A Criminologist Questions the Bin Laden EpisodeBy Jason Kissner
Just last month (February 11), Esquire magazine published a lengthy article by Phil Bronstein purporting to supply the definitive "insider" account of what transpired in connection with the May 1, 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Bronstein's account is supposedly predicated on testimony from the very Seal Team 6 member (referred to as the "Shooter" by Bronstein) who terminated OBL, and includes what are in many instances highly detailed descriptions of the termination itself as well as surrounding events.
Comes now (March 27, to be exact) Peter Bergen, CNN's National Security Analyst, with an article provocatively entitled "Who Really Killed Bin Laden"?
In the Bergen article, we find the following language:
Essentially, the Bergen article disputes Bronstein's relayed account of just how, just when, and in just what circumstances Bin Laden was shot.
That Bergen's SEAL Team 6 operator was motivated to label the account in Bronstein's article "B-S" suggests, at a minimum, that they think important inaccuracies need to be corrected, which in turn implies that we cannot consider both accounts true.
A third Navy Seal source, Matt Bissonnette, has come forward with yet another version of the raid.
So what did happen?
Perhaps we do not know; perhaps we cannot be sure. How can we be if two descriptions that we are to suppose are inside accounts offer very different descriptions of what happened?
In such an environment, perhaps it is best to look at what we can believe with some confidence.
Soon after the raid, successive Obama administration renditions of the event were sufficiently contradictory that even the leftist London Guardian was motivated to acknowledge the inconsistencies.
Was Bin Laden armed, or wasn't he? Did he resist, or didn't he? Did he use women as shields, or didn't he? Was the compound luxurious, or not?
The Obama administration said different things at different times in regard to these issues, which the London Guardian (and almost every other MSM outlet) attributed to the "fog of war."
There should be little doubt that on-the-ground information can get scrambled in tumultuous conditions, and when you conjoin tumultuous conditions with the relay of information from recipient to recipient, the kind of confusion about certain details that Jay Carney expressed in the linked Daily Caller article can arise.
However, there is one detail about the raid the uncertainty about which seems difficult to attribute to the fog of war.
At the bottom of the above-linked Guardian article, we have current CIA Director Mr. John Brennan stating:
It didn't take long for then CIA Director (and Clintonite) Leon Panetta to contradict this by stating:
Who is telling the truth?
Once again, how can we be sure? No matter who is telling the truth, though, how can the "fog of war" explanation of confusion about facts on the ground account for whether (whatever the facts were), they were observed as they unfolded by the people who said they so observed them?
Now consider the following article right here at American Thinker by Mara Zebest.
Zebest provides good reasons for thinking that the famous Situation Room photo -- which we are to believe depicts Mr. Obama and others (including Mr. Brennan) observing the Bin Laden raid as it unfolded -- was photoshopped.
If Ms. Zebrest is correct and the Situation Room photo was photoshopped, then the Administration was lying insofar as the photo did not depict what it purported to depict.
When you look at the inconsistencies about the raid that flowed from the Administration (including the Brennan-Panetta contradiction), at the Seal Team 6 disparate accounts, at Zebrest's analysis, and much else besides (some of which follows) we might ask: if lies may have been told about certain aspects of the raid, what other lies may have been told in connection with the event?
In this regard, it is most interesting to reflect back on what Peter Bergen -- the same Peter Bergen who authored the above cited article "Who Really Killed Bin Laden" -- said of Bin Laden back in February, 2002. In an interview with Paula Zahn that inquired about a recently released Bin Laden tape, Bergen -- who had previously interviewed Bin Laden -- and CNN remarked:
The key references are to Bin Laden's health, and, according to Bergen, Bin Laden's enormous aging.
A little less than two weeks before the Bergen interview, we find that a most curious interview with CNN's earnest Dr. Sanjay Gupta took place in which Gupta remarked:
Gupta went on to say:
Maybe Bin Laden had, while on the run from cave to cave, access to the various prerequisites for survival with such a condition, but maybe not. Or, maybe Gupta was just wrong.
However, it's not so easy to see how Bin Laden had his left arm working again some 10 years later, which is what this Administration released video (#2) would have us believe (see, for example, around the 2:35 mark).
Or, perhaps Gupta was wrong about that too?
But, CNN was hardly the only organization questioning whether Bin Laden was still breathing air in 2002.
In the interests of brevity, here are two other examples (motivated readers will have no trouble locating many others).
Israeli intelligence stated in October 2002 that Bin Laden "appears to be dead."
And, an intellect no less keen and informed than Angelo Codevilla stated in 2009 (in an article entitled Osama bin Elvis) that:
Also in 2007, Professor Bruce Lawrence, who heads Duke University's religious studies program, argued in a book on Osama's messages that their increasingly secular language is inconsistent with Osama's Wahhabism. Lawrence noted as well that the Osama figure in the December 2001 video, which many have taken as his assumption of responsibility for 9/11, wears golden rings -- decidedly un-Wahhabi. He also writes with the wrong hand. Lawrence concluded that the messages are fakes, and not very good ones. The CIA has judged them all good.
In connection with what Codevilla has to say regarding "negative evidence", we might ask: so what positive evidence do we have that Bin Laden died when the Obama administration says he did?
The administration says it dumped the body of the world's most wanted terrorist in the ocean virtually as soon as it got it.
Photographs were not released to the general public, and were made available to select members of Congress only under highly controlled conditions.
What we have in terms of positive evidence is a plethora of inconsistencies, conflicting accounts, suspect portrayals, and the expectation that a free people should just trust government.
Finally, we might reflect as follows. Whatever else might or might not be true, we have two experts (Codevilla and Lawrence) doubting the authenticity of certain Bin Laden audio and video transmissions.
If even one of the transmissions was inauthentic, wouldn't Bin Laden have been motivated to denounce the fraudulent transmission, since failure to do so would present the risk that information released under his name in the future would not fit what he wanted? Did such a "denouncing" video (or audio) ever emerge?
In sum, Bin Laden may or may not have died on May 1, 2011. However that may be, there is no reason to believe he is alive now.
Regardless, free people ask questions of government, especially when the MSM refuses to do so.
Jason Kissner is associate professor of criminology at California State University, Fresno. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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