What do we really know about Osama bin Laden's death?
I saw this as more of a media story, a case study in how constructed narratives become accepted truth. This felt like a cop-out to [Seymour Hersh], as he explained in a long email the next day. He said that I was sidestepping the real issue, that I was ‘‘turning this into a ‘he-said, she-said’ dilemma,’’ instead of coming to my own conclusion about whose version was right. It was then that he introduced an even more disturbing notion: What if no one’s version could be trusted?
What do the Dreamweaver Manual, Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival, and an academic article on wage inequality in France have in common? They were - amongst many others - on Osama bin Laden's Bookshelf. (hat tip to jessamyn)
It began with a walk-in. In August 2010 a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer approached Jonathan Bank, then the CIA’s station chief at the US embassy in Islamabad. He offered to tell the CIA where to find bin Laden in return for the reward that Washington had offered in 2001. Walk-ins are assumed by the CIA to be unreliable, and the response from the agency’s headquarters was to fly in a polygraph team. The walk-in passed the test. ‘So now we’ve got a lead on bin Laden living in a compound in Abbottabad, but how do we really know who it is?’ was the CIA’s worry at the time, the retired senior US intelligence official told me.Seymour Hersh on new revelations about the operation to kill Osama bin Laden
Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty has been named the best film of 2012 by the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle, and the National Board of Review. Does it endorse torture? [more inside]
The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has released its analysis of 17 de-classified documents captured during the Abbottabad raid where Osama Bin Laden was killed. They also released the documents themselves, available in the original Arabic as well as in English translation. A Pastebin version of the English translations has been posted for easy searching.
"After Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, the White House released a photo of President Barack Obama and his Cabinet inside the Situation Room, watching the daring raid unfold. Hidden from view, standing just outside the frame of that now-famous photograph was a career CIA analyst" - The man who hunted Osama bin Laden
It might be instructive to ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic (after proper burial rites, of course). Uncontroversially, he is not a “suspect” but the “decider” who gave the orders to invade Iraq -- that is, to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: in Iraq, the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country and the national heritage, and the murderous sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region. Equally uncontroversially, these crimes vastly exceed anything attributed to bin Laden.There is Much More to Say by Noam Chomsky.
Some Final Thoughts on the Death of Osama bin Laden Although not typically a fan of a lot of Michael Moore's work, I think he has some cogent thoughts concerning recent world events and the U.S. in particular. [more inside]
In an earlier statement issued to the press, Kenobi boasted that striking him down could make him "more powerful than you could possibly imagine."
How the news spread via twitter Interesting visualisation of tweets of Bin Ladens demise. "...the Tweet by Rumsfeld chief of staff Keith Urbahn that got the ball rolling was retweeted more than 80 times within one minute after it was sent, and that by the 3-minute mark, it had led to more than 300 reactions"
Guy Rundle teases out the meanings of the bin Laden assassination, in contrast to the Eichmann trial.
Employed as a Counterterrorism Analyst, But Think Your Bosses Are Misunderstanding the Problem? Quit your DoD post and write a book! Offer it for free, on the Web. Oh, and do it anonymously. Reddit AMA here.
Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri are believed to be hiding close to each other in houses in northwest Pakistan, but are not together, a senior NATO official said. ... al Qaeda's top leadership is believed to be living in relative comfort, protected by locals and some members of the Pakistani intelligence services... The official would not discuss how the coalition has come to know any of this information, but he has access to some of the most sensitive information in the NATO alliance. [more inside]
Gary Faulkner, an unemployed construction worker from Colorado, has been deported from Pakistan after attempting a Rambo-style mission to assassinate Osama bin Laden. [more inside]
That afternoon, American signals operators picked up bin Laden speaking to his followers. Fury kept a careful log of these communications in his notebook, which he would type up at the end of every day and pass up his chain of command. “The time is now,” bin Laden said. “Arm your women and children against the infidel!” Following several hours of high-intensity bombing, the Al Qaeda leader spoke again. Fury paraphrases: “Our prayers have not been answered. Times are dire. We didn’t receive support from the apostate nations who call themselves our Muslim brothers.” Bin Laden apologized to his men for having involved them in the fight and gave them permission to surrender.
Al Jazeera releases a new (as of yet unauthenticated) tape in which the terrorist leader accuses the US and other large nations of inaction. Osama suggests boycotting the American dollar and quotes Noam Chomsky. [more inside]
Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the CIA's "bin Laden Station", and the initially anonymous author of Imperial Hubris, pulls an O'Reilly on yesterday's Glenn Beck broadcast:
"The only chance we have as a country have right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States [...] only Osama can execute an attack which will force Americans to demand that their government protect them [...] with as much violence as necessary."[more inside]
What is the logical consequence of noting the fact that the terrorist groups that make a difference on planet Earth—such as Hamas and Hezbollah, the PLO, Colombia's FARC—are extensions of, respectively, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and Venezuela? It is the negation of the U.S. government's favorite axiom. It means that when George W. Bush spoke, and when Barack Obama speaks, of America being "at war" against "extremism" or "extremists" they are either being stupid or acting stupid to avoid dealing with the nasty fact that many governments wage indirect warfare.International relations professor Angelo M. Codevilla argues that Osama bin Laden is not quite influential, not quite relevant, and probably dead. (multipage version)
So, for about two years now, Will Chapman of BrickArms has been creating a wide variety of custom Lego minifigures, ranging from World War II soldiers (both Axis and Allies) to a certain copyrighted British Secret Service agent. One of Chapman's more popular creations is "Mr. White," a "bandit" brimming with weapons (including an AK-47 and RPG) and grenades. This week, the Sun ran a story. Then Fox News ran another. [more inside]
Who's soft on terrorism? Surely not the Democrats, who are about to enable the National Security Agency to extend its secret domestic wiretapping program after saying otherwise for months. Surely not the Republican White House, determined to rush out a new Osama bin Laden video even if it burns an intelligence connection spying on Al Qaeda that has been carefully cultivated for years.
