The most useful news story of 2015: the truth about the bin Laden hit

Summary: Seymour Hersh’s new article about the bin Laden hit is important. Most political news provides entertainment for the outer party but makes no difference in their lives. But sometimes we get a teachable moment that rips aside the narrative fed to us by government officials and journalists, revealing truths that can inspire us to change ourselves. It’s our choice.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

That’s almost the only part of the story that was correct.Bin Laden killed..


  1. Truth about the bin Laden hit.
  2. Fruits of the bin Laden hit.
  3. Conclusions.
  4. Other posts in this series.
  5. For More Information.

(1) The truth about the bin Laden hit

Today’s vital reading: “The Killing of Osama bin Laden” by Seymour M. Hersh in the London Review of Books. It’s rich with important lessons for us.

First and most important, the various stories about the bin Laden raid by government officials (formal and leaked, quite contradictory, often unrealistic) remind us how far we’ve come since Eisenhower regretted getting caught lying to us about the Russia shooting down our U2. Now they lie light-heartedly and frequently, with no consequences when caught. Hersh pulls together and supplements what we learned from previous articles — that they lied about almost every important detail about the raid.

The information from torture played no role in locating bin Laden. Unlike what we saw in about the film Zero Dark Thirty, CIA intel played no role. A former senior Pakistani intelligence officer sold us bin Laden’s location for the $25 million reward.

The SEALs did not run a daring penetration into Pakistan. The Pakistan military knew of the raid and allowed them in and out. There was no resistance. Bin Laden did not use a woman as a shield and shoot at them; he was a sick prisoner.

It was planned as a hit, the assassination of a sick old guy. Lies were constructed afterwards to conceal this ugly truth.

Jessica Chastain, Space Scientist
Jessica Chastain, CIA agent Alfreda Frances Bikowsky in Zero Dark Thirty.

The SEALs did not collect a “treasure trove” of documents and computers which gave insight into global terrorism. They gathered little, and what they gathered was proved of little use.

Bin Laden’s compound was not a nerve center for al Qaeda, fed by “a network of couriers coming and going with memory sticks and instructions” with bin Laden “providing strategic, operational and tactical instructions” and “throwing operational ideas out there and … specifically directing other al-Qaida members.” But in fact, as Hersh explains…

These claims were fabrications: there wasn’t much activity for bin Laden to exercise command and control over. The retired intelligence official said that the CIA’s internal reporting shows that since bin Laden moved to Abbottabad in 2006 only a handful of terrorist attacks could be linked to the remnants of bin Laden’s al-Qaida

This brings us to one of the big lies of post-9/11 America: the power of al Qaeda. The data from the bin Laden raid confirmed the large body of evidence showing that the collective action of the world’s police and intel agencies dismantled AQ in the years after 9//1 (as I showed in 2011 and many times since then). The lurid tales of the powerful secret organization with sleeper cells across America were propaganda designed to keep us fearful — willing to surrender our rights and feed the military, intel, and security services.

Charlie, Lucy, and the football
It’s *our* failure to learn We’re responsible for America.

(2)  Fruits of the bin Laden hit

We felt big for a moment, using our elite troops to assassinate a unguarded sick old guy based on information from a paid informer and bribed Pakistan officials. The strategic significance was nil or negative, as it should have been. For details see this post about the strategic significance of bin Laden’s execution, and the road not taken.

(3)  Conclusions

The history of America since WWII has been one of American worked into a fearful frenzy about one boogeyman after another. First the Soviet Union (see How the Soviet Menace was over-hyped, and what we can learn from this), then Y2k, then al Qaeda, and now ISIS — all exaggerated into existential threats to America.

Why do we repeatedly fall for the same game? When will we see the pattern and learn skepticism? On that day political reform for America will become possible. The process begins with each of us.

(4)  Other posts in this series.

  1. The most useful news story of 2015: the truth about the bin Laden hit.
  2. The day after Hersh: rebuttals & more evidence about the bin Laden hit.
  3. The first rule of American war is not to believe what we’re told.
  4. The debate about Hersh’s revelations reveals more than his article.
  5. Should we use our special operations troops as assassins? Is it right, or even smart?

(5)  For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  See all posts about the film Zero Dark Thirty, about torture, about assassination, and especially the posts about lies by government officials — and about our tolerance for them, such as these…

  1. Our leaders have made a discovery of the sort that changes the destiny of nations.
  2. Look at past airliner shootings so we can learn about government lies.
  3. Why do we believe, when the government lies to us so often? When we change, the government also will change.
  4. Amnesia and anger: one is the problem, the other the cure.
  5. Government officials’ lies erode the Republic’s foundation. Do we care?

17 thoughts on “The most useful news story of 2015: the truth about the bin Laden hit”

  1. A few things confuse me about Hersh:

    What was Saudi Arabia’s motive in paying for bin Laden’s living expenses all those years? This seems like the last thing you would expect.

    Is Hersh saying that the Navy Seals who wrote books about the bin Laden raid were part of the conspiracy? Along with the rest of the team? Hard to believe.

    Also, Hersh made some statements in recent years saying that many top US military leaders are members of Opus Dei. Sounds nutty to me.

    I guess this is all possible. But it just seems like Hersh has recently started with a conspiracy theories and moved along to justify them. The opposite of how investigative reporting should operate.

    Another thing: If Hersh’s article is correct, Darrell Issa will be starting up an Obama witch hunt in the next few days. And Hillary is toast in 2016.

    1. Ken,

      I don’t understand most of your comment.

      “the conspiracy?”

      What? They were given cover stories — orders about what to say. Perhaps you consider that a “conspiracy”. If so, that’s a weird interpretation.

