Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wailing Walls: Bela Lugosi's Dead, Part II

Note: After the death of Osama Bin Laden, we, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? turn for insight to General Rehavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi, former Israeli Minister of Tourism. Having faked his assassination in the Mt. Scopus Hyatt Hotel, the General has been in deep cover, in Judea and Samaria, posing as an American goy pursuing graduate studies in the Middle East. He last joined us for Bela Lugosi's Dead, Part I: A Shadow of Ourselves.


The Real Story Sucks: Bin Laden, the ISI and a Dawood Sandstorm
by GENERAL REHAVAM "GANDHI" ZE'EVI

We're being lied to with all the crude smugness of an Irish Setter with crumbs on his whiskers, oblivious as to who ate all the kaiser rolls off the counter. This horseshit bandage being spun around Osama's powder-burned chancres is enough to make any decent self-loathing American want to attempt a header off the Golden Gate. We have no decoder rings, yet, with the power of elementary deduction, we can cut through the web of lies ensnaring Lady Liberty.

In Part I of this piece, I told you about Al Qaeda, the most comically monstrous gang of murdering cretins to never have starred in a Roald Dahl novel. That group's "BFG" was recently introduced to the concept of mind-expanding hollowpoint bullets, a door of perception Mr. Bin Laden may not have been entirely prepared to traverse.

No matter. No one goes straight to the shrink when they find themselves fixated on the idea of carving 666 onto their bus driver's forehead or tearing apart their Keurig machine to see if the CIA has installed a tracking device in the coffee filter. It takes some building up to a point where one can accept they are nuts, and that is what a general practitioner is for — a medical hand who can gently break it to those clad only in tinfoil that it might be worth trying the Thorazine. The calorie-free, sociopathic banality of this Bin Laden hit is similarly more digestible if we first admit: one, that this official narrative does not make a great deal of sense; and, two, that it is a terrifying indication of how little the "War on Terror" has achieved.

If you want to accept the truth of the Bin Laden killing, you have to accept that you will be condemned as paranoid, unstable and soft on hard terror. From where I sit, true-blue madness and narcissistic delinquency came from the depravity of the American jubilation over the murder of that withered old Saudi lecher, but that will have to wait until Part III. Our task today is much more rote. Busting the lies of fat-necked warmongers and armchair militarists is always a boring, thankless, easy job, but it's an important one.

America is the most dangerous country on earth, a wrecking ball that will swing towards any village idiot on any dead run of earth stupid enough to kill its citizens. Revenge will be accomplished using the most terrifying, imagistic machinery of death ranged against subversives since the crucifix. It will be thanked with standing ovations by congressmen, bumps in polling and gushing praise from swinish half-bureaucrats of the press. In other words, there is a great deal of what retail minds call "incentivizing" that drives the illegal killing of anyone America thinks needs a good Predator scrubbing.

Our man Obama impressed everyone he wanted to impress, and the cost was merely a forcefully, aggressively illegal execution of a man too fascistic to be defended on human grounds. Nevertheless, let's cut the Gordian knot wrapped around America's knackers, and confront the blunt reality: the President executed a man, covered it up and connived with a foreign power to deceive the American people.

The Narrative: A Pack of Lies
The story of the Bin Laden hit stunk like low tide from the moment the Obama ilk sloshed it onto their press supplicants. There are at least four accounts of how the deed went down:
the one the Obama gnats tried to sell right after the killing;
the "revised" account, once gentle prodding began tearing Buick-sized holes through the story;
the likely story blogger types began inferring lay behind the revised account;
and the much more gruesome story, a meathook reality that could've put Osama in the dock.
Every account of the raid the government has presented has been riddled with inconsistencies, a wallpapering of the truth that began even before the hit was launched.

In the first hours following the announcement of a presidential statement — on a Sunday night, of all times, when gentlefolk were atweet on their couches — it was apparent this would probably be about Bin Laden. (Although, perhaps not coincidentally, America also tried to kill Muammar Gaddafi and Yemeni meatstick Anwar al-Awlaki the same weekend.) For at least a day and a half, the Obama Administration had almost total control over the message; the only exception came from a Pakistani geek who unknowingly live-Tweeted the whole raid.

