist attacks on America. Only a few days, later the same media were
in a fever remonstrating with the White House for scaring the hell out of
America by publicizing too many intelligence reports of anticipated terror
Now the media are overlooking an obvious story and a momentous
one: Osama bin Laden is dead. Intelligence services have not heard a peep
from his communications nest since December. One of the globe's leading
blabbermouths, he has had scores of occasions to pop up on a videotape
broadcast from al-Jazeera, the Middle Eastern aerobics salon-turned Arab
television station, and boast of yet another terrorist triumph. Yet he
remains silent, and in the last tape that was broadcast from sexy
al-Jazeera, he looked like he had been living on a diet of desert insects
and high-altitude bombs.
What more evidence do we need that he is dead? Well, we have not
heard a word from his family and the entourage that traveled about dusty
Afghanistan with him. Doubtless all are sealed away in the same cave, thanks
to the accuracy of the American Air Force.
Former associates such as Dr. Abu Laith Allibi (pronounced
ali-ebi) have attested that the Rev. bin Laden is in "good health." Indeed,
another upped the ante recently, claiming he is in "good and prosperous
What are we to conclude from these affirmations? Ask any student
of Arab terrorism. The bin Laden's associates are inveterate liars and
fantasists. What we can always conclude after one of their sonorous
affirmations is that the precise opposite is true. Allibi's holy pest is "in
bad health. He is dead."
Yet the American media have yet to indulge in the usual "feeding
frenzy." CNN did call in an expert or two this week to discuss the
possibility that the head of al Qaeda has assumed room temperature. At least
one of the weekend talk shows considered the funereal proposition, but so
far the only journalists I know who are intent on telling the world that
"Osama Is Dead" are Mark Steyn of London's Telegraph papers and the New York
Sun, and yours truly.
Evidence does accumulate that Steyn and I shall be vying for a
Pulitzer next season. News reports dribble in from Europe, suggesting bin
Laden's expiry. The FBI's chief anti-terrorist officer, Dale Watson,
publicly has stated his belief that we are right and bin Laden is gone
Both President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld have expressed doubt that we shall ever see the bewhiskered killer
upright again. From Araby comes a report in the authoritative newspaper
Asharq Al-Awsat that bin Laden's son has taken over a leaderless al Qaeda.
Now The Associated Press reports that bin Laden's bodyguards are
to be found among the terrorists we have incarcerated at our military camp
in Cuba -- no bodyguards, no body. The only authoritative source I know
still reporting that bin Laden is alive is the distinguished editor at large
of The Washington Times, Arnaud de Borchgrave. But I think Arnaud is
The media's present lack of interest in bin Laden's whereabouts
will have its usual perverse consequence. Once the journalists note that we
have no corpse and that a proper amount of time has elapsed, they will begin
a decades' long debate over where he is hiding. Long after the worms of Tora
Bora have ceased to treat Osama bin Laden as their own very tasty crepe
Suzette, journalistic theorists will be appearing on television shows
reporting that in a remote town in rural Argentina a tall swarthy man rides
an aging camel, a withered arm dangling from his side.
Or perhaps the sighting is made in Paraguay, where a man wearing
robes has been living in a cave for years, a rusting SUV standing on blocks
in the front yard. He has four wives, two use walkers when they go into town
to buy dates and nuts at the market.
Long after World War II, similar stories circulated about the
late Adolf, though all the best evidence had for years indicated that Hitler
died in Germany in the last days of the war. It is a fact that there is
always a larger audience for the unbelievable than for the believable.
Another fact is that our capricious media encourage the belief in the