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Friday, November 23, 2012

In observance of the Conspiracy Theorist Full Employment Act...

...Slate has published this article on the witness-free, photograph-free, evidence-free burial-at-sea of Osama Bin Laden.

So where do you think he really is? Does the body rest in Davy Jones' Locker -- or is the arch-terrorist hanging out under an assumed name in Buenos Aires?

What really bugs me is the lack of Bin Laden sightings. People have had post-mortem encounters with Jesus, Elvis, Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Nicholas Flamel, Czar Alexander I, Hitler and many others. Why not Osama?

One of my favorite "survival" stories involves General Michel Ney, usually called Marshall Ney, who was Robin to Napoleon's Batman. (Well, sort of.) Historians tell us that Ney was shot by a firing squad in France; the year was 1815 and the General was just 46. However, soon afterward, a French-speaking fellow named Peter S. Ney showed up in South Carolina and took a gig as a schoolteacher, a profession he carried out until his death in 1846. Petey never came right out and said that he was the Marhsall -- except, reportedly, on his deathbed -- but he dropped lots of hints to that effect. Many of the people who knew him became convinced that he was indeed the famed aide to Bonaparte. For more, see here and here.

One survival story I find almost persuasive involves Hitler's favorite commando, Otto Skorzeny, who officially died in 1975. If you scour the net, you can find a few photos of an elderly "post-mortem" Skorzeny. I must admit that the images are pretty damned unnerving. Still, I hesitate to embrace this theory, if only because there are people out there who just love to play games with Nazi history. (See, for example, my earlier post on those lovable funsters Henry Makow and Gregory Douglas.)

A peculiarly persistent legend involves Joan of Arc. Throughout the 20th century, the "Joan survived the stake" theory gave rise to a number of books which quickly fell into obscurity. I'm both grateful and sorry that the famed Johannic scholar RĂ©gine Pernoud spent so much time rebutting this nonsense. In 2007, an author named Marcel Gay revived the idea. Although I've not read Gay's book, I have gone through the older ones; they're crap. Naturally, the media has treated Marcel Gay's thesis as something sensational and new, even though I'm pretty sure that he has done nothing more than rehash a lot of old dreck.

The survival theory has an origin in uncontested fact: Some five years after the Maid's death, an adventuress named Claude des Armoises impersonated Jeanne d'Arc. Astoundingly, she talked one of Joan's brothers -- Pierre, if I recall correctly -- into going along with the ruse. Claude's motive was financial. Most moderns are shocked to learn that Joan was wealthy, and that she used her money to buy property in Orleans. (Not to mention horses. And lots of expensive male clothing.) After Joan was burned in 1431, her estate became tied up in the Medieval equivalent of probate, and Claude thought that she could make a play for it. Of course, she made a point of avoiding King Charles VII or Gilles de Rais or anyone else who might have identified her.

(Brother Pierre's motives are a bit mysterious, although he always was a social climber eager to capitalize on the fame of his big sister.)

The revisionist historians take Claude's gambit at face value. As evidence, they point to records that the city of Orleans held a feast in the honor of The Maid, alive and well, when Claude-as-Joan came parading into town in 1436. What the conspiracists don't tell you is that, not many months later, the city paid for a memorial service for La Pucelle (Joan's nomme-de-guerre). Obviously, the town fathers saw through Claude's little charade. Although she didn't get hold of the property, she did go on to marry a knight and thus did fairly well for herself.

Adherents of the survival theory usually stitch it to the even nuttier notion that Joan of Arc was of royal birth. This idea is pure nonsense. Joan's father was a farmer in the town of Domremy who did a stint as mayor. She had an army of godparents who could, and did, testify to her origins.

The "royal birth" theory traces back to an early 19th century conspiracy theorist named Pierre Caze, the mayor of Bergerac, who was sort of the Alex Jones of his day. Caze also resurrected interest in Nostradamus after nearly everyone had forgotten all about the once-famed seer.

Aren't you impressed that I could rattle off all of that stuff from memory?

Back to Bin Laden: There were all sorts of rumors that he died long before he died. For years, whenever a Cannonfire article mentioned Bin Laden in any context, I would receive messages from cranks who seemed quite enraged by any suggestion that the guy might still be alive. "Cannon, you fool! Don't you know that Osama Bin Laden died in 2004?"

(Or 2001. Or 1999. Accounts vary.)

I have always told these correspondents that I did not know any such thing, and neither did they.