The story they spun in those first few days was devastating, a snarkist's dream: Bin Laden was ensconced in a million dollar mansion, living like the protagonist of a Fellini film, growing high-power chronic, hoarding porn and bossing around a harem of full-lipped Pakistani farmers' daughters. This bastard wasn’t just stone-cold evil but a hypocrite to boot, one who enjoyed drugs and sex and Pepsi. The City on the Hill would not let such a cushy retirement stand — nossir; everyone should be tightening their belts these days.

It has been obvious since 9/11 that the way Bin Laden would be identified was through his person-to-person communications system; it was the only network that needed to know where he was, and the only one that, many steps removed, could physically lead back to Abbottabad. This was a skell entirely reliant on a trusted courier to relay messages to God knows whom. Roll up the courier, you roll up Bin Laden. And so the story goes: we identified the courier, tracked him to Bin Laden's "villa" and grew suspicious at a country estate lacking internet and phones, where the trash was burned weekly.

Bin Laden was killed because of the one chink in his afghan that had been keeping him up at night, watching himself on a tiny Magnavox like late-stage piss-bottling Howard Hughes. There is a very good reason Osama's video messages had grown increasingly scarce since 9/11. In order for his latest diatribe to air on Al Jazeera, he had to rely on a markedly low-tech means of transmission: a series of sap Muzzie messengers needed to relay it surreptitiously to an appropriate media functionary. And in doing that, no matter how skillfully these middlemen hustled through the Khyber, they created a human linkage between point A and point B — between the control room in Doha and the Sheikh's hidey hole. If these interlocutors could be rolled up, or, better yet, followed, they would lead back to Osama. He was scared of that for years — reduced his presence, retired to his cozy little walled villa in a comfortably obscure, leafy garrison town.

According to them, Obama "pulled the trigger" on an "incredibly gutsy move," one that if successful, would provide irrefutable proof of Osama's demise, as well as a king's ransom worth of physical intelligence. The Navy SEALs went in heavy and, we are told, drew heavy resistance in an "intense firefight" that dogged them all 40 minutes of the raid. As hired liar/press flack Jay Carney said, "The resistance was throughout." Breaching the inner sanctum of evil, the old bastard drew on G.I. Joe ("he did resist the assault force [and] he was killed in a firefight"), leaving our boys with no choice but to take him down. Helmet-mounted cameras would've beamed the action "minute by minute" back to Obama and the "Situation Room," as immortalized in that now-ubiquitous picture, but there were technical problems for 20-25 minutes.

The remains of the day were devoted to rubbing it in — the media disclosures of Bin Laden's apparent Pakistani peccadilloes, the cowardly human shielding, the stunning manner in which his body was disposed of, the public hand-wringing over whether to release the post-mortem body shots. There was at least one genuinely inspired bit of propaganda, the release of that dryly comic footage of simpering old Bin Laden, cuddled up and watching himself on the news like a castaway ingénue from the old-timey Warner Brothers studio system, marooned in a darkened Hollywood bungalow, obsessively watching her blackface "Chicken 'n' Cornbread" routine from Broadway Melody 1929.

That videographic touch was surprisingly subtle and clever for government work, and that's when the story began to sour. Had they stuck to their meathead instincts and rammed through the party line on Bin Laden's death, like that one-track gorilla John Gotti Jr. on trial, they would've been high and dry. But that video... it was too deft a psy-ops stroke for its own good, too visually striking. The story of Bin Laden's death suffers substantially if we needed ten years, three wars and a Navy SEAL hit team to kill Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. They burned themselves with that little ditty.

By day two, the story began falling apart like a swing-dancing leper.

The most obvious heap of horseshit was the first to be shoveled aside, a contention too perfect to be true, such a howler that immediately impeached it as the overreach that it was: that Bin Laden's final moments were spent cowering behind his wife, now employed as a human shield. As counterterrorism czar John Brennan recounted it, "There was family at that compound, and there was a female who was, in fact, in the line of fire that reportedly was used as a shield to shield Bin Laden from the incoming fire." Perhaps if some Americans were still on the fence about how they would appraise Bin Laden's character, this damning detail might've condemned him for good. A man cowers behind women and children?—it's almost like he has no respect for human life at all.

