We will never know the full truth about the Abbottabad Bin Laden raid, except that it was full of lies
Last week, The Slog heard third-hand that a British couple travelling in Pakistan had arrived in Abbottabad some months ago, to be advised by a local on their arrival, “Don’t choose that hotel….it’s too near to Bin Laden’s compound”. Far fetched? I thought so at the time, but as more truth filtered out about the double-dealing in which both Pakistani and US officials had engaged in the past that led to OBL’s execution, I began to wonder.
I had already learned from a low-level Pakistani source that ISI knew perfectly well where Bin Laden was. Further, he claimed, they knew equally well that the Americans were going to take him out “at some point in the near future”. This is, of course, easy to claim after the event.
One or two US sites also picked up on something I was told, but didn’t print – because, to be frank, it sounded daft: that the SAS knew where Bin Laden was pretty much from the year he moved in (late 2005). A military source told me they had trailed Bin Laden after his narrow cave-battle escape, and then kept an eye on the compound via helicopter patrols from a base near to Islamabad. This is not a source I know well.
So I was greatly intrigued to read yesterday’s Guardian piece claiming that, under a deal hammered out between Musharraf and Bush ten years ago, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan in search of Bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the al-Qaida No3. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion.
“There was an agreement between Bush and Musharraf that if we knew where Osama was, we were going to come and get him,” said a former senior US official with knowledge of counterterrorism operations. “The Pakistanis would put up a hue and cry, but they wouldn’t stop us.”
None of this explains why the Pakistanis didn’t actually put up any more than a token grumble about the Navy Seals raid. Nor why a horde of locals should tell the BBC that (a) they didn’t believe OBL was the old bloke watching Magic Roundabout CDs on his telly, and (b) if the bloke had really been there, they’d have known. (Their point being that they didn’t).
To rephrase an old gag, opinions on this saga are like agendas: everyone’s got one. Telling truth from lies, fantasy and deliberate obfuscation is well-nigh impossible. The Pakistani ISI is renowned in the intelligence community for its ability to make the CIA seem like Cistercian monks by comparison. And as we’ve seen from the start of Obama Bin Lyin’, the White House has chosen every last scrap of evidence – however atypical – to make the raid look like the bravest caper since Spartacus took on the Roman armies.
This was still continuing over the weekend, as the Obamites insisted that an old bloke in ragged clothes was running a worldwide operation down to the last stick of gelignite. On the one hand he’s a coward hiding behind girlies and shuffling about in a YMCA hostel, but on the other he’s an evil mastermind preparing to blow up every train in America. Obviously, one at least of these presentations is bollocks. And most people, surely, will have been unimpressed by calculations found on the guy’s hard drive about how many US citizens would have to be rubbed out before Washington surrendered. That is the act of a fantasist with delusions of grandeur – a personality summation that many of those close to Bin Laden arrived at sooner or later. (Why does that remind me of Julian Assange?)
So unless something absolutely mega comes to light, The Slog is signing off from this at times variously disappointing, idiotic, spin-suffused and hilarious episode. Obama is now in full re-election mode, somewhere an Al Q’eida headcase is planning to nuke a major city, and the hard-core nutters are busy constructing theories about why Bin Laden is not dead at all, but waiting on tables at Caesar’s Palace.
Thanks for staying with us: but now there are bigger fish to fry. The Chinese slowdown, the EU meltdown, the Murdoch shakedown…….