The world recently celebrated Malala Day in honor of the young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, an innocent victim of political violence perpetrated by the Taliban. She is rightfully honored as a hero for her willingness to speak up for her right to an education and against religious extremism.
On March 17, 2011 a drone attack killed at least 40 members of a Wazir tribal Jirga, which was resolving a land ownership dispute among sub-tribes in Waziristan, a mountainous region in northwest Pakistan, according to local media reports.
“Why Is the Arab world so easily offended?” asks the headline atop an article by Fouad Ajami, which the Washington Post published online last Friday to give perspective to the recent anti-American violence in Muslim capitals.
Details of the story don't add up. Footage of the raid either exists or doesn't. The tale of that night in Abbottabad keeps getting more muddled.
—By Mark Follman
A year after the US killed Osama bin Laden, questions remain about who knew where he was hiding, who may have helped him, and precisely how he met his end. A new book by Peter Bergen, "Manhunt," underscores conflicting details about the raid: Contrary to prior reports, everyone shot by the Navy SEALs at the compound, Bergen writes, was unarmed. He doesn't specify who fired bullets into bin Laden. And while he reports on the SEALs' use of night vision goggles, he makes no mention of their recording the raid with helmet cameras.
You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to be still scratching your head about the end of Osama bin Laden. Between the Obama administration and major media reports, there have been multiple divergent accounts of the Navy SEALs' mission in Abbottabad, Pakistan, with the story seeming to be colored by politics, sensationalism, and outright fantasy. In some respects that's unsurprising for one of the most important and highly classified military missions in modern memory‚ the outcome of which, many would argue, is all that really matters. But precisely because of its importance, it is worth considering how the tales have been told, and where history begins to bleed into mythology.
Lots of praise flowed in early August for Nicholas Schmidle's riveting story in The New Yorker of the SEALs' raid on bin Laden's compound. It added many vivid details to what was publicly known about the death of America's arch-nemesis in early May. But Schmidle's exquisitely crafted reconstruction also contradicted previous reporting elsewhere and sparked some intriguing questions of its own.
It underscored what we still don't really know about the operation. Schmidle's depiction of the tense scene in the White House situation room, as President Obama and his top advisers monitored the action with the help of a military drone, included a notable refutation. The SEALs converged at the ground floor of bin Laden's house and began to enter, Schmidle reported, but:
What happened next is not precisely clear. "I can tell you that there was a time period of almost twenty to twenty-five minutes where we really didn't know just exactly what was going on," [CIA chief Leon] Panetta said later, on PBS NewsHour. Until this moment, the operation had been monitored by dozens of defense, intelligence, and Administration officials watching the drone's video feed. The SEALs were not wearing helmet cams, contrary to a widely cited report by CBS.
Schmidle was referring to a May 12 story by veteran CBS News national security correspondent David Martin headlined, "SEAL helmet cams recorded entire bin Laden raid."
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The U.S. slaughters at will, then shields its actions from all forms of judicial and democratic accountabilityBy Glenn Greenwald
This headline and first paragraph from today’s Washington Post scoop by Greg Miller speaks volumes about so many things:
There are many evils in the world, but extinguishing people’s lives with targeted, extra-judicial killings, when you don’t even know their names, based on “patterns” of behavior judged from thousands of miles away, definitely ranks high on the list. Although the Obama White House has not approved of this request from CIA Director David Petraeus, these so-called “signature strikes” that “allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior” are already robustly used in Pakistan — having been started by George Bush in 2008 and aggressively escalated by Barack Obama. There is much to say on this new report, but in order for me to focus on three discrete points, permit me to highly recommend two superb articles that highlight other vital aspects of this policy: (1) this article from my Salon colleague Jefferson Morley this morning on why this form of drone-targeting is pure American Terrorism, and (2) this essay from Chris Floyd about a recently published Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings on Obama’s love of drones and secret wars and how the military’s slang for drone victims — “bug splat” — reflects the sociopathic mindset that drive them.
Initially, it’s critical to note how removed all of these questions are from democratic debate or accountability, thanks to the Obama administration’s insistence that even the basic question of whether the CIA has a drone program is too secret to permit it to publicly acknowledge, even though everyone knows it exists — especially in the countries where it routinely kills people. Recall that Obama officials refused to tell the ACLU, in response to a FOIA request, whether any documents relating to a CIA drone program even exist because even that is too much of a secret to address, and when the ACLU then sued the Obama administration — seeking the most basic information about why the Obama administration thinks it has the power to kill people this way and how it decides who will die — the Obama DOJ again insisted in court that it cannot even acknowledge that such a program exists, let alone provide any basic disclosure or transparency about it.