Saturday 12 May 2012

One Year after his death, OBL Lives on

When Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S Navy SEAL team 6,on 2nd May, 2012,  it was considered a “drama” by 66% of Pakistanis.  Pakistanis in general are not willing to believe in facts and are prone to having trust in Conspiracy theories because they provide feasible explanation of events in a narrow frame of reference.

It has been a whole year since the Abbotabad Operation that killed Osama bin Laden, and a majority of Pakistanis still do not believe it even happened, despite public announcements by Al-Qaeda themselves.

Nicholas Schmidle, winner of  2008 Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism, wrote a detailed article named “Getting Bin Laden:What happened that night in Abbottabad” in the New Yorker Magazine on 8th August 2011. That article is one of the most comprehensive accounts of the Abbotabad operation till date. Regarding the planning of the operation, the article mentions,

“On March 14th, 2011, Obama called his national-security advisers into the White House Situation Room and reviewed a spreadsheet listing possible courses of action against the Abbottabad compound. Most were variations of either a JSOC raid or an airstrike. At the end of the meeting, Obama instructed McRaven to proceed with planning the raid.”

SEAL Team 6, has been mythologized in the American Media after the opertion and even books have been written about them. Nicholas Schmidle’s article briefly mentions the experience of that very team.

“During the ninety-minute helicopter flight, James and his teammates rehearsed the operation in their heads. Since the autumn of 2001, they had rotated through Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa, at a brutal pace.

The Abbottabad raid was not DEVGRU’s maiden venture into Pakistan, either. The team had surreptitiously entered the country on ten to twelve previous occasions. Most of those missions were forays into North and South Waziristan, where many military and intelligence analysts had thought that bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders were hiding. (Only one such operation—the September, 2008, raid of Angoor Ada, a village in South Waziristan—has been widely reported.) Abbottabad was, by far, the farthest that DEVGRU had ventured into Pakistani territory. It also represented the team’s first serious attempt since late 2001 at killing “Crankshaft”—the target name that the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, had given bin Laden.”

An American helicopter was lost while landing. The SEALS after taking care of two of Osama’s guards, found him in a third floor bed room.

“The Americans hurried toward the bedroom door. The first SEAL pushed it open. Two of bin Laden’s wives had placed themselves in front of him. Amal al-Fatah, bin Laden’s fifth wife, was screaming in Arabic. She motioned as if she were going to charge; the SEAL lowered his sights and shot her once, in the calf. Fearing that one or both women were wearing suicide jackets, he stepped forward, wrapped them in a bear hug, and drove them aside. He would almost certainly have been killed had they blown themselves up, but by blanketing them he would have absorbed some of the blast and potentially saved the two SEALs behind him.
A second SEAL stepped into the room and trained the infrared laser of his M4 on bin Laden’s chest. The Al Qaeda chief, who was wearing a tan shalwar kameez and a prayer cap on his head, froze; he was unarmed. “There was never any question of detaining or capturing him—it wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees,” the special-operations officer told me. Nine years, seven months, and twenty days after September 11th, an American was a trigger pull from ending bin Laden’s life. The first round, a 5.56-mm. bullet, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye. On his radio, he reported, “For God and country—Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.” After a pause, he added, “Geronimo E.K.I.A.”—“enemy killed in action.”( “Geronimo” was the code word to signify that bin Laden had been found)
Hearing this at the White House, Obama pursed his lips, and said solemnly, to no one in particular, “We got him.”.

