Who said this?:
“I’m not saying that they’re at the highest levels, but I believe that somewhere in this government are people who know where Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda is, where Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is, and we expect more cooperation to help us bring to justice, capture or kill those who attacked us on 9/11.”
That was Hillary Clinton, almost exactly four years ago.
Her remarks caused a storm of controversy – not in the US, where suspicion of the Pakistanis was rife, but in Pakistan, where the US was already in trouble due to drone attacks that routinely kill innocent civilians. Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar denied the American Secretary of State’s accusations, but he did so in a way that, in retrospect, hardly seems like a denial at all: “If there were officials who knew where bin Laden was,” he averred, “I can assure you that he would not be a free man.”
But of course, according to Seymour Hersh’s 10,000-word piece in the London Review of Books, he wasn’t a free man during his years in protective custody in the Abbottabad hideaway so conveniently close to ISI headquarters and within spitting distance of the capital city of Islamabad. There were steel doors on the entrance to his third story quarters and armed guards posted, all of it subsidized by the Saudis. The ailing and elderly Osama bin Laden was a prisoner, and had been since 2006.
Amid the hysterics in our state-worshipping “mainstream” media, where the accomplices of power are busy echoing the denials of various government officials, the key element of Hersh’s stunning exposé is being steadfastly ignored, and it is this:
“A worrying factor at this early point, according to the retired official, was Saudi Arabia, which had been financing bin Laden’s upkeep since his seizure by the Pakistanis. ‘The Saudis didn’t want bin Laden’s presence revealed to us because he was a Saudi, and so they told the Pakistanis to keep him out of the picture. The Saudis feared if we knew we would pressure the Pakistanis to let bin Laden start talking to us about what the Saudis had been doing with al-Qaeda And they were dropping money – lots of it. The Pakistanis, in turn, were concerned that the Saudis might spill the beans about their control of bin Laden. The fear was that if the US found out about bin Laden from Riyadh, all hell would break out. The Americans learning about bin Laden’s imprisonment from a walk-in was not the worst thing.’”
What would have been “the worst thing”?
Imagine if bin Laden, instead of being killed – in a firefight, according to the Official Government-Approved Story, or simply murdered, according to Hersh – had been captured alive. If Hersh’s reporting is correct – and I believe it is – then a whole can of worms Washington has gone to a great deal of trouble to keep sealed would have come pouring out.
Peter Bergen, the British born author and terrorism expert, has come out against the Hersh revelations guns blazing: it’s a “farrago of nonsense,” he spluttered, because the Saudis are the sworn enemies of al-Qaeda, which has vowed to overthrow the monarchy. Yet this assumes “the Saudis” are a monolith, that there are no al-Qaeda supporters or sympathizers within the royal family and governmental apparatus. But this assumption is totally unwarranted, as former Senator Bob Graham of Florida – once head of the Senate Intelligence Committee – and those members of Congress who have read the censored 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 would no doubt argue.
Those 28 pages deal with the involvement of certain foreign governments in the events leading up to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Members of Congress are allowed to read them, but must do so in the presence of intelligence officials in a soundproof bug-proof underground room: they cannot take notes, or reveal what they have read to anyone. President Obama, when he ran for office, promised the families of the 9/11 victims he would declassify those pages, but has so far not done so.
Those who have direct knowledge of the information contained therein are unequivocal about which country assisted the 9/11 hijackers in their grisly, fateful task. Graham says the Saudi government directly aided the hijackers and that the FBI has covered it up. Rep. Thomas Massie described his reaction upon reading the censored 28 pages:
“It was a really disturbing event for me to read those. I had to stop every two or three pages and rearrange my perception of history. And it’s that fundamental…it certainly changes your view of the Middle East.”
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Massachussets) says the assertions of Saudi financing of the 9/11 attacks are verified in the 28 pages: “There are people named; there are transactions identified.” Speaking of the Obama administration, Lynch went on to say: “What are they afraid of? Having those 28 pages disclosed to the public will inform our foreign policy going forward, which would be very helpful at this stage.”
Hersh, in his interview with Democracy Now!, asserts the Saudis were aiding al-Qaeda both “before and after” 9/11, and that their fear of bin Laden blabbing to the Americans led to their support for his Abbottabad internment.
Hersh’s bombshell story has the media in defensive mode: defensive, that is, of their patrons and overseers in official Washington. Nothing illustrates this master-slave relationship more clearly than the ferocity unleashed on Hersh by the administration’s Praetorian Guard in the “mainstream” press. Everyone from Max Fisher of Vox – a reliably pro-Obama outlet – to Jamie Kirchick, the neocons’ slimiest smear-monger, are screaming “Conspiracy theorist!” at the top of their lungs. Within this left-right anti-Hersh Popular Front various motivations coexist, but all are united in the contention that our government would never ever lie to us about something so big, so important, as the circumstances surrounding the killing of bin Laden.
Faith in our government leaders – blind, worshipful suspension of disbelief – is what unites both wings of the Washington establishment, and this faith is almost religious in its intensity in the one institution where it should be entirely absent: the “mainstream” media. Yet it isn’t at all surprising that, instead of pursuing the many leads provided by Hersh in his reporting, they are busying themselves smearing and sneering at the man who exposed the My Lai massacre and Abu Ghraib atrocities. After all, these are the same people who swallowed every lie put out by the Bush administration in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, broadcasting and elaborating on the phony “intelligence” promulgated by the neocons as justification for what Gen. William E. Odom accurately characterized as the worst disaster in American military history.
There is much more to Hersh’s reporting than I can cover in one column, but his essential contentions – that bin Laden’s location was revealed by a “walk-in” from Pakistani intelligence, and that the Pakistani government knew the terrorist chieftain’s location – have already been corroborated by NBC News.
What’s striking, however, is the embarrassing editorial addendum to this reporting by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell: in an interview with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, a very uneasy-looking Mitchell contented that this doesn’t contradict the Obama administration’s Official Story in any way.
That’s worse than mere nonsense: it’s a pernicious and conscious lie, and it’s to Hayes’ eternal shame that he sat there without calling her on it. The whole administration narrative is based on the concocted story that we found bin Laden by tracing him through his personal courier: that it was due to the heroic efforts of our intelligence agencies, plus a little torture, that we got our man. (The bit about torture was later retracted, although it was featured in “Zero Dark Thirty,” a Pentagon-sponsored film about the operation).
We are learning a lot more from Hersh’s reporting than how and why bin Laden met his end: we’re learning that our media is among the most servile on earth, and that our political leaders lie routinely, and effortlessly, faking outrage better than the best Hollywood actor. We’re learning that you can’t trust anyone in government and the media (or do I repeat myself?) farther than you can throw them. And we’re learning, above all, that the truth is out there, and will eventually come out no matter what the Washington know-it-alls say or do.