But, alas, it wasn't true; the dead woman was the wife of Bin Laden's mysterious courier Abu Sheikh al-Kuwaiti, killed in the opening seconds of the firefight during his feckless attempt at resistance. She was riddled with bullets, along with her husband, on the ground floor of the compound's guest house, nowhere near Bin Laden, who was cornered on the third floor of the main house. It also appears al-Kuwaiti was the only armed guard, a fact that raises some hackles about just how the other two casualties ate it. Al-Kuwaiti's brother, known only by the alias "Tareq Khan," punched his ticket outside after drawing a lime green water pistol on the SEALs, while Bin Laden's son Hamza was probably killed on the stairs inside the main house. Bin Laden's wife was apparently shot in the leg when the waif "rushed" the Navy SEALs, men built like Mack Trucks and Liberty Ships. No fierce resistance throughout, no "firefight" to speak of — no clear reason why these underlings couldn't have been captured instead of killed. No reason, apart from the fact that nobody in America cares that these lowlifes were bled out.

Even the most light-hearted struts of the story yielded like thin ice with the slightest bit of pushback. The media loves their human-interest angles; you’ll recall that the big Libyan story to come out of the Wikileaks files was not that Gaddafi had successfully bribed most of the Western world but that he had a blonde nurse he might be fucking. Same with Osama, but even these Gawker-friendly clips were bullshit. His wife was not propped up as a human shield or used as a pincushion. The presence of pot plants outside the walls of the house was fairly mundane, owing to marijuana's free growth in parts of Pakistan, while there's no way of knowing whether the large quantity of porn in the house belonged to Bin Laden or, more likely, one of his young interlocutors. At least those "untruths" had the merit of being hilarious if true, but the laughs dry up henceforth.

So, rather than a fierce firefight in which Bin Laden resisted, we had a situation in which five people were killed by Navy SEALs, four of them unarmed. The raiders killed al-Kuwaiti in the first moments of the raid and never drew fire again. They stormed the main house, where an unarmed Bin Laden was followed into a room; his wife was shot, and the video cut out.

We'll return to that tableau in a moment, the scene of Bin Laden's ruin off a rear corridor of the "million dollar mansion." How fitting that the very scene of Bin Laden’s destruction was a matter of gross exaggeration; the appellation of "mansion" held up as long as people didn't see the house, which looked like some foreclosed scrubland stucco nightmare out of Victorville, California. (If anything, it might have provoked sympathy: here was someone else who had to live in a shabby bungalow out in Global Buttfuck and commute a thousand hours just to get anything done.) How lovely is thy dwelling place, but the house's very existence poses a challenge to the truth greater than almost any inconsistency in the raid.

The Pakistani Network: Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams
The need for a house, as with every logistical headache the hidden Bin Laden faced, was apparently solved by the old man's chief fixer and courier, an interesting man in his own right, the aforementioned and very dead Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. Al-Kuwaiti's brief tangle with the SEALs was a mildly self-destructive reaction, given the relative ease with which the world's most fearsome commandos cut down a pudgy bagman with a rusty AK-47. But then, gunplay was not al-Kuwaiti's strong suit. The fact that he was of Pakistani parentage but born in Kuwait should pique the interest of any Al Qaeda scholars; Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, born of identical circumstances, was apparently his point of access into Al Qaeda. A man who can speak both Arabic and the local Pakistani dialects would certainly have been useful. Besides acting as a go-between for Southeast Asian nightmare terrorist Hambali, al-Kuwaiti also ran a guesthouse for Al Qaeda types in Northwest Pakistan, aiding them in their movements.

