Monday, May 11, 2015

Lies, Lies, and More Lies: Seymour Hersh Exposes the Myth-Making Propaganda About the Killing of Osama Bin Laden

We have a smart and interesting group of readers from a range of backgrounds here on WARN. I am curious as to your thoughts on Seymour Hersh's new piece in the London Review of Books where he debunks and exposes the official "lie" about the killing of Osama bin Laden by United States operatives in May 2011.

From the initial reports about the SEAL Team 6 mission to kill Osama bin Laden, I was (and remain) in a state of disbelief about the facts as reported by Washington and the Obama administration.

Why didn't the Pakistanis shoot down the helicopters? Where was the active fighter cover for the raid? Why did the story about the mission to kill Osama bin Laden keep changing? Osama Bin Laden was hiding in the midst of the Pakistani military establishment and no one knew he was there?

Hollywood and the American military-intelligence-media apparatus have been shaping public perception and consciousness since at least World War One. The dream machine of Hollywood is now fully and unapologetically mated with the Pentagon where together they use films, video games, sporting events, and other means to manage and manipulate the public mood in favor of militarism.

Perhaps Zero Dark Thirty--the award winning movie about the mission to kill bin Laden--has such a high level of "realism" because the official version of the assault by the SEAL's was itself a fiction?

Hersh's The Killing of Osama bin Laden is a dense read.

A key passage:
Pasha and Kayani were responsible for ensuring that Pakistan’s army and air defence command would not track or engage with the US helicopters used on the mission. The American cell at Tarbela Ghazi was charged with co-ordinating communications between the ISI, the senior US officers at their command post in Afghanistan, and the two Black Hawk helicopters; the goal was to ensure that no stray Pakistani fighter plane on border patrol spotted the intruders and took action to stop them. 
The initial plan said that news of the raid shouldn’t be announced straightaway. All units in the Joint Special Operations Command operate under stringent secrecy and the JSOC leadership believed, as did Kayani and Pasha, that the killing of bin Laden would not be made public for as long as seven days, maybe longer. Then a carefully constructed cover story would be issued: Obama would announce that DNA analysis confirmed that bin Laden had been killed in a drone raid in the Hindu Kush, on Afghanistan’s side of the border.  
The Americans who planned the mission assured Kayani and Pasha that their co-operation would never be made public. It was understood by all that if the Pakistani role became known, there would be violent protests – bin Laden was considered a hero by many Pakistanis – and Pasha and Kayani and their families would be in danger, and the Pakistani army publicly disgraced. 
It was clear to all by this point, the retired official said, that bin Laden would not survive: ‘Pasha told us at a meeting in April that he could not risk leaving bin Laden in the compound now that we know he’s there. Too many people in the Pakistani chain of command know about the mission. He and Kayani had to tell the whole story to the directors of the air defence command and to a few local commanders. 
‘Of course the guys knew the target was bin Laden and he was there under Pakistani control,’ the retired official said. ‘Otherwise, they would not have done the mission without air cover. It was clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder.’ A former Seal commander, who has led and participated in dozens of similar missions over the past decade, assured me that ‘we were not going to keep bin Laden alive – to allow the terrorist to live. By law, we know what we’re doing inside Pakistan is a homicide. We’ve come to grips with that. Each one of us, when we do these missions, say to ourselves, “Let’s face it. We’re going to commit a murder.”’ The White House’s initial account claimed that bin Laden had been brandishing a weapon; the story was aimed at deflecting those who questioned the legality of the US administration’s targeted assassination programme. The US has consistently maintained, despite widely reported remarks by people involved with the mission, that bin Laden would have been taken alive if he had immediately surrendered.
The United States is an "empire of illusion". The American people have been lied to so much and so often that they no longer have any expectations that their leaders are telling them the truth. Vaudeville politics, with its state of perpetual disorientation and confusion, is the new normal.

Seymour Hersh's claims will be dismissed as those of a "conspiracy theorist". Such an argument proceeds from a faulty assumption and inference: just because one is paranoid does not mean that someone is not in fact after him or her.

There are serious questions to be asked about Hersh's claims. But, they should not be rejected in either a knee jerk or reactionary way.


AC said...

And of course Obama was just an innocent bystander. He certainly wouldn't have been aware of all that lying his staff was doing.

James Scaminaci III, PhD said...

Hersh has pieced together a plausible account of what may have actually happened. The White House and the SEAL's accounts were always contradictory, which suggested that the facts were very fluid.

But, Hersh's article, I think, leads to a very uncomfortable larger issue: our intelligence and our security policies regarding terrorism are real failures. If bin Laden was out of the operational loop; all the intelligence from torturing prisoners at Gitmo and elsewhere lead to little, if any, actionable intelligence; and, all the NSA spying on Americans and non-terrorist citizens on the planet, stopped zero terrorist attacks; then, the Obama version of the War on Terror is simply mindless murdering of civilians and "militants" in signature strikes, as well as targeted drone killings of American citizens.

