THE US was aided by Pakistan in the killing of Osama bin Laden, Seymour Hersh, an American investigative journalist and author has sensationally alleged.
The story the White House sticks to even to this day is that the killing of Osama bin Laden was an ‘all-American affair’ and that Pakistan’s military leaders knew nothing about it.
In an article published in the London Review of Books last Sunday, Hersh alleges that the official US version of the so-called ‘Operation Neptune Spear’ is a fairy tail so fantastic that it ‘might have been written by Lewis Carol’.
Hersh further alleges that not only did the Pakistan state aid the killing of Osama bin Laden but they ‘probably’ knew exactly where he was and were choosing the best time to hand him over to the Americans to get the best ‘quid pro quo’ for their bounty.
Hersh says that the killing of Osama bin Laden ‘was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election’.
News Line is pleased to print the opening paragraphs of Seymour Hersh’s story, and the closing summary below:
‘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.
‘The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission.
‘This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions, including one by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times Magazine of 19 March 2014.
‘Gall, who spent 12 years as the Times correspondent in Afghanistan, wrote that she’d been told by a “Pakistani official” that Pasha had known before the raid that bin Laden was in Abbottabad.
‘The story was denied by US and Pakistani officials, and went no further. In his book Pakistan: Before and after Osama (2012), Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank in Islamabad, wrote that he’d spoken to four undercover intelligence officers who – reflecting a widely held local view – asserted that the Pakistani military must have had knowledge of the operation.
‘The issue was raised again in February, when a retired general, Asad Durrani, who was head of the ISI in the early 1990s, told an al-Jazeera interviewer that it was “quite possible” that the senior officers of the ISI did not know where bin Laden had been hiding, “but it was more probable that they did” (know).
‘And the idea was that, at the right time, his location would be revealed. And the right time would have been when you can get the necessary quid pro quo – if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States.’
In concluding his piece for the London Review of Books: Seymour Hersh cast doubt on the version of events after Osama bin Laden’s killing, that he was buried at sea.
He wrote: ‘Within weeks of the raid, I had been told by two longtime consultants to Special Operations Command, who have access to current intelligence, that the funeral aboard the Carl Vinson (ship) didn’t take place.
‘One consultant told me that bin Laden’s remains were photographed and identified after being flown back to Afghanistan. The consultant added: “At that point, the CIA took control of the body. The cover story was that it had been flown to the Carl Vinson.”
‘The second consultant agreed that there had been “no burial at sea”. He added that “the killing of bin Laden was political theatre designed to burnish Obama’s military credentials … The Seals should have expected the political grandstanding. It’s irresistible to a politician. Bin Laden became a working asset.”
‘Early this year, speaking again to the second consultant, I returned to the burial at sea. The consultant laughed and said: “You mean, he didn’t make it to the water?”
‘The retired official said there had been another complication: some members of the Seal team had bragged to colleagues and others that they had torn bin Laden’s body to pieces with rifle fire. The remains, including his head, which had only a few bullet holes in it, were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains – or so the Seals claimed.
‘At the time, the retired official said, the Seals did not think their mission would be made public by Obama within a few hours: “If the president had gone ahead with the cover story, there would have been no need to have a funeral within hours of the killing.
‘ “Once the cover story was blown, and the death was made public, the White House had a serious ‘Where’s the body?’ problem.
‘ “The world knew US forces had killed bin Laden in Abbottabad. Panic city. What to do? We need a ‘functional body’ because we have to be able to say we identified bin Laden via a DNA analysis.
‘ “It would be navy officers who came up with the ‘burial at sea’ idea. Perfect. No body. Honourable burial following sharia law. Burial is made public in great detail, but Freedom of Information documents confirming the burial are denied for reasons of ‘national security’. It’s the classic unravelling of a poorly constructed cover story – it solves an immediate problem but, given the slightest inspection, there is no back-up support. There never was a plan, initially, to take the body to sea, and no burial of bin Laden at sea took place.”
‘The retired official said that if the Seals’ first accounts are to be believed, there wouldn’t have been much left of bin Laden to put into the sea in any case. It was inevitable that the Obama administration’s lies, misstatements and betrayals would create a backlash.
‘ “We’ve had a four-year lapse in co-operation,” the retired official said. “It’s taken that long for the Pakistanis to trust us again in the military-to-military counterterrorism relationship – while terrorism was rising all over the world …
‘ “They felt Obama sold them down the river. They’re just now coming back because the threat from Isis, which is now showing up there, is a lot greater and the bin Laden event is far enough away to enable someone like General Durrani to come out and talk about it.”
‘Generals Pasha and Kayani have retired and both are reported to be under investigation for corruption during their time in office. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s long-delayed report on CIA torture, released last December, documented repeated instances of official lying, and suggested that the CIA’s knowledge of bin Laden’s courier was sketchy at best and predated its use of waterboarding and other forms of torture.
‘The report led to international headlines about brutality and waterboarding, along with gruesome details about rectal feeding tubes, ice baths and threats to rape or murder family members of detainees who were believed to be withholding information.
‘Despite the bad publicity, the report was a victory for the CIA. Its major finding – that the use of torture didn’t lead to discovering the truth – had already been the subject of public debate for more than a decade.
‘Another key finding – that the torture conducted was more brutal than Congress had been told – was risible, given the extent of public reporting and published exposés by former interrogators and retired CIA officers.
‘The report depicted tortures that were obviously contrary to international law as violations of rules or “inappropriate activities” or, in some cases, “management failures”.
‘Whether the actions described constitute war crimes was not discussed, and the report did not suggest that any of the CIA interrogators or their superiors should be investigated for criminal activity. The agency faced no meaningful consequences as a result of the report.
‘The retired official told me that the CIA leadership had become experts in derailing serious threats from Congress: “They create something that is horrible but not that bad. Give them something that sounds terrible. ‘Oh my God, we were shoving food up a prisoner’s ass!’
‘ “Meanwhile, they’re not telling the committee about murders, other war crimes, and secret prisons like we still have in Diego Garcia. The goal also was to stall it as long as possible, which they did.”
‘The main theme of the committee’s 499-page executive summary is that the CIA lied systematically about the effectiveness of its torture programme in gaining intelligence that would stop future terrorist attacks in the US.
‘The lies included some vital details about the uncovering of an al-Qaida operative called Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, who was said to be the key al-Qaida courier, and the subsequent tracking of him to Abbottabad in early 2011.
‘The agency’s alleged intelligence, patience and skill in finding al-Kuwaiti became legend after it was dramatised in Zero Dark Thirty. The Senate report repeatedly raised questions about the quality and reliability of the CIA’s intelligence about al-Kuwaiti.
‘In 2005 an internal CIA report on the hunt for bin Laden noted that “detainees provide few actionable leads, and we have to consider the possibility that they are creating fictitious characters to distract us or to absolve themselves of direct knowledge about bin Ladin (sic).”
‘A CIA cable a year later stated that “we have had no success in eliciting actionable intelligence on bin Laden’s location from any detainees.”
‘The report also highlighted several instances of CIA officers, including Panetta, making false statements to Congress and the public about the value of “enhanced interrogation techniques’ in the search for bin Laden’s couriers.
‘Obama today is not facing re-election as he was in the spring of 2011. His principled stand on behalf of the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran says much, as does his decision to operate without the support of the conservative Republicans in Congress.
‘High-level lying nevertheless remains the modus operandi of US policy, along with secret prisons, drone attacks, Special Forces night raids, bypassing the chain of command, and cutting out those who might say no.’