In 2004 he first made his presence felt in Abbottabad, a Pakistani garrison town named after some long-rotting British Army bastard. Nur Mohammed, a contractor in some dusty village a few dozen clicks away, was approached by a customer with the redneck accent of Waziristan but who also spoke Pashto in a jarringly clipped and refined manner, a curious contraposition. The man hired Mohammed to build a house on four plots of land he had bought from homeowners in Abottabad for roughly $48,000, a job the contractor completed on time. Nur Mohammed was paid in cash and went back to his contractor gig in his rural hamlet, while the paymaster — who called himself Arshad Khan — settled into his new home.

"Arshad Khan" thus seemed a very useful man to have at your elbow, with a mystique plainly in need of explanation. Arshad, and his brother "Tareq" said that they were hoteliers in Dubai, money-lenders who did well but made enemies, ergo their high-walled homestead. The house was big for the neighborhood but no mansion — $250,000 to build, at most. They settled into the neighborhood and cultivated the neighborly air of every serial killer: "He kept to himself mostly."

The torturing hellhounds of the Bush Administration have frothed over al-Kuwaiti, arguing he was identified and eventually located through the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Nope. KSM was waterboarded hundreds of times without ever coughing up al-Kuwaiti's real name, which he certainly knew. The CIA, always desperate to justify their "enhanced interrogation" horrors, went out of their way this time to clarify that al-Kuwaiti had been identified by other means and that torture had yielded false information about him.

Fairly straightforward. But this attempt to set up al-Kuwaiti as Bin Laden's prime mover and shaker in Abbottabad just doesn't make any sense. He was a useful, hard-working small fry who the U.S. says they followed driving from the Northwest frontier to the compound. Fine. That does not explain why they thought the West Point of Pakistan would be a safe retirement community, in a town teeming with ex-generals and spooks — the sorts of people who actually run the country and who, the U.S. asserts, would be capable of hermetically sealing the border with Afghanistan, if they saw it in their best interests. If you are the sort of person who still subscribes to the notion that the CIA is capable of doing anything other than "fucking up" with excellence, then this kind of hideout is like building your new Hutaree Militia compound on a children's soccer field in Langley, Virginia.

Did the Pakistanis really know nothing about the raid? Obviously the U.S. had good cause to believe someone in the Pakistani machine would rat out any impending hit to Bin Laden. Or was he bartered away? Was there a rat somewhere in the wall, either a free-lancer gunning for that $25 million bounty, or something more organized? Clearly, a network of Pakistani military men saw it in their best interest to shelter Bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Mullah Omar, perhaps for the day they found it advantageous to ditch them. Someone went to al-Kuwaiti in 2003 and suggested this, suggested Bin Laden would be safe in Abbottabad, administered to by retired generals, or a small group of officers. But we won't be able to know for sure, because those SEALs punched a few blowholes in al-Kuwaiti too.

Which, again — forgive my paranoid cynicism — strikes me as odd. Maybe, as the U.S. said, al-Kuwaiti fired upon them, and they had no choice but to shoot him. But the moment they did, they lost a potentially devastating source of intelligence, a man who could've identified everyone in touch with Bin Laden since 9/11, identify whomever gave him the money and idea to buy that house in the first place, instructed him on whom to see and consult with about any problems Bin Laden had in the city. Who else did courier al-Kuwaiti meet in his travels? Whom did the U.S. watch him meeting? In that sense, maybe it was even more important al-Kuwaiti die in that raid than even Bin Laden. He knew way too much for his own rotten good, and why he was not captured should be considered a great mystery.

Rumor-mongering about the guys who really subcontracted the building of Bin Laden's house has already unearthed some real pearls. An investigation by the Globe and Mail produced the claim that the compound was purchased and used by Hizbul Mujahedeen, a radical Islamist Kashmiri terror outfit which, like any organization devoted to killing Indians, is supported by the Pakistani security services. India Today remarked that such an arrangement "would mark an unusual example of co-operation between the militant group and its more extreme cousin." This is true. But it is not a matter of bilateral alliance; if true, it was a match made by the ISI and the Pakistani Army.

