14 May 2020
(Reflections on the assassination of Osama Bin Laden)
The announcement of President Obama (1) on killing Osama Bin Laden in his compound in Pakistan (2), (which was “so obvious that it lacked only a neon sign on the roof advertising Al Qaeda” (3), according to a known writer) raised a lot many reactions all over the world(4). It raised even more questions. The official answers about the details of the operation and the reasons of his haste burial (5) in the sea, were far from convincing, not only to Muslims, but also to many westerners. (6) Some wondered if people should believe the government“(7) after all the years of lying”. Another one imagined Bush coming with similar story (8) about one of his lies, and asked to compare.
The claim that Osama was “killed and thrown in the sea” without a trace, is also not easy to believe: (9) “The government’s story is not believable that the government dumped the proof of its success into the ocean, but has some photos that might be released, someday.”
and questions were fueled by the considerable change of the story given by
the White House. The change didn’t correct or clarify some ambiguous
details, but was denying some specific and clear ones of the first version
of the story. The White House
Bin Laden as a coward hiding behind his wife,
probably seemed too difficult to sell. The “fire fight” story was also
totally withdrawn, and Osama was “not armed”, in the new version of the
story. Pakistani officials said that the daughter of Bin Laden confirmed
that her father was
being captured alive
by the US
The head of the CIA has said that there was no live video footage (14) of the raid! That “added to the confusion (15) about what happened in the compound”.
Why did they make two stories of it? We can only try to guess. A clue to that is probably they wanted a spectacular heroic story first, but then changed their minds for some reason. Because the true picture (16) is far from it, it seems. “Pakistan's military paints a different picture than the United States of Osama bin Laden's final days: far from the terror mastermind still trying to strike America, he's seen as an aging terrorist hiding in barren rooms, short of money and struggling to maintain his grip on al-Qaida.”
Talking about pictures, here is an “amusing” story: Hillary Clinton Removed From Situation Room Photo (17) by an American orthodox jewish newspaper, which believes that publishing women pictures in the newspaper “could be sexually suggestive”!
Another picture, showing Bin Laden killed with bullets in his head, was published by “corporate” media (18) (not “conspiracy theorists”) was shown to be false by the Guardian. (19) A journalist came with good questions (20) about the released photos of the compound.
The official explanation of the wrong first version was “haste” (21) and “the fog of war”. But some intelligent writer put a good question: (22) But there was no firefight, so where did the “fog of war” come from?
There are more of such good questions going around, here is one: (23)
“..why the “terror mastermind”--who defeated not merely the CIA and the FBI, but all 16 US intelligence agencies along with Israel’s Mossad and the intelligence services of NATO, who defeated NORAD, the National Security Council, the Pentagon and Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Air Force, and Air Traffic Control, who caused security procedures to fail four times in US airports in one hour on the same day, who caused the state-of-the-art Pentagon air defenses to fail, and who managed to fly three airliners into three buildings with pilots who did not know how to fly--has not pulled off any other attack in almost ten years? Do Americans really believe that a government’s security system that can so totally fail when confronted with a few Saudi Arabians with box cutters can renew itself to perfection overnight?”
Still another reminds us of yet another unsettled question: (24)
“No one will remember that Fox News reported in December, 2001, that Osama bin Laden had passed away from his illnesses.”
So many questions without answers, and probably will never have, even if an investigation was forced. For this end we may remember a related subject of some facts about 11 sept. 2001(25) . the report of the investigation commission of 9/11 states that “the 9/11 commissioners were allowed primary access neither to the alleged Al Qaeda members involved with the attacks, nor to the investigators who interrogated them—so the commissioners had no way to “judge the credibility of the detainees [or] clarify ambiguities in the [investigators’] reporting.”
The body is gone, but “the myth of Osama bin Laden was (not) as easy to dispose of as the man himself” (26), and it cost America 200 years of development on the social democratic level, as another writer noted. Another yet, gave the costs of Bin Laden(27) in numbers of wars, dollars and dead people.
When I heard of this story, a certain question went up my head, and stayed. It is the same question I wondered about for a long time after the US forces killed the two sons of Saddam in July 2003: Why did they kill them? And now, why did they kill him? In both cases, they seem to be in complete control, according to their own stories, so why do they kill them (almost) always?
The question is justified on at least two aspects: Utility, and Legality – morality. I will begin with the utility aspect, because legality and morality don’t seem to interest many people any more.
Brothers Husain were in 2003, certainly a source of information of highest value, especially if we remember that at that time, Saddam was not yet caught. One can’t even dream of a better info treasure, except of Saddam himself. So why did they kill them?
