The Current Crisis

The Mystery of the Second Helicopter

How to account for the baggage left behind in Abbottabad?

By 5.12.11

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WASHINGTON -- It seems to me that our government had vastly more intelligence on what was going on in Osama bin Laden's ghastly hideout before sending SEAL Team 6 in last week than they are telling us. President Barack Obama told CBS that the odds in favor of Osama being in the compound were "at best" 55 percent. My guess is that they were closer to 100 percent. We know that from satellites overhead our intelligence officers thought they had bin Laden spotted in the complex. A man that they concluded was Osama was seen pacing regularly inside the compound grounds. Called "The Pacer," he was tall, and they figured he might very well be the 6'4" terror leader. So the order was sent to our SEAL Team to go in.

Yet why did they need a second helicopter? They were only after one man. They could have popped him or snatched him, and been off. The answer is obvious. They wanted to take his entire entourage with him and they knew who composed it. Instead after one of the choppers suffered some sort of difficulty the SEAL Team was left with just one chopper to take some two dozen warriors and the body out. So they left bin Laden's family for the Pakistanis to debrief. Now we shall be squabbling with this insufferable ally interminably over our lost baggage. The mission was a great success, but it was not perfect.

Today our intelligence community is dribbling out just the information it wants the world to know, and I am all for it. The amateur show we saw last week orchestrated by the White House was what one would expect from the presidency of a community organizer with almost no executive background. It was embarrassing, but now the professionals are back in charge. The revelations over the weekend are eerie, but somehow satisfying.

The man who enlisted a team of terrorists agents to get on four commercial jets a decade ago and turn them into missiles cruelly killing 3,000 people lived his last days like a cult leader with a pretty mangy cult. He sat in robes and blankets peering at himself in an old television atop a broken-down piece of furniture. The audio was withheld by our intelligence people lest bin Laden get his message out to the outside world, but I do not think it would have raised his stature in the minds of most viewers, at least most civilized viewers.

It is said that he was a "hands on" leader even in the end. He sent his courier out -- we are led to believe he had only one -- periodically to deliver orders and home videos of himself groaning on. On the videos he dyed his beard for with time it had whitened. What do you suppose his agents hunkered down in various hideouts throughout some of the least inhabitable parts of this orb thought of him? If you were his number two in command you might be too busy hoofing it from one hideout to the other. His lieutenants have a way of being vaporized. Others might feel they had received a celestial order from a prophet, but are apparently not real quick to execute such orders. The fact of the matter is that al Qaeda is not doing too well these days. Kaboom, there goes another one.

Not much is known about the workings of bin Laden's mind except that he liked things to blow up, smash into things, and go up in flames. Presumably, he could have directed action films brilliantly in Hollywood had his life taken a different turn. Oddly he seems to have come to Al Gore's position on "climate change." This makes him the second dubious figure in two months to come to Al's side. Last month Charles Manson broke years of silence and from California's Corcoran State Prison -- no relation to Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art -- rumbled, "Everyone's God, and if we don't wake up to that there's going to be no weather because our polar caps are melting because we're doing bad things to the environment."

I do not know if bin Laden had any helpful hints lately on the environment because intelligence officials blocked out the audio, but I do know that in October he urged his followers to get active in the Pakistan flood relief for, "We are in need of a big change in the method of relief work because the number of victims is great due to climate changes in modern times." Mr. Gore could not put it better, but what al Qaeda might do to improve relief work I do not know. Maybe they could blow up a bridge.

Actually bin Laden sounds like just another American progressive in talking about Iraq and "big corporations." In 2007 he chided our Democratic Congress for not concluding the war in Iraq, which he attributed to the massive influence of "big corporations." In another bull he lauded Jimmy Carter for his book advancing Palestinian rights and commented knowledgeably on the works of Noam Chomsky, whose books I had not known are apparently available in Arabic. Congratulations Jimmy and Noam.

Yet in the end, Osama was a lonely has-been -- a leader of a cult with only three women and some goats, and the women he had to marry. Somehow even the Rev. Jim Jones of the People's Temple exited more gloriously.

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About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.