“Isn’t it time we had the truth? Yes or no, did Osama Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora in 2001?” — John Kerry, Daily Kos, January 20, 2005
John Kerry, the world famous Francophiliac junior senator from Massachusetts, now begins blogging at the cozy Dem cave of Daily Kos with the same high dudgeon of his late campaign.
It is strangely nostalgiac to hear John Kerry’s rightous tone sound exactly the same today as it did the last time he was on the stump, November 2, 2004. It feels fourteen months as if it is fourteen minutes, because he launches into the podium pounding mode about Osama Bin Laden, Tora Bora, what Bush didn’t do, war on terror, yes or no, war, war, bring it on, me, Bush, me.
The Kerry charge, from the last weeks of the campaign, as I best recall it, since it seems like last year’s runner up movie for the Golden Globes, is that George Bush ran down and trapped the scared, hallucinatory, mass-murdering OBL in the perilous landscape of the Tora Bora mountains in November and December, 2001, and then, because George Bush is a wimpy, stupid, slab-sided, Cheney-creepy commander in chief, George Bush let OBL get away.
Kerry never explained why George Bush would let OBL get away — why George Bush would order the US to war within moments of the 9-11 attack, sending waves of aircraft at Kabul and Kandahar and anything else with a profile in Afghanistan, reducing the Taliban to snarling dust, and then, at the last moment, with the bad guy backed into a box canyon ten thousand feet high, would decide, nah, I’m soft-minded, let’s break off. Kerry just accused: George Bush refused to pull the trigger! Why? That was left to our imaginations.
Yet in the heated last moments of the campaign, Kerry’s charge made enough sense to the blue team to rally the polling and show momentum in Ohio, Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, and other states Team Kerry needed to win.
My memory is that this sound bite of huff-and-I’ll-puff electioneering was doing well at the blue watering hole until, deus ex machina, OBL popped up on a video, the weekend before election day, chanting much the same rubbishy we’ll-forgve-you-if-you-forgive-yourself stuff, and Kerry got caught on camera treating OBL as an irritant, or a dirty trick, or a talking head trying to steal his TV time, and the electorate realized, what are we thinking? John Kerry is all talk, no shoot.
Now we are are fourteen months on, and Kerry is back to the future as a Francophiliac junior senator from Massachusetts, and yet he still wants to know why George Bush is such a dope to let OBL get away.
Facts are sturdy. I report what I have learned from Gary Berntsen, retired CIA officer, who was Jawbreaker, the man chaged with tracking down and killing OBL at Tora Bora from November to mid-December, 2001.
OBL did retreat with several hundred woozy loyalists into the woeful mountains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border; OBL did prepare an ambush for any forces that pushed up, Russian style, to get him in those valleys. And the CIA did send spotter teams up to the peaks to use laser identifiers to target the Taliban and Al Q death squads. And we did drop a BLU-82 on the site where we had good intelligence, including voice-identifying, that OBL was hiding; and then we sent in waves of bombers with 500 pound bombs. The valley was shredded, pulverized, reorganized.
What didn’t happen was that Gary Berntsen requested a U.S. Army Ranger Battalion to finish the job on the ground, and he didn’t get it. Gary does not know who turned off the request, sometime between December 4 and when he was pulled out, December 15. Gary is certain it was not Tennett, or Pavitt, or Rumsfeld, or Powell, or even Franks at CENTCOM. The troops may have worked, may not: it’s still worth debating. Instead the decision was made to let our so-called Afghan allies do the job, and some of them sold their services to OBL and walked him out to Pakistan.
What is true is that George Bush ordered CENTCOM and the CIA to assault and take a country of gangsters and jihadists: and it took about 100 CIA officers and contractors, with the support of various Afghan warlords, about 60 days to clean the country of the bad guys. OBL got out because he paid for a guide and then walked into the control of the same Pushtun clans that he supported during the Soviet invasion of the 1980s.
Al Q high command has not moved much since December 2001. The CIA missile strike on January 13, 2005, killed, according to still confirming reports, four of the major Al Q leaders who were likely at Tora Bora, or near to, in December 2001. The missile strike missed bumpy headed Ayman al-Zawahiri, but he hasn’t run far.
Would a major ground assault get the job done today? Gary Berntsen believes the risks are great. Also complicating the story now is that Pakistan is unstable and that Iran is now the main enemy. The U.S. does not want to alienate Pakistan as it builds support to go up against scared, hallucinatory, mass-murdering Iran.
To return to John Kerry’s frozen question: “Isn’t it time we had the truth? Yes or no, did Osama Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora in 2001?”
The answer is that intelligence is good that OBL was at Tora Bora in November – December 2001,and that he is still there, or has been, ever since. And that the Bush Administration still wants him dead, which is why the President took the risk of approving the missile strike of January 13, to strip away more of OBL’s prayer group.
Now, John Kerry, if you were president today, would you have taken that Januay 13 shot and risked losing Pakistan? Would you take the next shot, when it comes? Yes or no? And by shot, I mean, using a platform to kill human beings, many of them collateral to the target, including one scared, hallucinatory, mass-murdering tall man.
I am not certain you would take the shot, John Kerry, which is likely the reason you are not president — because you did not convince a majority of voters that you are a shooter as well as Francophiliac junior senator from Massachusetts.
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