For anyone to say such an ISI-negotiated deal for Bin Laden’s sanctuary is unprecedented, well, read your fucking history. Allow me to introduce you to Dawood Ibrahim and some of the stalwart work the Pakistani military has done across their other border, the one with India. Dawood is a fatassed Mumbai gangster who looks like the Penguin put on a tikka masala diet, a 5'4" Napoleonite sausage casing with some serious daddy issues. (His father was, after all, a cop.) He is the Sugar Hill Gang to Bin Laden’s NWA, the terror mastermind before it was cool.

From the beginning of his irresistible rise in the Mumbai underworld of the 1970s, Ibrahim has been a pioneer in many of the criminal transit routes, protection rackets and intelligence relationships that would be copied by Al Qaeda in concealing their boys. His "D Company" mafia had a real international presence, stretching to the backrooms of Dubai nightclubs, the poppy fields of Afghanistan and, through the shaken-down studio backlots of Bollywood, the entire Third World. He dominates the hundi loan sharking system in both India and Pakistan, is the biggest gold smuggler in South Asia, collects pure heroin like it's dust, manipulates the stock market through assorted pump-and-dump schemes, hoards blue-chip urban property like the Collyer brothers and, most astoundingly, does this as a fugitive who has not set foot in India for decades. We think.

Ibrahim is not just some Raj Corleone; no, he is also a state-sanctioned terrorist who, in 1993, orchestrated the bombing of downtown Mumbai, in an attack that killed hundreds of people. Following the sacking of a mosque by ultranationalist Hindu extremists, gold smuggler and Ibrahim associate Tiger Memon sent a dozen or so hoods to Pakistan to be trained by "unknown parties." Following their return, Memon — in coordination with Ibrahim and "foreign elements" — oversaw a stunning series of attacks on March 12, in which over a dozen car, suitcase and scooter bombs detonated, on buses, under movie theater seats, in crowded bazaars and in the Bombay Stock Exchange. This had the ISI’s fingerprints all over it, a devastating escalation of the Pakistani-Indian battle over Kashmir.

How was Dawood Ibrahim repaid for this? Apart from the unconscionable difficulties of fugitive wedding arrangements, Dawood lives in circumstances remarkably similar to Bin Laden, though more opulent and high-profile. This damning expose had the scoop: living on a 6,000 square yard manor "billed as the most expensive mansion in [Karachi], [with] a swimming pool, tennis courts, snooker table and a state-of-the-art health club," Ibrahim "and his family and colleagues now carry Pakistani passports. And whenever there's a problem in Pakistan, the ISI bails him out… Nor do Pakistan's law enforcers hound him. Says a close aide, "The ISI is thankful to Bhai [Ibrahim] for all that he has been doing for Pakistan. Let me tell you, Bhai has delivered to Pakistan what it could never dream of having."

Dawood represents something Bin Laden became too: a wild card, a well-connected freelancer of eminent use to a twisted, paranoid military establishment always seeking an angle in the affairs of their neighboring countries. As a gangster associate claimed, "Now Pakistan is dependent on us. Bhai knows too many secrets of this country. Every influential Pakistani, whether he is a politician or a military man, is indebted to Bhai."

Dawood ticks on with his secrets, while continuing to aid the ISI and government-backed extremist groups like Lakshar-e-Toiba, perpetrators of the hideous 2008 Mumbai shootings. D Company allegedly provided the logistics for that extremely complex and well-organized series of attacks, a violent strike that relied on the influence and intelligence of a native Indian like Dawood to be so psychologically devastating. Can the same not be said of the Pakistani policy in Afghanistan, in which the Taliban leadership and their Al Qaeda guests are held as top trumps, to be bashed against any recalcitrant halfling that gets in their way?

