Saturday, September 23, 2006

Don't Get Your Hopes Up

The internet and the MSM are abuzz with rumors that Osama bin Laden died from typhoid last month in Pakistan. This "report" came from a French newspaper, citing a recent report from the DGSE, the French national intelligence agency. Apparently, the DGSE report is based on a single, "reliable" Saudi source, and both French and U.S. officials have stressed that the information has not been confirmed. For what's it worth, the Saudi security services are reportedly convinced that the Al Qaida leader is dead; the French Defense Minister, in a bit of political posturing, has ordered a "full investigation" into the DGSE report.

If this sounds vaguely familar, it should. Rumors about bin Laden's health have circulated for years, without any real semblance of confirmation. For a man who was rumored to suffer from a severe kindey ailment, the terrorist leader seems amazingly healthy. Put another way: with the level of health care generally available along the Pakistan-Afghan border (even for the Al Qaida kingpin), if bin Laden suffered from a serious illness, he would have probably been dead long ago.

And that leads us to reason #1 to discount the French report. Typhoid can be easily prevented with vaccines, which are widely avaiable. It seems a bit incredulous that Al Qaida wouldn't take the precaution to innoculate its top leadership against a disease that is common in its current operational base, given the fact that group's #2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is a physician with a fair degree of skill and experience.

Beyond that, we're also missing the sort of hints that might actually accompany bin Laden's demise: chatter across Al Qaida communications circuits; announcements and messages of condolences of jihadist websites, and signs of a succession struggle within the group. Absent those indicators, it's difficult to lend much credence to a single-source report. There would be a certain irony if bin Laden succumbed to a microbe, instead of a Hellfire missile. But at this point, the odds that actually happened appear rather slim.


ExRat said...

I don't buy it. OBL may be dead, but I doubt from typhoid. OBL came from a wealthy family and has lived for many years in areas of the world where typhoid is endemic. It is inconceivable to me that he has never been inoculated against typhoid.

I was an Army brat and I got a typhoid shot or two while living in New York City, because the Army deemed it a good precaution in case we were transferred to someplace where the disease is more common. The shot is no big deal and it's been around for a long time.

If he is dead, the world's a better place for it, but it would have been much more satisfying to have captured or killed the SOB.

George said...

Isn't it also possible that this report is disinformation designed to try to stimulate phone calls and email between Al-Qaeda members inquiring about bin-Laden's health in the hope that someone would inadvertently say something that might give us a sense of where he's located?

Mike H. said...

O/T 'The Intellegence Community' (who ever that is) just released a report that there is a new kind of terrorist since (and because of) the war in Iraq. This prompted Kennedy "The Lesser" to pronounce the Iraqi endeavor a failure.

Why are we having a war within a war? What is going to happen to the political opposition when we lose the main war? Are they going to sell out to the victors so they won't be impacted? Do they think that they will continue to live when our insurgents go into operation? I really don't have any answers to these questions. Maybe someone can help.

Red A said...

People die all the time in the 3rd world from diseases that are easily preventable.

If you read accounts, some of our toughest SF guys got medevaced out days after arriving in Afghanistan, despite all the shots and vaccines, which Bin Laden might not have access to.

The means of transmission seem viable enough: some one who handles his food didn't wash their hands well enough.

Also, antiobiotic resistant strains exist in Pakistan...

Not saying its the truth, but its not inconceivable either.