If We're Supposed To Care That Hamza bin Laden Is Dead Why Aren't They Also Talking About al-Zawahiri

In this image from video released by the CIA, Hamza bin Laden is seen as an adult at his wedding. The never-before-seen video of Osama bin Laden’s son and potential successor was released Nov. 1, 2017, by the CIA in a trove of material recovered during the May 2011 raid that killed the al-Qaida leader at his compound in Pakistan. The one hourlong video shows Hamza bin Laden, sporting a trimmed mustache but no beard, at his wedding. He is sitting on a carpet with other men. (CIA via AP)


On Saturday, President Trump confirmed that Hamza bin Laden, the eldest son of deceased terrorist Osama bin Laden, had been killed by a US military operation in Af/Pak region, reports say most likely in Ghazni Province. For reasons that I don’t quite understand, other than wanting to eradicate the bin Laden bloodline, this was supposed to be significant. Was it? I have my doubts. CNN quotes someone they portray as “CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank” to the effect that usually al Qaeda makes a huge deal about their martyrs and that didn’t happen in this case. (I say portray because a large number of CNN’s “analysts” are pathetic lackwits who worked on the outer periphery of they area they are professing expertise about.) CNN, being CNN, has its man giving the impression that the story is not true, presumably because Trump and, you know, OrangeManBad.

I have no reason to doubt bin Laden ‘s son is dead. But, because no big deal was made over his martyrdom by al Qaeda, I’m similarly forced to conclude that beyond his surname, he wasn’t a big deal. And this leads you to think about who steps forward to fill the gap.

Many years ago, when I was an ROTC cadet, the senior non-commissioned officer in our detachment was a Pennsyltucky boy. He’d been a member of the 173d Airborne Brigade when it still had jump status during Vietnam. He served several tours there and the claim to fame that endeared him to all of us aspiring officers was the tale of how after he’d taken a Claymore pellet through the foot in an NVA ambush and recovered he’d convinced a doctor skeptical that anyone with a concave wound in his foot had any business jumping out of airplanes to put him back on jump status by climbing onto the examining table, jumping off, and executing a parachute landing fall. And he didn’t do it once, he kept doing it until the doctor relented and signed the appropriate paperwork.

One of the stories he used to tell us, over and over, was about unintended consequences. During one of his tours in RVN, his base camp’s airstrip was periodically targeted by a Viet Cong sniper. The guy was an annoyance but never hit anything. Every time the camp got a new commander, he’d want to send out a patrol and kill the guy. But he was always talked out of it based on the fact that the current sniper never hit anything and if they killed him, the NVA command might send  a replacement who could shoot. In fact, after each shooting by the sniper the communications element would make an in-the-clear broadcast about an aircraft damaged and friendlies killed or wounded knowing that the it would be intercepted. This made the current sniper look good to his bosses and reduced the likelihood of him being replaced.

How does that fit in here? Let’s face it. We haven’t heard a lot from al Qaeda in some time amd what we have heard has not been impressive. In fact, in the Syrian civil war Obama’s CIA was touting al Qaeda linked groups as the “moderates” we should support. Above all else, a millenialist group like al Qaeda can’t recruit or raise funds without a) charismatic leadership and b) visible success. A life on the run would hardly have prepared young Hamza with the skills to lead an organization nor would he have necessarily had his father’s access to the deep pockets of moneymen in the Arab world to raise cash. I suspect that the late Hamza wasn’t much of a leader but his name locked him in at the top of al Qaeda leadership–think of him as the equivalent of a legacy admission to an Ivy League university–where he did nothing and now his death has created a vacuum that will be filled by someone who might actually be competent. Let’s face it, how important can he really be if his death didn’t rate a mention in Trump’s Twitter feed. I think that in the end we will find we would have been better served to leave Hamza bin Laden alive and as a roadblock in the al Qaeda leadership. If we did anything at all we should have made him into a super villain in the media to lock him into position and further hamstring the organization.

Which leads me to a second and somewhat related point. What’s up with Ayman al-Zawahiri? This is the guy who was supposed to be calling the shots for al Qaeda and he’s totally disappeared from sight. One would have thought that after Osama bin Laden’s death that all the resources of our national intelligence apparatus would have been employed to find him. Did he die? Has he retired? Just the other day something popped into my twitter feed that intrigued me. If you go back to the Golden Age of Terrorism, the time of Black September and the Munich Olympics and airliners hijacked on what seemed like a weekly basis, the guy at the center of it all was a Palestinian named Ali Hassan Salameh, his nom de guerre was Abu Hassan and he was known to Western intelligence services as the Red Prince because of a flamboyant lifestyle that included being married to Georgina Rizk, a Miss Lebanon and Miss Universe winner–she did not wear a burqa or abaya or chador, in fact, she wore a lot less than that and no one in the Arab world gave a fat rat’s ass. Salameh led a charmed life until Mossad finally caught up with him. After his death we found out why:

I don’t know if Hamza bin Laden was important, but I’m skeptical of professional liars and deceivers who suddenly tell me what I should think when I’ve never heard it before. I wonder why we’re suddenly told, now, that he’s not only dead but a linchpin in a major terrorist organization. I don’t know if al-Zawahiri is a terrorist mastermind who is leading a charmed life or if he’s dead and we just don’t know it, or if there is something else going on. What I do know is that very rarely are things in what I think John le Carre called a “looking glass war” are as they seem and when our sole source of information is from people who lie to just stay in practice, we need to be skeptical about what we hear.

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