Sunday, May 10, 2015

A New Account of the Raid that Killed bin Laden

Seymour Hersh, who has great connections inside the US intelligence community and often serves as a journalistic mouthpiece for stories they want to put out, has published an account of the assassination of Osama bin Laden that is much different from the various official stories:
It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.
According to Hersh, bin Laden was not hiding in Abbottabad, he had been placed under house arrest by the Pakistanis, in a compound guarded by ISI soldiers. His whereabouts were not determined by tracking his couriers, but were betrayed by a Pakistani intelligence official who wanted the $25 million reward. Although initially the CIA did not tell the ISI what they had learned, they eventually brought the Pakistanis on board, getting their cooperation by threatening to cut off US aid.Whatever happened to bin Laden's body -- Hersh does not seem sure -- it certainly was not buried at sea.

To me the most important claim in Hersh's story is that Osama's whereabouts were betrayed by a Pakistani source. This means that the long-running American argument about how much the "enhanced interrogation" of various al Qaeda figures contributed to finding bin Laden is a complete farce; if Hersh is right, it was irrelevant.

UPDATE: Some good criticism of Hersh here. Apparently the New Yorker rejected this story several times. The reason I was drawn to Hersh's account is that I simply do not believe that bin Laden was living in Abbottabad without the knowledge and consent of the ISI, or at least powerful elements within it. Didn't believe in in 2010 and still don't believe it.


G. Verloren said...

A case of $25m worth of honey attracting more flies than the vinegar of torture, it seems...

Shadow said...

So when the Seals killed the guards, who were they? ISI operatives not in uniform? The Pakistanis let them kill them? It's more likely that the truth is a combination of both stories. Seymour Hersh's best days have passed.

Shadow said...

Yes, I too find the notion of Bin Laden living under the noses of ISI and Pakistani authorities without them knowing too much to believe. Like I said the truth is probably a combination of parts of both stories.

My guess: Bin Laden lived there and Pakistani authorities were aware, but he was no prisoner, and he had people loyal to him guarding him. ISI probably watched from afar, provided protection and intelligence to him when it suited their purposes, but we found out. We confronted and threatened the government, and they agreed to to let us kill him.

When at least two Seals publicly state there was a firefight and his guards were killed, you know Hersh has a problem. The Seals would have had to have been in on the secret, and that stretches credulity to the breaking point.

The problem is when any one element of a story is false -- and, as the article points out, there is more than one -- that reflects on all elements of the story. So, did an ISI agent trade information for $25M? That claim is now suspect too, and with it -- sorry -- any conclusions about couriers not providing crucial information.