Osama bin Laden Transfigured

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The execution-style
slaying of Osama bin Laden has been touted as a great success for
United States intelligence operatives and also for the special operations
soldiers, sailors, and airmen who executed the plan. But it also
leaves one feeling a bit uneasy about where this is all going now
that the world’s most wanted fugitive is dead. A retrospective
look at the fifteen year manhunt mounted by the US government estimates
that it cost something like $3 trillion to kill him. An effort is
being made to confirm that bin Laden was still a very dangerous
man, plotting with his associates and “coming
up with ideas
” about attacking transportation hubs in the
US, but there is little to suggest that the aging terrorist was
well positioned to mount any effective operations against anyone.
As he relied on couriers to communicate his wishes he was not even
able to send instructions or advice to his remaining associates
in under a week, hardly qualifying him as a hands-on master of terror.

Most Americans
have welcomed the death of bin Laden because the reality of his
crimes against the American people would appear to be undeniable.
That said, there has also been a certain level of unease becoming
more evident in discussions of the assassination because an unarmed
bin Laden was killed without any due process, a pattern of behavior
that has been characteristic of both the George W. Bush and Barack
Obama administrations. The White House clearly did not want to permit
bin Laden to appear in a show trial, in which he would inevitably
be the star and would have been able to make a powerful case against
US policy.

Many Americans
also have begun to question the White House narrative about how
and why bin Laden was killed, particularly as the story has changed
a number of times. Indeed, the first accounts that he was resisting
with an AK-47 in hand have now somewhat mellowed into a version
that has him hiding in a bedroom with his son and his wife, where
he and they were shot dead. As the president put it in his official
statement on the end of the terrorist leader, “After a firefight,
they killed Osama bin Laden.” The word “after” and
its placement is significant
as it implies that there was some shooting followed by a targeted
assassination. The subsequent rapid disposal of the body at sea
also will lead to more questions than answers and is already beginning
to do so.

But what is
particularly disquieting about the bin Laden story is how it is
being used by some media commentators and politicians to support
the reactionary war on terror policies of both George W. Bush and
Barack Obama. In the press and on Capitol Hill there have been suggestions
that the successful tracking of bin Laden came about because of
torture, that the key information that led to his hideout in Pakistan
was developed in a CIA secret prison. Demagogic politicians like
congressman Peter King are extolling the virtues of enhanced interrogation
and calling for more of it.

The fact is,
however, that there is no evidence that the significant information
that eventually led to bin Laden’s hideaway came through the
harsh treatment of anyone. Senator Joe Lieberman and others who
have become cheerleaders for the targeted killing are praising
the war against terror and are calling on the administration to
expand
it
to include more operations by delta soldiers and navy seals,
but they have long favored a more aggressive policy overseas just
about everywhere. They may be envisioning and hoping for more assassination
operations to kill undesirable leaders in countries that are currently
in turmoil, like Yemen and Syria. If that is so, they are opening
a door that should remain closed for many good reasons including
one in particular: if we start assassinating them they will start
assassinating us.

Read
the rest of the article

May
17, 2010

Philip M. Giraldi,
Ph.D. is a contributing editor to The
American Conservative
and executive director of the Council
for the National Interest He is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist
and military intelligence officer who served 18 years overseas in
Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain.

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