Claim: Osama bin Laden was captured long ago, but the U.S. government is keeping this news under wraps until just before the 2004 Presidential election.
[Collected via e-mail, 2004]
I have heard many of my classmates recently talking about a possibility that our military had captured Osama bin Ladin in the early days of the war in Afghanistan, but has kept it a secret. He (the president) is presumably waiting until just before the presidential elections to unvail this fact, in order to secure enough votes.
[Collected via e-mail, 2003]
I’ve heard from two people that Osama bin Laden has been captured in Pakistan. It was suggested that the U.S. plans to hold him and announce his captivity as the next presidential election heats up.
Origins: In wartime and during the
Consequently, rumors about the demise of enemy leaders are typical fare during times of political tension. Throughout World
It was to be expected that scuttlebutt of similar nature would attach to Osama bin Laden, the perceived
Possibly this apparent dilution was due in part to the perceived inequality in the strength of the combatants. It was the United States of America and its allies, after all, against one terrorist group, not two well-armed nations going at it. Whereas a Hitler or a Tojo might have needed to die to give the average man on the street a sense of assurance that the war could be won, perhaps no similarly cataclysmic event need be provided in a conflict where the enemy forces aren’t viewed as a unified, national fighting force. But the difference could just as easily be attributable to death not being regarded as a great enough punishment for Osama
“Osama captured” whispers have been churning in the rumor mill since scant weeks after the
Beyond the vanilla form of the rumor about The Contractor’s having been apprehended, there existed a sinister extension which added an important second element to the lore of the day: that the U.S. government was holding off announcing the capture of the head of
(“October surprise” was the name originally given to incumbent-engineered ploys designed to inspire voters to switch allegiance in the closing days of a presidential campaign, and it has since come to mean any unexpected development or event with the potential to decide an election. The term’s most prominent use came after the 1980 presidential election, when rumors spread that representatives working on behalf of Ronald Reagan made a secret deal with Iranians to delay the release of American hostages until after the elections so that Reagan’s opponent, President Jimmy Carter, wouldn’t score an “October surprise” boost of his own by negotiating their freedom before election day.)
The most famous airing of the “Osama has already been captured” rumor came in December 2003, when Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State during the Clinton administration, wondered aloud to Fox News commentator Morton Kondracke if Osama
Mrs. Albright tried late yesterday to dampen the controversy over her remarks. “Last night, in the makeup room at Fox News,” she said, “I made a tongue-in-cheek comment to Mort Kondracke concerning Osama bin Laden. “To my amazement, Mr. Kondracke immediately went on the air to repeat this comment, which was made to a person I thought was a friend and smart enough to know the difference between a serious statement and one that was not,” she said. “My only regret is that the powder puffs were on Mort’s face and not in his ears,” she said.
Mrs. Albright tried late yesterday to dampen the controversy over her remarks. “Last night, in the makeup room at Fox News,” she said, “I made a tongue-in-cheek comment to Mort Kondracke concerning Osama bin Laden.
“To my amazement, Mr. Kondracke immediately went on the air to repeat this comment, which was made to a person I thought was a friend and smart enough to know the difference between a serious statement and one that was not,” she said.
“My only regret is that the powder puffs were on Mort’s face and not in his ears,” she said.
Albright had not coined the rumor; she was merely the most famous person to repeat it. It has surfaced at other times, including in March 2003, when a report on Iran Radio asserted Osama
Both the U.S. and Pakistan rushed to deny this. In February 2004, Pentagon and Pakistani officials were again called upon to deny an Iranian state radio report that Osama
Bin Laden’s elusiveness added to the believability of the rumor. Prior to the airing of a videotape of him just days before the U.S. election, there had not been a single confirmed sighting of the man since he fled the bombing of Tora Bora in Afghanistan in late 2001, and the last heard of him was a tape recording that came to light in April 2004.
Yet to believe there was anything to the whispers of a previously-jailed Osama being served up as the 2004 U.S. presidential election’s October surprise was to believe any number of folks had kept news of such an arrest secret. Although the conspiracy-minded could convince themselves the American forces involved in such an operation could have been ordered to hold their tongues and all the paperwork associated with the mission and detainment destroyed, nothing would account for the silence on the other side. Supporters of Osama
However, while logic disclaimed bin Laden’s already being in custody, it did not preclude his capture during those last few
Bin Laden’s end came in 2011, not 2004, though. On
Barbara “final curtain” Mikkelson
Last updated: 1 May 2011
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