GADFLY: Doubts about the Bin Laden Killing

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I hate to be a wet rag, and far be it from me to get in the way of the biggest spurts of nationalistic jingoism since VJ day, but am I the only one who has some nagging doubts about the “official story” of bin Laden's demise at the hands of Navy Seals?

The first red flag is that not even the government can get the “official story” straight, having to issue, by now, at least two modifications to what we were originally told, first by John Brennan, the National Security Advisor, and then by Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. First we were told our villain’s wife was killed during the assault because she was being used as a human shield. Turns out that wasn't true. The woman involved was neither his wife nor was she killed.

Then we were told bin Laden was armed when he was confronted and was killed in a firefight. Not true either. He was, we're now told, unarmed but “resisted apprehension.” How do you resist being captured and/or shot by a bunch of commandos who are armed to the teeth if you don't have a way of doing so in kind—-by holding up your hand and saying, “stop in the name of Allah?” And, the bin Laden son who was killed in the raid was also, as it turns out, misidentified in the first versions.

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The gaps and inconsistencies in the story would be easier to explain if the story was being told under battlefield conditions, of from various sources, but that's not the case here. This is the White House we're dealing with here, supposedly one of the most practiced sources of information in the civilized world. And let's not forget, because by now we've all seen the images of senior White House officials in mesmerized attention to what they were seeing, this entire incident was being watched by those officials, supposedly in “real-time.”

Then, there's the whole thing about proving to the world that it really was bin Laden who was dispatched. I'm sure I'm not the only one who raised an eyebrow at the “trust us, we've killed bin Laden” announcement. It doesn't do much for the credibility of the claim, either, that he was whisked away and “buried at sea” a matter of hours after he was shot. How come? We're told it was to avoid creating a shrine if he was buried conventionally, yet we weren't concerned about that with Saddam Hussein. The first version of the story indicated his body was placed in a metal casket for that “burial,” but later versions indicate his body was wrapped in a sheet of some kind and slipped off the deck of the ship it was taken to. Which is it? And, how does professing concern with burying bin Laden in accordance with Islamic principles square with shooting him, unarmed as we now know he was, execution-style. Is that consistent with Islamic principles?

The story also includes the claim that bin Laden's identity was verified by DNA tests. How come? Was visual verification not enough? It's not like this man's pictures haven't been the most visible in the history of the universe for the last ten years. Contrary to popular belief about dark-skinned ethnic or racial groups, all Arabs don't look alike. And, how come the DNA test was accomplished so quickly, and under less than ideal conditions? Is there a DNA lab in the backwater known as Islamabad, or on board the ship his body was taken to? DNA testing is highly complex, requires specialized expertise, and, the last time I checked (about twenty minutes ago as I wrote this), takes more than a few hours to accomplish. It involves separating the DNA itself from other material, purifying and fragmenting it, and then subjecting it to a technique called “PCR” (polymerase chain reaction), all of which takes time. In fact, most of the DNA labs with information sites on the Web indicate the minimum time for a DNA test to be conducted is three to five days.

Also, for DNA to be verified, there has to be a control sample to compare it to. In other words, the government would have to have DNA from a known relative of bin Laden's to be able to verify the DNA sample they took from him as being his family's. Where did they get that sample, and how did they know, for sure, it was from a verified bin Laden relative? And, how do they know, even with DNA testing, it was Osama bin Laden's DNA, and not that of one of his 50 (yes, 50) brothers and sisters.

Now the White House is weighing whether or not to release pictures they supposedly have of bin Laden's body. Why is there any question about whether or not to do this? They claim the pictures are gruesome. Well, of course they are, but isn't that the point? Everything about this man during his lifetime was gruesome; September 11th was gruesome. Whose feelings are we worried about here? Al Quaeda's? It's not like Islam has the same prohibition on publishing the likeness of its terrorists as it does on its deities, is it, or like if we play nice with the terrorists they won't try to strike us again. And, just as an aside, what's up with helicopters that fail at exactly the wrong time, like one of them reportedly did during this operation? Remember when that happened during the failed Iranian hostage rescue in 1980? That was the reverse of a jingoism-inspiring episode if there ever was one.

Look, I'm not touting some half-baked conspiracy theory here, I promise. This isn't about whether there was more than one gunman on the grassy knoll in Dallas, or whether the World Trade Center towers were brought down by controlled demolition, and it certainly isn't about whether we really landed on the moon or whether Obama's long form birth certificate is a fake. By the same token, I'm naturally suspicious of the “official version” of a story, but especially when the government that issues it can't get it straight.

Does our government ever lie to us? Does a bear shit in the woods? I still haven't gotten past (and neither has his family) the big lie the government told us about the demise of Pat Tillman, or, for that matter, about weapons of mass destruction. Our government lies to us all the time. I'm not suggesting Obama lied when he made the statement he did to the country in his nationally-televised address on Sunday night. I'm just saying there are some things about the story that, at least so far, raise more questions than they answer.

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