War and Truth
War and Truth
May 5, 2011
When I heard that Osama used his own wife as a human shield, I assumed I was hearing a CIA-concocted story. It smelled wrong because it was too movie-like. Portraying Osama as a coward was the perfect way for the CIA to put a damper on Al Qaeda recruiting. We’ve since learned that Osama didn’t use a human shield.
When I heard that our plan was to capture Osama alive if practical, I chuckled to myself. I’m not a Navy SEAL with a hundred operations under my belt, and even I would have blown Osama’s head off if I thought he had enough moisture in his body to spit in my general direction. The last thing the United States needed was a trial. Now we know Osama wasn’t blazing away with a machine gun in each hand. It was more of a “reaching for something” situation. And as you know, the very best time to consider reaching for a weapon is about half an hour after your secret lair has been attacked.
When I heard that Osama’s hideout was a luxurious million-dollar villa, I kept wondering why the only video footage I kept seeing was a Pakistani crack house full of garbage. Since then we have learned that a better estimate for the home’s value is $250K. I assume that’s mostly for the land. The original story of the million-dollar mansion was probably a CIA invention to make Osama look like a hypocrite.
When I heard that waterboarding gave our intelligence folks the information they needed to eventually connect the dots and find Osama, I thought that seemed a convenient defense for past deeds. Now it seems that there’s no way to know if other methods of interrogation would have yielded the same results.
When I heard that the SEALS endured an intense 40-minute fire-fight while sustaining no casualties, I wondered why the terrorists were so bad at aiming. Today we learn that there was only one armed combatant.
You might wonder how all of these rumors got started. My guess is that the lies were concocted in advance of the mission. The original plan involved killing or capturing everyone at the site who might have been a witness. Had we done that, the CIA could have controlled the story long enough for the fake facts to become common knowledge around the world. The lies would have been entirely justified, militarily speaking, if they had the impact of making Al Qaeda look bad and the United States look good. That’s exactly the sort of thing we pay the CIA to do. I hope that was the plan. If it wasn’t, it should have been.
Perhaps where things went wrong is that after losing a helicopter, the SEALS couldn’t evacuate all of the witnesses. Remember the famous picture of the President in the Situation Room with all of his top advisors. Imagine how busy they were right after the mission, and how many people would need to talk to how many other people to come up with one unified story of events once the original set of lies became infeasible. It would have been nearly impossible to coordinate all the stories. I imagine that one faction in the government favored going with the original fake story, perhaps because the witnesses would not be credible. Maybe another faction assumed the truth would get out, so it was better if it came from the government first.
Given the slow leak of truth, I wonder what other surprises are in store. Remember that all of the fake facts so far had a whiff of hard-to-believe and a bit too convenient. None of the revelations have been complete surprises. So what do you predict will be the next fact we learn wasn’t exactly true?
For this discussion, I’d like to take off the table the question of Osama’s burial at sea. For the sake of security, let’s all agree that the body was handled with religious sensitivity. This was a brilliant way to separate the United States’ intentions about Islam versus the terrorists. So if you don’t mind, let’s not start any rumors about the accuracy of that part of the story.
I’d like to focus on the widely assumed complicity of Pakistan’s government. The story goes that it would be impossible for the world’s most wanted terrorist to be “hiding in plain sight” so near a Pakistani military facility. The truth is that I could have kept Osama in a guest room in my own house for five years and no one would have known it, as long as I controlled who had access to the house. None of Osama’s neighbors knew they lived next to the world’s most wanted terrorist. How would the army facility down the road observe more than the neighbors did?
While it is likely that elements within the ISI have been helpful to various terror groups, it isn’t likely that the president of Pakistan, whose own wife was murdered by Al Qaeda, was helping Osama hide. Nor is it likely that many within the ISI knew where Osama was, given the size of the reward for his capture and the risk of letting too many people in on the secret. Our government gains an advantage by pressuring Pakistan to step up their efforts on the war on terror. This embarrassment is exactly the sort of leverage we need. And best of all, Pakistan can’t prove a negative, so there is no chance that they can prove they didn’t know where Osama was.
Then there’s the question of the live video feed to the Situation Room that allegedly went dead just before the SEALS did something that you wouldn’t want your elected officials to see. And if they did see it, you wouldn’t want your public to know that there’s a video of a SEAL killing an unarmed Osama. That was a mighty convenient time for a technical failure.
How about the release of the dead Osama photos? That was never going to happen. You’ll see the pictures in a year or two when the emotional impact has dissipated.
What else about this story smells wrong to you?