Regarding the burial of the dead body of Osama,
“All along, the SEALs had planned to dump bin Laden’s corpse into the sea—a blunt way of ending the bin Laden myth. They had successfully pulled off a similar scheme before. During a DEVGRU helicopter raid inside Somalia in September, 2009, SEALs had killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of East Africa’s top Al Qaeda leaders; Nabhan’s corpse was then flown to a ship in the Indian Ocean, given proper Muslim rites, and thrown overboard. Before taking that step for bin Laden, however, John Brennan made a call. Brennan, who had been a C.I.A. station chief in Riyadh, phoned a former counterpart in Saudi intelligence. Brennan told the man what had occurred in Abbottabad and informed him of the plan to deposit bin Laden’s remains at sea. As Brennan knew, bin Laden’s relatives were still a prominent family in the Kingdom, and Osama had once been a Saudi citizen. Did the Saudi government have any interest in taking the body? “Your plan sounds like a good one,” the Saudi replied.
At dawn, bin Laden was loaded into the belly of a flip-wing V-22 Osprey, accompanied by a JSOC liaison officer and a security detail of military police. The Osprey flew south, destined for the deck of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson—a thousand-foot-long nuclear-powered aircraft carrier sailing in the Arabian Sea, off the Pakistani coast.
Bin Laden’s body was washed, wrapped in a white burial shroud, weighted, and then slipped inside a bag. The process was done “in strict conformance with Islamic precepts and practices,” Brennan later told reporters. The JSOC liaison, the military-police contingent, and several sailors placed the shrouded body on an open-air elevator, and rode down with it to the lower level, which functions as a hangar for airplanes. From a height of between twenty and twenty-five feet above the waves, they heaved the corpse into the water.”

This story by Nicholas Schmidle was criticized by columnists including Mallary Jean Tenore from Huffington Post, only because it did not provide enough references. Otherwise, the veracity of this account has not been challenged by anyone including the State Department. 

About breaking the news to the Pakistanis, Rob Crilly wrote in The Telegraph,

“The American ambassador's phone rang shortly after 3am.

 It was Salman Bashir, the civil servant who heads Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "Mr Ambassador, we have reports of a helicopter crashing in Abbottabad. All our helicopters are accounted for.

 "Do you know anything about it?"

 Cameron Munter, who had already got used to dealing with crises since being sent to Islamabad six months early, kept his reply diplomatically short: "We'll look into it." A note of dawning realisation crept into Mr Bashir's voice. "Mr Ambassador, I didn't wake you did I?"

 The phone conversation – described by an official familiar with the exchange – reveals how Pakistan was kept in the dark even after the raid had ended, and the rapid sense of shock that gripped the country.”

The reaction of Pakistanis regarding the Abbotabad Operation surprised many people, including Art Keller, a CIA officer. In a recent interview, he said,
“[The] reaction of Pakistan arresting people who helped take down terrorist Number One, somebody Pakistan had long promised it wanted as much or more as the US, is what is telling about the whole situation. Shouldn’t they be handing them medals for doing what Pakistan claimed it wanted? Another thing is that the anger both within the Pak Army, and within Pakistan, against the Pak Army, is almost entirely about the fact that they didn’t stop the raid. The shame of Bin Laden being found in an Army stronghold is a distant second, and demands for investigation as to how he could have been found in an Army town without some level of ISI or Army complicity appear to be fading, much to the relief of those institutions.”

A year after that operation, there are no signs of decline in the theory that Osama bin Laden was not killed that day or that he was a “Martyr”, not a terrorist.

The site of Osama’s compound in Abbotabad, which was razed by the Government last year, has become a shrine now. Express Tribune reported on 2nd May,2012 that

“There is some spirituality about this place since water keeps gushing forth without the use of an electric motor,” said Omar Khan, a resident of Abbottabad.
While the source may be a water line fractured during the razing of the compound, it hasn’t stopped some from according it the status of a ‘miracle.’ And for all their efforts to prevent the site from becoming a shrine, people throng to the razed compound to offer fateha – prayers for the deceased.”

Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, author of the book ‘Military Inc’ and columnist, wrote on the first anniversary of the Abbotabad Operation,

“A year after bin Laden, Pakistan continues on its trajectory of being a hybrid theocracy – pockets of liberalism with small areas where sharia is formally implemented and larger areas where the religious law is informally applied. A year later, there is no alternative discourse that can challenge extremism from amongst us. Bin Laden still lives amongst us and will become ingrained as a myth that will then form part of this society’s history.”

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