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Volume 68, Issue 102, Monday, February 24, 2003


U.S. attack to target bin Laden

Tom Carpenter
Opinion Columnist

The dogfaces scouring the mountains and canyons of Afghanistan ran the hare to ground. The insane rush to invade Iraq makes sense only if President Bush and his national security advisors believe Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida leaders escaped the massive manhunt in Afghanistan and wormed their way to temporary safety in Iraq, by way of Iran.

Based on that hypothesis, every aspect of the rush to invade Iraq coalesces into a clear picture of America's dogged determination to get bin Laden, come hell or high water -- in the form of poison gas, biological weapons and fierce house-to-house combat -- no matter the cost in dollars and lives.

Secretary of State Colin Powell explained the connection between Iraq and al-Qaida when he addressed the United Nations, seeking their approval to attack Iraq. Abu Mussab al-Zakawi, an associate and known collaborator of bin Laden, found safe haven in Baghdad in May 2002 when he went to Iraq for medical treatment.

The conspicuous absence of bin Laden's name in the news makes it appear that Bush has placed the capture of the terrorist leader on the back burner.

It's my opinion nothing could be farther from the truth. I believe bin Laden sits hunkered in a virtually impenetrable Iraqi bunker, and Bush is determined to hunt him down and kill him.

The pretext of attacking Iraq because they possess anthrax, botulism and poison gas that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld sold Hussein in the 80s is absurd, but it gives the US a plausible reason to attack Iraq and ferret out and/or kill Bin Laden. 

After all, you can't invade a country and destroy its infrastructure, inflicting massive casualties to the army and civilian population on the mere suspicion that bin Laden scurried into an Iraqi bunker.

If Bush launched the war against Iraq based on information leading him to believe Hussein gave sanctuary to the terrorist bin Laden, not only would the entire world protest the invasion, but Hussein, cunning devil that he is, could easily kill bin Laden. Then he could self-righteously point a finger and claim that the United States constitutes the biggest terrorist threat to the world.

The rabbit has been run to ground. Now bin Laden waits, hiding in one of Hussein's bunkers, listening to the snarling fangs and sharp claws as his deadliest enemy prepares to tunnel through the earth, root him out and destroy him. But it won't be easy.

Saddam Hussein learned his lesson well. From the rubble of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Hussein built huge underground bunkers capable of protecting key figures from the direct hits of conventional, non-nuclear weapons.

Ewen MacAskill writes in The Guardian that Iraq's bunkers can accommodate hundreds of people, and contain enough air, food and water to allow the inhabitants to survive for at least four weeks. These massive bunkers, with concrete-reinforced walls at least two feet thick, lie buried under a minimum of 100 feet of rock and sand in the Iraqi desert and mountains. 

MacAskill said the bunkers, built by engineers from former Yugoslavia who learned their trade building bomb shelters in Belgrade, house complete hospitals and military command posts.

The fact that bin Laden suffers from kidney disease and needs weekly dialysis to live, points the finger directly at Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden can't get the medical treatment he needs to live in the mountains of Afghanistan or the back streets of Pakistan, and the $25 million reward for his head would tempt even a trusted colleague to betray him.

Bin Laden is not wandering in the desert or the hills and mountains of the Middle East; his health won't allow that. He needs the wonders of modern medicine to survive, and Hussein, an enemy of bin Laden's enemies, can provide him with shelter, protection and medical care and keep him hidden from the American hunters who want him dead or dead.

A preemptive nuclear strike against Iraq suddenly exhibits a military significance far beyond the jingoist justifications of destroying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction that Bush declared in his speech advocating the invasion of Iraq. Bush may decide a nuclear bomb provides the only certain means to destroy bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. 

The best hope for a resolution to this conflict rests with the Iraqi people -- a coup, an assassination, or the Iraqi army surrendering. These alternatives will save the country and people from the terrible destruction that awaits them when the United States invades and hunts down Hussein and bin Laden like mad dogs.

Carpenter, a college of education student, can be reached via


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