Dawood may walk that tightrope well, but Bin Laden took a nosedive off the high wire. In a country that regularly tops the U.S. foreign aid list, men like Dawood Ibrahim and Osama Bin Laden simply know too much: they either have to live quietly, in protected anonymyity, or not at all. And with the Americans gunning for Bin Laden, finally armed with at least an inkling of where he was hiding, it may have been time to give up the ghost. As ex-ISI head General Assad Durrani argued:
It is more likely that [Pakistan] did know [about the raid]. It is not conceivable that it was done without the involvement of Pakistani security forces at some stage. They were involved and they were told they were in position… The army chief was in his office, the cordons had been thrown around that particular place. The Pakistani helicopters were also in the air so that indicates that it was involved.
There is no middle ground for someone who could publicly expose the American-Pakistani alliance as a deeply cynical game of triple crosses, in which a rogue, nuclear-armed state employs an enormous gang of summertime killers, paid for with checks drawn off the U.S. Treasury. The Pakistanis gave up Bin Laden to America, for reasons that won't become clear for decades.

It is the same gameplan Pakistan uses in their drone strike connivance; a U.S. military program that has shown marked effectiveness in sluicing the innards of Pakistani villagers. The military and spy agencies deny, deny, deny, even as they conspire, conspire, conspire. Plausible deniability is necessary, owing the rage the average Pakistani will feel about the violation of his country's sovereignty. But equally necessary is satisfying the bare minimum of American demands, so as to keep the aid flowing and the Yanks off your backs, lest the ISI be kept from planning the next Mumbai massacre in peace.

Here’s my theory: America gained some intelligence off al-Kuwaiti the courier, identifying and following him, probably watching him visit some interesting people. Maybe that imformation originated from a Pakistani informant. Maybe the kind of people al-Kuwaiti stirred tea with might have had a hard time publicly explaining why they spoke with Osama Bin Laden's bagman. The Americans probably had some idea that Bin Laden lived in that Abbottabad bungalow, but I refuse to believe they undertook the raid without the assurance that he was in there — in an area the Pakistanis raided in 2003, claiming to find nothing. The Pakistanis had been caught red-handed, but the US allowed them to feign ignorance so as to allow some semblance of credibility with their population. Implicit to this theory, that Pakistan was trussed and forced to cough him up, is the idea that Bin Laden would never live to realize he was betrayed and begin spreading his side of the story.

If Bin Laden could not live tucked away in peace, there is no other option besides death the Pakistanis could have lived with. Bin Laden would have had some stories to tell. Both America and Pakistan have taken great pains to stop talking about Bin Laden, trying to make nice, because neither wants to confront the systemic corruption that made both his retirement and his killing possible, a cynical, murderous bargain that will keep the ISI terror machine spinning for the foreseeable future.

The Coup de Grâce
This leads us back to the final doorstep, the one the Navy SEALs huffed and puffed at and blew down. Senator James Inhofe, a speed freak carbon-emissions enthusiast from Oklahoma, was among the lucky few to see the Bin Laden death snaps, in a lonely Langley office. Whether he misspoke, I do not know, but his statement afterward featured one truly bizarre detail in need of clarification: during his visit to Langley, "Three other photos, taken when bin Laden was alive, were provided for comparison purposes."

Perhaps I'm imagining things, isolated in my fortified writing bunker. But when life strands you on the margins, make margarine. Three photos, taken when Bin Laden was alive. Perhaps they are merely old pictures.

But then, what to make of the honorific hedging in the party line on the moment Bin Laden finally got domed? Ben Smith, of the normally loathsome Beltway coloring book Politico, made an astute observation: though Obama's courtiers seemed to go all tongue-tied in explaining how Osama went out, the Boss always implied he was killed without resistance. In his immediate post-headshot speech, Obama explained that (emphases mine), "After a firefight, [commandos] killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body." Even weirder were Obama's comments on May 2, that the "operation [had] resulted in the capture and death of Osama bin Laden."

Politicians, even wordsmith wunderkinder like Obama, traffic in wishy-washy language, words devoid of significance, vanilla points and counterpoints that relieve the burden of ever saying anything clearly. Perhaps this rhetorical mediocrity is to blame for Obama's confusing timeline. But Obama was not the only person to imply Osama was captured before his death, an implication elaborated upon by someone with as much reason to lie, but for diametrically opposed reasons.