And now the same question arises with the killing of Bin Laden. The official story, which was modified in many essential details for no understandable reasons too, couldn’t help answer the same question about the strange reaction of the U.S. forces in such situations.
I searched the net for answers, and found only more people sharing my (and many other) unanswered questions:
Some analysts suggested that “With raid, US avoids trial”. (28) “By killing instead of capturing Osama bin Laden, the United States avoided a courtroom spectacle that could have given Al-Qaeda a propaganda boost and created a political headache for President Barack Obama”.
An army officer said “"There was a real danger if he had been captured, the trial would have been a circus, the incarceration would have been a circus.”
Others said that bringing him to justice would have been “complicated"!
“Circus”? “Complicated”? I suppose there should be better reasons to “needlessly kill the most valuable intelligence asset on the planet” as one writer described it. (29)
So, it looks like the Americans were not interested in the most valuable intelligence information about terrorism! Was it because they thought that with the end of Bin Laden, it is “mission accomplished”? It doesn’t look to be the case. Everybody inside and outside the government insist that it is the opposite and that the struggle is still long. Obama, Clinton, Cheney etc.
Besides, they have refused to get Bin Laden long before, when this “terrorism” story was in its cradle, and they should have needed dearly each piece of information they can get. George Bush rejected the offer of Taliban in feb. 2002 to surrender Bin Laden (30) if the US produced evidences, which implies either that they didn’t have any evidence, (not even a lame one, which is not probable) or that they wanted the war itself, and not arresting the suspects behind 11 September.
In spite of the reputation of Bin Laden, quite a few writers, thinkers and law experts (31) questioned harshly the legality and the moral message of what they described as extrajudicial killing.
Noam Chomsky wrote : (32) “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.”
Chomsky reminds us that Bin Laden is only a “suspect” and that “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 (.....) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have.”
We are reminded (33) that “Back in 1993 when the first attack on the World Trade Center took place, it was regarded as a crime and was treated as such. By 1995 all of the principals involved were caught, tried and convicted. There was no "war on terror" declared, no countries were invaded, no decks of playing cards were associated with any nefarious individuals and there was no grandstanding. Instead, a thorough and comprehensive criminal investigation yielded arrests and justice was served without firing a shot.”
Another writer sees that Guantanamo and this raid (34)
“send a message that the United States has sunk deeper into savagery and abandoned any commitment to conventional norms of behavior (....) Everyone knows the rules don't apply to America."
Yet another (35) jokes bitterly: “We had to destroy our freedoms in order to save them. (....) One killer is dead. Now what are we going to do with all the killers in our midst who killed him.”
And here is someone noting (36) that there probably was even some attempts to push ahead into the culture of the savage:
“In a propaganda piece reeking of US Triumphalism, (....) that “Osama bin Laden, (...) was hunted down based on information first gleaned years ago from detainees at secret CIA prison sites in Eastern Europe, officials disclosed Monday.” Then the writer questions: “How many Americans will notice that the first paragraph of the “report” justifies CIA prisons and torture? Without secret prisons and torture “the terror mastermind” would still be running free”
A writer calls on back (37) to the definition of civilization: “Aeschylus, in his Oresteia trilogy, dramatized that civilization begins when (...) retribution yields to justice”
So it is no wonder that, Reacting to Obama’s statement, Kai Wright writes: (38) “The Ability to Kill Osama Bin Laden Does Not Make America Great” where he notes: “The president says we can do anything we want because we can kill. We could not stop poverty rates from spiraling upward to a record-setting 14.3 percent of Americans in 2009, but we can kill so we are exceptional. One in four black and Latino families live below the poverty line now, and as a result America's child poverty rate—one in five kids—is the second worst among rich nations, behind Mexico. But we can kill, so we are great. We have the world's most expensive health care system, and yet in 2009 infant mortality in the US was higher than in 29 other countries and the worst among rich nations. Why? In large part because the infant mortality rate is so high among black and Latina women. We cannot find justice for them, but we can kill and call it justice.
So, from all this, there seem to be enough reason why the US should have tried to arrest instead of kill, whenever that was possible. It was possible then in Baghdad, and now in Abbottabad, US army seemed to have full control of the situation.
According to the official American story, the two sons of Saddam were besieged by the U.S. army in a house, so there was no chance of their fleeing. Did they refuse to surrender? (or “were expected” to refuse to surrender?) The US Army didn’t want to take any chances of losses of American soldiers? Fine, then you surround them without engaging with them in any fight. When they shoot, you don’t even shoot back. Wait for them till they change their mind or the hunger and thirst make them do.
