Going over some of the newer details about the U.S. operation to take out Osama Bin Laden [OBL or UBL] here are a few answers, none from official sources:
A.) Question: Did they, or did they not, see the kill?
President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser John Brenner said to journalists on Monday afternoon/evening — not even 20 hours after the announcement that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, then buried somewhere [north Arabian Sea?] at sea — that President Obama and his advisers watched the American operation that killed Ben Laden “in real time”. That’s what we thought was confirmed in this photo later released by the White House [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the only one showing any emotional reaction here]:
Here, now, is a very useful graphic published by the Washington Post, in an article published here, entitled “Breaking Down the Situation Room“, with contributions from a number of the WPost’s “in-house experts”:
1. Vice President Biden
2. President Obama
3. Brig. Gen. Marshall B. Webb
4. Deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough
5. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
6. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates
7. Adm. Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman
8. National security adviser Thomas E. Donilon
9. White House chief of staff Bill Daley
10. Antony Blinken, national security adviser to Biden
11. Audrey Tomason, director for counterterrorism
12. John O. Brennan, assistant to Obama for counterterrorism
13. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.
[For some interesting excerpts from some of the WPost’s staff’s comments on this photo, see our page here.]
But, CIA Director Leon Panetta later said that the execution was, in fact, not witnessed live in Washington, in an interview on the PBS Newshour program on Tuesday evening, which can be watched here. Panetta told Newshour’s‘s Jim McNeil that: “Since this was a what’s called Title 50 Operation, which is a covert operation and it comes directly from the President of the United States … that direction goes to me, and I am the person who commands the mission … But having said that I have to tell you that the real director was [Vice] Admiral [William] McCraven, because he was on-site and he was actually in charge of the military operation that went in and got Osama Bin Laden … We had set up an operations post here at the CIA and I was in direct communication with Admiral McRaven who was located in Afghanistan, and we were in direct contact as the mission went forward … We had live-time intelligence information that we were dealing with, during the operation itself”.
Q: But did you actually see Obama Bin Laden get shot?
A: “No, no, not at all”...
There are now reports that Osama/Usama Bin Laden’s wife was wounded, not killed, in the U.S. raid that killed him [and that another woman was wounded as well].
What happened to her, and to any others wounded, or simply present, inside the compound?
Apparently, the U.S. special forces [Navy Seals???] took “computers” from the compound to search them for leads.
Does it make any sense that if, as U.S. officials said, they will be pursuing other al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan or elsewhere, they would have left anybody in the compound?
UPDATE: Reports Tuesday night say that a wounded women and Usama’s children who were in the room with him when he was killed “resisting” are now in Pakistani custody. [A woman seized as a hostage by another man — not Obama — in another room was killed, together with the man who grabbed her…]
The Associated Press reported Tuesday night that “The White House says Osama bin Laden was not armed when a Navy SEAL raiding party confronted him during an assault on his compound in Pakistan. White House press secretary Jay Carney acknowledged that bin Laden did not have a weapon even though administration officials have said that bin Laden resisted during the raid. Carney said resistance does not require a firearm. Bin Laden was shot in the head and in the chest during the encounter. Carney said that a woman in the room with bin Laden confronted the U.S. forces and was shot but not killed”. This report is posted here.
UPDATE TWO: The Atlantic magazine has published a post by Garance Franke-Ruta entitled “The Slippery Story of the bin Laden Kill”, here, which notes that “the history of misstatements from U.S. government officials about various combat operations raises questions about whether briefers also were subjecting us to a counterterrorism strategy and not just completely confused in their initial statements”.
Avner Cohen posted the link on Facebook, with this comment: “Does the Slippery Story of OBL killing matter? Yes, it does! Slipping the truth on this matter undermines the very credibility and the moral ground of the United States, the very raison d’etre of this act.”
For full transparency and disclosure, I’ll post below my own comments in participation and interaction on this thread:
The transcript of the White House briefing, about 20 hours after Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by American special forces, is now posted online here.
President Obama’s counterterrorism Adviser John Brenner said to journalists this afternoon/evening that President Obama and his advisers watched the American operation that killed Ben Laden “in real time”, as is shown in this photo just released by the White House [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the only one showing any emotional reaction here]:
Some 24 hours after the deed, the UN Security Council is convening in consultations about a possible statement. Matthew Lee of Inner City Press, at the front lines outside the UNSC chambers, has just tweeted that there are going to be changes in a draft text, and/as the French Ambassador didn’t like the French version…
UPDATE: Sometime around 3am Jerusalem time, the American Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, Tweeted (@AmbassadorRice): “This afternoon, the Security Council passed a statement welcoming the news that #UBL [Usama Bin Laden] will never again perpetrate acts of terrorism”.
This statement is not yet posted on the website of the US Mission to the UN, and it is difficult to find even on the official UN website. It is buried down at the bottom of a UN News Centre report on remarks made to the media outside the UN Security Council. The report says that “Ambassador Gérard Araud of France, which holds the rotating Security Council presidency this month, read out a presidential statement in which the 15-member panel welcomed the news that Mr. bin Laden ‘will never again be able to perpetrate such acts of terrorism’. The statement urged all countries to remain vigilant and intensify their efforts to defeat terrorism, including by working together to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of terrorist attacks. ‘The Security Council stresses… that terrorism will not be defeated by military force, law enforcement measures and intelligence operations alone, and can only be defeated by a sustained and comprehensive approach involving the active participation and collaboration of all States, and relevant international and regional organizations and civil society to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and to impede, impair, isolate and incapacitate the terrorist threat’.”
This Presidential Statement by the UNSC is contained in a UN press release which “also reaffirmed that terrorism could not and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or group”.
The press release also says that “States must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law”.
