Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Pun Of Destiny?

"Coincidences are puns of destiny."
Two days ago, Gordon Corera of BBC News broadcast a report which you can see and hear right here. Seemingly a follow-up to last Friday's wayward U.S. missile strike against the small Pakistani village of Damadola, Corera begins by noting that Ossama bin Ladin hasn't been heard from in more than a year, but "a top U.S. diplomat" told him that he believed bin Ladin "is alive" and "the hunt is still on."

The 'diplomat' turns out to be the U.S. State Department's head counter-terrorism expert, Henry Crumpton, so we learn from other news sources. Quite a few other sources, in fact.

Crumpton was busy earlier this week. He pitched the same story in an "exclusive" interview conducted no later than January 16 with the London Daily Telegraph. This news, little noticed by the mainstream U.S. press, circled the globe starting last Monday: The U.S. State Department thinks bin Ladin is alive, he's probably somewhere in Pakistan, and al Qaeda is planning another attack on the U.S., possibly biological in character.

Here's the intriguing thing: About the possibility of of another al Qaeda attack on the U.S., Crumpton is quoted as saying, "It is simply a question of time."

That line appears time and again in multiple news sources which ripped-and-republished the BBC and Telegraph interviews. It shows up in papers from South Africa to Australia and Canada to Israel .

So, what's this have to do with today's news? On January 19, a new bin Ladin tape surfaced. On the tape, as he threatens the U.S. with another attack bin Ladin uses nearly the very same phrase as Crumpton had done.

From the translation used by CNN , the bin Ladin tape has him saying:
"As for similar operations taking place in America, it's only a matter of time. They are in the planning stages, and you will see them in the heart of your land as soon as the planning is complete."
The U.S. government has not yet 'officially verified' the authenticity of the latest bin Ladin tape.
Assuming it's genuine, internal evidence suggests it was recorded some time in the "last six months," according to Western reports. The English-language edition of Al Jazeera is more precise. It concludes the tape was made in "December last year."

Authentic or not, the fact that both men used essentially the same phrase conceivably could be merely "a pun of destiny," as Arthur Koestler once described the notion of coincidence. But we doubt it. Given Crumpton's full court press earlier this week, it seems more likely he was well aware of today's tape when he gave interviews several days ago.

A lot of stuff we'll never know in this lifetime doubtless is going on behind Government curtains. It always does. But it's a good bet that someone at al Jazeera shared today's tape with U.S. officials a week or more before today's broadcast.

Destiny rarely has the humor needed to make puns.

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