Reports the Chicago Tribune today, via AP:
"The regional newspaper l'Est Republicain on Saturday printed what it described as a copy of a confidential document from the DGSE intelligence service citing an uncorroborated report from Saudi secret services that the leader of the al-Qaida terror network had died."
French President Jacques Chirac told the press that he is "a bit surprised" that French intelligence leaked this information. Not that he's furious or embarrassed, or will pursue the leaker, or is even surprised... just a "bit" surprised. (Translation: this is planned leak.)
Chirac also told AP that while he has "no comment" on the suspected death of Osama bin Laden, he stated that the report is not confirmed. (Translation: Chirac never denied the accuracy of the report, nor stated that he doesn't believe it. In fact, he gives the story great credibility and international attention merely by commenting on it. And he knows it... )
But this is hardly news. Dozens of world leaders have fully believed for years that bin Laden is dead. And in November 2005, our own US intelligence told Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid back that bin Laden is likely dead. If Mr. Reid revealed this to the public, then he, too, must have believed it with great certainty.Dead or alive, bin Laden has been enormously useful to Bush and Rove
This, of course, would be a great disappointment to Karl Rove, who leads the Bush-Republican election campaign machine which has faithfully spooked US voters with politically-useful images of bin Laden during every election season since 9/11.
And more and more Americans find it weirdly coincidental that bin Laden tapes "surface" exactly when George Bush needs to shore up his support (like two days before the November 2004 election). And almost never happens at any other time.
Dead or alive, Osama bin Laden has been a politically-useful ghost to Karl Rove and George Bush. And I don't hear Republicans denying that obvious fact. Do you?
Why did the French "Leak" bin Laden's Death?
But I digress... the question today is why would French Intelligence suddenly "leak" the news of bin Laden's long-whispered death? And more curiously, why would French President Chirac lend the story massive credibility by ambiguously not "confirming" it? He clearly didn't deny the story.
To rebuke and reveal the Bush White House in all its deviousness and dishonesty? To end the possible charade of bin Laden as living, breathing threat to world peace?
Or was this leak coordinated with, as a favor to, the Bush White House, which looks like bumbling idiots for not capturing bin Laden 5 years after 9/11? Perhaps bin Laden has lost his sting as fear-invoking image, and now merely reminds Americans of the incompetence of US intelligence under George Bush.
Intrigung and important questions, for sure, and yet, unanswerable.
But one black-and-white fact remains: more and more of the world believes that Osama bin Laden is dead. And perhaps has been dead for several years.
UPDATE: "U.S. and Pakistani officials have said recently that they had not received a credible lead on his whereabouts in more than two years," reports the Washington Post on September 24, 2006, in an artcle in which US and French officials express skepticism that Osama bin Laden has died.
Is Osama bin Laden Dead? Are bin Laden Tapes Fakes?
Senator Harry Reid Told Osama Bin Laden Killed in Pakistan Earthquake
Top Five Signs Bush and Rove Are in Election Season 2006: Smear, Fear & Two Useful Ghosts
Is bin Laden Dead? , Time magazine on September 23, 2006