There has been much speculation and pontificating in the news about Seymour Hersh's article about the real facts surrounding the killing of Osama Bin Laden. The White House has claimed that Hersh's article is full of inaccuracies and mistatements, and their claim was the lead story on NBC news tonight.
Hersh's article is currently available at the website of the London Review of Books. I have read it, and I suggest that the best course for anyone interested in the issue is to read it for themselves and make their own judgements about it. Here is a direct link to the story:
Seymour M. Hersh--The Killing of Osama bin Laden
I'll go into some details about the article and relevant matters below the fold.
For those unacquainted with Sy Hersh, here is part of his Wikipedia entry:
Seymour Myron "Sy" Hersh (born April 8, 1937) is an American investigative journalist and author based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters. He has also won two National Magazine Awards and is a five-time Polk winner and recipient of the 2004 George Orwell Award.
He first gained worldwide recognition in 1969 for exposing the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War, for which he received the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. His 2004 reports on the US military's mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison gained much attention.
This is a very experienced investigative journalist, whose work has stood up over time. Hersh's writing style is direct. Here is the opening paragraph from his piece in the May 21st. London Review of Books about the killing of Osama bin Laden:
It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.
The truth is, Osama bin Laden was captured by Pakistani intelligence (the ISI) in 2006 and brought to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was held as a prisoner. It was not until four years later that the U.S. found out where he was:
It began with a walk-in. In August 2010 a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer approached Jonathan Bank, then the CIA’s station chief at the US embassy in Islamabad. He offered to tell the CIA where to find bin Laden in return for the reward that Washington had offered in 2001....Bank was also told by the walk-in that bin Laden was very ill, and that early on in his confinement at Abbottabad, the ISI had ordered Amir Aziz, a doctor and a major in the Pakistani army, to move nearby to provide treatment. ‘The truth is that bin Laden was an invalid, but we cannot say that,’ the retired official said. [Hersh's main U.S. source was a retired U.S. intelligence official.] ‘“You mean you guys shot a cripple? Who was about to grab his AK-47?”’
Now this is very interesting, as we were told, ever since Osama bin Laden disappeared into the hinterlands of Afghanistan, right up until his death was reported in 2011, that he was very much in control of the organization of Al-Qaeda, that he was periodically releasing tapes commenting on international affairs, urging jihad, etc. If you go to the Wikipedia page devoted to Videos and audio recordings of Osama bin Laden
, you will find 34 video and audio tapes listed. The great majority of the tapes, 25 in all, were released between 2006 and 2011. It is notable that almost all the tapes released in this latter period are audio tapes, or video tapes that have only still photos of bin Laden over the sound track.
Assuming that Hersh is correct (and his article does appear very thoroughly sourced), we have an invalid prisoner, under the control of Pakistani intelligence, releasing a steady stream of tapes promoting jihad and the like over a period of five years. This is implausible, to say the least.
There is more, as Hersh's U.S. source relates:
After they killed bin Laden, ‘the Seals were just there, some with physical injuries from the crash, waiting for the relief chopper,’ the retired official said. ‘Twenty tense minutes. The Black Hawk is still burning. There are no city lights. No electricity. No police. No fire trucks. They have no prisoners.’ Bin Laden’s wives and children were left for the ISI to interrogate and relocate. ‘Despite all the talk,’ the retired official continued, there were ‘no garbage bags full of computers and storage devices. The guys just stuffed some books and papers they found in his room in their backpacks. The Seals weren’t there because they thought bin Laden was running a command centre for al-Qaida operations, as the White House would later tell the media. And they were not intelligence experts gathering information inside that house.’
But that is not what the government told the U.S. public:
Five days after the raid the Pentagon press corps was provided with a series of videotapes that were said by US officials to have been taken from a large collection the Seals had removed from the compound, along with as many as 15 computers. Snippets from one of the videos showed a solitary bin Laden looking wan and wrapped in a blanket, watching what appeared to be a video of himself on television. An unnamed official told reporters that the raid produced a ‘treasure trove … the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever’, which would provide vital insights into al-Qaida’s plans.
Here is a link to a still from one of those video tapes, as posted in the Wikipedia article I mentioned before:
The sub-title of this still is, "Osama bin Laden makng a video at his compound in Pakistan". It shows a man who looks rather like bin Laden, dressed in yellow, with his beard dyed black. He stands in front of a wrinkled sheet, used for a backdrop. The obvious question is, if the Seals did not pick up any videos in the Abbottabad compound, where did this stuff come from?
Of course, I gave away my opinion about "where...this stuff" came from with the title of this diary: we have been lied to, for years, about most of what has been going on in the "war on terror". Osama bin Laden, from 2006 on, was not in command of Al-Qaeda. The Pakistani's had him under lock and key. When the U.S. informed the Pakistanis that we knew that they had him and threatened to stop paying off Pakistani officials with the usual cash payments, the Pakistanis agreed to cooperate in having him killed. His body was riddled with bullets, to the point that there was not much left. He was not buried at sea--that story was a complete fabrication. There was no "terror central" in the compound, nor any treasure trove of information about the workings of Al-Qaeda. And if you doubt any of this, by all means go back and read Hersh's article. It really is very thorough and well done, which is what we expect from this reporter.
Meanwhile, I think we should be asking, what else have they lied to us about? It is no wonder that the White House's immediate reaction has been to deny, vehemently, that Seymour Hersh knows whereof he writes. One of the major memes of our time, about how the terrorists are out to get us, about how we need to "fight them over there so we won't have to fight them over here" has been shown to be very hollow.
Now, about ISIS....