Angelo Codevilla has come out and said, writing in the American Spectator, what I have believed for a long time: that Osama bin Laden is deader than Elvis.
Seven years after Osama bin Laden's last verifiable appearance among the living, there is more evidence for Elvis's presence among us than for his. Hence there is reason to ask whether the paradigm of Osama bin Laden as terrorism's deus ex machina and of al Qaeda as the prototype of terrorism may be an artifact of our Best and Brightest's imagination, and whether investment in this paradigm has kept our national security establishment from thinking seriously about our troubles' sources. So let us take a fresh look at the fundamentals [My list, Codevilla’s words]:
1. Since October 2001, when Al Jazeera's Tayseer Alouni interviewed him, no reputable person reports having seen him—not even after multiple-blind journeys through intermediaries.
2. The guy [on the videos] just does not look like Osama. Some videos show him with a Semitic aquiline nose, while others show him with a shorter, broader one.
3. Nor does the tapes' Osama sound like Osama. In 2007 Switzerland's Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which does computer voice recognition for bank security, compared the voices on 15 undisputed recordings of Osama with the voices on 15 subsequent ones attributed to Osama, to which they added two by native Arab speakers who had trained to imitate him and were reading his writings. All of the purported Osama recordings (with one falling into a gray area) differed clearly from one another as well as from the genuine ones.
4. Professor Bruce Lawrence, who heads Duke University's religious studies program, argued in a book on Osama's messages that their increasingly secular language is inconsistent with Osama's Wahhabism.
Codevilla concludes none of the post 9/11 messages from Osama were genuine, and that the original Osama is long gone.
This is important for at least a couple of reasons: the CIA continues to believe that all of the spurious messages are genuine, which serves to remind one that the CIA couldn’t find its own ass if both hands were duct taped to it.
The second a great reason is our focus on Osama has been counterproductive and bad for our thinking.
Focusing on Osama bin Elvis is dangerous to America's security precisely because it continues to substitute in our collective mind the soft myth that terrorism is the work of romantic rogues for the hard reality that it can happen only because certain states want it to happen or let it happen. KSM and company may not have started their careers as agents of Iraqi intelligence, or they may have quit the Iraqis and worked for others, or maybe they just worked for themselves. But surely they were a body unto themselves. As such they fit Osama's description of those responsible for 9/11 as "individuals with their own motivation" far better than they fit the CIA's description of them as Osama's tools.
This, as the Volokh Conspiracy points out, demolishes conventional wisdom across the political spectrum.