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Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive? by David Ray Griffin

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Book Review

2009 Olive Branch Press
2009 Olive Branch Press
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by David Ray Griffin (author of The New Pearl Harbor)

Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive attempts to explain how America's favorite terrorist came to release 19 video and audiotapes following his death and funeral - duly reported by the Associated Press, CBS, CNN, Fox News, the New York Times, the Telegraph and Time magazine - in December 2001. As often happens in the mainstream media, the events Griffin  documents have vanished down the old memory hole. Because they are inconvenient to policymakers pursuing a negotiated settlement with the Taliban, US news outlets simply fail to mention them in discussing the alleged May 2 capture and assassination of the Al Qaeda leader.

Coverage of Bin Laden's 2001 Death and Funeral

In late December 2001, both an Egyptian and a Pakistani paper carried the story that bin Laden had died in Afghanistan of lung complications of end stage renal disease. The articles report that his December 15th funeral was attended by his family, 30 Al Queda fighters and a few Taliban friends. They also refer to an anonymous Afghan official who positively identified the Al Quaeda leader prior to his burial (,2933,41576,00.html).

Bin Laden's terminal kidney disease was already public knowledge after an October 2001 Le Figaro story about treatment he received for it in July 2001 at American Hospital in Dubai, as well as the order he placed to have two mobile dialysis machines delivered to Afghanistan. Patient with no kidney function can only be kept alive via dialysis three times a week.

Bin Laden's View that Killing Innocent Civilians Violates Islam

Griffin goes on to describe five communiques bin Laden issued between 9/11 and his reported death on December 13 or 14, 2001. He feels they are significant for two reasons. Most importantly, bin Laden uses them to deny any involvement or foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. I found this section of the  book particularly disturbing, as it paints a very different picture of the Al Qaeda leader than the blood thirsty fanatic portrayed by the Bush administration and the US media. In a September 28, 2001 interview with  Unmat (Kurachi), bin Laden specifically condemns the killing of innocent women, children and "other humans" as strictly forbidden by Islam, even in battle. This reiterates an earlier statement he made to JABC's in 1998 about Islam forbidding the killing of innocent civilians ( He also mentions his obligation as a good Muslim not to lie. In addition, in a September 17, 2001 statement to the Afghan Islamic Press (where bin Laden again denies involvement in 9/11), he refers to an oath of allegiance he has sworn to Mullah Omar that prevents him from planning or ordering terrorist activities on Afghan soil. In this statement he also mentions being falsely blamed for past terrorist activities.

Bin Laden's Terminal Kidney Disease

Also significant, is that three videotapes recorded immediately post 9/11 reveal a chronically ill individual whose health is deteriorating quickly. In January 2002, "terrorism expert" Peter Bergen discussed the October 7, 2001 video with CNN's Paula Zahn, observing that bin Laden had "aged enormously" in the four years since Bergen had last seen him. Two days later Zahn discussed a November 16 video (which Griffin believes bin Laden ordered to be released following his death) with CNN's medical correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta. Gupta notes that bin Laden's condition has deteriorated even further since the October 7th tape. He is gaunt and pale, his beard is nearly totally white and his left arm appears paralyzed from a stroke - all of which Gupta finds consistent with advanced renal failure. Gupta also expresses reservations about the feasibility of undergoing dialysis three times a week in Tora Bora, owing to lack of access to electricity, sanitary conditions or blood monitoring.

Griffin then cites a number of government and intelligence sources who all expressed strong certainty in 2001-2002 that bin Laden was dead: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, Kenton Keith (spokesman for US-led coalition in Afghanistan), former CIA officer Robert Baer,  Islamic studies professor Bruce Lawrence, FBI counter terrorism chief Dale Watson, and Israeli intelligence officials.

Bin Laden's Posthumous Audio and Videotapes

The middle section of Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive contains a detailed inventory of 19 bin Laden audio and videotapes released to the media between November 2001 and January 2009, along with detailed evidence that they were most likely fabricated. The first forged videotape, alleged recording November 9, 2001, was released November 13. In it, bin Laden has miraculously recovered from the terminal condition apparent on the November 3 tape  (he is heavier and has fuller cheeks and has regained the use of his left arm). Griffin marvels how the Al Qaeda leader suddenly goes downhill again (and again loses the use of his left arm) a week later in his November 16 video). Griffin also finds it highly significant that bin Laden suddenly reverses himself in this video, boasting and gloating about planning the 9/11 attack after spending two months denying any involvement. This pattern - of boasting about 9/11 and threatening further attacks against American civilians - continues in the other 18 tapes released post-2001.

Griffin notes that there was no independent attempt (except by unnamed intelligence officials) to authenticate the November 9 or subsequent audio or videotapes.  He also details a number of bizarre discrepancies in each of the tapes, such as bin Laden's dark black beard in September 2007 (which intelligence and media analysts variously to dyeing his beard - a violation of Wahabi Islam - or shaving it off and wearing a fake one).

Who Fabricated the Post-2001 bin Laden Tapes?

The last section of the book concerns Griffin's (and others') observations that all tapes released following bin Laden's reported death surfaced  coincidentally when the Bush administration was struggling with low poll numbers or other political embarrassments. For example,a May 23, 2006 audiotape appeared shortly after a Zoby poll revealed that 45% of Americans thought the 9/11 attacks should be reinvestigated - and a September 6, 2007 video appeared the same day as a Zogby poll showing that 51% of Americans wanted Bush and Cheney investigated in relation to 911.

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I am a 63 year old American child and adolescent psychiatrist and political refugee in New Zealand. I have just published a young adult novel THE BATTLE FOR TOMORROW (which won a NABE Pinnacle Achievement Award) about a 16 year old girl who (more...)
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