Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Osama Bin Missing

Is it finally time to talk treason? Yes, perhaps it is.

Here's an Awful Truth: We never caught Pancho Villa either.

Doroteo Arango Arambula, better known to us gringos as Pancho Villa, was a bandit turned politician and general in the Mexican Civil War. In the ever-shifting political environment of that war, Villa rose in power, proved to be a brilliant tactician, gathered followers and supporters, was seen as a Robin Hood Figure by the disenfranchised population, learned how to work the media, built schools, and at one point had the support of the US Government, his more cruel actions of the time swept under the rug. There's even a picture of him posing with Black Jack Pershing.

Sound a bit familiar? Hang on, it gets more interesting.

After the US Government withdrew its support for another general, Villa started targeting American assets. He went first after US Military and government personal, but then, 90 years ago, in 1916, invaded the US with a large force and burned the town of Columbus, New Mexico, killing 18 soldiers and civilians. The Punitive Expedition, led by Black Jack Pershing, invaded Mexico with their then-government's permission to bring him to justice. The expedition used the most modern technology (including aircraft - the Curtis Jenny), but ultimately was unsuccessful, miring itself in the hinterland as Villa's forces melted into the friendly terrain. After a friendly fire incident where the US killed loyal troops in the village of Carrizal, the support of the Mexican government was withdrawn, and the US pulled back its forces. The US declared the expedition a success, having taken out several of Villa's aides, but never got the man himself. The expedition was overshadowed by a larger, greater war overseas. Villa himself outlasted that war and made peace with a new Mexican president in 1920, retired to his hacienda, and was assassinated in his car three years later (another politician took credit, but the assassins were never caught).

And here we are 90 years later. A horrendous crime has been carried out against our country, and after two invasions (and the early, fertile drumbeat for a third), we have not got the man who has claimed responsibility. We were apparently close in Afghanistan three months after the event, at Tora Bora, but, to use the lingo of the neocons - did not "pull the trigger". Instead we let him slip away. We let the trail go cold. We assigned our assets elsewhere, to gin up a case against Iraq. He even fell out of the parlance of our government for a while, though he's been making a comeback as a convenient boogey-man. A task force that was assigned to bring him in was disbanded back in July. And apparently, our allied government in Pakistan is offering him sanctuary, a move that was announced, denied, then kinda-admitted later to, leaving a swirl of questions in its wake.

And all through this we have used this criminal as a justification for all manner of actions, from reduced civil liberties to extralegal arrests to pillaging our treasury to invading nations that didn't even like the guy. And yet, through it all, we have not been able to get the man responsible. Funny, that.

Is it time to speak of treason? Is it time to speak of betrayal? Perhaps it is.

More later,