Anyway, the American force that approached Tora Bora at the end of November, 2001 was extremely small, and depended on Afghan allies that were busy feuding with each other. According to Naylor, as the siege proceeded, the Air Force flew over the twenty mile passage between Tora Bora and Pakistan and recorded “hot spots” on their heat sensing equipment. Now, CENTCOM, unbelievably, had never considered the possibility that Al Qaeda’s forces could escape from Tora Bora – thus, there were no guards on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But the hot spot data did provoke some consultation:
“The Generals in Kuwait recommend[ed] bombing the positions as soon as possible. But Franks [who, you will recall, bravely lead our heroic troops from a boat in Florida] and his staff did not see it like that. “They might be shepherds,” was Control Command’s attitude, according to two officers who sat in on the video-teleconferences in which the matter was discussed. At CFLCC that theory didn’t wash. The idea that scores of shepherds were tending to their flocks at 10,000 feet in the middle of winter was implausible.’
We bring this up because, thanks to the Tiny Revolution site , we went to an article in the Christmas Time Magazine and had one of those moments, you know, like when a Warner Bros. cartoon Tom Cat sees a shapely femme cat – all eyes bugging out, wowowowoweeee! For amidst the confab of the heavy hitting journalists Time had gathered to ruminate over what went wrong in Iraq, we read this, from Lawrence Wright, the (Austin) author of The Looming Tower:
“TIME: Did the failure to capture Osama bin Laden play a role in the decision to go to war?
GORDON: I was at Tora Bora at that point, in December '01. The desire to have a war plan for Iraq has already been telegraphed to [General] Tommy Franks at Centcom. Franks is actually struggling with Tora Bora, with his unhappiness with the results in Afghanistan, just as he is on the eve of returning for a very important meeting at Crawford with the President. I think they made a very quick decision that in principle Iraq was next on the agenda.
WRIGHT: Al-Qaeda essentially was dead after December 2001. The war on terror, you know, had succeeded. [If we had] captured the leaders, I think people would've felt a sense of finality and might not have had that impulse to roll into Iraq. I'm not sure [the Administration] would have had the public support.”
Of course, like paranoiacs, conspiracy theorists are aces at reading silence. Silence is a multiply intentioned text, and you can lose yourself in it and wind up on a drip in the State nuthouse quicker than you might think. Myself, I saw the Q and A shift from Wright’s comment with amazing quickness.
As I’ve said before, the Tora Bora conspiracy is almost perfect. The left pretends that Al Qaeda wasn’t even dangerous – it was merely a version of high spiritied Boy Scout Jamboree, with a harsher handbook. The right, of course, is hell bent on excuses to break into Iraq and shed some real blood – the little Keegan under the pants gets hard at the very thought of all that wondrous raghead blood being spilled by our F/X. Osama was always an excuse for them. As for the moderate to moderate liberal, why, conspiracy is out of the picture. No, society is one big SAT test, and though some of the players might cheat – those are the ones that have to go to jail again and again, and my, isn’t it just a coincidence that they are mostly black males, who have, by coincidence, been the subject to rancid and consistent bigotry in this country for four hundred years – the test is sound, the teacher is honest, and as for the guys who run the SAT – you couldn’t meet a sweeter bunch of guys. Honestly, listening to President Bush, a man who can really make you laugh (he owns a marvelous ranch, too, and the nicknames he thinks up! reminds me of my roommate back at UMass – some of those frat parties were really a lot of fun!) and not some broad who might be getting into a “catfight” (1) – well, you just don’t suspect people like that of letting slip the leader of the first attack on the continental U.S. since Pancho Villa took Columbus, N.M.
So it was a perfect crime. Nobody wanted to believe it was happening. And it was victimless - or the equivalent, since the victims were only the volunteers that have been sent to Iraq over the last three years, plus the Iraqis - dead that are, to be frank, culled from the Low Use population.
(1) As per the Washington Post today:
Sewickley, Pa.: Hello, and thank you for taking questions. Is it really appropriate to refer to a disagreement between two powerful women in Congress [Pelosi and Harman] as a "catfight"? I came of age in the business world during the 1970s when women were routinely told during interviews for career track jobs that "we don't hire girls for those positions" the reason being that girls are temperamentally unsuited to positions of authority. Do you see a time--perhaps in my lifetime-- when a disagreement between powerful women will be characterized as something other than a "catfight"? Welcome to The Post political chats.
Lois Romano: Thank you for writing. We were just having a little fun."
Only dour, sour feminists would consider the 'catfighting' term to be unfun. And we can't have them in the club! Only fun girls in the club. God, the peasants out there!