There are more terrorists operating on the planet in more countries than were operating on 9/10/2001.

Instead of debating what our national security strategy actually is and should be, our political, military and intelligence elites are actually asleep at the wheel steering a Potemkin policy towards disaster.

joe manning said...

The various national power elites are rivals but they never let that get in the way of their comradery.

Looks like they have agreed to kill off a third of the world's population in order to deal with looming crises, to decrease demand for resources and jobs, to establish the general demoralization, and to dash any whiff of rising expectations among any segment of humanity.

International terrorism is a mechanism of social control that terrorizes everybody. Hence the symbiotic relationship between the US and ISIS, Pakistan and the Taliban, Kenya and Boko Haram, Somalia and Al Shabaab. They establish rules of engagement and duke it out but its all toward the maintenance of the established power structure.

Black Sci-Fi said...

If bin Laden is dead I really don't care how it happened. That it happened doesn't seem to be in question, which is a good thing. If, in fact, he's still alive and a prisoner of the US military, fine.
During the Bush 2 era the joke here in Chicago was that bin Laden was working (hiding in plain sight) as a counterman at a 7/11 in Skokie, a Chicago suburb which has a large Jewish population.
ATC, the truth about the details surrounding his capture/death of bin Lauden will never be known with 100% accuracy. The reasons should be clear to anyone even remotely familiar with very nature of "covert" operations. Speculation on the specifics of any "covert" operation will always leave gaps a mile wide for an eager journalist to drive a sensationl, yet "lightly sourced", story through.
Q) If everything Hersh reports is true, is bin Lauden still alive?
The reality is that bin Lauden was "our guy" at one point, until he wasn't. The reality is that Iran is still pissed because we, the USA/CIA, formented a coup that lead to the installation of a dictator. The reality is that Saddam, a murdering dictator, was our guy, until he wasn't. The reality is that Regan sold/gave weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of our hostages in order to defeat Carter. And, he didn't go to jail for treason when the truth came out. And, Ollie North is now a History Channel TV star.
The reason for ALL of these actions was to curb the then Soviet Union.
We need better elected leaders to play the long-game.

DanF said...

So I assume that some of the official story is nonsense, but most is not. I expect Pakistan had a reasonable understanding of where he was and helped kept him alive to in order to placate the sympathetic elements within their borders. I also think we kept Pakistan in the dark about the raid so that they wouldn't move or alert him. I fully expect that we had no intention of bringing him back alive - likewise I have no doubt that bin Laden had no interest in coming back alive as he knows the value of a martyr.

Hersh primarily uses two sources - one of whom ran Pakistani intelligence in 1992 - which was a long damn time ago - and one who was "knowledgeable with initial intelligence" of the raid. So ... Not sure what that means. Could have been an analyst who saw the documents? Not sure. But unlike other blockbuster and true Hersh reports, no supporting documents this time; so it's kind of a leap of faith that Hersh has this right. And to be sure, Hersh has been right before on big stuff - but wrong fairly often as well (e.g. Bush plans to invade/attack Iran in next six months).

For me, Hersh's story is simply too complicated - and it needs to be complicated to fit his narrative. If Pakistan was working with us to kill bin Laden, why not transport him into Afghanistan and have the American's kill him there? Or Pakistan could have killed him and dumped his body for us to "find." It would involve far fewer people and you don't have the mess of geography.

The official narrative has a whiff of stink, but the Hersh version is worse.

The Sanity Inspector said...

Osama Bin Laden was hiding in the midst of the Pakistani military establishment and no one knew he was there?

Of course not. He was obviously their honored guest. Watching Pakistan fight Islamic terrorism is like watching a man leg-wrestle himself.

chauncey devega said...

Hersh has been right on some really important things. Some of the details here don't seem right and are out of a bad Tom Clancy book. Dumping body parts out of the helicopter is unprofessional and would lead to questions. If the Pakistanis offered him up for the bounty why not just drop him off in the desert for the Americans to kill. The latter still get their fcuk yeah! America moment once they execute him.

chauncey devega said...

This is the money shot:

" If bin Laden was out of the operational loop; all the intelligence from torturing prisoners at Gitmo and elsewhere lead to little, if any, actionable intelligence; and, all the NSA spying on Americans and non-terrorist citizens on the planet, stopped zero terrorist attacks; then, the Obama version of the War on Terror is simply mindless murdering of civilians and "militants" in signature strikes, as well as targeted drone killings of American citizens."

And it is a conversation that few if any in the mainstream media are willing to have.

