(Based on the story told by members of the Army’s Delta Force who were there in Tora Bora)
All the action takes place in a command post in Afghanistan
General Gordon (speaking on a portable phone): Slow down, Colonel. I can’t understand a word you’re saying. (pause) So you say you think you’ve found Osama Bin Laden. Where? Tora Bora. OK, what’s the evidence? There’s an unusually tall, bearded guy in a robe standing outside a cave using his cellphone. Well, the beard and the robe aren’t very distinctive, but a 6-foot 5 guy like Bin Laden is not too common among the folks he hangs out with. Has he got a weapon? Uh-huh, an AK-47. Then, sure, call in an artillery barrage We’ll ID him later, and if it is Bin Laden, you’ll be up for a medal, maybe a Medal of Honor. Keep me informed.
General Allen (entering command post): What’s up, John?
General Gordon (hanging up phone): That was Delta Force, Tom. They think they found Bin Laden holed up in a cave in Tora Bora. They’re calling in artillery now.
General Allen: Great news! It sure would take the pressure off us to get him. People seem to think we should have gotten him already. They have no idea what the terrain out here is like.
General Gordon: What do they expect in just two months? Isn’t it enough we’ve got that asshole and his Taliban buddies on the run. (Phone rings) General Gordon. Uh-huh, so you think you got him but they’re still putting up resistance and there’s no way you can get up there to find out before dark. OK, call in air support and have them bomb the hell out of that cave. If he’s still alive, that should finish him. We’ll find out in the morning
General Allen: So how’d it go last night, John? Did we get Bin Laden?
General Gordon: Delta Force thinks so.
General Allen: Fantastic. Shall I call in the Public Affairs guys to start work on an announcement?
General Gordon: No, not just yet, Tom. The aerial bombardment collapsed the entrance to the cave and Delta Force can’t get up there to find out for sure if we got him, or if it really is Bin Laden. They’ve got their hands full chasing down the remnants of al-Qa’ida right now. Once the valley has been cleared, we’ll go back and take a look. We certainly don’t want to announce we got Bin Laden then have him turn up alive and well. One good sign, though. We haven’t intercepted any communications between Bin Laden and his minions since last night. There’s lots of chatter, but none of it from Bin Laden.
General Allen: Let’s hope it’s him. If we got the bastard, maybe we can get out of this shithole and back to the States.
General Allen: So, we still don’t know if that was Bin Laden we got two weeks ago or not?
General Gordon: Nope. Delta Force swears it was, but without a body, we can’t be sure. Still no communication intercepts since December 11th, though.
General Allen: And now his obituary appeared in that Egyptian newspaper yesterday. Looks pretty good.
General Gordon: Yes, it does, but we still can’t claim to have gotten him. The bugger may show up yet.
Aide: General Gordon, Sir, there’s something on TV I think you should see. Al-Jazeera, channel 21.
(The generals turn to look at a TV screen)
General Allen: Well, I’ll be damned. The devil himself. Looks like we didn’t get him after all.
General Gordon: Not so fast, Tom. That videotape could have been made anytime. Let’s wait to hear from the translators as to what he’s saying.
General Allen: And from the tech boys as to whether it really is Bin Laden.
General Allen: So the Pentagon still doesn’t want us to go back to Tora Bora and dig into that cave to see if Bin Laden is inside or not?
General Gordon: Nope, they say we can’t spare the resources.
General Allen: Bullshit! I’ve go the men and equipment to clear out that entrance just sitting around doing nothing. Wouldn’t take but a day or two.
General Gordon: Frankly, I don’t think headquarters cares whether Bin Laden is dead or alive. You heard President Bush last night. (mockingly) “I truly am not that concerned about him. I really just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.”
General Allen: He’s just the reason we invaded this hellhole in the first place, that’s all!
General Gordon: I think the powers that be may have decided that Bin Laden is more useful to us alive than dead, whether he is actually dead or alive. If we announced we’d killed him, a lot of people would think “Mission accomplished, let’s get the hell out of here“.
General Allen: Including our troops.
General Gordon: And that’s not our long-range plan, I suspect. We won’t be leaving Afghanistan until we’ve set up a government to our liking, one that will give us a sweet deal on that pipeline Unocal wants to build across the country and allow us to set up permanent military bases to protect it.
General Allen: As well as intimidate our rivals for Central Asian oil: the Russians and the Chinese.
General Gordon: Besides, the folks back home always need a personification of the enemy. Some guy they can hate, a Hitler. Hating a concept – Islamic Fundamentalism, Nazism – is a little too abstract for Joe Six-Pack to get his blood boiling
General Allen: Bin Laden, with that big nose, shit-eating grin, and holier-than-thou attitude fits the bill perfectly.
General Allen: So, here we are; six years into this bloody conflict and we still don’t know whether that was Bin Laden we got back in Tora Bora.
