Osama Bin Laden Has Been Killed; His Body Is In U.S. Custody (w/Updates)
UPDATE: 1:52 p.m., 05/02/11:
There definitely is more news regarding the death of Osama Bin Laden.
For one thing, he is already buried, but not on dry land. All six feet five inches of the most notorious terrorist of the last twenty-odd years was buried at sea, so that no one would be able to memorialize his remains, and thus make him more of a martyr. Saudi Arabia and his own family, the Binladins (that’s how some of them spell their surname these days, to differentiate themselves from their infamous relative), refused to take his body. Can you blame them? The House of Sa’ud and Wahhabist Islam helped to create Bin Laden and others like him so that they wouldn’t have to deal with a democratic uprising in their midst. They’re still trying to stave off that day of reckoning. I’m sure that few are mourning him.
More about who was probably shielding him, namely elements of Pakistan’s military and the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, Pakistan’s CIA. The mansion compound where Bin Laden was taken down is smack dab in a wealthy neighborhood called Bilal Town that has the Pakistani equivalent of West Point sitting in its midst. Scores of retired and active Pakistani generals and colonels live here.
Everyone who lived near that mansion compound knew something was up about the occupants, who burned their trash rather than leave it out for refuse collectors and did not socialize. No one could see into the house. Plus, the three-story compound was about eight times larger than the other houses in the area, large enough to accommodate Bin Laden’s family on the run. There were several children who were also found with the terrorist leader. According to the Washington Post, “[…]Its walls were 12- to 18-feet high and topped with barbed wire. It was built in 2005 and worth $1 million, but it had no Internet or telephone connection.”
There were several stories circulating among the neighbors about where the residents were from. One said they were from the contentious Swat Valley, but another said that they were from South Waziristan. Pakistan is rife with secessionist movements among its ethnic minorities to add to its internal strife.
Did Pakistan’s ISI, long believed to have ties to al Qaeda and the Taliban, provide bin Laden sanctuary in Abbottabad? Did it tip the U.S. off to his whereabouts? Or was the government completely ignorant that the world’s most famous terrorist was living in the city?
The answers to those questions are critical and will go a long way to determining the course of the relationship going forward. They could both confirm Washington’s greatest concerns about Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism and deepen mistrust on both sides, or they will prove Pakistan to be a genuine partner in the fight against extremism, which could create goodwill on both sides and give the relationship a much-needed boost.
For now, the U.S. and Pakistan are in a delicate dance, trying to put the most positive face on their relationship in the wake of such an historic development.
Know what I think? I think that Pakistan is more fractured politically than we know. I think that its leaders have been trying to play both sides in order to keep the country together, and that many in the military sympathize with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, while a thin line has been trying to stave off what would be both a national and an international disaster. It doesn’t mean that the thin line loves the U.S., they just love their country more. It’s a miracle that the Taliban and Al Qaeda haven’t been able to get their mitts on Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile or been strong enough to engineer a coup and take over the country. And they have been really close to doing the latter several times. But now that Bin Laden has been killed; there may be more of an opportunity for the two countries to redefine their relationship and for the United States to withdraw from both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
This was how the operation was carried out. Despite what former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says–that the information about Bin Laden’s whereabouts were extracted from prisoners at Guantanamo–tracking Bin Laden down started with Bin Laden’s use of couriers during the Clinton Administration, and with other detainees elsewhere.Vodpod videos no longer available.
The operation Sunday went smoothly except for a helicopter landing that was not part of the original plan. The choppers were only intended to hover over the scene, but due to a technical malfunction, one of them landed or fell — “not a crash,” the official said — so the military dispatched a third “emergency” helicopter to the scene.
“This operation was a surgical raid by a small team designed to minimize collateral damage. Our team was on the compound for under 40 minutes and did not encounter any local authorities.”
Bin Laden himself participated in the ensuing firefight, the officials suggested.
“Bin laden was killed in a firefight as our operators came onto the compound,” an official said.
Did he fire?, a reporter asked.
“He did resist the assault force, and he was killed in a firefight,” an official said. NBC News reported that he was shot in the left eye.
Citing officials speaking at a White House briefing, Bloomberg News reported U.S. intelligence officers determined there was a “strong probability” the al-Qaida leader was living there, but that the special ops team carrying out the mission was not certain if it even would encounter bin Laden in the compound until forces came face-to-face with him.
Four adult males were killed: bin Laden, his son, and the two couriers.
“One woman killed when used as a shield,” and other women were injured, the officials said. The women’s names were not given; it’s not clear whether bin Laden’s wife was among them.
The team blew up the disabled chopper upon their departure with bin Laden’s remains, which resulted in a “massive explosion,” the official told NBC.
