4 'wild' bin Laden conspiracy theories

The death of the world's most hunted terrorist — and the U.S. government's handling of the news — has quickly spawned a number of "ill-informed" ideas

People gather at Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan: Since the al Qaeda leader's death, fringe rumors have spread that he's been dead for years or that he's still alive.
(Image credit: Ahmad Kamal/XinHua/Xinhua Press/Corbis)

The killing of Osama bin Laden — and the Obama administration's revision of key details about the raid — have already fueled a slew of conspiracy theories. The "wild rumors" are floating around "not just in Pakistan and the Arab world, but also in Europe" and here in the U.S., says Robert Marquand in The Christian Science Monitor. And the "sad fact" is that the conspiracy theories, as wacky as they may be, actually matter, says Damian Thompson in The Telegraph. We must take them seriously "not because they’re true, but precisely because they're untrue and gaining enormous traction in parts of the world where ill-informed opinion can tip the political balance." Here, four of the more preposterous theories taking hold:

1. Bin Laden is not dead

Several "Facebook groups have sprung up with titles such as 'Osama bin Laden NOT DEAD,'" according to The Telegraph. And Yahoo! searches for terms like "osama bin laden not dead" or "osama bin laden still alive" have spiked "off the charts," according to Mark Egan at Reuters. In Iran, the "semiofficial" Mehr News Agency said, "The death of Osama is a lie." Perhaps the U.S. "ghosted out" bin Laden, says Glenn Beck, as quoted by Examiner.com, making it look like he was killed, when officials actually kept him alive "in order to interrogate him, or to protect him." Of course, such conspiracy theories "are built simply on speculation and some truly 'Beckian' logic," says Ryan Witt at Examiner.com.

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2. Obama cooked the whole thing up to get re-elected

Try this whopper on for size: "Osama 'buried at sea' yeah riiiiiight this all sounds like a ploy to get approval numbers up in preparation for the next election. First the long form birth certificate appears, then not even a couple weeks later magically Osama is killed with no proof," says Facebook poster Chad Gray, as quoted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This theory "was given extra credence" by the fact that Obama's "announcement of bin Laden's death cut into a broadcast of Donald Trump's reality show," says The Telegraph.

3. Bin Laden has been dead for years

"If you believe the newest death of OBL, you're stupid," anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan wrote on her Facebook page. The real story is that bin Laden has been dead for a decade and his body has been kept "on ice" until the death could be announced at a "politically expedient" time, according to radio host Alex Jones. Bin Laden's body was buried at sea "to prevent anyone from finding out when he actually died." Yes, says Jack Steuf at Wonkette, and the "reason Obama won't release photos is they forgot to move all the Fla-Vor-Ices out of the frame before they took the pictures. Fools!"

4. Bin Laden wasn't behind 9/11 anyway

Numerous 9/11 "truthers" believe the events of September 11, 2001, "were either staged or sanctioned by elements of the Bush administration, with the possibly fictive bin Laden's alleged involvement nothing but a cover story," says Mark Jacobson at New York. Or maybe, just maybe, bin Laden was "a CIA asset" working for the U.S. government. The various theories and permutations out there are "enough to make one long for Walter Cronkite and that unwavering gaze of mainstream certainty."

Sources: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Christian Science Monitor, Examiner.com, New York, Reuters, The Telegraph, Wonkette

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