TonyEdwards2 said...

There is a reason Hannity, Kelly, are not going to be interviewing Seymour Hesh anytime soon. Believe me, if they could
find one first hand source that agrees with him they would flash the story on for at least a week straight. So far all the Seal team members involved, defense secretaries, and members of congress like McCain that were briefed align with Obama’s story. Apparently, the Pakistani informant has been trying to sell his fabricated story for some time, and Hesh bit on the bait. The retired General heard nothing but hearsay, and had nothing to do with the extraction.

balitwilight said...

"To watch the courageous Afghan freedom fighters battle modern arsenals with simple hand-held weapons is an inspiration to those who love freedom." [Ronald Reagan, March 21, 1983]
- Those freedom fighters Reagan referred to are the same Islamic fundamentalist warriors - paid and nurtured by the CIA - whose dragon's teeth the US was all too eager to sow on Russia's doorstep in the 80s and right up to the Bosnia war in the 90s. What did Malcolm X say about chickens?
- Watching the United States Government fight Islamic terrorism is like watching a man leg-wrestle his own reflection.

kokanee said...

The Pakistanis had bin Laden under house arrest. It stands to reason that American intelligence knew that too. It became a political decision to kill bin Laden. He became more useful dead (a big win for the Obama administration) than alive (as the evil villain to pursue all around the world). The U.S. had no intention of capturing him alive as he would run his mouth in the courts. Capturing people alive is not how we do things in the U.S. anymore anyway.

TenarDarell said...

I can't link and I can't seem to copy paste, but search out Digby's website "Bob Baer muses about Hersh." It's fascinating audio interview. Worth the 20 minutes. He corroborates at least part of the story.

Southern said...

Hell no -- You cannot simply take people to court, that would result in honoring their rights such as ''due process''.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I'm not sure, but if the Pakistani military moved bin Laden, then officials sympathetic to bin Laden may have tipped him off. From what Chauncey has shared I assume very few people in the Pakistani military knew about the raid.

A friend of mine from coastal Nigeria has told me military members often give tips to Boko Haram. US and Indian relations were strained in the 80's due to US support of Pakistan despite the very common knowledge their government supported terrorists.

balitwilight said...

Giving Bin Laden due process would also have triggered a reaction in the American public that has become all too familiar. One of my interests (and something too few people note) is the how words/language can be the most radical cause of a problem.
- Americans have adopted a childish interpretation of phrases like "GIVE him due process"; "GIVE him LIFE in prison". Everyone has noticed how these stock phrase now seem to indicate to this bloodthirsty vindictive populace that something is being GIVEN to an undeserving person... as opposed to their just being stock expressions. The stock expressions have taken on a life of their own. Obama is far too weak and ethically expedient to have wanted that battle over bin Laden.

kokanee said...

When Robert Baer speaks, I listen. Thanks!

kokanee said...

Lol! Due process is messy and cumbersome. I wonder if the U.S. government could even have convicted bin Laden in a court of law. Somehow I doubt it.

balitwilight said...

RE: "I wonder if the U.S. government could even have convicted bin Laden in a court of law."
Um, I'm guessing yes. "Due process" in the United States has managed to result in the world's largest prison population... and 1/8 imprisoned people - on the planet - being "black" Americans. So...I would put good money down that bin Laden would have received the death penalty in a Virginia District Court faster than an Amtrak train on a railroad.

The Sanity Inspector said...

Maybe we shouldn't have aided the Soviets during WWII, since they became adversaries in the Cold War. Maybe we shouldn't have aided the Japanese in WWI, since they became enemies in WWII. Maybe we shouldn't have....and so forth in every country until the beginning of history.

kokanee said...

Re: "So...I would put good money down that bin Laden would have received the death penalty in a Virginia District Court faster than an Amtrak train on a railroad."
Maybe. But I can imagine a public trial with the best lawyers that money can buy defending him.
And, uh, too soon...

balitwilight said...

There is no amount of lawyering that would have freed Osama bin Laden from a death penalty in the commonwealth of Virginia. I assure you that.
- The Amtrak thing is a remarkable case of synchronicity. I didn't even know about the Philadelphia accident: I was riffing on the idea of being railroaded quickly and that phrase came to me. It actually feels a little eerie to me. I have experienced these kind of odd synchronicities now and then. Who knows what's underneath consciousness?

Southern said...

The consequences of OBL divulging what he knew was likely to be embarrassing for one admin or another.

Southern said...

I believe that no head of state should be allowed to consider themselves as ''exceptional'' by placing themselves above the law.

Everyone should have a right to due process, I thought that was the essence of the Magna Carta, the corner stone of the US constitution

"No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land."

Course it's true that Obama has suspended due process and placed himself above the law.

Maelstrom_19 said...