Bin Laden’s killing: Four questions and a funeral
By Rupert Read
1) Obama said to Congress yesterday that Bin Laden was “captured and killed”. Does that imply that he was captured alive, and then shot in the head? If so, then this was murder. OK, it was the murder of a mass-murderer; but that’s still murder. The state should not murder – especially, obviously, without any due process whatsoever.
2) Bin Laden was code-named ‘Geronimo’ during the operation. That is deeply tragic, horribly unwise. Did nobody in the military / in the President’s office consider that this code-name might just possibly bring back memories of the disgraceful racist campaign of murder and assassination that the U.S. engaged in for two centuries against native American leaders and resistance-fighters?
3) It is extraordinary that photos of the dead Bin Laden have not yet been issued, and apparently might never be. Not issuing at least one photo would be a cataclysmic mistake. It would fuel endless pathetic conspiracy theories. Presumably, the same morons who drone on about the ‘troof’ about September the 11th would then drone on endlessly about how Bin Laden is in fact living in Paraguay along with Adolf Hitler and Lord Lucan etc etc. Won’t the U.S. authorities spare us that fate? It is very unwise for a democracy to foster disempowering paranoid denialism. It takes people out of even a minimal level of involvement in and belief in the democratic system.
4) There seems to be a consensus emerging that some in the Pakistani military must have known of Bin Laden’s whereabouts in Abbottabad. That seems to me a rash, dangerous, politically-motivated assumption. Moreover, it presumes a level of competence among the Pakistani authorities that may well be absent — and, more tellingly, a level of incompetence among Al Qaida that is profoundly questionable. In other words, it tacitly buys into the same prejudiced logic as the 9/11 troofers do: It assumes that a bunch of Arabs/Muslims couldn’t by themselves organise a terrorist attack in a brewery. Whereas: All that Bin Laden had to do was get safely smuggled into his enclave, with some plausible cover-story for the place, and that was it. Yes, he would have needed some kind of support-network – but that would presumably have been very small and tight-knit, and needn’t have extended to anyone in the security services etc. . Given that Pakistan is a catastrophically unequal society, in which it is common for the very rich to have in effect armed private enclaves, why should 1 more, even in Abbottabad, have caused any great surprise or suspicion? The real reason that Bin Laden wasn’t detected in Abbottabad, as testimony from some locals makes clear, is that it just doesn’t attract much notice to live within high walls and barbed wire, in a neoliberalised society run by plutocrats and kleptocrats.
Bin Laden’s being given a swift funeral and then being buried at sea made sense, in terms of preventing his place of death becoming a shrine. But one has to wonder whether, given the worrying questions raised above, his place of death — his ‘martyrdom’ — in Abbottabad may, within our lifetime, become some kind of shrine.
On my question 3, the US has apparently decided not to release any photos:
Well from my rather limited dealings with members of the Musharraf government I can certainly say ‘you’re not wrong there’. It’s entirely possible, for instance, that the ISI, or elements of it, knew and that the government didn’t.
Thanks for comments. The only disagreement seems to be in relation to my 4th question. Let me be clear: I agree with virtually everything y’all have written about intimate ISI-Taliban links etc., and perhaps I should have taken the space to say so, in order to avoid being misunderstood. My point was only that there is no good reason to believe that we must accept the ‘conspiracy’ theory here. The ‘cockup’ theory – that the (not-cocking-up) brilliantly-audacious move by AlQaida of hiding Bin Laden in one of the last places the ISI or anyone else would have thought of looking for him, in a garrison town, was for a while successful – is at least equally plausible.
I agree pretty much with the two posters above and don’t see the need to expand greatly on it. The ISI certainly contains ‘maverick’ elements and Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban has long been known to be, er ‘complex’ would perhaps be the best way to put it. The ISI is notoriously murky and as Jonathan explained above, has had fingers in several pies over a long period. I wouldn’t be surprised if some parts of the ISI knew of Bin Laden’s whereabouts.
I don’t wish to see all the gory details either, and of course burying him at sea was always going to be the case, similar to how Eichmann’s ashes were scattered into the Red Sea.
Al Quaida seems to be dying on its arse in several middle-eastern states as they move forward and seem to be embracing ‘democracy’ and ‘openness’. I guess they just had enough of living in fear of the secret police every day.
Anyway, you’ll never beat the troofers. I’ll send my spare tin foil to help… On a lighter note, it’s possibly the first time a bin has been taken out on a bank holiday. Sorry.
1. You are correct. The was an extra-judicial killing. Each to their own about how they feel about that.
2. Given the US military’s long (70 years) use of the term Geronimo I doubt that they think in they same way you do.
3. You want the gory details? That is a bit sick. Photos of Elvis and Dillinger dead still havent stopped the conspiracy theories. Put it this way. If they are ever proven wrong/to have lied then the American people would never ever forgive them.
4. Jonathan put it beter than I could. Rather than look at competence, try looking at corruption. Which is endemic in Pakistan.
there’s long been a ‘consensus’ that elements of the ISI, Pakistan’s secret intelligence service, had close links to and sympathies with the Taliban.
I don’t know what specific evidence there is for that however it makes a degree of sense on various levels.
Firstly Pakistan has long had difficult relationships with both India and Afghanistan. During the 1980s it maintained close links with the Afghan Mujahideen who traversed the border between the two countries pretty freely and who were armed by the US through Pakistan. It’s certainly believed to have acted through violent militant groups fighting India over Kashmir.
During the Zia al Haq period the government encouraged the radical Islamicisation of Pakistan. Liberal Pakistanis tend to trace many of the problems the country faces with militants to that era.
Also stop to consider how the Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q.Khan ran a network distributing nuclear knowledge and equipment from Pakistan until 2002 and was in 2009 released from house arrest and is at large in Pakistan.
I’d give quite a lot of credence to suggestions that the ISI isn’t to be trusted with sensitive intelligence and that some elements are antipathetic towards the West.
That said you’re absolutely right to ask questions. The whole thing is murky but murky seems to be par for the course.