On Wednesday Sept. 5th, German police stopped a major terrorist attack. The planned bomb consisted of 730 kilogramms of hydrogen peroxide to be mixed with other chemicals. The explosive power would have been equivalent to 550 kilogramms of TNT. The IHT reports the possible targets were the Ramstein US Air Force Air Base and Frankfurt International Airport. The suspects had been under observation for 10 months, the chemicals had been clandestinely rendered harmless by German authorities. What caused the final arrest? Two things: 1) they had just recieved a call from north Pakistan urgently ordering them to follow through within 14 days. 2) a local village policeman blew the surveillance cover by literally telling them at a routine road stop that they were on a watch-list. German intelligence immediately knew the policeman had blown their cover. How? They had bugged the car [Spiegel, rough translation]. [more inside]
The Ongoing Hunt for Osama bin Laden is a comprehensive Newsweek update on the search for Osama. Psychics can't find him. Native American trackers can't find him. As the Daily Show noted in 2004, the dead or alive terrorist mastermind is "a really good hider."
Terrorism finger puppets! Uncanny crocheted likenesses of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il, Ahmadinejad and George W. Bush.
Kola Boof claims she was a successful actress in the Arabic-speaking world, an active member of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army and, most notably, Bin Laden's mistress. Although skeptics have been passionate in their criticism and the skeptics themselves vilified by the believers, no conclusive evidence seems to have been presented either way. So who is this woman? (Some links mildly NSFW: some female nudity.)
The anti-globalisers are flakes, Samuel Huntingdon is all about the decline of white hegemony, Bin Laden is ‘the illegitimate child of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan’ – Fred Halliday tells it like it is. (via, but you might well have filtered it out on the assumption that it's one of the tedious right-ring rants that they seem obsessed by nowadays.)
Max Rodenbeck reviews a new collection of Osama bin Laden's speeches and a biography by Peter Bergen. David Cole discusses the US side of the conflict, reviewing the latest book by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon: "--when it comes to fighting the decentralized threat of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, Benjamin and Simon maintain, the best defense is not a good offense, but a good defense." More on al-Qaeda: Rodenbeck, MetaFilter.
It Isn’t Easy Being the Sexy Bin Laden : “the face is alluring (big dark eyes, long lashes, plump lips, caramel skin)”. Satin sheets, a feather boa and not much else. And who could resist alluring bin Laden quotes like this?
“At the end of the day, I believe that the American people understand things and they have compassion and they see what’s fair,” [bin Laden] says. "They’re very fair, and that’s why I love America, and that’s why my mom loves America.”Or this quote:
“Come on, where’s the American spirit? Accept me. I want to be embraced, because my values are like yours. And I’m here. I’m not hiding.”
What al-Qaida Really Wants: An Islamic Caliphate in Seven Easy Steps. German newspaper Der Spiegel offers a look at an Islamist plan for success by 2020, courtesy of journalist Fouad Hussein, who claims close connection with al-Qaida's inner circle. But does that inner circle really call the shots anymore? And how reliable are long-term global plans, anyway? [first link via The Agonist]
Bin Laden in Sweden Check out his HIP posse
what the news in america isn't telling us. Here is the Full transcript of Bin Ladin's speech
He's back: Bin Laden has released a new tape, where he attacks Bush, claims responsibility for 9/11, backhandledly backs Kerry and warns Americans to take responsibility for safety to themselves. But is it all an elaborate double bluff to make sure Bush gets in (and OBL stays as safe as he is now)?
"It would be best if the arrest or killing of [Osama bin Laden] were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July." During the first three days of the Democratic National Convention, the Bush administration offers The July Surprise.
The anonymous author of Imperial Hubris has been revealed.
Think Again: Al Qaeda - "The mere mention of al Qaeda conjures images of an efficient terrorist network guided by a powerful criminal mastermind. Yet al Qaeda is more lethal as an ideology than as an organization. 'Al Qaedaism' will continue to attract supporters in the years to come—whether Osama bin Laden is around to lead them or not." Foreign Policy, May/June 2004.
This is a message to our neighbours north of the Mediterranean, containing a reconciliation initiative as a response to their positive reactions. Osama bin Laden's latest message to the world. (more inside)
Bush Was Warned of Possible Attack in U.S., Official Says "President Bush was told more than a month before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that supporters of Osama bin Laden planned an attack within the United States with explosives and wanted to hijack airplanes, a government official said Friday. The warning came in a secret briefing that Mr. Bush received at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., on Aug. 6, 2001. A report by a joint Congressional committee last year alluded to a "closely held intelligence report" that month about the threat of an attack by Al Qaeda, and the official confirmed an account by The Associated Press on Friday saying that the report was in fact part of the president's briefing in Crawford." Then again, he had more important things to deal with that Summer.
9/11 Panel: Bush White House Withheld Papers The commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks announced yesterday that it has identified 69 documents from the Clinton era that the Bush White House withheld from investigators and which include references to al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and other issues relevant to the panel's work.
Osama vs Gandhi. Alas not Celebrity Deathmatch but an interesting discussion of worldviews from the latest Prospect.
Osama bin Laden: missed opportunities The question for the 9/11 commission: If the CIA was able to get that close to bin Laden before 9/11, why wasn’t he captured or killed? The videotape has remained secret until now.