General Gordon: Nope, no intercepts, no sightings, but these damn videotapes keep turning up.
General Allen: Three this month alone, including that weird one that combined shots of Bin Laden speaking with still photos of him. Whenever he’s saying anything that proves the videotape is recent, all we get is a still photo.
General Gordon: Can you believe the amateurish quality of that one. Yet the boys back in Washington say it’s authentic. The NSA has confirmed it’s Bin Laden’s voice on the tapes.
General Allen: But that video expert on the Internet says the videos have been spliced and diced so much it’s hard to say what’s real.
General Gordon: And did you notice how Bin Laden’s beard went from gray in the earlier videos to black in the most recent?
General Allen: Vanity, vanity. I wonder if dying ones hair is kosher in Islam.
General Gordon: I really wonder who’s making those videos. The CIA? al-Qaida? Some tech-savvy weirdo with a tape library working out of his parent’s basement in Abu Dhabi?
General Allen: Whoever it is, he’s losing his touch.
General Gordon: It’s not easy keeping a dead man alive.
General Allen: Four months into the Arab Awakening and not a word from Bin Laden. A lot of people find that a little weird.
General Gordon: Yup, more and more people are wondering if he isn’t already dead. I’ve been convinced for years that we got him in Tora Bora back in 2001.
General Allen: Me, too. If only we could open up that cave and take a look.
General Gordon: The Pentagon still isn‘t interested.
Aide: General, it’s the Secretary on the line.
General Gordon (picks up phone): Yes, Mr. Secretary. (listens for quite a while). I see. Yes, I understand. But couldn’t we just announce that we now think Bin Laden was killed back in 2001? (pause) Yes, I know we’ve vouched for the authenticity of the tapes over the years. It would make us look pretty silly. (pause) Alright, sir, I’ll get right on it.
General Allen: So?
General Gordon: Holy fucking shit! The brass now admit Bin Laden’s been dead for years, but they can’t very well say that publicly. He’s become a liability, so they’re going to kill him off once and for all. They’re going to stage a raid on his son’s house in Pakistan. For everyone not in the know they’ll make it look like we’ve got inside information that Bin Laden is holed up there.
General Allen: Who’s volunteered to play Bin Laden?
General Gordon: No need. He’ll be killed in a bogus firefight, then they’ll toss his body off an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea. No one will know the coffin is just filled with a weighted sack, not even the commander of the aircraft carrier.
General Allen: Very neat, but hard to believe anyone‘s going to buy it.
General Gordon: Americans will. Our media will see to that. They won’t question the official story; they never do. As to the rest of the world, fuck ‘em.
General Allen: Whose to carry out the raid?
General Gordon: The Seals. They’re sending someone out from Washington to explain the details. Naturally this is all hush-hush. The Secretary says only five people know the plan right now; not even the President has been told. Needless to say, there will be a big promotion in this for us if we pull it off successfully.
General Allen: Oh what a tangled web we weave…
General Gordon (addressing a SEAL commander): Commander, we’ve got ourselves in a bit of a bind and the Secretary is counting on you and your men to get us out of it. As you know, for years we have been maintaining that Osama Bin Laden is still alive, but now we’re pretty sure Delta Force got him in Tora Bora back in 2001. His ghost has become a liability so we’ve decided to kill him off. You Seals are going to raid his son’s house in Pakistan and make it look like you killed Bin Laden. The house is not guarded so you shouldn’t need more than 5 or 6 men. You’ll carry a body bag with you, fill it with whatever is handy, then carry it out to a waiting helicopter. Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Anyone gets in your way, kill them.
SEAL Commander: What should I tell my men?
General Gordon: Just what I’ve told you. Needless to say you should emphasize that they can never reveal what really went on inside that house. I’m sure they understand what their duty is and what the consequences of not fulfilling their duty would be. Hopefully, they will understand why such deceitful action is required, too.
SEAL Commander: I’m sure they will, sir. They’re good patriots. Is there anything else?
General Gordon: No, that’s it, Commander. Good luck.
SEAL Commander: Thank you, sir. (starts to leave)
General Gordon: Oh, one other thing. Tell your men if they want to know what the storyline they can tell their friends and family is, just read the newspaper.
General Allen: Well, John, we pulled it off. We’re heroes. Have you seen all the hoopla back home?
General Gordon: Yeah. They seem to overlook the fact that even according to the bogus story we’ve concocted it took us 10 years to get a guy six-foot-five with a bad kidney and very few friends.
General Allen: Thank God for patriotic fervor. Enjoy it while it lasts.
General Gordon: I will. But I can‘t help feeling a little like a scoundrel.
General Allen: Which is what you will be called if the truth ever comes out. But I think our secret is safe, at least until someone opens up that cave in Tora Bora.