      “Saudi motives”

      You must be kidding. There have been long-standing rumors that some of the Saudi Princes provide the core funding of al Qaeda. Bin Laden knew that. It’s not something the Princes would like to become public knowledge.

      “many top US military leaders are members of Opus Dei. Sounds nutty to me.”

      Why? From Wikipedia: “Opus Dei, formally known as The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei (Latin: Praelatura Sanctae Crucis et Operis Dei), is an institution of the Roman Catholic Church that teaches that everyone is called to holiness and that ordinary life is a path to sanctity. The majority of its membership are lay people, with secular priests under the governance of a prelate (bishop) elected by specific members and appointed by the Pope.[4] Opus Dei is Latin for Work of God; hence the organization is often referred to by members and supporters as the Work.”

      “Darrell Issa will be starting up an Obama”

      That’s a weirder theory than anything Hersh has said.

      Your comment gives the impression of someone working very hard to not see the world, and succeeding.

  2. Thanks for this Article. The contrast with Eisenhower’s seeming guilt over lying about the U2 incident is surely almost unreal and incomprehensible.The willful lies today are unfathomable to an ordinary citizen. Dissonance is stultifying and depressing.This level of duplicity is so corrosive and if will eventually lead to further lies to cover up the originals. However Eventslike this One are not new.

    The list of unsavory characters in this strange Clown Show of a Foreign Policy….long and deep. Who will replace Sy Hersh? Who will replace Wm Blum? Who has replaced Upton Sinclair? Why was this not published by the NYR Books.😎


    1. Breton,

      These are deep waters, in which finding an operationally useful perspective is the to success. I have a different view on these things.

      (1) For years I believed that Ike felt guilty about lying, as that’s the usual narrative in the books. But a close reading of the source material (to which I linked) tells a different story: he regretted the consequences of being caught.

      (2) It’s not a “clown show”. It’s a performance like that on a carnival show, where the actors see us as marks. Events so far prove that they’re correct. The “clowns” are us, in the audience.

      I see this frequently — people referring to our rich and powerful leaders (successful by almost any worldly standard) as fools and idiots. Doing so demonstrates again our excessive self-regard and inability to clearly see the world.

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  5. Duncan Kinder

    “The history of America since WWII has been one of American worked into a fearful frenzy about one boogeyman after another. First the Soviet Union (see How the Soviet Menace was over-hyped, and what we can learn from this), then Y2k, then al Qaeda, and now ISIS — all exaggerated into existential threats to America.”

    There are a number of points I could make here ( eg: that the Soviet Union was a menace, that ISIS is a serious problem, that the American public – especially post fall of Soviet Union – is not so much frightened as complicit ) But I will not make such points. Rather, I will simply note that not only have we magnlified foes such as al-Qada and Iraq, but we have failed, utterly failed, to identily our basic foe. Which is obvious from this incident. It is Pakistan.

    There is no way bin Laden could have been there without Pakistani acquiescence. Which suggests much else about what Pakistan has been up to . Which can be corroborated by many other items.

    We can debate the magniftude of the threat posed by Pakistan. We can assert that it is actually elements within Pakistan and not Pakistan per se. We can assert that others, such as the Saudis, may well also be involved.

    You are entilrely correct that we are irrationally bent on maintaining some Cold War posture (IMHO, to sustain the military industrial complex.) But – while overhyping some foes – we are ignoring others . Even treating them as allies. Weird.

    1. Issac,

      “None Dare Call it a Rogue State”

      That was written six years ago. The passage of time provides little evidence that Pakistan is a “rogue state.” Whatever that means.

      It is just a sovereign nation in a volatile region, making its own way. It is not a puppet of America, but that does not make it a “rogue” except to the most bloody-minded of imperialists.

  6. Been offline since I commented earlier…
    I’m a bit surprised that you replied as such and so quickly. 6 minutes hardly seems enough time to have read both pieces. An assumption and no offense.
    Mark’s title is, perhaps, a bit off. No, Pakistan is not a rogue state like many consider North Korea and, say, Belarus to be: isolated, dictatorial, etc. But, it does tend to do, internally, that which it has condemned and vowed to work against on the international stage. And, it does so on a massive, massive scale – institutionalized, even. Pakistan, then, does act the rogue as it flouts the agreements and policies it has purported to support. As Mark correctly called six years ago, Bin Laden was free in Pakistan thanks to the ISI, for example.
    LIttle Montsters, the piece referenced by the Zenpundit piece, examines the roots and growth of the dichotomous phenomenon that is Pakistan.

    1. Isaac,

      “replied quickly”

      As you note, the title was daft. The opening paragraphs were not better. Also, I am familiar with the theory. Duncan posted a similar comment earlier. Also, I am unsure what you are attempting to say, or how those things fit into the international context relative to the behavior of other nations.

      “No, Pakistan is not a rogue state ”

      Yes, that’s pretty obvious. So I’m unsure what is the point you’re raising.

  7. Americans bandying about the term “rogue state” in reference to politically-fragmented nations like Pakistan or Iran which use insensate violence and commit atrocities proves highly amusing. When we think of a nation riven by ferocious internal political dissension which uses black-ops assassination and commits ongoing atrocities like continual murders of children and young girls in wedding parties, then second strikes to murder aid workers trying to evacuate survivors (long considered the hallmark of terrorism), which nation comes to mind?
    America, of course.
    Right now, America is clearly the world’s most extreme example of a “rogue nation.”
    Americans who point fingers at countries like Iran or Pakistan should take a look at their own global death squads and ongoing drone murders of innocent bystanders, to say nothing of atrocities like the depleted-uranium and white phosphorus bombardment of Fallujah in Iraq, resulting in cancer levels among survivors higher than those in Hiroshima.

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