According to Pakistani security sources — a dubious fount of truth, to be sure — Osama's youngest daughter, twelve year-old Safia, insists the Americans took Baba alive, then capped him a little while later. This has been filtered through several compromised sources, and of course the ISI would want to trash the Americans a bit on the killing, using a twelve year-old's unwitting testimony. One might be happy to chalk it up to the preternatural sliminess of a spy chieften in Islamabad.

Except that the extrajudicial assassination of a captured Bin Laden is entirely plausible, given the clumsy cover-up of the raid sequence, the perpetual vagueness over the revised copy, the decision to release no photos or video of Bin Laden, the likelihood of Pakistani complicity, the need to shut up Bin Laden and al-Kuwaiti, the apparent kidnapping of at least one unidentified male from the compound, and, of course, the convenient 25-minute video blackout, a "technological failure" that meant most of the action of the 40-minute raid was not seen back in the war room.

That may have been the whole point. In a 40-minute raid, that blackout covered the time after the SEALs cornered Bin Laden. God forbid our leaders, posing in the war room and acting as if they saw the action unfold on a blank projection, witness the killing they ordered. Leon Panetta, the CIA quarterback behind this monstrous turn of events, went on PBS and lied to the American people about this point, snapping back at Jim Lehrer like a baited bear:
The authority here was to kill bin Laden. And obviously, under the rules of engagement, if he had in fact thrown up his hands, surrendered and didn’t appear to be representing any kind of threat, then they were to capture him. But they had full authority to kill him. To be frank, I don’t think he had a lot of time to say anything. It was a firefight going up that compound. And by the time they got to the third floor and found bin Laden, I think it — this was all split-second action on the part of the SEALs.
If for no other reason than this churlish contempt for the American people, I'd argue they just greased the bastard. Not Obama's decision? A tough spin to make when a constitutional scholar as august as himself has already gone on the record asserting that he has the right to use American intelligence agencies to assassinate American citizens, anywhere in the world, without their having been convicted of a crime. Considering that baseline level of respect for jurisprudence, would the SEALs and CIA have captured Bin Laden given the opportunity? Sure. And John Wilkes Booth was just trying to get a better view of Our American Cousin.

Perhaps deep in the Langley archives, crammed between the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail, there rests a zip drive filled with photos and video, the documentation of a standing, stunned, captured Bin Laden propped up between two SEALs like an ironing board, two flashes for safety, then an on-the-spot execution with one to the chest and two to the brain. It's how the Italians advised Gabriel Byrne to execute John Turturro in Miller's Crossing — one to put him down, then, "Put one in his brain. Then we can go home."

Too bad we're not going home anytime soon.


5 comments:

  1. I'm a big fan of this blog, but frankly, this piece suffers from the attitude on display. You seem to be obsessed with revealing the Terrible Truth to the Unwashed Proles, and as a result you spend a lot of time and a hell of a lot of energy going into the claims of (and insulting) the US political mainstream. The fact is that most of this stuff is fairly obvious to anyone who's paying attention. There are parts of this that are interesting arguments - particularly the argument that the raid was in fact conducted with the knowledge of Pakistani security as part of a bargain, and that Bin Laden was subdued before being killed. But it's buried under a heap of edgy shit-talking.

    Anyone who's paying attention knows that the Pakistani government, or at least security services, had to have known about OBL, and either knew of the American mission or would be mighty pissed off. Anyone with a brain should realize they know where OBL was hiding... Anyone who's paying attention at least suspects this was an extrajudicial assassination. Shit, the Obama and Bush administrations believe they can kill AMERICAN CITIZENS extrajudicially. Why are they going to stop for Osama Bin Laden? Anyone who's paying attention realizes that there's a whole heap of lies going on here. Why are you acting so shocked about it? Did you expect the government to start NOT lying to you, for some reason? Go beyond the obvious shit and get beyond the shocked tone of voice and fucking tell us something interesting about it. Analyze it. Tell us the implications, tell us why it's wrong, something. That's what I expect from you guys, I guess.

