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Among the slew of articles that have come out since Osama bin Laden’s death, I think this one might be my favourite. In it, Jeremy Singer-Vine pontificates upon how far bin Laden could have run with the 500 euros or $740 that was supposedly sewn into his clothes. He takes into consideration ticket fare for buses, taxi fare as well as nitty gritty like the fact that many taxi drivers may not want to take euros for fear of the cash being counterfeit. Ultimately Singer-Vine reaches the following conclusions. If bin Laden had decided to drive off into the sunrise after evading the Navy SEALs, and presuming that guards on the route were not looking to sell bin Laden out, the most wanted terrorist ring leader in the world would have got as far as Benghazi, Libya. Singer-Vine even has a route:

Your best bet will be to drive via Peshawar toward Afghanistan, where you’ll find Pakistan’s most porous borders. With petrol prices at about 90 rupees per liter, it’ll cost about 10 rupees per kilometer driven, or around 19 cents per mile. If you stock up on enough petrol at cheap stations, sleep in the car, feed yourself on $1 per day, and venture 400 miles each day, you might be able to drive the 3,725 miles of road between Abbottabad and Benghazi in a little less than 10 days before your cash runs out.

I love this alternative ending. Not only because bin Laden lands up in a civil-war mangled country with the hope of security but more for the image I have of Osama bin Laden on a “Thelma and Louise” road trip. There he is, with the wind in his beard, inhaling freedom while his mobile dialysis kit rattles in the backseat.

Bin Laden could also have taken a flight out of Pakistan, in which case the furthest he could go is Taiwan. He’d have been fine there, I think. I mean, who would think of looking for bin Laden in Taiwan? Plus, just imagine the 6′ 6″ bearded Islamic militant trying to blend in with the Taiwanese. Incidentally, the Taiwanese had a brilliant idea when they were faced with the problem of having news about the operation against bin Laden but not having any pictures. They made an animated video to show you what happened in Operation Geronimo. From the look of things, this is pretty standard practice for NMA News Direct. They have animated videos for pretty much every story. I think my personal favourite might be this video in which they show President Barack Obama and his advisors mulling over whether or not photos of bin Laden’s dead body should be released.

Particularly love the thought bubbles. The video that shows how a random Tweeter became a celebrity is quite priceless as well (not sure why he’s made to crouch next to a HUGE rock in a garden when he’s tweeting about the Osama raid but I do think there needs to be some protest about how dowdy the Taiwanese think Pakistani women are). There’s also a fantastic one showing us how bin Laden lived in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s poor ISI has been getting whipped by international media ever since America announced that the CIA planned and executed Operation Geronimo without any help or intelligence from Pakistan. It’s a lose-lose situation for Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, who heads up the ISI. Whether Pakistan claims to have known about bin Laden’s whereabouts or otherwise, the ISI is screwed. Pasha has a choice between him and his organisation looking either inept or uncooperative. No wonder the man has disappeared ever since the news of bin Laden’s death was released. As the Wall Street Journal noted, the killing of bin Laden has meant that ISI has brought upon Pakistan national humiliation. Pakistani newspaper Dawn titled its article on the ISI, “A History of Bungling“. It’s come to the point where Times Now’s anchor Arnab Goswami can frame a nearly-coherent accusation (unheard of) upon Pakistan and the ISI. Even the über-patriotic Pervez Musharraf had to admit to Indian news channels that Operation Geronimo showed an intelligence failure from the Pakistanis. It really can’t get much worse than that.

Of course the Indian media’s response to Operation Geronimo was, as usual, brilliant. First, since Pakistan was forced into a defensive position, we hopped up and down demanding Dawood Ibrahim and other terrorists be handed over to India. I suppose the logic is that you never know when you get lucky. Then, some genius reporter decided to ask the head of the Indian air force if India could have carried out Operation Geronimo. The Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, in his infinite wisdom, said yes. I almost choked when I read that. In recent times, chief ministers of two Indian states have died in chopper crashes, and Naik would have us believe we can whoosh into Pakistan in helicopters.

This is why South Asia needed ISI. It made South Asian military and intelligence types look cool. The fact that it’s been exposed to be a bungler is terrible news for the South Asian region’s self-image. The ISI was the only Bond-like agency that we had in the region. India’s RAW, in addition to its unfortunate acronym, has almost always found out what’s happening in the country when its operatives read the morning newspaper. On the few occasions when RAW did have a hint of info, no one acted upon it because no one expected RAW to actually know things. The agency seems to be as toothless and jobless as Kermit the Frog. But the ISI was an intelligence wing that was as slick as the CIA and Mossad and others of that ilk. It was said you couldn’t pull a chair out without ISI knowing. It had an aura of intelligence and menace. It outwitted enemies. It made us brown people look cool. Except now it seems they’re as inept as RAW. Such a shame. Sigh.

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7 thoughts on “Intelligence Failure

  1. Obama knew about the suspected house in August — if he had acted before the election the voting results may have been entirely different . Obama deserves credit for not making the timing political, but what was best for the operation.

    Pakistan’s intelligence is so inept they didn’t know about the raid and that the US was running a sophisticated intelligence gathering safe house within sight of Osama’s house. It seems Osama’s abettors also dropped the ball.

    Superpowers can be equally inept — there was a 19 year-old who landed a (single-engine) plane in Red Square adjacent to the Kremlin in 1987. The plane flew from Helinski to Moscow without being detected by radar.

  2. The US is joyfully framing the Osama mission as “Requiem for an Al-Qaeda Dream.” This includes tearing bin Laden down as a purveyor of pornography (allegedly found on the confiscated disk drives). So it might be amusing to hypothesize what other ad-hominem attacks on Osama bin Liden will be forthcoming from the US state department:
    — Osama’s grey and dyed black beards are fake.
    — Osama raised pigs and ate pork in his compound.
    — Osama likes Johnny Walker Red.
    — Osama’s Viagra cachet.
    — Osama’s 8th wife is a man (ouch!).

    • Given how many wives and kids Osama has, I don’t think he needed Viagra. Especially when you consider his father had some 50-odd, and that’s in a pre-Viagra age, thank you very much.

      As conspiracy theories go, I have the best one. The Abottabad videos suggest Osama’s life was following the plot of Prisoner of Zenda. Why would Osama watch old Al-Jazeera footage of himself? Clearly that’s an impostor who was learning Osama’s body language. That’s why he looks different and his beard is freshly-dyed in the videos that show his face (but have no voice. Ha!). In which case, the p0rn isn’t really Osama’s and all is well with the world. Unless of course OBL is alive and plotting something.

      Good grief. I feel like Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory now.

      • The zanies will concoct a “it wasn’t OBL theory” no matter how gently his demise is handled. So why not push the caricatures to the limit… Having multiple wives might be the reason OBL had Viagra (still might want to check the paternity of the kids 🙂

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