Readers will forgive me if I resist the temptation to join in the general spluttering and speculating that has greeted the death of Osama bin Laden. I have read so much drivel in the last couple of days as every media organisation in the world has emptied its bottom drawer to fill page after page (screen after screen, etc) with vacuous irrelevance.
The best joke I heard was "Congratulations to the Americans. In Britain it is impossible to get a bin taken out on a Bank Holiday weekend". That one may not travel, but is the first of many, I am sure.
In the meantime - and if you really have not yet had enough bin Laden in your diet - I suggest you try the US National Archives, which has just published a remarkably informative bin Laden file containing some fascinating documents.
Available for the first time are: the CIA's 1996 3-page biographical sketch of bin Laden; the President's Daily Brief from 6 August 2001 warning "Bin Ladin determined to Strike in US"; a State Department issue paper from 2005 stating that "Some Taliban leaders operate with relative impunity in some Pakistan cities"; a 400-page Sandia National Laboratories profile of bin Laden, focussing on the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania; a State Department cable on the Taliban's regrouping in Pakistan's Tribal Areas, making them "a sanctuary beyond the reach of either government"; the demands made on Pakistan immediately after 9/11 by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage; and an account of the only known conversation between the US government and Taliban leader Mullah Omar which took place in 1998. This latter conversation, initiated by Mullah Omar, came just two days after the controversial US Cruise missile attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan in retaliation for the East African Embassy bombings.
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