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Monday, May 11, 2015

The Critique Of Ouroboros

Ouroboros is the serpent which bites its own tail, forming thereby a circle.... a mobius strip, maybe, or perhaps a figure eight. You get the idea.

I came across such a serpent-bites-self critique in CNN today.

Was the bin Laden killing story a lie?
By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst
Updated 8:30 AM ET, Mon May 11, 2015
(CNN)Seymour Hersh is one of the giants of investigative journalism. Early in his career he broke the story of the My Lai massacre during which hundreds of unarmed civilians were killed by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam in 1968.

Hersh was still going strong after 9/11, breaking (along with "60 Minutes") the story of the prisoner abuses by U.S. soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq for The New Yorker in 2004.

Now comes another blockbuster from Hersh in which he asserts, "The White House's story (about the 2011 U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden) might have been written by Lewis Carroll."


The principal claims that Hersh's article makes, which largely rely on the assertions of a single, unnamed, retired senior U.S. intelligence official, are:

• That the 2011 U.S. Navy SEAL raid on the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden was hiding in northern Pakistan was not a firefight in which SEALs went into a dangerous and unknown situation, but a setup in which Pakistan's military had been holding bin Laden prisoner in Abbottabad for five years and simply made him available to the SEALs who flew in helicopters to the compound on the night of the raid.

• An officer from Pakistan's powerful military intelligence agency ISI accompanied the SEALs on the raid and showed them around the Abbottabad compound, and the only shots fired that night were the ones that the SEALs fired to kill bin Laden.


• Saudi Arabia was financing bin Laden's upkeep in his Abbottabad compound.


Mr. Bergen replies:

Hersh's account of the bin Laden raid is a farrago of nonsense that is contravened by a multitude of eyewitness accounts, inconvenient facts and simple common sense.

Let's start with the claim that the only shots fired at the Abbottabad compound were the ones that killed bin Laden. That ignores the fact that two SEALs on the mission, Matt Bissonnette, author of "No Easy Day," and Robert O'Neill have publicly said that there were a number of other people killed that night, including bin Laden's two bodyguards, one of his sons and one of the bodyguard's wives. Their account is supplemented by many other U.S. officials who have spoken on the record to myself or to other journalists.

I was the only outsider to visit the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden lived before the Pakistani military demolished it. The compound was trashed, littered almost everywhere with broken glass and several areas of it were sprayed with bullet holes where the SEALS had fired at members of bin Laden's entourage and family, or in one case exchanged fire with one of his bodyguards. The evidence at the compound showed that many bullets were fired the night of bin Laden's death.

Common sense would tell you that the idea that Saudi Arabia was paying for bin Laden's expenses while he was living in Abbottabad is simply risible. Bin Laden's principal goal was the overthrow of the Saudi royal family as a result of which his Saudi citizenship was revoked as far back as 1994.

Why would the Saudis pay for the upkeep of their most mortal enemy? Indeed, why wouldn't they get their close allies, the Pakistanis, to look the other way as they sent their assassins into Pakistan to finish him off?

Common sense would also tell you that if the Pakistanis were holding bin Laden and the U.S. government had found out this fact, the easiest path for both countries would not be to launch a U.S. military raid into Pakistan but would have been to hand bin Laden over quietly to the Americans.

Indeed, the Pakistanis have done this on several occasions with a number of other al Qaeda leaders such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational commander of 9/11, who was handed over to U.S. custody after a raid in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi in 2003. So too was Abu Faraj al-Libi, another key al Qaeda leader who was similarly handed over by the Pakistanis to U.S. custody two years later.

Why cover it up?

Common sense would also tell you that if U.S. officials had found out that the Pakistani officials were hiding bin Laden there is no reason the Americans would have covered this up. After all, around the time of the bin Laden raid, relations between the United States and Pakistan were at an all-time low because the Pakistanis had recently imprisoned Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who had killed two Pakistanis. What did U.S. officials have to lose by saying that bin Laden was being protected by the Pakistanis, if it were true?


All sorts of things are, of course, plausible, but in both journalism and in the writing of history one looks for evidence, not plausibility.

Hersh has had a storied career. One hopes that he won't end it with a story about the Obama administration and the bin Laden raid that reads like Frank Underwood from "House of Cards" has made an unholy alliance with Carrie Mathison from "Homeland" to produce a Pakistani version of Watergate.

Where does one start?

For me, it is evident that we are dealing not with knowledge, but with two competing stories. I would not even go so far as to call them two competing theses, because neither one resembles a self-respecting thesis.

The first thing that is extrremely fishy is the fact that Mr. Bergen uses a formulaic theme for his "story", which essentially is  "Somebody we esteem highly has aged and fallen into his dotage," or simply put, the decline and fall of the once great and mighty.
That is a theme everybody likes, and thus everybody gets sucked into.

But even that theme is not enough.

Mr. Bergen looks for evidence, falls into the Bill O'Reilly-Brian Williams Syndrome of being in a privileged position in Abbottabad, and thus being the only person - in Western journalism - who can speak informedly.
Mr. Bergen saw bullet holes which he knows were made the night of the raid.
I would have liked to find out how that is done.
Were there local CSI tapes with the date next to each hole in the wall?

The ouroboros comes in at 

  • Saudi Arabia was financing bin Laden's upkeep in his Abbottabad compound.

Why would the Saudis pay for the upkeep of their most mortal enemy? Indeed, why wouldn't they get their close allies, the Pakistanis, to look the other way as they sent their assassins into Pakistan to finish him off?

Why indeed?

If Pakistan is Saudi Arabia's closest ally, as Mr. Bergen states, why was Bin Laden not removed earlier?

If Pakistan is not Saudi Arabia's closest ally, Mr. Bergen just told a bald-faced lie, or maybe the answer is  - and Mr. Bergen is the one who is telling us all this  -  that Pakistan keep some prize objects around the house until some nation or state or something comes up with the right amount of pay-off.
Then they sell the obbject to the highest bidder. Or let the highest bidder do the dirty deed.

In any event, secrecy and downright lying seems to be part of the strategy.

In any event, we are not dealing with epistemology, with knowledge, but with who has the better Story (or Myth - in its original sense) at this stage of the game.

I sense that Mr. Bergen might be paying a favor to some important Mr. Big somewhere in order to have produced this "odd" serpent of a piece.


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