On the ninth anniversary of al-Qaida's Sept. 11 attacks against the U.S., the cable television channel Investigation Discovery will broadcast its in-depth look at how it is possible that in nearly a decade no one has been able to find or kill Osama bin Laden. The special, titled "Why Is bin Laden Alive?" and hosted by CNN's national security analyst, Peter Bergen, will air Sunday.
Despite the world's biggest, most expensive and longest-standing search, bin Laden, the main enemy in the war against terror, is still at large and has virtually vanished from sight.
The ID documentary will probe why, given the United States' sophisticated surveillance technology and capabilities, America and its international allies have not been able to capture the man who killed nearly 3,000 of its citizens and who remains an ongoing threat to national security.
While the U. S. government and major media outlets like CNN insist that bin Laden is alive and hiding in the tribal territories on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, compelling evidence exists that he is long dead, possibly since late 2001.
Numerous U.S. experts in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency agree. They point to a Dec. 2001 video in which bin Laden appears gravely ill from kidney disease. They also mention the total cessation since Dec. 2001 of any surveillance intercepts of bin Laden communications.
Furthermore, during the months immediately following 9/11, various high-level officials in the U.S. and Pakistan governments, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Pakistan's former President Pervez Musharraf, also speculated that bin Laden was dead.
But, if true, those views would not support the continuation of what President Barack Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney call "the long war." In other words, a dead bin Laden makes the argument for continuing the Afghanistan War harder to sell.
That raises the main point to be considered on this grim anniversary: What purpose is there in extending the Afghanistan War?
Through the first week of September, U.S. casualties in Afghanistan total about 1,200. Although less significant than the human cost, the fiscal burden is acute. The cumulative cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, including spending for veterans and foreign aid, exceeds $1 trillion. Given the nation's $12.9 trillion debt, it's increasingly difficult to justify the conflict.
The war's feasibility is under increasing scrutiny in Congress.
In March, Congressional opponents led by Dennis Kucinich urged a debate on the House of Representatives floor on a resolution to end the eight-year war by bringing the troops home. The debate took place as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, on a recent visit to Afghanistan, suggested that a drawdown of U.S. forces could begin before July 2011.
Kucinich's objective was to force Obama to withdraw U.S. forces within 30 days of passage of legislation to end the war by the House and Senate.
Although the Kucinich measure lost 356-65, it provided war opponents a chance to express their frustration with the continued troop buildup in Afghanistan and to go on record that the original mission of U.S. forces, defeating al-Qaida, is lost.
What Americans should realize is that we are in a period of endless and expensive war. The House recently approved $37 billion in extra war funding for the balance of 2010, and the Obama administration wants another $159 billion for 2011.
Most outside observers estimate that when and if the conflicts end, the total outlay will be between $5-$7 trillion.
If you are worried about your Social Security account, medical costs and America's crumbling infrastructure, your first concern should be the wisdom of Operation Enduring Freedom. If the United States wasn't spending trillions on foreign wars that cannot be won, more money would be available for domestic services that would improve our quality of life.
Joe Guzzardi is a Senior Writing Fellow at Californians for Population Stabilization. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.