Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Bin Laden mysteries: Pakistan's role (updated)

Many questions surround the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. Foreign sources are giving accounts of the raid -- and of Pakistan's role -- which differ markedly from the version prepared for U.S. consumption.

Some of this material is rather disturbing...

Update: Was Osama's wife killed or not? Many news reports said that a woman, presumed to be Osama's wife, was killed after he tried to use her as a human shield. See here...
A White House spokesman last night revealed Bin Laden tried to use his wife as a human shield when US Navy SEALs stormed his compound.

But a bullet to the head ended the 10-year hunt for the 9/11 monster. His wife was killed too.
But this AP video (scroll down) tells a very different story. In essence, the video claims that another woman was killed in the raid -- and that Osama's wife identified him after death! (No-one has spoken of more than one wife being present.) Another White House official has confirmed that the slain woman was not Bin Laden's wife.

Did the Pakistani government know about Bin Laden's location? A lot of people are saying that they had to have known all along.
Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, hinted that the Pakistani state itself was complicit in sheltering the terrorist leader, saying Bin Laden had "hidden himself in the military bases of Abbottabad".
Ironically, only 10 days ago Pakistan's army chief addressed cadets at that town's military academy – the equivalent of Sandhurst in the UK or West Point in the US – claiming the army had broken the back of militants linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Bin Laden was about half a mile away, living large. The Telegraph says that Wikileaks releases reveal that Pakistani services protected top Al Qaeda personnel living in that country
American diplomats were told that one of the key reasons why they had failed to find bin Laden was that Pakistan’s security services tipped him off whenever US troops approached.

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) also allegedly smuggled al-Qaeda terrorists through airport security to help them avoid capture and sent a unit into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban.
The Pakistani press is fretting about this:
“Pakistan has found itself in quite the embarrassing situation. Whilst we have been allies of the US, we have been very trying partners, picking and choosing the militants we wanted to root out and the ones we wanted to protect,” the Daily Times said.
This writer for Dawn reminds us that Pakistani officials routinely became infuriated whenever anyone suggested that Osama Bin Laden was in Pakistan.
Why, yours truly has been called a traitor deserving of death when I suggested that only given what the establishment itself told us about Osama’s failing kidneys and need for regular dialysis there was no way he was living in a cave on some remote mountain. Why indeed, did the Commando puff out his chest and glare at Hamid Karzai when the Afghan president suggested that Al Qaeda’s top leadership was hiding in Pakistan? Why the stout denial all these years?
Actually, we had a similar situation in this country. The official line placed Osama Bin Laden in a wild, un-policed territory -- and anyone who suggested otherwise was considered something of an oddball.

Did Bush know about Osama's location in 2005? I seem to be the only one who recalls that former CIA chief Porter Goss once cryptically remarked that he had an "excellent idea" about Osama's location. Said Porter, back in 2005:
But when you go to the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you're dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play.
In light of recent events, Goss's statement indicates that a similar raid could have been carried out five or six years ago.

Has capturing/killing Osama Bin Laden always been a political problem, not an intelligence problem? Precisely what has changed, politically?

Did Pakistan cooperate with the American raid? Many articles in the Western press indicate that the American team went to great lengths to keep their operations a complete secret from the Pakistanis.

Mark Ambinder of the Atlantic asked:
How did the helos elude the Pakistani air defense network? Did they spoof transponder codes? Were they painted and tricked out with Pakistan Air Force equipment? If so -- and we may never know -- two other JSOC units, the Technical Application Programs Office and the Aviation Technology Evaluation Group, were responsible. These truly are the silent squirrels -- never getting public credit and not caring one whit.
When one encounters a passage like this, one does not have to squint very hard to read between the lines. Obviously, Ambinder is here more-or-less admitting that he has been told that transponder codes were spoofed. Just as obviously, he has been told not to say so directly.

Okay. But why not say so directly? Why the wink wink, nudge nudge?

In Pakistan, many believe that their government was complicit. Indeed, this seems to be the question over there.
Dawn said the operation raises a slew of questions about the level of cooperation with Pakistani intelligence and the military.

“Were they taken into confidence? If so, at what point? Were they consulted or simply informed? Did they play any role in the operation?”
Yep. They did.