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  2. Anon,

    Though this isn't my piece and isn't even my favorite edition of Wailing Walls, lemme stick up for it on a few points:

    1. This is only part II of III (the last of which may satisfy your interests), and as such, there still has to be some ground work. Part I might have been just as obvious to you, the idea that the media conception of Al Qaeda's focus and cohesion was a myth. Still, to a certain extent, everyone has to kind of get walked through a bit of that and a bit of the moral and procedural inconsistencies of Osama's assassination before anything else.

    2. There's always gonna be some general-audience acknowledgement, because topics range all over the place. All of us are newshounds, but our expertise varies, and that's pretty representative of people in general. That the contributors here aren't as up on things as other contributors is a good indicator that some general know-how is welcome. (I certainly don't know everything the General or Idi Amin talk about, and vice versa.) Basically, the fact that this stuff is old news to you puts you in a pretty exceptional category, and I think it's safe to say your experience is probably more uncommon than anything.

    3. To a certain extent, a lot of stuff here isn't "new." What I had to say about Bill Simmons or what Brendle had to say about Kevin Smith isn't very novel to anyone who's spent a lot of time thinking about them. They just happened to bug us at the time. But a lot of people haven't put in that personal study time, and in any case, there's always the argument itself to try to sit back and enjoy. On that last note:

    4. The Obama Administration has shown that it deserves no shortage of abuse.

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  3. Anonymous, this stuff may be obvious to you, but for someone like me who knows little about the Middle East, these articles are very educational and I appreciate the General spelling out the basics. As Mobutu said, most readers aren't experts on this topic.

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  4. While this scenario is possible, I question how probable it is.

    If the initial reports about the Bin Laden raid were part of a govt propaganda fabrication, why did they all differ? Why were they not better coordinated and why bother correcting themselves two days later? It's more probable that the stories were confused out of legitimate uncertainty over what had happened. Is deception possible? Sure. But I don't think it's the most likely scenario.

    Why were people confused, if they watched everything unfold via helmet cam? For one, I doubt they did watch the raid in real time. Even if they did, the actual raid probably took place over a very short period of time. Flash bangs, gunfire and several teams of SEALs all hitting a target at once is pretty hard to follow. Fog of war is real, and SEALs are trained to move very very fast. Again, is it possible the mis-match was a result of clumsy deception? Yes. But I think fog-of-war is far more likely.

    Why would Pakistan silently cooperate in the raid, while appearing to be so incompetent? Pakistan's military, as you know, is highly thought of within the country and the raid caused some pretty serious public relations problems for it. It's true what you say about the drone strikes, but a commando raid on their equivalent of West Point is a whole different game than drone strikes in the sticks. Everything I know about the Pakistani military and society makes me seriously question the likelihood of their cooperation in this. Again, you're right, they could be involved at some level, but I just don't see how it would benefit them enough to be worth it.

    I'd contend that the information about bin Laden being captured first and then shot is very very questionable. If the US has a motive in lying about the circumstances of his death, then so do his family and allies... Perhaps more so. I doubt we'll know for sure what really happened there. But it doesn't make much sense for SEALs to capture him and then kill him later. Why? To identify him? Isn't it at least equally possible that the US has the means to do so after his death?

    Whether it's appropriate to kill bin Laden is a whole different discussion and I won't raise that issue. The effectiveness of doing so, is likewise pretty dicey.

    Basically I, very respectfully, have to question the way you're evaluating plausibility in the entire scenario. Yes, the US is actively deceptive, but so are it's adversaries and the Pakistanis (And it's allies and damn near any other political entity to varying degrees). It seems like you may be overly discrediting the former and minimizing the credibility problems of the latter.

    However, I think the government and Obama admin has more than earned the skepticism and hostility towards the official story. This is what happens when a government actively practices deception and propaganda.


    Fair disclosure: I was a US Soldier & my international security degree work deals primarily with central Africa.

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  5. You mean I'm not the only person who noticed the "Osama Bin Laden was killed after a firefight" soundbite? I thought I imagined that shit.

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Et tu, Mr. Destructo? is a politics, sports and media blog whose purpose is to tell jokes or be really right about things. All of us have real jobs and don't need the hassle that telling jokes here might occasion, which is why some contributors find it more tasteful to pretend to be dead mass murderers.