How did Osama bin Laden really die?
From the evidence, the case could be made that if President Barack Obama had terrorist Osama bin Laden killed in May 2011 at the latter's Abbottabad compound in Pakistan, Obama would have had to bring him back from the dead to do so.
On December 26, 2001, the Egyptian newspaper a-l Wafd posted a death announcement for bin Laden, citing as its source "a prominent official in the Afghan Taleban movement." According to the source, bin Laden had received a formal Islamic burial ten days prior in Tora Bora.
On July 30, 2002, CNN headlined an article "Sources: No bodyguards, no bin Laden." Apparently, several members of bin Laden's security team had been captured and shipped to Guantanamo. Reported CNN, "Some high-level U.S. officials are already convinced by such evidence that bin Laden, who has not been seen or heard from in months, is dead."
On October 7, 2002, CNN ran a speculative article citing Afghan president Hamid Karzai, headlined "Karzai: bin Laden 'probably' dead." On May 10, 2003, the U.K.'s Independent headlined an article, "Bin Laden died from wounds suffered in Tora Bora air raid, says Arab expert." The expert in question traced his death to December 2001, the same month as the notice in the Egyptian paper.
Bin Laden had been in poor health for several years. In March 2000, Asia Week described him as having "a kidney infection that is propagating itself to the liver and requires specialized treatment." Additionally, a mobile dialysis machine had been delivered to his hideout in Kandahar in the first half of 2000. Examining a video from December 2001, CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta argued that bin Laden was likely suffering from "chronic kidney failure, renal failure."
Le Figaro of France reported that bin Laden had made several discreet trips to Dubai for treatment before September 11, 2001. Clearly, he had a chronic, life-threatening illness. For him to have lived ten years after the September 11 attacks without access to high-level care would have required a minor miracle. With his almost total control of the American media, Barack Obama was the one president capable of pulling a miracle off.
There are those who believe that Operation Neptune Spear was orchestrated to improve Obama's falling poll numbers and remove his questionable birth certificate from the news. Whatever the real objective of the raid, skeptics argue, it was not to capture bin Laden.
In Spring 2011, Obama was feeling the heat. Donald Trump had forced the birth certificate issue into the mainstream media, and Jerome Corsi's much anticipated book, Where's the Birth Certificate?, was due to be released on May 18. Under pressure to respond, Obama made an unusual TV appearance on April 27 to put the issue to rest.
Five days later, Obama was back on TV announcing what Politico called an "astounding military and intelligence triumph." Unfortunately, there were as many unanswered questions about bin Laden's announced death as there were about Obama's announced birth certificate.
Appearing on 60 Minutes after the raid, Obama said: "This was a very difficult decision, in part because the evidence we had was not absolutely conclusive." Obama chief of staff Leon Panetta wrote in his memoir, Worthy Fights, "The doubts and worries were heavy." Panetta cited the concern of defense secretary Robert Gates that "our evidence remained entirely circumstantial."
Obama did little to shore up that evidence after the fact. Skeptics asked why there were no photos or videos of bin Laden, dead or alive. The administration said they were "too gruesome" and would have posed a grave risk to national security.
John Brennan, then Obama's counter-terrorism adviser, briefed reporters the day after the raid. "We are going to do everything we can to make sure that nobody has any basis to deny that we got Osama bin Laden," said Brennan.
"Everything we can" should have included showing the body. It was allegedly taken by helicopter to the USS Carl Vinson in the North Arabian Sea, about 850 miles from the compound where bin Laden was supposedly killed.
All but a few of the ship's 5,000 crew members were ordered below deck before the body was dropped into the sea. A CBS News report on the ship's return to San Diego on June 16 noted that the sailors were "sworn to secrecy about their historic mission," a mission that only a handful witnessed.
Judicial Watch, through a FOIA request, received heavily redacted copies of relevant emails among military brass. As the emails make clear, "less than a dozen" officers were even informed of the burial, and "no sailors watched." There was also great concern expressed that the brass get the story straight before the ship returned to San Diego.
The emails also claim "that traditional practice for Islamic burial was followed." But Mohammed al-Qubaisi, Dubai's grand mufti, said of the bin Laden burial: "They can say they buried him at sea, but they cannot say they did it according to Islam. Sea burials are permissible for Muslims in extraordinary circumstances. This is not one of them."
Two years after the raid at Abbottabad, Admiral William McRaven had all photos, videos, and documents destroyed, allegedly because Navy protocol demanded it. The Department of the Navy Records Management Program (DONRM), however, does not support McRaven's claim. DONRM has, as its principal goal, the "preservation of records having long-term permanent worth." If any records had such worth, it would seem that those from Operation Neptune Spearhead did.
Questionable too is the famed picture of Obama in the Situation Room, allegedly watching the raid in progress. The photo was likely staged, perhaps even Photoshopped. As Leon Panetta later admitted, "[w]e had some observation of the approach there, but we did not have direct flow of information as to the actual conduct of the operation itself as they were going through the compound." A close examination of the Situation Room photo shows Obama with a tinge of gray in his hair that was absent from his TV presentation supposedly just hours later.
Then, too, the story about the raid kept changing. In its day-after article, Politico knowingly reported, "Bin Laden was shot in the face by the SEALs during a firefight after resisting capture." Politico's source was John Brennan, whose credibility was considerably higher then than now. Brennan claimed that the team was prepared to take bin Laden alive, but he resisted, using a wife as a human shield.
There were a few in the media who remained skeptical. A day later, on May 3, one asked Obama spokesman Jay Carney about Brennan's misstatements "such as that the wife was shielding bin Laden and it turned out it wasn't the wife and there may not have been a shield and it wasn't clear whether or not bin Laden had a gun."
Carney responded by providing the media a sanitized "narrative" of events: "They were engaged in a firefight throughout the operation, and Osama bin Laden was killed by the assaulting force." When asked, Carney was even less specific about what, if anything, the national security team watched in the Situation Room.
Where Obama was on the day of the Abbottabad raid finally remains as uncertain as where he was on the night of the attack on the Benghazi consulate four months later. In the latter case, eight months would pass before a reporter asked the question Chris Wallace of Fox News put to presidential adviser Dan Pfeiffer: "What did the president do the rest of that night to pursue Benghazi?"
When Pfeiffer stonewalled, Wallace pressed, "No one knows where he was, or how he was involved, or who told him there were no forces."
No one still knows.