Oh-oh! What if the dead guy wasn't Osama bin Laden?
Neither President Obama nor senior administration officials expressed any qualifications about who got shot in the head during that SEAL commando raid into what was thought to be Osama bin Laden's housing compound in Pakistan early Monday morning.
They said a compound resident pointed the infamous Saudi out to SEALs. That the woman being used as a shield, presumably one of his wives, called him by name during the melee. And that facial-recognition analysis was used on death photos transmitted from the scene, confirming the bearded one's identity.
In addition to a possible treasure trove of Al Qaeda data contained on computers and discs scooped up by the infiltration team during its 40-minute foray in that housing compound, the American military surely took DNA samples from the body.
Even as American jubilation continues over presumably nailing the mastermind of 9/11, as Obama celebrated the achievement at a bipartisan White House dinner Monday night and as the Democrat plans a Thursday trip to ground zero in New York as part of a political victory lap, the National Journal's Maggie Fox wrote a disturbing article Monday evening.
Will we ever know for sure who the dead guy was?
Too late now. His corpse in a weighted shroud sleeps with the fishes at the bottom of an ocean.
But here's the problem: Does the U.S. have actual DNA from Bin Laden, collected previously, to match against the DNA of the fellow shot in the face in Pakistan.
If not -- and that would seem unlikely -- all that can be ascertained from relatives is a family relationship. The government reportedly has collected DNA from several Bin Laden relatives over the years, including a late half-sister in Boston.
But the terrorist leader did not come from your standard suburban family. In case you lost track over the years Osama is one of 54 children that the late Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden had with 22 different wives.
A body ID confirmation was so important to Obama that he reportedly canceled a safe B-2 bombing run on the presumed Bin Laden compound in March because it would have left nothing to verify -- instead going ahead with the riskier boots-on-the-ground raid involving four helicopters, their crews and 40 SEALs.
Without a previous DNA match from Bin Laden himself, however, all that can be confirmed now is that the dead guy was one of those 54 siblings.
Which might be good enough for Americans celebrating the demise of the man responsible for about 3,000 deaths -- and for Obama the year before his reelection bid.
But it sure sets the stage for years of Bin Laden look-alike sightings.
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-- Andrew Malcolm
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Photo: Osama bin Laden. Credit: Al Jazeera