11 May 2015

I Really Don't Know What to Make of This

But if Sy Hersh's account of the killing of Osama bin Laden is even ¼ true, this is the biggest story that he's ever broken:*
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 most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission. This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions, including one by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times Magazine of 19 March 2014. Gall, who spent 12 years as the Times correspondent in Afghanistan, wrote that she’d been told by a ‘Pakistani official’ that Pasha had known before the raid that bin Laden was in Abbottabad. The story was denied by US and Pakistani officials, and went no further. In his book Pakistan: Before and after Osama (2012), Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank in Islamabad, wrote that he’d spoken to four undercover intelligence officers who – reflecting a widely held local view – asserted that the Pakistani military must have had knowledge of the operation. The issue was raised again in February, when a retired general, Asad Durrani, who was head of the ISI in the early 1990s, told an al-Jazeera interviewer that it was ‘quite possible’ that the senior officers of the ISI did not know where bin Laden had been hiding, ‘but it was more probable that they did [know]. And the idea was that, at the right time, his location would be revealed. And the right time would have been when you can get the necessary quid pro quo – if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States.’

This spring I contacted Durrani and told him in detail what I had learned about the bin Laden assault from American sources: that bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006; that Kayani and Pasha knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false.
The cliff notes version of this, courtesy of The Stranger, is:
  • Pakistani officials knew about the raid and even helped the US pull it off.
  • There never was a firefight, neither in the yard outside the house nor once the SEALs got inside.
  • The story of the courier whom the reportedly CIA traced, leading them to bin Laden, was a fabrication.
  • The story of the courier dying in the firefight was a cover-up "because he didn’t exist and we couldn’t produce him," a retired senior intelligence official told Hersh.
  • The way the CIA actually found out where bin Laden was is that a "Pakistani walk-in" who wanted the $25 million reward came in and told the CIA about it.
  • Osama bin Laden was not armed, contrary to reports that he had a machine gun and was killed in a firefight, and he was not killed with just one or two bullets but "obliterated."
  • "Seals cannot live with the fact that they killed bin Laden totally unopposed, and so there has to be an account of their courage in the face of danger. The guys are going to sit around the bar and say it was an easy day? That’s not going to happen," that same retired senior intelligence official said.
  • "Despite all the talk" about what the SEALs collected on-site, the retired official said 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 story about bin Laden's sea burial may be a fabrication.
  • The retired official told Hersh that bin Laden's "remains, including his head... were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains—or so the Seals claimed."
  • Obama was going to wait until a week after bin Laden's death to announce it, and he was going to tell the American people that bin Laden had been killed by a drone, but after the SEALs had to blow up their malfunctioning helicopter on-site, attracting attention locally, everything changed.
  • The story about the vaccination program carried out locally in an attempt to get bin Laden's DNA—a story that "led to the cancellation of other international vaccination programmes that were now seen as cover for American spying"—wasn't true.
  • Retired official again: "It’s a great hoax."
(emphasis original)

The American press has been completely dismissive of Hersh's report, and, it's fair to say that the sourcing is not as solid as I would have liked.

Then again, when you look at the biggest supporter of the "Zero Dark Thirty" narrative, the CIA, we know that they are still lying about torture, that they still nave not come clean about spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and basically wrote the movie "Zero Dark Thirty".

I know that the movie version is false, at least as to whether torture worked, the Senate Intelligence Committee report proved that.

I'm not sure where the truth lies, and any dealing with the machinations of the "war on terror" in general, and the Pakistani state security apparatus in particular. is a bag full of cats.

At this point, I'll go with Charlie Pierce's:
What's clear is that, in the war on terror, or whatever it is in which we've been engaged since we handed the military policy over to the spooks and thrown international crisis diplomacy into the vast, deep underbrush of myth and legend generated by the conjuring spells of the intelligence world, that we willingly surrendered self-government to magic and spellcraft. And Osama bin Laden is still dead, and his body is still at the bottom of the sea. Maybe.
I'm not clear what the truth is, except (of course) for the fact that the CIA tortured, that it did not work, and that Langley lies about everything.

I is confuzzled.

*And yes, I mean that statement. If is just ¼ true, this is the biggest story that Seymour f%$#ing Hersh has ever broken. Think about that for a moment.


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