Thursday, May 14, 2015

Some Thoughts on Seymour Hersh's "The Killing of Osama bin Laden"

It took the homeward-bound commutes of Tuesday and Wednesday to read in its entirety the 10,000-word, 20-page Seymour Hersh deflowering of the Obama administration fable of how it took out Osama bin Laden ("The Killing of Osama bin Laden"), but it was time well spent.

What the reader comes away with is a feeling that the state exists to manufacture lies. Lies abound. An ocean of lies. Obama might not have ordered the burial at sea of the slain Al Qaeda mastermind, as the fable relates (instead, according to Hersh, the Navy SEALs tossed the dismembered parts of bin Laden's corpse out of the helicopter as it ferried them back to Afghanistan), but his decision to promptly publicize the assassination of OBL, reneging on a agreement that he had with Pakistan, necessitated the manufacture of numerous cover stories.

If one has ever cheated on a spouse -- something, sadly, which I did in my youth -- you know that lying about what you did -- when, where and how -- and doing so consistently replicates in the mind schizophrenic effects. One often feels as if he were hallucinating, on a "trip." The lies stack up and you find yourself in a self-created maze; it is a giddy, vertiginous feeling.

In his 10,000 words this is what Hersh successfully conveys about the Obama administration: It is drugged-up on lies. So covetous of the political windfall of bagging bogeyman numero uno with a re-election year on the horizon, Obama went against his defense secretary, the rest of the military brass, and his Pakistani allies and promptly revealed the SEALs assassination mission.

But that revelation turns out to be a lot of bullshit. For one, Osama was not living freely, directing Al Qaeda attacks. He was a prisoner of Pakistanis who had nabbed him in the Hindu Kush in 2006. The Abbottabad compound he lived in was a jail with bars on the windows and barbed wire on the roof; he was under lock and key, guarded night and day, kept under wraps by Pakistan for its own purposes but also at the behest of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi royals didn't want OBL talking to the CIA about where Al Qaeda's financial support came from for 9/11.

The U.S. found out about Osama's presence in Abbottabad not by super-sleuthing, a fiction presented in Zero Dark Thirty, but from a Pakistani walk-in who wanted the $25 million finder's fee. There was no tracking OBL down through the movements of his courier; rather, it was the U.S. confronting the Pakistanis with the evidence worked up from the walk-in. The Pakistanis, not wanting to lose out on the steady stream of cash provided by USG, fessed up and proceeded to cooperate in all aspects of the operation. Basically, the Navy SEALs mission was a heavily rehearsed execution of a jailed invalid, which Obama repackaged as a courageous display of American grit and derring-do.

The "money" passage for me in Hersh's "The Killing of Osama bin Laden" comes relatively early in the piece:
The walk-in had told the US that bin Laden had lived undetected from 2001 to 2006 with some of his wives and children in the Hindu Kush mountains, and that ‘the ISI got to him by paying some of the local tribal people to betray him.’ (Reports after the raid placed him elsewhere in Pakistan during this period.) Bank was also told by the walk-in that bin Laden was very ill, and that early on in his confinement at Abbottabad, the ISI had ordered Amir Aziz, a doctor and a major in the Pakistani army, to move nearby to provide treatment. ‘The truth is that bin Laden was an invalid, but we cannot say that,’ the retired official said. ‘“You mean you guys shot a cripple? Who was about to grab his AK-47?”’
‘It didn’t take long to get the co-operation we needed, because the Pakistanis wanted to ensure the continued release of American military aid, a good percentage of which was anti-terrorism funding that finances personal security, such as bullet-proof limousines and security guards and housing for the ISI leadership,’ the retired official said. He added that there were also under-the-table personal ‘incentives’ that were financed by off-the-books Pentagon contingency funds. ‘The intelligence community knew what the Pakistanis needed to agree – there was the carrot. And they chose the carrot. It was a win-win. We also did a little blackmail. We told them we would leak the fact that you’ve got bin Laden in your backyard. We knew their friends and enemies’ – the Taliban and jihadist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan – ‘would not like it.’
A worrying factor at this early point, according to the retired official, was Saudi Arabia, which had been financing bin Laden’s upkeep since his seizure by the Pakistanis. ‘The Saudis didn’t want bin Laden’s presence revealed to us because he was a Saudi, and so they told the Pakistanis to keep him out of the picture. The Saudis feared if we knew we would pressure the Pakistanis to let bin Laden start talking to us about what the Saudis had been doing with al-Qaida. And they were dropping money – lots of it. The Pakistanis, in turn, were concerned that the Saudis might spill the beans about their control of bin Laden. The fear was that if the US found out about bin Laden from Riyadh, all hell would break out. The Americans learning about bin Laden’s imprisonment from a walk-in was not the worst thing.’
Despite their constant public feuding, American and Pakistani military and intelligence services have worked together closely for decades on counterterrorism in South Asia. Both services often find it useful to engage in public feuds ‘to cover their asses’, as the retired official put it, but they continually share intelligence used for drone attacks, and co-operate on covert operations. At the same time, it’s understood in Washington that elements of the ISI believe that maintaining a relationship with the Taliban leadership inside Afghanistan is essential to national security. The ISI’s strategic aim is to balance Indian influence in Kabul; the Taliban is also seen in Pakistan as a source of jihadist shock troops who would back Pakistan against India in a confrontation over Kashmir.
Adding to the tension was the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, often depicted in the Western press as an ‘Islamic bomb’ that might be transferred by Pakistan to an embattled nation in the Middle East in the event of a crisis with Israel. The US looked the other way when Pakistan began building its weapons system in the 1970s and it’s widely believed it now has more than a hundred nuclear warheads. It’s understood in Washington that US security depends on the maintenance of strong military and intelligence ties to Pakistan. The belief is mirrored in Pakistan.
I found all this very helpful. The U.S. has the Pakistani national security leadership on payroll. The public display of the U.S. and Pakistan constantly at odds over the Taliban and drone attacks is all a bluff, a "Punch and Judy" for the little people who still read the newspapers.

Bear this in mind as stories circulate about Saudi vows to acquire a nuclear bomb to counter Iran's nuclear program, I'm sure al-Saud already has a covert program up and running.

Also bear in mind that the drum beat of stories about Syria's use of chlorine is just more lies meant to put pressure on Assad. The quality of the lies here is so poor one marvels at the temerity of the press to publish them. This is from today's story by Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt, "Traces of Chemicals in Syria Add to Pressure on Obama to Enforce a ‘Red Line’ ":
Secretary of State John Kerry raised the issue of chlorine attacks during his talks with Russian officials in Sochi this week. The Assad government is the only force in Syria’s multifront civil war that has the aircraft that witnesses have said have been dropping chlorine bombs. But the Security Council, where Russia wields a veto, has yet to assign blame, and it is far from clear that Washington and Moscow can work together on the issue.
The statement that "The Assad government is the only force in Syria’s multifront civil war that has the aircraft that witnesses have said have been dropping chlorine bombs" is absurd. Where are the pictures from these witnesses? Everyone has a smartphone camera these days. Only Assad's government has helicopters? What about Turkey? What about the CIA, which is operating in the area? What about equipment that ISIS has captured?

Lies. Read the Seymour Hersh article on the slaying of Osama bin Laden and you come away knowing that is the primary role of the state -- the manufacture of lies.

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