Don't know if Bin Laden is alive or dead: foreign policy expert

By Peter Duveen

PETER'S NEW YORK, May 2, 2008--A scholar from a major American think tank said today it is not known whether Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi Arabian businessman and religious leader portrayed by the American government as being the impetus behind the events of 9-11, is still alive.

"It is possible that he is dead. We just don't know," said Richard Weitz, a senior fellow at the Washington D.C.-based Hudson Institute, in response to a listener's question on the program Washington Journal, aired on the cable news network C-SPAN.

Bin Laden is repeatedly credited by the U.S. government with inspiring the Al Qaeda movement to carry out the 9-11 attacks. "There was a lot of good evidence" that Al Qaeda was involved in 9-11, Weitz said, adding that it had claimed responsibility for the acts.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, two commercial airliners collided with each of the twin towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City. Within hours, the buildings and a third nearby office tower unexpectedly collapsed into piles of rubble and dust. Another plane was said to have collided with the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., although no clear videos have been publicly released confirming that event, while still another airliner was said to have crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

The government contends that the events were carried out by a team of 19 hijackers belonging to the Al Qaeda network. Others suggest that the U.S. government staged the attacks to justify a wide-ranging foreign policy agenda that included the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Iran, with the primary objective of securing oil supplies for the United States and the accompanying revenue streams for U.S. companies.

The government is currently stonewalling a freedom of information request related to the matching of parts and serial numbers for positive identification of some of the aircraft alleged to have been involved in the crashes. 

Soon after the events of 9-11, the United States attacked Afghanistan, which it claimed was a haven for Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. In 2003, it invaded Iraq, ostensibly to prevent that country from developing nuclear weapons and using stockpiles of chemical weapons. A post-invasion search of the country, however, detected no substantial evidence supporting either allegation. America continues to threaten Iran and Syria with possible invasion, charging that they are attempting to develop nuclear weapons and that they assist armed groups that oppose American and Israeli occupations in the region.

Weitz, whose focus is Afghanistan and Pakistan, admitted that there were probably ties between Al Qaeda and Pakistani intelligence before 9-11, and that Pakistani intelligence had ties with the United States during the same period. He stopped short, however. of affirming a direct tie between the United States and Al Qaeda pre-9-11, although he did not conclusively deny such a link. "I don't think there is a direct connection between the two," he said.

Weitz said the most immediate threat Americans must deal with was a "terrorist strike within the United States," but also said Al Qaeda's capability to launch such a strike had been reduced.

"They probably don't have the opportunity to launch attacks in the United States" the way they did before September 11, he said.

Although he recognized that the United States was seeking more international support for its efforts in Afghanistan, Weitz said that Israel's participation would be a net minus. "It would look terrible," he said. "I just don't think Israel is the right ally for this purpose."