At least, such is the purport of this article on the Pakistan Defence Blog, headlined "Osama killed by American troops. Pakistan Army provided ground support."

Forgive the long quotation, but this one is definitely worth reading. (So don't skim!) I'm adding paragraph breaks to increase readability:
About 200 Pakistan Army men provided ground support, top level official sources told The Nation. During the operation, four helicopters of the Pakistan Army hovered over the fortress-like hideout of al-Qaeda chief at Thanda Choh, a relatively isolated area of Abbottabad’s otherwise posh locality Bilal Town that is barely a kilometre away from the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul.

After completing aerial assessments, the four Pakistan Army helicopters were replaced by two US helicopters, ten minutes later.

Initially, the US military personnel opened fire at the outer wall of Osama’s hideout, which was retaliated by the house inmates with heavy gunfire. After almost twenty minutes of cross-firing, the US forces directly targeted the house with sophisticated bombs, eventually killing Osama, his eight bodyguards, seven close aides and an unspecified number of family members including a young son, children and two wives.

When the residents of the area, upon hearing heavy gunshots and explosions, came out of their homes or went up to the rooftops of their houses, Pakistani soldiers in helicopters threw search lights, instructing them to stay indoors. Besides initial aerial support, the Pakistan Army provided ground support by deploying ground troops within a radius of one kilometre of the operation area.
That's not the way they're telling the story in the U.S. media!

If the cooperation was that close, then obviously there was no need to spoof transponder codes. Which means that someone lied to Ambinder.

Did a helicopter crash? There have been widespread reports of a crash, and even grainy video footage of a burning helicopter. There are conflicting accounts as to whether gunfire from the compound brought the chopper down.

The above-quoted story from the Pakistan Defence Blog says that it was a Pakistani helicopter that crashed. That possibility has been kept out of the U.S. press, which is hewing to the line that Pakistan was kept entirely in the dark about the operation until after the fact.

However, we also have this:
Meanwhile, Sahir Elahi, an eyewitness who lives a few yards from the place where the operation took place, doubted if any helicopter had crashed. “We were the first to reach the spot – by that time the security forces had not cordoned off the area. The wreckage of any helicopter was nowhere to be seen. I think it was a bomb that was dropped by the US forces,” he said.
(Emphases added.) This is all very strange. How could a close neighbor, on the scene at that early stage, miss a thing like a helicopter crash?

But if there was no crash, then why on earth would so many accounts speak of one? I can see no reason to fib about such a thing.

Unless...unless it really was a Pakistani chopper that went down -- not on the scene of the raid, but some ways away. The fib was motivated by American determination to keep Pakistan's part of the operation secret.

So far, that's the only theory that seems to cover the facts.

Update: More on the chopper crash. The AP video referenced above gives us a photo of the crashed chopper, identified as American. If we are to believe this story, then the Americans evacuated their personnel -- and the captured members of Osama's entrouage, and the Bin Laden body -- in but one helicopter.

That doesn't seem terribly likely to me.

Perhaps this photo will help us identify just where the helicopter went down, and whether it is Pakistani or American.

What about the missing years? It seems that Osama moved into this residence in 2006. Where was he before?

Is there a photo? Dawn says that photographic evidence of Osama's corpse exists -- and this isn't the hoax photo discussed earlier.
Still-secret photos of the dead Osama bin Laden show a precision kill shot above his left eye, a US official said...
The administration weighed whether to release photos of bin Laden’s corpse and video of his swift burial at sea. Officials were reluctant to inflame Islamic sentiment by showing graphic images of the body. But they were also eager to address the mythology already building in Pakistan and beyond that bin Laden was somehow still alive.

US officials say the photographic evidence shows bin Laden was shot above his left eye, blowing away part of his skull.
This is ridiculous. We've all seen brutal and disturbing photographs of Iraqi corpses. We recall the video record of Saddam Hussein's execution. We also recall the videos (some of them questioned) of Al Qaeda personnel beheading Nick Berg and other Americans. Suddenly, the American government is acting squeamish about Osama Bin Laden?

It doesn't make sense. Not to me, at least.

