The keepers of secrets are telling a wonderfully self-glorifying tale to the American people. How US intelligence agencies patiently pieced together scattered bits of evidence to find Osama bin Laden. The secret warriors also put in a plug for torture, claiming it helped spring the information that eventually solved the mystery of Osama’s whereabouts.
Alas, there is one big hole in this version of events. If the United States had wanted to know where the terrorist king lived, they could have simply asked our billion-dollar ally, the government of Pakistan. Osama, it turns out, lived right down the street from a Pakistani military academy and in a resort town only thirty-five miles from the national capital.
The mendacity is rather obvious. Somebody is not telling us the whole truth, hoping perhaps that joyous Americans won’t push the point further. The contradiction, however, is covered with American blood and treasure. Given the facts, it is impossible to believe the government of Pakistan did not know exactly where we could find Osama. Did our intelligence agents ask their intelligence agents? On this obvious question, US officials turn coy. Their slippery evasions strongly suggest they are not telling the truth either.
A “senior US official” told Washington Post columnist David Ignatiius that the CIA “has carefully examined this question but has ‘zero evidence’ of Pakistani government knowledge of bin Laden’s location.” Ignatius squirms a bit at this obvious non-answer, which he acknowledges is “not quite the same as saying the Pakistanis didn’t know.”
Well, which is it? An anonymous US official (maybe the same person, Ignatius doesn’t say) told the columnist the Pakanstanis were actually helpful. “They didn’t tell us he was in Abbottaladm but their information allowed us to track him there.” What is that supposed to mean? The CIA was playing Twenty Questions with our supposed ally while it assured the American people Mr. Osama was hiding in a cave somewhere or maybe the jungle?
This is ridiculous—the kind of cutesy doubletalk the CIA insists on using with reporters. The agency has a rich history of lying to the public, sometimes lying to Congress and presidents, even lying to itself. But this is not a trivial detail that no longer matters because Osama is dead. This lie goes right to the heart of the deranged US misadventures in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Spy agents and even diplomats claim we must treat Pakistan gingerly in order to maintain our complicated relationship. We ship them billions to arm their military and assist economic development. They promise not to sell their nukes to any wannabe nations. Americans get killed in Afghanistan supposedly to stamp out the Taliban. But, wait, the Taliban are allied with Pakistan too. The contradictions are too subtle for the rest of us to grasp.
We have spent an obscene fortune fighting this ten-year war in one country in pursuit of the evil Osama, while our ally was playing clandestine host to him next door. Now that Osama has been located and killed, can we be done with it? No, the keepers of secrets assure us we must remain vigilant. Mighty America is still threatened by unknown enemies, though they can’t say where.
Anybody had enough? Anybody feeling stupid for allowing this lunatic strategy to continue so long? We need to get out now, not five or 10 years from now as the war planners assume. Barack Obama can lead us out of this quaqmire. If necessary, we must drag him out.
For links to The Nation’s complete coverage of Osama bin Laden’s death, click here.