According to the UN press release, “The meeting began at 5:30 p.m. and ended at 5:35 p.m”. The full text is posted here.
Meanwhile, here, for the record, is what John Brenner said at the briefing in Washington on Monday, especially about the burial at sea:
Because, for sure, there’s no way to ask any questions about this.
[Though, there are probably videos that will be shown later…]
U.S. President Obama said it was a “targetted operation”… which “took care to avoid civilian casualties”.
After 9/11, our time of grief, Americans came together, Obama said. “We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda, an organization headed by Osama Bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. So, we went to war against Al-Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends and our allies … In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government which had given Bin Ladan and Al-Qaeda safe haven and support, and around the globe, we worked to capture or kill scores of Al-Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot”, he said. “Shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the Director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of Osama Bin Laden the top priority in our war against al-Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle or defeat his network”…
Obama never once said the word “terrorist” or “terror” [this was one of the significant style changes in his administration]. No, this is a war against Al-Qaeda, Obama said, several times.
“There is no doubt that Al-Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us”, Obama added, so the U.S. “must be vigilant, at home and abroad”…
The U.S. then issued a worldwide travel alert and advisory to all U.S. citizens.
A warden message received on Monday afternoon from the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem says: “Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations … We urge U.S. citizens to keep in regular contact with family and friends”.
In his announcement, Obama also said that Bin Laden’s “demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity … justice has been done”.
Osama Bin Laden has been killed, somehow, in a “showdown with U.S. forces” in a luxurious villa in a heavily-fortified compound in Pakistan — a country which insisted he was not there, and where U.S. forces have been operating for years, while supposedly searching for Osama Bin Laden and his amorphous Al-Qaeda Organization, which any misfit or rebel who wanted to antagonize could claim to be part of (whether true or not, claims were accepted, usually without question, if convenient).
The villa was reportedly in, or on the outskirts of, Abbotabad, about two hours north of Islamabad. [And, the villa was reportedly about 800 yards from the Pakistan Military Academy.]
According to a report in The Guardian, here, the villa was identified last August, the U.S. was certain in February that Bin Laden and family were there, and Obama gave the order to get him on 29 April.
The same report added that “It was a surgical operation, he said, carried out by a small team and lasted only 40 minutes … The US force ran into a problem with one of their helicopters which had to be abandoned, but only after being destroyed by explosives set by the American troops”.
Some Pakistani forces reportedly accompanied the U.S. soldiers. Now, they say they’re not sure who fired the shot that actually killed Osama Bin Laden. But, there can never be another autopsy, a forensic examination, because, the U.S. says, his body has been “buried at sea” — according to Muslim tradition (which is NOT to bury a dead person at sea, but in the earth).
This happened within a very few hours — at 0200 in Washington DC time — and that would be according to Muslim (and Jewish) tradition which prefers burial (in earth) within 24 hours. The military operation apparently started just after 8pm, and Obama made his announcement after 10:30 pm, the time it was supposed to take place …
The U.S. took charge [“custody”, Obama said] of the body, and then said no country was willing to take the body for burial…
That’ll make it easy, they must have thought.
UPDATE: At a White House briefing after 9pm Monday night (Jerusalem time), with the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and John Brennan of the President’s National Security team, Brennan said that “we were able to monitor it [the operation] in real time”. He said the COAs [Course of Actions] were determined over the past couple of months: if he’s captured, what do we do with him? And, if he’s killed what do we do. Arrangements for the burial were ready. The appropriate people were there. A decision was taken that the burial in the way it was done was the appropriate thing to do. He would not say exactly where it happened. He said that there have been differences between the U.S. and Pakistan on counterterrorism policy, and that the Pakistani authorities were briefed immediately after the operation. They were appreciative of the fact that there were no Pakistani casualties”.
Brennan, a “counterterrorism” advisor, said that “we are talking to the Pakistanis” about the location where Bin Laden was found, but initially “they seemed as surprised as we were”…
Brennan said that Bin Laden did participate in the firefight when the U.S. raid occurred, but when asked specifically, Brennan said he didn’t know if Bin Laden got his hand on a weapon or fired any rounds.
Others died, too, including “the two al-Qaeda facilitators” [two brothers], one of his sons [Khaled], and “a woman being used as a hostage shield”… presumed to be one of Osama Bin Laden’s wives, Brennan later said, adding that he did not know how it was she was interposed in the line of fire in front of Bin Laden, including whether she put herself in that position herself.
It is not clear whether Bin Laden was buried alone, at sea, or with this wife, and his son…
But, in the best post-Second-World-War American tradition, the U.S. is leader of “the free world”, and no questions can be asked. [Or, as happened on Monday evening, there will be a press conference with dozens of questions, and not too many full answers…]
There will be no trial. Osama will not be water-boarded in Camp Guantanamo to extract “the facts” in a full investigation. We will never know what really happened, and we will believe what suits us.
There is no body to show = no need to know: just accept our word, we’re the “good guys”?
Just trust the leaders. Or, what’s wrong with you — get the hell out! Go… to Gaza!
On Twitter, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, tweeted (@husainhaqqani) just after 1:15 in the afternoon, Jerusalem time:
**”Official Pakistan statement being released in Islamabad on our US bringing Osama bin Laden to justice 14 minutes ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®”
**”Pak statement: In intelligence driven op, Osama Bin Ladin was killed in the surroundings of Abbotabad in the early hours of Mon morning”
**”Operation was conducted by US forces in accordance with declared US policy”
**”Earlier 2day, President Obama telephoned President Zardari on the successful US operation which resulted in killing of OBL”
**”Al-Qaeda had declared war on Pakistan. Scores of Al-Qaeda sponsored terrorist attacks resulted in deaths of 1000s of innocent Pakistanis”