Five years ago, Time magazine offered to buy one of my photographs of Bin Laden in Afghanistan for its front cover. I refused to sell it. Time wanted, so their picture desk told me, to use a computer to “age” him in my snapshot. Again, I refused. “So how much do you want?” the Time picture desk asked. They didn’t understand. Bin Laden may have no integrity, but my pictures did: they showed a man in his 30s and 40s, not in his 60s or 70s.
But now he is 50 years old. I don’t think he’ll be celebrating in his cave. Just reflecting that, white-flecked though his beard now is, he remains the West’s target number one, as iconic as any devil, so embarrassing to Mr Bush that the President dare no longer pronounce his name, lest it remind his audience that Bin Laden is the one that got away.
I read the “experts”, telling me that Bin Laden has cancer, that he needs medical machines to survive. But we say this about all our enemies. Bin Laden uses now a stick to walk – unusual for a man of 50 – but we know he was wounded in Afghanistan. The truth is – and forget the “experts” who might tell you otherwise – that Bin Laden is still alive. Like the Scarlet Pimpernel, he may be damned and elusive, but he remains on this earth. Aged 50.