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03/19/2004 Archived Entry: "Wurlitzer"

As I type this, major American media are reporting that Pakistan's troops have cornered a "senior" al-Qaida figure, with everyone suggesting heavily that it is #2 man Ayman al-Zawahiri. The Washington Times has stated flat out, "Pakistan says it has cornered al-Zawahiri." Meanwhile, non-US media are saying "it ain't so" - at least, not the al-Zawahiri part. The Times of India states, "Al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri were safe and `on this side of the border', an Afghanistan-based Taliban spokesman said on Friday. And a shift is occurring in the reporting on CNN: the capture is no longer "imminent" but may take days; the name al-Zawahiri is no longer being repeated. In fact, the story seems to have dropped off CNN altogether at the moment tho' it is still the main item on FOX.

The manhunt comes on the heels of another interesting shift: the Bush administration is beginning to downplay the importance of capturing Osama or other high-level al-Qaida. (Remember when that was the goal? Remember Tora Bora?) The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as stating, "They [terrorist groups] are very decentralized operations ... so you've got to go after them one by one. U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice also stressed that even if al-Zawahiri were captured, it wouldn't end the terror." A recent headline in the Richmond Times-Dispatch read, "Rumsfeld: Bin Laden Irrelevant". The story: "Capturing or killing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden would not 'change the problem' of international terrorism, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday?in an interview at the Pentagon with WTN radio in Nashville." Given its embarrassing failure at the endeavor, it is undoubtedly prudent for the Bush spokespeople to make like a Wurlitzer and change their tune. If al-Zawahiri is actually captured, expect another dime to drop into the music machine.

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