More on Schmiddle’s account of the OBL raid

August 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here’s some more critical analysis of Nicholas Schmiddle’s fantastical New Yorker account of the raid to kill OBL in Abbottabad. The writer, Russ Baker, raises more questions about the accuracy and ethics of Schmiddle’s piece, but he also uses this moment to raise questions about the apparent lack of accountability and oversight of the U.S. military by civilian leaders – including, possibly, Barack Obama.

Russ Baker investigates, for instance, the controversial decision to dump OBL’s body in the sea, and discovers some interesting contradictions that suggest that the decision was made by a low-level operative in consultation with Saudi officials:

At the time of the raid, the decision to hastily dump Osama’s body in the ocean rather than make it available for authoritative forensic examination was a highly controversial one — that only led to more speculation that the White House was hiding something. The justifications, including not wanting to bury him on land for fear of creating a shrine, were almost laughable.

So what do we learn about this from the New Yorker? It’s truly bizarre: the SEALS themselves made the decision. That’s strange enough. But then we learn that Brennan took it upon himself to verify that was the right decision. How did he do this? Not by speaking with the president or top military, diplomatic or legal brass. No, he called some foreigners — get ready — the Saudis, who told him that dumping at sea sounded like a good plan.

Here’s Schmidle’s account:

All along, the SEALs had planned to dump bin Laden’s corpse into the sea — a blunt way of ending the bin Laden myth. They had successfully pulled off a similar scheme before. During a DEVGRU helicopter raid inside Somalia in September, 2009, SEALs had killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of East Africa’s top Al Qaeda leaders; Nabhan’s corpse was then flown to a ship in the Indian Ocean, given proper Muslim rites, and thrown overboard. Before taking that step for bin Laden, however, John Brennan made a call. Brennan, who had been a C.I.A. station chief in Riyadh, phoned a former counterpart in Saudi intelligence. Brennan told the man what had occurred in Abbottabad and informed him of the plan to deposit bin Laden’s remains at sea. As Brennan knew, bin Laden’s relatives were still a prominent family in the Kingdom, and Osama had once been a Saudi citizen. Did the Saudi government have any interest in taking the body? “Your plan sounds like a good one,” the Saudi replied.

Let’s consider this. The most wanted man in the world; substantive professional doubts about whether the man in the Abbottabad house is him; tremendous public doubts about whether it could even be him; the most important operation of the Obama presidency; yet the decision about what to do with the body is left to low-level operatives. Keep in mind SEALs are trained to follow orders given by others. They’re expected to apply what they know to unexpected scenarios that come up, but the key strategic decisions — arrived at in advance — are not theirs to make.

Even more strange that Brennan would discuss this with a foreign power. And not just any foreign power, but the regime that is inextricably linked with the domestically-influential family of bin Laden — and home to many of the hijackers who worked for him.

Is it just me, or does this sound preposterous? Obama’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser is just winging it with key aspects of one of America’s most important, complex and risky operations? And the Saudi government is the one deciding to discard the remains of a man from one of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful families, before the public could receive proper proof of the identity of the body? A regime with a great deal at stake and perhaps plenty to hide.

Read the whole thing.

Overheard in Pakistan: Army and OBL

May 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

For sale! Obsolete Pak Army Radar. Can’t detect US Copter BUT CAN RECEIVE STAR PLUS! ONLY RS. 999!

-SMS

Overheard one-liners. Poetry from the back of the bus. SMS jokes. We’re starting to collect some of our favorites here. Got something to share? Email us at progpak@gmail.com or post it in our comments section.

Overheard in Pakistan: Army and OBL

May 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

On the back of a rickshaw: haarn na maar. Fauj so rahi hai.

-SMS

Overheard one-liners. Poetry from the back of the bus. SMS jokes. We’re starting to collect some of our favorites. Got something to share? Email us at progpak@gmail.com or post it in our comments section.

Osama bin Laden in English

May 10, 2011 § 3 Comments

This is the tragedy of Pakistan. It has taken the government nearly two weeks to address the country about the nighttime American raid deep inside Pakistani territory that killed al-Qaeda’s chief, Osama bin Laden. And, when it finally did do so —after speaking to the American media– it did it in English. Start at 6:21:

The point is driven home by local coverage of the parliamentary speech by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani: The chyrons (text) are entirely in Urdu; the speech is entirely in English. It’s a visual depiction of the the alienation between the rulers and those they rule. It’s also a testament to the servile obsequiousness that has become the hallmark of our government vis-a-vis the Americans. For highlights of the speech, you can see this video.

All this, while the Army was putting out a contrary message: General Kayani called the American operation a “misadventure” and warned the Americans against such future escapades. This is the military that’s actually responsible for the massive incompetence or more likely, collusion, that kept bin Laden in Abbottabad.

Politicians of all stripes are calling for the resignation of the President and the Prime Minister with little said about what is actually the Army’s mess. This includes the former Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and cricketeer turned politician, Imran Khan. Will another civilian government be unable to complete its term? Is there a coup in the making? The Army is good at making lemonade out of lemons.

Finally, here’s a link roundup, in no particular order, on OBL:

Share your links and suggestions in the comments.

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