According to the brief announcement made by President Barack Obama last night, the operation in Pakistan by US Navy SEAL special forces was a well-planned hit job.
“They took care to avoid civilian casualties,” the president said of the top-secret night-time raid by helicopter on a highly secure compound near a military base in Abbottadad, a city only about an hour’s drive drive from, Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city. He added, “After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”
Not for long though. After “double-tapping” bin Laden–that is a military term for shooting someone twice in the head to make certain that a person is truly dead–his body was taken out of Pakistan by the departing SEAL raiding party, and reportedly buried (dumped) at sea.
By Tuesday the White House was admitting that in fact, Osama bin Laden was unarmed when the US Navy commandos burst into his room. He allegedly “resisted” capture, but now we’re talking about a frail guy known to have been not particularly skilled militarily resisting capture by several guys who are maximally trained in hand-to-hand combat and who are also armed to the teeth. They shot his wife in the thigh when she allegedly “charged” them, obviously showing discretion, but they executed the unarmed bin Laden with a shot to the forehead.
According to the Washington Post, the US wanted to “prevent the creation of a shrine” to the late leader of Al Qaeda and alleged mastermind of the 9-11 attacks. “We don’t want a bunch of people going to the shrine forever,” the Post quoted one unidentified official as saying.
It seems pretty clear on the available information that they also didn’t want an imprisoned bin Laden, or a defendant bin Laden, either. They wanted a dead bin Laden, and they got it.
This is supposed to be “closure”?
Think about it a moment. The US had the living Osama bin Ladin in their hands, or at least trapped in a room last night! After almost 10 years, they had successfully cornered the guy who allegedly managed to mastermind the biggest, most disastrous attack on the US in the modern history of the country–perhaps of all time–a coordinated aerial assault on the financial and military hearts of the world’s most powerful country, carried out with nothing but box cutters–an attack which managed to neutralize the mightiest air defense system in the world! And instead of bundling him into an orange jump suit, putting a bag over his head and bringing him in for interrogation, like they’ve done to hundreds of other lesser captives in the so-called decade-long “War on Terror,” they “double-tapped” him on the spot? No stun grenade? No disabling gas? No shot to the legs or groin. It’s reported that they had already “secured” the rest of the grounds, so it’s not like the guy was going anywhere, even if he was a good sprinter.
What were they thinking?
Given the trove of information he could have been induced to provide in custody about US terrorism vulnerabilities, about his far-flung terrorist organization and its future plans, I have to think the only conceivable answer is they had to have been thinking that this guy would have some pretty embarrassing things to say about the US and its dirty “War.”
There has been considerable controversy surrounding bin Laden’s and Al Qaeda’s origins, with news organizations ranging from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, the Guardian and Der Spiegel, to the New York Times, all reporting that he had received funding, training and weapons during the 1980s from the CIA, which was reportedly using him as a conduit for supporting Arab volunteers fighting against the Soviet military forces occupying and fighting in Afghanistan. The US has denied these claims, but the evidence is rather convincing that for at least some time, bin Laden was considered “our guy.” How embarrassing if he were to confirm that at a trial! How embarrassing if he went further, and said that his relationship with the CIA had extended beyond the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan.
But the potential for US discomfort with a living, talking Osama bin Laden goes well past his early relationship with the CIA. Shortly after the US invasion of Afghanistan in October, 2011, US forces, having toppled the Taliban government in Kabul, appeared to have surrounded and trapped bin Laden and his supporters in the mountains of Tora Bora. Then, suddenly, the siege was called off, and US forces were largely pulled out of the country, to join forces that were being assembled in Kuwait and the UAE in preparation for a war that the Bush/Cheney administration was secretly gearing up for against Iraq–a country that had nothing to do with 9-11, and that posed no threat to the US or its allies. How embarrassing for Washington if bin Laden were to tell about how close he had been to capture back then, only to suddenly find that he and his men were being given a free pass to escape to Pakistan!
And then there is the matter of 9-11 itself.
One doesn’t have to be a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist, conjuring up all kinds of ideas about the attacks being an “inside job” planned by some nefarious cabal of plotters within the US, to believe that the true story of how those attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were able to go off so flawlessly has yet to be told. The 9-11 Commission has been thoroughly discredited as a cover-up, even by its own members. My own reporting has confirmed that the FBI lied to that commission about not having the flight recorders of all four of the planes involved. (By the way, while I’m on that, isn’t it amazing that the flight recorder from the crashed Air France Airbus jumbo jet that went down in mid-Atlantic enroute from Brazil to France in 2009 was just found in over a mile of water two years after it went down, and more than a year and a half after its beacon had gone dead, yet not one of four of these bright orange hardened devices was supposed to have ever been found in the wreckage of the World Trade Center, even as searchers were finding minute bits of easily burned or rotted-away human tissue and bone fragments?) There is also the mystery of the Israeli Mossad agents who, according to reports in the Jewish Forward newspaper, were observed filming the attacks from across the Hudson River and who were also seen apparently celebrating as the buildings came down, and who were later captured in their van by New Jersey police, only to be released under State Department pressure, and flown safely to Israel. There are the curious put options that were placed on a few companies that were certain to have their shares tank after the attack–American and United Airlines, and several of the financial companies that had offices in the Twin Towers–puts that were arranged through the investment bank Alex Brown, whose chairman, until 1998, was a guy, A.B. “Buzzy” Krongard, who at the time was a high-ranking member of the CIA. The commission never even tried to find out who placed those incredibly prescient puts and who collected on them.
Would bin Laden have had anything to say about who or about which intelligence agencies might have had advance knowledge of his plans before the 9-11 attacks?
We’ll never know.
He is now crab bait at the bottom of the Arabian Sea somewhere.
Terminating Osama bin Laden might have offered brief primal satisfaction to a tribal element in the US that likes to mindlessly chant “USA, USA!” at particularly gruesome moments of American military mayhem, but the deliberate in situ execution of this particular villain, and the subsequent rapid and thorough obliteration of his mortal remains, has only ensured that, like the Kennedy assassination, the King murder, and the disappearance of Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa, Osama bin Laden will become a permanent mystery and source of endless conspiracy theorizing.
And the mystery of 9-11, and how it was possible for a few guys armed with some box-cutting razors and with limited flying skills to destroy the financial center and a big chunk of the military headquarters of the most powerful nation in the world, will be that much harder to solve.
On the available evidence, the powers that be in Washington seem to have wanted it that way.