New October Surprise theory
Only two weeks away! Independent:
Friday, The Times' Greg Miller and Julian E. Barnes reported that the United States has escalated its war against Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies by "deploying Predator aircraft equipped with sophisticated new surveillance systems that were instrumental in crippling the insurgency in Iraq."
... Coupled with Thursday's report in the New York Times that President Bush has signed a secret order permitting Afghanistan-based U.S. special operations forces to cross into Pakistan without Islamabad's permission, the odds of an "October surprise" that could influence the general election have risen appreciably.
U.S. officials also told The Times that the new surveillance systems allow the operators of the unmanned Predators to locate and identify individual human targets "even when they are inside buildings. ... The technology gives remote pilots a means beyond images from the Predator's lens of confirming a target's identity and precise location."
The Times' story confirms the most sensational revelation contained in Bob Woodward's new book, "The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2007," which was published this week. Woodward revealed the technology's existence but, heeding requests from intelligence officials, declined to describe its operations except to say that it had allowed U.S. forces to locate and kill decisive numbers of senior Al Qaeda operatives and Iraqi insurgents. In what may be the book's most controversial claim, Woodward argues that the secret technology and the so-called Anbar Awakening -- in which counterinsurgency techniques developed by the Marines won over tribal leaders in that crucial Sunni-dominated province -- had as much or more to do with stabilizing Iraq as the "surge" in U.S. troop numbers.
The real wild card pops up if this new surveillance technology allows U.S. forces to find and kill Osama bin Laden. Bush wouldn't be human if he didn't desperately want to see the Al Qaeda warlord dealt with before inauguration day 2009. Moreover, as Woodward writes, the president frequently relishes the death of individual extremists and insurgents in a way that even our professional soldiers find striking.
If U.S. special operations forces capture or kill Bin Laden, or if a CIA technician pushes a button and puts a Hellfire missile between his eyes, Bush will have made good on the vows he made seven years ago to bring the Al Qaeda leader to some sort of justice. In the eyes of many who supported him over the years, that would allow the president to leave office with at least part of his historical reputation intact.
Or, of course, find and kill somebody who could plausibly be represented as Bin Laden.
Not that I'm cynical.