One thing we know for sure – or are pretty sure we know for sure: On May 1, 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed by members of a 23-strong Navy SEALS team in Abbattabad, Pakistan. Few other facts about how bin Laden was found, and how, after he was killed, he was ‘buried’ at sea, stand up to close scrutiny.
An array of articles and books — three or four of them, but who’s counting? — have been produced on the final chapter of the life of the supposed mastermind behind 9/11. One was critiqued this week in The New York Times Magazine. That publication, like The New Yorker, another home for bin Laden stories, allows articles to run on, and on and on, for many thousands of words — few of them wasted — to tell, as close as a reporter cares to, a ‘whole’ story.
Did Pakistan know, and/or was it complicent in, the U.S.’s helicopter-borne raid on the compound where bin Laden had been ‘hiding’, or living a quiet life, out of the limelight, as it were? For someone as important as he supposedly was — for good or evil, mostly the latter — you’d have expected his hiding place/comfortable retreat to be heavily guarded. And you’d expect that someone — anyone — would have been disturbed enough by the shattering of a night’s quiet by two Blackhawk helicopters to phone or text, were Abbattabad Wi-Fi equipped, the local constabulary.
And it’s not unreasonable to assume, given bin Laden’s place of abode was nearly a neighbor to, as the New York Times put it, “Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point,” that some military trainee or trainer would have heard said helicopters and said the local dialect equivalent of WTF — then promptly reported his auditory interception of something way out of the ordinary to . . . someone.
Supposedly reliable reports, from supposedly believable, quotable, anonymous sources, provide significantly differing details on those and other details of this whole ‘final chapter’ event. Some would have you believe a ‘source’ pinned down bin Laden’s locations. Other sources, and reports, would have you believe the U.S. military, perhaps with the assistance and/or cooperation of the CIA, spent months if not years sifting through hints and fragments of information to finally, at long last, dispel the long-presented concept that bin Laden was living in a cave and, more imortant, point to where bin Laden was ‘hiding’.
News media were provided photos suggesting President Obama and a number of key staffers were watching a ‘live feed’ — shot with helmet-mounted cameras — of the whole take-down of the long-sought bearded one. Other reports, from supposedly viewed photos, said bin Laden was appropriately ‘buried’ at sea,, off a U.S. Navy ship — in a ceremony conforming with Arab practices.
Other, more recent (than nearly contemporary) reports say neither of those claims are accurate. There were, these more recent reports say, no helmet-mounted cameras. Nor was there any ‘live feed’ of the takedown action. And there was no ship-board mounting of the supposedly weighted-down body of bin Laden onto a ramp from which he was, with tilting assistance, tipped into the sea.
Seymour Hersh, who has written numerous hard-hitting, amazingly detailed (and amazingly lengthy) articles for The New Yorker and The London Review of Books — with the latter accepting some articles The New Yorker failed to accept as well-enough documented — was quoted in the Times Magazine article as saying, somewhat startlingly, in comparison to other reports, that “bin Laden had not been given a proper Islamic burial at sea; the SEALs threw his remains out of their helicopter.”
Hersh is cited in the Times Magazine article as being “one of America’s greatest investigative reporters, the man who exposed the massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians in the village of My Lai (1969), who revealed a clandestine CIA program to spy on antiwar dissidents (1974) and who detailed the shocking story of the abuses at Abu Ghraib (2004).”
Who ‘ya gonna trust, and believe? Any one of several reporters/authors — and authors of books on this incident have been primarily reporters — or the usually anonymous government sources they pumper for information?
Jonathan Mahler, the Times Magazine’s author, concludes that “There’s simply no reason to expect the whole truth from the government about the killing of bin Laden.” Evidence including the fact that, from the git-go, every fact, every document, email or whatever having anything to do with the bin Laden capture-or-kill incident has been classified.
(NOTE: Someone needs to dig into who’s authorizing all the massive amount of document classifying this government does — and who can ‘authorize’ their authority out of existence!)
But to Mahler I would say, “Why? Why can’t we expect our government to tell us what really went down in a situation like this?”
I get it ( and I am so sick of hearing that currently-popular catch phrase!) why the U.S. would not want to reveal a whole lot about Pakistani involvement, both because that country is supposedly an ally of ours, but also because acknowledging that country’s government was complicit in allowing another nation to improperly (read ‘illegally’) pursue and kill someone within its borders could be, domestically (there), disastrous.
There’s a reason Bernie Sanders is so popular, particularly with young people.(who tend, ludicrously, to be lumped into and identified as part of a specific generational time-frame): He doesn’t mince words, and he tells seldom-shared truths — such as the fact that our present political/government system is failing to appropriately represent the vast majority of the population, and the tax laws unreasonably favor, and benefit, people who — thank you very much — don’t need any ‘breaks’ from the IRS or any other part of the government. They — the one percent and the nine behind them — are way too well-served!
Far be it from me to suggest how Sanders would react to ‘news’ that the government isn’t being either open or truthful about the bin Laden take-down or other — many other — things. But I’ll bet you one thing: If he were, amazingly, to make it all the way, we’d see a presidency like none before it. And we’d see Congress made to get a grip on itself, and do — as its members are paid to — do the people’s business; NOT constantly bickering within their public-supported walls, thwarting the will of hard-working Americans, as they pursue agendas that will, in the end, serve no one well.
And we’d see far less classifying, almost arbitrarily, of untold numbers of documents yearly — most of which now pose, and never will, any risk to national security.
Truths would be told, in ways the public could — and would — access them. American citizens, who truly have a right to know, would be given considerably greater access to its governments’s clandestine activities — and there would, partly because knowledge of them would quickly become public knowledge, far less questionable, sometimes outlandishly costly, covert activities perpetrated, supposedly, on behalf of a public that, in all likelihood, rise up en mass to protest how oddly, and foolishly, their tax dollars are being spent on no-win missions.
I’m planning a post on how both the role of and the budget of the U.S. Secretary of State has changed in recent decades — since Henry Kissinger was, the 1970’s, Secretary of State in the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, more or less adopted as his motto “The illegal we do immediately; The unconstitutional takes a little longer.”
Physically unimpressive (I’ve shared an elevator with him), he managed — in part because Watergate was distracting Nixon — to become an amazingly impressive individual, as a significant representative of the U,S, and, no less important, as an amazingly successful promoter of assorted agendas that, I don’t doubt, had far less Administration support than he implied.
Watch this space.