I'll have more, later on today -- including a look at some of the wilder theories offered by Alex Jones and the "deathers." As always, we can count on Alex to bring discredit to anyone asking questions of authority.

Update: Here's a cute piece from ABC on the need for "death proof."
It may have been those very rumors [of Osama's death years ago] that led Obama to pass up an opportunity to bomb bin Laden's compound. As ABC News' Jake Tapper reported earlier today, Obama recognized that kind of destruction would leave no trace of bin Laden's death.

Instead, Obama opted for a far more difficult mission with a Navy SEAL team...
Ah. So the administration passes up the bombing scenario and goes with a more dangerous raid scenario, because they want to make sure that they have an identifiable body. They need the body to scotch rumors spread by conspiracy theorists. And then what do they do? They dump the body into the ocean!

Does that make sense to you?
Aside from the death of bin Laden, when will you fulfill your obligation on Kickstarter.com
on the Chalice Project?

you promised artistic materials to 61 people, the total of the funds being $2,879. It has been 5 months since the project was funded, and we have not seen the promised materials. When do you anticipate fulfilling this obligation? By contract law we should either receive the products, or be issued proper refund. All of us who backed the Chalice Project would appreciate your returning to the project in either form. thank you.
I've explained that earlier. There is nothing I would like more. Relocating took more than I thought -- pretty much that whole amount -- and I still have not recovered the hard drive.

There is a good possibility that this will happen soon. It's a tough economy, and it's harder than ever for someone with my skill set to make money on this coast than on the other one. But I still have a project coming up which should pay for the recovery.

After that, I plan to be a "kept man," making my ladyfriend go to work while I sit home and finish that project.

There was no time limit in the contract, thank God. But again -- I want nothing more than to get back to it. Believe me, better THAT then doing the crap I've had to do to make ends meet.
This bin Laden stuff will sort itself out eventually. Once the details of the planning and execution of the mission (both political and logistical) become apparent, people will lay off Bill Clinton for failing to get him.

" Believe me, better THAT then doing the crap I've had to do to make ends meet"

Doing design work for Obama re-election campaign posters?
I think we may have a tie in with the birth certificate. It was puzzling why Obama choose to release his birth certificate when he did. After he did, he and our corporate owned media immediately used the occasion to deride the birthers as the lunatic fringe (they are, but why wait so long to show it). Despite Obama previous propensity to lie, he now has immediate credibility, even with people on the left who know that he has been lying to them on real issues. Now anybody who questions the official version of events on the Osama killing are immediately identified with the birthers. I have had people send me various photo shop pictures (jokes) using the Osama killing to identify people opposed to Obama as birthers. Funny thing is that the metadata on these photos seem to lack a creation or modification time. Most photoshop pictures usually have some date identifiers. Where the pictures created and then spread on the internet for the specific purpose of ridiculing Obama opponents by identifying them with the birthers?
My view is that we knew where Osama was at all times. The idea that the Pakistani military or intelligence knew where is was, but we didn't doesn't fly. But for the U.S. and its money, the Pakistani m/i would resemble Bangladesh. They are our subsidiary. My guess is that Osama was in poor health and about to die. Better to stage a killing and get some political legs out of it, rather than just let him die. It would also explain the quick dumping of the body.
Thanks for the succinct and thought-provoking update. I'm not at all surprised that the official "surgical strike by our special ops heroes" narrative is starting to become a little unraveled. Sometimes they just don't know when to quit: the "OBL used his wife as a human shield" detail was an obvious and clumsy bit of propaganda.
"It may have been those very rumors [of Obama's death years ago]"

You may want to correct this; I know it's hard to keep the two straight...

Thanks, Peg. I really must have been short a few hours of sleep. The correction has been made.
Local news (ABC) says he was shot while unarmed.

Local news also says they have confirmation (from local military contacts, San Diego) that a video of the raid exists.

The View showed a picture of Obama, Hilary, and other members of the cabinet watching said video stream as it was happening live.
Does it all make sense? Sure, as long as you assume every word out of their stinking mouths is a goddam lie. Who's shooting them supposedly watching the video? Who did makeup and wardrobe? Set design? Oh, look, there's Obama looking professorial. Gee, ya think that'll appear in campaign commercials?
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