So what, now, should we make of the official story about Bin Laden's 2011 death in Abbottabad? Frankly, I do allow myself a certain skepticism, if only because the details are so infuriating and imprecise. If you want to see what I mean, just follow the very first link in this post. There really was no pressing need to toss the body into the ocean quite so rapidly, without an autopsy, without witnesses, without photos, in a ceremony unobserved even by the sailors on that vessel.

Yes, I would like better evidence. No, I don't think that's an outlandish request.

That said, let me make one point very clear to Mr. Crank-Who-Is-Dying-to-Write-an-Infuriated-Response-to-Cannonfire-Right-Now: No, I do not know that the raid was staged and that Bin Laden's death was faked. And if you are honest, Mr. Crank-Who-Is-Dying-to-Write-an-Infuriated-Response-to-Cannonfire-Right-Now, you will admit that you do not know either. If you had evidence, you would publish it in book form and make a lot of money.

Speculation is not evil. It can, in fact, be of great service. But speculation is not evidence.

My point in writing this rambling essay comes down to this. If we heard so much about Osama's death before he died, why have there been no reports of his life after his life? Where are the Bin Laden sightings? Whenever there's a questioned death, I expect sightings.

"Osama? Yeah, sure, I met him last week. Here's a shot of us together at Disney World."

You know. That sort of thing. Where are the photos of Bin Laden in line for The Avengers? Our popular mythologists have shirked their duties.

Added note: I forgot all about Jim Morrison, didn't I? Actually, one could write a whole book about rock stars who allegedly faked their deaths, and such a book would probably sell pretty well. Too bad I'm not of that musical persuasion...
I'm in the early death camp on this one. Mdme. Bhutto apparently believed some version of this opinion prior to her assassination, and as a regional political figure, she likely had better sources than most.

That does not mean the raid didn't happen, and I suspect someone (perhaps a double used in the later videos) was there and was killed.

I applauded the deception I believed it to be at the time, as the only way to eliminate an Emmanuel Goldman of our time.

Not THAT again! XI, Bhutto clearly misspoke. On a later occasion, she spoke of Bin Laden as alive. You haven't looked at the details; I have.

And here's a summary I wrote a bit later:

"That said, I would not be terribly surprised to learn that he has been gone for some time. THAT said, I feel certain that if Bhutto decided to make such a bombshell revelation, she would not have done so en passant. Moreover, I think she would have mentioned the matter on other occasions, to her confidants and to her American spokesperson. Omar Sheikh, a.k.a. Saaed Sheikh, is, in my opinion, the last person who would have performed such a task.

"Of course, people will always believe whatever they wish to believe."
And JFK. No, wait, that was Bubba HoTep.

I don't know if Ossie is dead or if so when he died. I don't know if his new wife was working for the CIA. I don't know if he was being shielded by the Pakistani military in the nearby base. I don't know if the marijuana found in the grounds of "his" "mansion" was something he planted and took recreationally (Kola Boof, of course, claimed he regularly used weed). I don't know if the Bibles found in the house when they decided to demolish it were a result of him being a repentant soul wishing to wash away his sins n the blood of Christ. I don't know if those last two were planted by the USA to make him look bad. I don't know what all that stuff with the stealth chopper was about. I don't know if the members of Seal Team Six killed in a crash soon after were silenced, members of the team who weren't even involved in the raid, or something else, although parallels with the mysterious spate of death suffered by the SpecOps lads who "rescued" Pfc Lynch from the Iraqis.

I'm agnostic. I'm a Fortean.
Thanks for the reminder, Joe. I did read what you wrote at that time, and just forgot (putting me back on my default setting). Similar to how I wrote Goldman when I meant Goldstein.

I'll concede you a Bhutto, but counter offer the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan (in 2002), another president of Pakistan (in 2009), Harry Reid (in 2005), although none spoke definitively claiming knowledge, instead only offering their opinions that he had died.

"People will always believe whatever they wish to believe." Amen. If you want to believe that the omnipotent Obama and his highly trained kill team slew the mythical beast and then threw the body into the sea, then that makes sense to me. If you want to believe the story from Le Figaro in 2001 regarding bin Laden spending 10 days in the American hospital in Dubai, that's ok too. Was he interviewed by a CIA man while he was there? I don't know; I wasn't there. Were the anonymous
"Taliban officers" who claimed they buried OBL in an unmarked grave in Afghanistan in December 2001 lying? I can't tell; I wasn't there. Were the doctors who said OBL was suffering from kidney failure, diabetes, and possibly Marfan's Syndrome in late 2001 all wrong? I don't know; I'm not a doctor. Was the fact that most of the famous kill team were all killed in the same helicopter crash a tragedy or merely convenient? Beats me. All I know is that when the clown show portrayed as a precision assassination was presented to me, my bullshit meter went so high into the red zone that it was off the scale. But I quit believing in the tooth fairy when I was 16.
So, seriously -- nobody was impressed with that J of A riff?

