Some Alternative Takes on the Killing of Osama bin Laden

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….


Aftermath: The Torture Apologist tour and other Un-pleasantries

I talked to Bostonboomer last night about the time John King–sober this time–was on the air. Piers Morgan is a cup of tea that I don’t want to know exists, but I did go back to look for a pattern during the Anderson Cooper show.  I even checked out Fox News a bit.  There it was.  The Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld torture policy apologist tour.  It was inevitable that a few Bushies would show up to offer the ‘balance’ to the Osama story. I’m not sure if Dubya wants to be able to visit the South of France without fear of being arrested for crimes against humanity or it’s just a bunch of guilty consciences trying to find equilibrium, I just see the meme and it’s appalling.

The Bushies have jumped on the Bin Laden courier narrative as a way to justify their treatment of Kahlid Sheikh Mohammed and other detainees from the War on Terror. I must’ve not been the only one that saw this unfolding because today’s RealClearPolitics has a pretty good set of videos up with both the meme mongers–like NY’s Congressional Ninny Peter King— and the ones that say this isn’t so.  I’d say John Brennan’s word on the matter is a pretty authoritative one.  SOS Clinton speaks on this too. Brennan was on Morning Joe this morning try to  kill the meme among other things.

Here’s a taste from TPM on what I sensed during last night’s news cycle.

Like so many memes that persist in politics, this one started on the Internet. The morning after President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan, conservatives started crowing that credit should be given to President George W. Bush — specifically, for having the foresight and courage to torture the people who provided the initial scraps of intel that ultimately led the CIA to a giant compound just north of Islamabad.

The most prominent of these conservatives was Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who took to Twitter to ask sardonically, “Wonder what President Obama thinks of water boarding now?

About two hours later, the Associated Press published a brief story claiming that the CIA obtained the initial intelligence it needed to find bin Laden from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — the so-called mastermind of 9/11 — and his successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi at CIA black sites in Poland and Romania.

Those secret prisons, which the Obama administration contends to have abandoned, were the facilities where Mohammed and al-Libi were waterboarded. There, the detainees supposedly identified by nom de guerre a courier who would years later be located by American intelligence officials, and lead them to bin Laden’s compound.

“The news is sure to reignite debate over whether the now-closed interrogation and detention program was successful,” the AP wrote. “Former president George W. Bush authorized the CIA to use the harshest interrogation tactics in U.S. history. President Barack Obama closed the prison system.”

There’s just one problem. The key bit of intel wasn’t acquired via torture, according to a more fleshed out version of the same report.

The morning after the day after the ghoulish Booyah Death celebrations just reminds me that there are parts of being an American that really dismay me because there are things about American Society that are just over the top.  It’s our inability to separate our modern reality from spaghetti westerns and other Hollywood genres.  This entire thing is unfolding like a series of badly written, thinly plotted Hollywood movies.  Don’t even get me started on the actors.

I’d like to think that we could take this time to reflect on the last ten years of blowback rather than join a mosh pit of grave dancers.  We now have trillions of dollars sunk in two seemingly endless wars.  Many Americans and others have died as a result.  This adds to the already too high death toll of the Cole and the World Trade Centers.  We got a second Bush term because of all this.   We have made flying commercial airlines a complete exercise in fascist humiliation right down to bullies in uniform doing unspeakable things to the elderly and young.  Bin Laden’s death gives us reason to recheck our reactions and values, not create a set of worse ones.

First, before we go any further down Conspiracy Lane, the President will release the graphic photos of the dead Osama Bin Laden.   I suppose that my hope is that we don’t see this abused to the point that it puts people serving in countries with religionists that are offended by this sort of thing in danger.  This will probably set off a series of extremist sites debunking the photo but if this puts some people’s minds at rest, so be it. Maybe Donald Trump will get another poll boost by calling for more evidence than is rationally necessary.  Part of the problem with the photos release seems to be that Bin Laden’s skull was blown apart which makes this a particularly gruesome set of photos. They’re not sure what reaction folks will have to it.

I suppose it’s got to be released eventually, but count me lucky that I’m going to be sitting in my house for awhile and not traveling about or serving anywhere dangerous.  This is not me being an Obama apologist either, this is me being a realist.  Pope Dark Ages just canonized a barely dead pope who supposedly did miracles.  We’ve seen martyr’s funerals turn into all kinds of unpleasant things recently. We can’t even get a bunch of nuts from Kansas to stop harassing people at funerals and one nut in particular to quit grandstanding by burning Qurans.  Rational behavior is not exactly a hallmark of religion. We’ve seen the nuttiness from humanity BC forward.  It’s not going to stop, unfortunately.

A second question will come from the Wag-the-Dog plot.  Will the poll bounce that Obama has gotten from this be enough to get people’s minds away from the myriad of problems that are not solved?   Again, I think that depends on the size of those lesser,  shallow spaghetti western angels that comprise our society.   Torture, wars, Gitmo, and the TSA can only bring on so much false sense of security.  I think we’ve learned some of that over the past decade.  Hopefully, I’m not just being optimistic.  Most of us know that  Osama Bin Laden’s death will not get us out of Afghanistan and Iraq any quicker.  It will not solve our unemployment problem and it’s not going to stop the finance sector from draining every penny it can out of businesses and households.  It certainly is not going to solve our problem with Pakistan or hopefully, define our policy on the nations undergoing the Arab Spring.

You can gleefully dance on a watery grave for only so long before you have to go back to chopping wood, carrying water, and cooking dinner.  Eventually, you have to come back from the adrenaline rush and face the problems that are not dead.   Osama Bin Laden has been one very small problem recently. It’s nice he’s out of the way, still …

The Corps of Engineers is blowing up a levee on the Mississippi River as we speak. It will flood parts of Missouri.   You remember those guys, they are the ones that brought us the Katrina aftermath.  Canada just had an election with some astounding results.  The UK is considering completely changing the way they vote and achieve majorities.  They’re not getting a consensus on governance any more than we’ve been able to find bi-partisanship.  What does this mean for democracy?   Their parliamentary system is at the root of as many governments as our republic. Governments are being overthrown in a part of the world where we get most of our oil.  When will that impact Saudi Arabia?  Is Japan’s nuclear reactor any closer to safe?   Are you eating Gulf seafood yet?  Does it bother you that two ecosystems have been utterly destroyed by the energy industry with a year?  What have we learned about these things over the last two days?

Unfortunately, the public forum to work out all these issues is going to be our very corporate, very broken media and the nether reaches of the internet where hopefully some less-captured voices prevail.  I think we all have the duty to get beyond the hooplah and search out the facts because these things have a tendency to shape policy as well as conversations.  I’m concerned that our two second attention span–which fixates on personalities and symbolic events–will take our eyes away from the real deal.  Does it matter if Bin Laden is dead or alive?  What problem does that really solve?