First of all, I think Joseph Cannon has it right. There is no way Obama sent just two helicopters into Pakistan to kill Public Enemy No. 1. The Pakistanis knew what was happening and cooperated–either willingly or unwillingly. Either the Pakistan government, military, and intelligence services wanted plausible deniability or the U.S. pressured them into going along with the assassination. I don’t believe for one minute that Obama wanted to take bin Laden alive. Here’s Cannon’s take:
Allow me to suggest one possible scenario. Let us suppose the Bin Laden daughter Safia was correct when she said that her father was captured and then executed. (Frankly, I think that’s a fairly good bet.) Both the body and the post-mortum photos would provide evidence of the execution. A close-range shot leaves powder burns and other evidence.
This hypothesis would also explain the changing stories about whether Obama and Clinton watched the operation on video in real time. (I feel certain that they did.) I suspect that they realized belatedly that they would need plausible deniability if the truth of the execution ever came out: “I am shocked, shocked to learn about this. At the time, I had no idea…”
After reading Cannon’s piece, I think it makes sense that Obama and the rest of his team did see the kill shots, but they’ll never admit it. I also think Cannon makes a lot of sense when he brings in the question of Al Qaeda and the drug trade.
The connection between the ISI and Al Qaeda primarily involved drugs. That’s the factor which everyone keeps forgetting about. Yet it is key.
It should also not be forgotten that the ISI has strong links to the CIA. America was perhaps the primary market for Afghanistan’s poppy product, and thus it was necessary for the Bin Laden network to maintain ties with powerful people in this country.
I haven’t yet formulated a proper theory about all of this. But it seems to me that the answer to the mysteries surrounding the life and death of Osama Bin Laden may revolve around the drug connection.
Via Truthdig, former CIA agent Robert Baer basically agrees with Joseph Cannon. In this radio interview, Baer says that the Pakistan government must have known where bin Laden was and it is highly unlikely that they weren’t involved in the operation. He says the chances of a foreigner living in a heavily secured compound in that area filled with military and security people is zero. Baer also says if the U.S. had done this, there would have been a much sharper reaction from Pakistan–they would have closed the U.S. embassy and thrown all Americans out of the country. According to Baer, those Black Hawk helicopters are extremely slow and they would have been seen for hours flying in from Afghanistan, and if Obama had sent two helicopters in alone, he would be extremely daring, but utterly foolish. No president has ever forgotten what happened to Jimmy Carter after his failed attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran.
There’s a lot more, you can listen to the interview if you’re interested. But the bottom line, as far as I’m concerned, is that our government thinks we’re stupid. They think we’ll believe whatever outrageous propaganda they feed us.
Next up, Noam Chomsky’s reactions. Like me, Chomsky thinks bin Laden should have been brought back here and put on trial.
It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”
That’s why I love Chomsky. He comes right out and says exactly what he really thinks. Here’s a little more:
We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.
I know you’ll want to read the whole thing–it’s not very long, but it’s powerful.
Tom Englehardt, of the American Empire Project and TomDispatch.com argues that Osama bin Laden achieved his goals–he wanted to destroy the U.S. economy and generally have an impact on American society and culture.
Unfortunately, in every way that matters for Americans, it’s an illusion that Osama bin Laden is dead. In every way that matters, he will fight on, barring a major Obama administration policy shift in Afghanistan, and it’s we who will ensure that he remains on the battlefield that George W. Bush’s administration once so grandiosely labeled the Global War on Terror.
Consider it an insult to irony, but the world bin Laden really changed forever wasn’t in the Greater Middle East. It was here. Cheer his death, bury him at sea, don’t release any photos, and he’ll still carry on as a ghost as long as Washington continues to fight its deadly, disastrous wars in his old neighborhood.
Let’s face it. We no long live in anything resembling freedom. The Constitution is on life support. Our economy is wrecked, and we may never get back to where we were. We’re living in the last days of a dying empire. And the American empire wasn’t much to write home about anyway–certainly it can’t compare to the one Rome built.
Economist Mark Weisbrot, writing in the Guardian expands on bin Laden’s goals and his vision of what he wanted to happen to the U.S.
Bin Laden, who – like Saddam Hussein and other infamous mass murderers – was supported by the United Stated government for years before he turned against it, changed the world with the most destructive terrorist act ever committed on US soil. But the reasons that he was able to do that have as much to do with US foreign policy at that particular juncture as with his own strategy and goals.
Bin Laden’s goal was not, as some think, simply to bring down the US empire. That is a goal shared by most of the world, who – fortunately for us – would not use terrorist violence to further this outcome. His specific goal was to transform the struggle between the United States and popular aspirations in the Muslim world into a war against Islam, or at least create the impression for many millions of people that this was the case. As we look around the world 10 years after the attack, we can see that he had considerable success in this goal. The United States is occupying Afghanistan and Iraq, bombing Pakistan and Libya, and threatening Iran – all Muslim countries. To a huge part of the Muslim world, it looks like the United States is carrying out a modern-day crusade against them, despite President Obama’s assertions to contrary Sunday night.
George W. Bush happily obliged by inventing the “War on Terror.” And his successor, Barack Obama is now willingly carrying the torch. We should pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, since the bogey man is dead. But that won’t happen.
Weisbrot says that the WOT made al Qaeda stronger and bin Laden probably knew that would happen:
Could bin Laden have known that the US response to 9/11 would have made his movement even stronger, even if he lost his base in Afghanistan? I would say it is likely. While it was not predictable that President Bush would necessarily invade Iraq – although it was a strong possibility – it was foreseeable that the US government would seize on 9/11 to create a new overarching theme for its interventions throughout the world.
The administration and the media are already searching for a new bogey man, and working hard to gin up as much outrage as possible among gullible Americans. The latest effort is the release of bin Laden’s home movies. But we only get video–no sound. Why doesn’t our government allow us to hear what’s going on in videos? Are they afraid bin Laden’s words will influence us? And why do they keep calling bin Laden’s home a “lair?” Is that supposed to make us see him and his family as animals?
Finally, what are we to make of the video below–Osama bin Laden watching himself on television? Are we supposed see him as narcissistic and self-involved? Are we expected to compare this aging man watching himself on TV with our glorious hero President who would supposedly never do such a thing?
How very appropriate that the video begins with a Coors Beer ad. It fits right in with the sports motif that is building around the killing of the bogey man: USA! USA! and all that….