Part of me would like to open up a blog devoted to historical mysteries. Of course, that would eventually get into Rennes-le-chateau territory -- and I'm not sure I want that headache.
You also skipped -- wisely, perhaps -- my favorite 'still alive' conspiracy theory: namely, Donovan Joyce's claim that Jesus survived his crucifixion only to die during the siege of Masada. I always liked the ironic conclusion to Joyce's tale; it's like JFK faking his assassination only to perish aboard Cubana flight 455....
Maz: I did mention Jesus en passant.

Y'know, I've been thinking all day about writing a "Did they survive?" book. It wouldn't be a huge seller (if it got published) but it would be a fun read. What intimidates me is the mountain of material one must master to write intelligently about the Hitler and Bormann survival controversies. I used to possess a number of books relevant to that topic, but I lost my personal library years ago.
I doubt that we'll ever know the full story of Bin Laden's death, nor will we ever know (to quote that Great American, Donald Rum-filled) whether that's one of those things we know we don't know, or don't know we don't know. And here's another one we may not know we don't know--Kenny Boy Lay. Is he really dead, or could he be hiding out somewhere, maybe with poor old Osama?
Accidental reading list leading to Rennes le Chateau:

Biography of Eleanor of Acquitane wherein I find out that rumor has it that Eleanor came from a family of conversos who always managed to avoid the Eucharist and an uncle was one of the founders of the Knights Templar;

Several books on the Knights Templar with different and conflicting suppositions about their true mission;

Holy Blood, Holy Grail (enough said).

Finally, really accidentally, Faucault's Pendulum - a complete spoof of the previous book.

Your proposed book would be a great read, Joseph, although as you say difficult to research. The Joan of A. stuff was new to me, but so remote that it doesn't grab me. I favor lost Nazis and famous criminals: Butch Cassidy, John Wilkes Booth, Dr. Mengele, etc
Although the historical fantasists over at Fox News are well known to have scrubbed their web archives of a wide variety of early (but later inconvenient to the official fairy tale) 9/11-related stories, for some peculiar reason they still host their decade-old report that Bin Laden died of natural causes in December of 2001:,2933,41576,00.html

Your take on this anomaly, please, Joe.
>>Maz: I did mention Jesus en passant.

Joe -

Sorry. I hadn't realized that was in reference to conspiracy theory rather than, you know, scripture.

I guess belief in the resurrection qualifies as its own branch off the 'still alive' conspiracy tree. Next up: 'They Saved Jesus' Brain,' followed by 'The Boys from Gethsemane' and 'Eddie and the Cruisers,' on our Easter Movie Marathon....

I'd almost forgotten the story a friend told me. Seems he was visiting a girlfriend a while back -- say, 30 to 35 years ago -- when her mother took him aside. 'My Uncle John is going to drop by,' she said, 'and he has this thing about people looking at him too closely. He's going to want to meet you, since you're here -- but after that, it's probably best if you just sort of keep out of his way.' Uncle John showed up and stayed for most of the day; aside from a rather uncomfortable handshake, during which time John showed he had no qualms about examining someone else intently, my friend had little contact with him. (My friend got the impression John wasn't a blood relative but instead had been a friend of the family for years -- an old Army buddy of his girlfriend's [late] grandfather. perhaps, or maybe a business partner.)

To this day my friend's still not sure what was going on that day -- although he is pretty confident the family wasn't just having fun at his expense, as their collective anxiety level seemed a little too real. Of course, it may have been 'Uncle John' who was pulling a fast one -- one which, decades into it, he had no choice but to continue.

Still, my friend says, if you ever wondered what Dillinger might have looked like at age 75, it probably would have been a whole lot like Uncle John....
I love your Dillinger story!

I used to have a friend who swears he met Hitler in 1965. He (Herr H) introduced himself as "Andersen." When my friend asked Andersen where he was from, the visitor replied: "To YOU....." (long, long pause) "...I am....Swiss."

Nice guy, actually. Not at all like Bormann, who also showed up. HE was a jerk.
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