One bit of news that mostly slipped under the radar earlier this week was the release of a report by leading Pakistani officials, said to be two years in the making, concerning how it could have been possible for Osama Bin Laden to have lived in Pakistan for so long – for around nine years, in fact – during a period when he was the world’s undisputed Public Enemy #1, with EVERY BIT of the humongous US intelligence establishment searching actively for him along with any number of allied intelligence agencies. Not to include the “allied” Pakistani intelligence agency, however, the ISI, the one that really would have mattered.
No, instead this report cites “culpable negligence and incompetence at almost all levels of government” for the failure of the ISI to realize that, for most of this period, Osama was holed up in a walled compound in Abbottabad, only 110 km north of the capital Islamabad and in fact the city where no less than the Pakistani Officers’ Academy (that is, the Pakistani equivalent of West Point) is situated!
It was a four-man commission that wrote this report, according to the New York Times account, namely a judge on the Pakistani Supreme Court joined by a retired police officer, army general and diplomat. In their report these eminent gentlemen “allowed for the possibility that some security officials had covertly helped Bin Laden,” stating at one point that “[c]onnivance, collaboration and cooperation at some levels cannot be entirely discounted.” The Washington Post account cites their conclusion that “[t]he failure was primarily an intelligence-security failure that was rooted in political irresponsibility.” Indeed, both news pieces state that this report from the so-called Abbottobad Commission was never meant to be made public, that the only reason we are hearing about it now is that al-Jazeera managed to get hold of a copy and publish it on their website.
That is all well and good. But all of us can understand how “secret” reports can ultimately and intentionally find their way to public exposure nonetheless. I’d like to suggest that that is what happened here: this is nothing but a whitewash, yet another distraction which has successfully kept the cruel truth from sinking in among the American public that a leading “ally,” to whom the US Treasury has paid some $18 billion in military and economic aid since the September 11 attacks, deliberately and systematically hid the main perpretator behind those attacks, and continuously lied in response to any and all enquiries. Here, I’ll let Jon Stewart explain, who as you’ll see had somewhat of a personal stake in the matter:
[Sorry, I removed this video - and took WAY too long in doing so, apologies - because it had the tendencey to "auto-play" when readers visited this page. The link is here, if you're interested; the gist is that Jon Stewart remarks on how he had been lied to re: Osama Bin Laden when interviewing former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on a past show.]
Fine, then, this Abbottabad report is little more than a 336-page steaming pile of misinformation. That doesn’t mean that it can’t have useful bits here and there. Human interest angles, for example – like it seems that Osama Bin Laden himself was stopped in Pakistan for a traffic violation, for speeding, “but the police officer failed to recognize him and let him go.” That last bit is from the NYT piece, but that’s about all there is there about that. And there is nothing about any traffic violation incident in the Washington Post account.
What sort of “journalism” was this? Where was that cantankerous editor (picture Mary Tyler Moore’s Lou Grant) yelling down the phone “Damn it, get more on that speeding ticket, that’s what our readers want to read about!”?
OK, one problem here is simply that facts were scarce on the ground, but still these leading lights of the American Fourth Estate could have done better, as we see from Henning Høeg’s treatment in the leading Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende with the very pertinent headling “Bin Laden could have been caught nine years earlier.” Like the cowboy hat: Osama probably had that on his head when his vehicle was stopped by the Pakistani policeman because he had taken to wearing such headgear in the belief that it could protect him from recognition from drones, planes, satellites, etc. peering down from above. Høeg also quite rightly casts doubt on whether that particular policeman really did not know who he was dealing with at the time.
Still, thanks to Berlingske Tidende (and all the various other world’s papers willing to give this story that extra effort) we have a somewhat clearer picture. And what a comic picture it is: the world’s greatest terrorist, stopped for speeding, appearing behind the open driver’s side window peering out under a cowboy hat! I mean, this is sold gold material for any and all comics out there! Sadly, I have to report that, at least by the time of this writing, the funny-men have yet to do much to exploit it. About the best I have seen so far (thanks to Newsmax’s “The Best of Late Nite Jokes” site) is (from Letterman):
Osama bin Laden once got a speeding ticket in Pakistan. This guy had no respect for the law! When SEAL Team 6 broke into the house, he said to them, “Is this about that speeding ticket?”
Calling world comedians everywhere! You don’t have to believe the Pakistani government had no idea where Osama was – or in the Easter Bunny – to do much better than that!
UPDATE: Die Welt drags out more details of Osama’s life as a fugitive from the report, and so puts the leading US newspapers further to shame.
Turns out, it was his right-hand man, one Ibrahim al-Kuwaiti (where is he now?), who managed to sweet-talk that Pakistani policeman who stopped them for speeding to let them travel on. He (Osama) had only six sets of clothes: three for summer, three for winter. He wasn’t in the best of health, suffering from kidney and heart problems, but of course seeing a doctor was out of the question. Instead, he would eat the occasional apple or chocolate bar to raise his energies.
Leno? Letterman? “An apple a day kept the Navy away”? Anyone?