Pakistan officials were unaware of the operation and scrambled fighter jets after getting reports of the explosion. But the U.S. helicopters were able to leave without further incident, the official said.
Frankly, though, I think that Bin Laden will eventually be thought of as akin to someone like the aging, rotund Carlos the Jackal or the Red Army Faction. Why? Since this spring’s Twitter revolts–the spontaneous democratic uprisings in places like Egypt and Tunisia and Syria–Bin Laden had become an anachronism and an irrelevance. The youths from these and other countries found that it wasn’t necessary to become a radical Muslim in order to agitate for more freedom. And these young people do not reject the West wholesale. They are devout Muslims, but they are more for jobs, culture and settled lives rather than continual, life-altering struggle and destruction.
By the time he died, Bin Laden was more a symbol than someone who had hands-on control of his own organization. People are confused about how much power Bin Laden exercised within Al Qaeda. He may have been the leader but only in name. He was more likely to encourage those clandestine proxies who sympathized with his agenda, and bombed commuter trains and vacation resorts in his name with dissemination of an occasional DVD message. The romance of his decade on the run served to strengthen his legend, but not necessarily Al Qaeda, which is more like a wounded reptile these days.Vodpod videos no longer available.
ABC News is saying that Osama bin Laden was hiding in the city of Abbottabad, some 40 miles from Islamabad, Pakistan. His lieutenant, Ayman al Zawahiri, was not captured or killed with him. Apparently, official Pakistan was ignored while American troops engaged in a firefight with Bin Laden and some of his people at a safe house that is said to have been a mansion compound in an affluent area. Two couriers, a son of Bin Laden, and a woman used as a human shield, says NBC News, were also killed. Two other women were injured. No Americans were killed or wounded in the action.
This time, the troops did not ask for permission to approach the target residence. Some Pakistani officials proved more cooperative than others previously, and gave up the vital information where the terrorist leader could be found. Had this military unit asked for formal permission, it might have tipped off Bin Laden and led to him and his entourage getting away.
That the Pakistanis have been helping Bin Laden, especially sympathizers in the Pakistani military, is nothing new. Bin Laden was hiding in plain sight, in relative comfort, even luxury. He wasn’t hunkering down dirty and starving and hunted in a cave. Like my sister once quipped, Bin Laden could be in Florida, getting some rays and chillin’. We’ll probably hear more about who exactly was helping him in the hours and days to come.
I”m looking at the crowds of mostly flag-waving youth shouting USA, and chanting the song, “Nah-nah, Hey-hey, Kiss Him Goodbye” that have gathered outside the White House, many of whom were
babies youngsters in 2001; of people milling about in Times Square in New York, and gathering at what many New Yorkers have called The Pit, the site of what had been the World Trade Center. I’m glad that Bin Laden is dead; however, I’m still uncomfortable. The reasons why some Muslims have trodden the path of extreme religiosity and extreme nationalism and violence still remains unaddressed. And until that happens, we may find that there will be no end to Bin Ladens.
Osama Bin Laden’s body will be handled in accordance with Islamic tradition. That also means no desecration of the body, and swift burial within 24 hours. At least, he is due that much, although there are some Americans who may not concur. Many of their loved ones were reduced to mere body parts or ashes on 9/11.
If Osama Bin Laden was treated in any other manner, alive or dead, we may have gotten a bigger problem with the rest of living Islam.
I’m watching CBS News‘ Special Report right now. They are awaiting the President’s appearance for an official statement that Osama Bin Laden, the founder of Al Qaeda (“the base”), the terrorist group responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center as well as other targets on September 11, 2001, has been killed by American troops.
Let us hope that this is not a body double. But then again, I wonder how his admirers, supporters and other radical Islamists will respond to this electrifying news. Don’t be surprised if someone or some fringe group attempts some grand terrorist reprisal in response.
I’d also like to think that this event will signal the end of the American presence in Afghanistan and even in Pakistan. But this may be wishful thinking on my part. This is still the American Empire.
Watch any mainstream electronic news channel for details. This is going to be an interesting night.
Let me say this, too. Barack Obama may have already won the 2012 presidential election with this development. The weak Republican line-up of candidates are sunk. Sunk. How they, the Baggers, and the Right Wing Punditocracy are going to recover from tonight is anyone’s guess, because Barack Obama is still the President of the United States and is not some kind of static, predictable figurehead.
I’ll update this post as time wears on. No video links are available at this moment.
- Pakistan explains role in bin Laden’s killing (vanguardngr.com)
- Inquiry: Osama bin Laden (isedphistory.wordpress.com)
- Pakistan Hails Death of bin Laden (time.com)