Posts Tagged ‘Osama bin Laden killing’

What we weren’t told about bin Laden’s killing

May 11, 2015

Almost everything we’ve been told about the killing of Osama bin Laden four years ago is a lie, according to Seymour M. Hersh.  He reported in the current issue of London Review of Books that:

  • The raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound four years ago was done with the full knowledge of the Pakistani government.  Helicopters carrying the Navy SEAL team were never in danger of being intercepted as they entered Pakistan.
  • Osama bin Laden was no longer in operational campaign of Al Qaeda and the raid did not yield a trove of valuable intelligence.
  • His location was disclosed by means of a tip from someone in Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), who wanted the $25 million reward offered by the CIA.   In particular, interrogation and torture played no role.
  • President Obama broke promises to the government of Pakistan to keep the raid a secret.
  • Almost everything that has been reported about the details of the raid is untrue.   It was more like a gangland-style execution than anything else.
  • The SEAL team was ordered to kill Osama, not to bring him back, which would have been feasible.  He knew too much that the governments of the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia could not have afforded to make known.

al_qaidas_no_2_issues_eulogy_for_bin_laden-362x307How much credence does this deserve?  Hersh’s article is based entirely on information from insiders who are not quoted by name.  How can we be sure they’re telling the truth if we don’t know who they are?

It depends on how much you trust Hersh.  You have to believe that he is an honest person, which I do, and that he is an experienced and capable reporter, which he is.  I trust him more than I do the government.  You also have to believe that the people he quoted are honest people who know what they are talking about.

A great deal of leaked information is from people who have an ulterior purpose, but I can’t see how anybody who talked to Hersh has anything to gain except the desire to make the truth known or to disassociate themselves from lies.

The lesson of this is not to assume that anything the government announces is necessarily true, unless it can be independently confirmed.  This is not a new lesson, but it is an easy one—for me, at least—to forget.


The Killing of Osama bin Laden by Seymour M. Hersh for the London Review of Books.


Should Osama bin Laden have been put on trial?

May 5, 2011

One of the standard scenes in the black-and-white Western movies I saw as a boy was where the sheriff faced down a lynch mob trying to take a prisoner he had apprehended.  Some of the members of the mob may have been the sheriff’s friends, and the prisoner may have been an obviously guilty murderer, but no matter.  The principle was that the mob did not have the right to take the law into their own hands.  Eventually the mob would agree to “give him a trial and hang him fair and square.”

I remember World War Two and talk of putting Adolf Hitler on trial.  Hitler escaped a public trial by committing suicide, as did Joseph Goebbels and, on the eve of his trial, Herman Goering, but the lesser Nazis were tried for their crimes.  Later the Israelis put Adolf Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem.

Robert A. Taft and others deplored the Nuremberg war crimes trials as “victor’s justice,” but the accused were given lawyers and all the other rights of criminal defendants and a few of them were acquitted.

A trial is more than a means for determining guilt and meting out punishment.  It is a forum in which the public is shown the evidence of just what the criminal has done.  Summary executions without trial turn criminals into martyrs. It is interesting that Herman Goering preferred to commit suicide rather go on trial for his crimes.  Maybe Osama bin Laden would have preferred to die as he did rather than be publicly tried.

But the ideal of the rule of law is fading in 21st century America. Westerns have been replaced by spy movies, in which the hero is judge, jury, executioner and sometimes torturer.   Thriller writers such as Vince Flynn,  and TV series such as “24” treat constitutional rights and due process of law as a shield for cowards.

Listen to Texas Rep. John Culbertson in the video above.  He is genuinely outraged at the idea of putting Osama bin Laden as the Nazi and Japanese war criminals were tried.  Listen to Attorney General Eric Holder.  He is defensive and apologetic, and never defends the rule of law in a straightforward manner.  Fascists used to sneer at the “decadent democracy” of the United States and Great Britain.  It is almost as if we admit they were right.