They might kill themselves? Of course there is such a possibility, and that’s the worst, but not a bit worse than killing them yourself. By patiently surrounding them there would be a good chance that they both, or one of them, would decide to surrender, so why loose such a chance? I couldn’t find any acceptable answer then, and can’t find it now in the story of killing Bin Laden.
So after all, is it that they weren’t interested in the information because they knew everything from the beginning? I feel forced to wonder.
Saying all what has to be said, Americans who are worried about the way the things went on till now, and reluctantly accepting it as something they feel helpless about, begin asking questions about the future: (39) “Now That Bin Laden Is Dead, Can We Have Our Freedoms Back? Let's remember once again who we are, and begin to rebuild our confidence in ourselves – starting with our system of justice. “
Experts in the middle east try to remind their government that polls show that “US bases produce haterd” (40).
Others tried to find an outlet and reminded the leaders of past experience (41) when “back in the 1960s, Senator George Aiken of Vermont offered two American presidents a plan for dealing with the Vietnam War: declare victory and go home.”
But not with lots of hope: (42) “So, now that Bin Laden is dead can we withdraw the troops from Afghanistan and allow the Afghans decide their own future? Can we make our apologies to the families of the 1 million Iraqis who were killed in the invasion-occupation of Iraq and move on? Can we stop poking our nose in the internal affairs of every state, on every continent, in every corner of the planet?
Of course not. It's our planet, isn't it?”
Because “war on terror”....”offered no obvious point at which we could declare our victory – terrorism is a tactic that will be with us forever.” (43) And “The “war on terror” has given birth to a new generation of militants.” And Obama, Clinton, Cheney and almost everybody says that "war goes on." It raised the poll numbers of Obama, (44) and that’s it!
Naturally, this marked point in the history of what is called “war on terror” reminded the people of the causes. Someone referred to a study that showed that “US Military Support of Foreign Governments Increases Terror Attacks on US Citizens” (45).
Whenever I see something about “why they hate us” I can’t but remember the wonderful experiment of Sam Richards - in Empathy I saw in a video, (46) under the title “They are coming to kill us”.
The bitterness of the feeling of continuous loss of freedoms due to that “war” and the memory of the funny explanation of Bush for it produced sarcasm.
One wrote: (47) “If, as American presidents have never tired of claiming, Al Qaeda attacked us because “they hate us for our freedoms,” they must like us a whole lot more now. If Al Qaeda is really fighting us because they hate our freedoms, the war is already over.”
Not everybody had the mood to make fun of the situation. Some reader notes in a comment:(48) “Every single blown, botched, dreamed up, "terrorist" plot since 2001 includes an FBI informant in the story--every one”...”Then I'd be asking myself "Why?" And the answer is because you and I are the real threat; not some dreamed up terrorist organization or lone gunman. ...--we're the enemy.”
This reminded someone (49) of the famous book of Orwell: “Americans are living in George Orwell’s 1984. For those who haven’t read Orwell’s classic prediction of our time, Big Brother, the government, could tell the “citizens” any lie and it was accepted unquestioningly“.
The comparison with the police state of Orwell’s 1984, where the government is having its people under complete surveillance and watch, because it is “the enemy”, is not very farfetched, if we follow the news. And by the way, the latest report to Congress on the Justice Department’s use of foreign intelligence surveillance powers which has just been released, shows a great increase in the number of Americans under watch by the FBI (50) — without judicial oversight, which approached doubling in a single year! (2010 compared with 2009).
Very alarming also is the news that the US team was prepared to clash with the Pakistani forces (51) if it found that necessary, and that Obama took care to that point! This escalation of an already bad relation, threats to open yet another war (52) of America, with Pakistan.
In Pakistan, though there are some attempts to enforce an investigation, we read (53) that “The (Pakistani) government has decided not to conduct inquiry of any kind at any level whatsoever “ and no credible inquiry is expected by the US government, so mine, and many other questions are destined to be forgotten.
With all this chaos, one is obliged to wonder whether it is the difficult and “unsuitable” truth that makes the US government look like a drunken man who can’t bring home a credible story that can answer the questions, or that the US government expressively wanted to leave its people and the world struggling with the unanswered questions and big black holes in their stories, to make people feel helpless and give up questioning what it does or says, and even reach the point when they can challenge everybody and say: Yes we did it, so what?, as one commenter wrote.
Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Scientific Exploration-Bernhard Haisch said once "Advances are made by answering questions. Discoveries are made by questioning answers." If we trust this is true, one wouldn’t expect much “advances” or “discoveries” in the politics of the world in near future.
Saieb Khalil: Iraqi writer