Letter from the Editor

| May 05, 2011

Like many of you, I was sitting at home Sunday night when I heard Osama bin Laden was dead. That was the way I heard it first, via a Twitter alert on my laptop. At that point, I assumed maybe he'd just died — of cancer, a heart attack, or maybe kidney failure. A few minutes later, President Obama came on television to make a formal announcement of the al-Qaeda leader's death.

On Monday, more details were revealed: A team of Navy SEALS had gone into deepest Pakistan and performed a bold, surgical strike on bin Laden's palatial hideout. In the resulting firefight, the 9/11 mastermind had been shot and killed. Around the country, crowds gathered to celebrate.

I would have preferred that we'd captured the bastard and given him a trial for all the world to see. But if our soldiers are in a fight, then shooting back and killing the enemy is the only sane option, and I'm okay with the result.

The irony was not lost on me that George W. Bush's promise to hunt down bin Laden had been fulfilled by Obama 10 years later. Nor was I unhappy that Obama, who has been plagued by birthers and others who doubt his religion and his patriotism, was in office when the deed was done. Surely, I thought, this will quiet some of those folks.

Wrong. The next day, a furious co-worker claimed it was all a sham. She said that because bin Laden was buried at sea, it was proof that we hadn't gotten our man. "It's that damn Obama. He's just doing this to get re-elected. Now, we can't even see the body." I read similar sentiments on various right-wing websites.

Yes, there really are people who hate Obama enough to believe that the president, a squad of Navy SEALS, a ship-load of American sailors, the secretary of defense, the head of the CIA, the government of Pakistan (which agreed to the raid), and countless others were part of a grand conspiracy to falsely convince the American public — and the whole watching world — that bin Laden had been killed.

I wonder what it would take to satisfy these people. Parading the bloody body down Pennsylvania Avenue? Allowing Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump access to the corpse so they could use their own Tea Party-certified DNA experts? I don't know. I do know that Osama bin Laden's death seems to have done little to remove the irrational stench of distrust from our politics. Sadly, that boogeyman remains at large.

Bruce VanWyngarden


Comments (30)

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Why can't many groups conspire together unto falsehoods? Large numbers of similar stories by military, sec. of defense, CIA, etc. do not equate to truth; argumentum ad populum fallacy. Most of our wars were unconstitutional and were not declared by Congress with the aim of defense of our contry being attacked. We let treaties trump our Constitutional requirement of 'defense-only' if we are attacked ourselves.

Posted by CHG on 05/05/2011 at 7:40 AM

The choice here isn't that you either unquestioningly accept everything about this event, including the way the release of information about it was handled, or that you're a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist akin to a "birther."

It is possible to raise questions about this event, which, at this point, even many respected voices on the left have done (e.g., http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/42…; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405…; http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_gr…; http://news.firedoglake.com/2011/05/03/off…), without being accused of disbelieving the underlying event itself.

There may well be those who think bin Laden is still alive, but raising questions about the way this event was handled and publicized does not automatically put those questioners in that category.

Posted by M_Awesomeberg on 05/05/2011 at 8:18 AM

2 peas in a pod...

Has anyone ever seen CHG and the Humbug in the same room at the same time?

Posted by Neondragon on 05/05/2011 at 8:45 AM

Well, let me just say that they did virtually everything perfectly right - if the goal was to sow doubt and raise a fine crop of juicy conspiracy theories.

What with dumping the body at sea for the utterly implausible reason of respecting Islamic burial customs, the impossibility of their CSI Miami-style DNA ID claims, the narrative walkbacks (not meant to be factually correct?), the waffling over the death photos, and now the blackout on further operational details, even solid, reality-based observers are left asking WTF?

Posted by Jeff on 05/05/2011 at 8:51 AM

I can't wait for the next round of videotapes "proving" he's still out there. Or the absence of such tapes also pricing he's still out there. I agree with Jeff, somewhat, that the administration has invited conspiracy theorists to the table, although it really doesn't take much to get them there, really beyond a contentious event. And, from Operation Northwoods to just about everything the Bushies did, Americans have every reason in the world to mistrust their Government. That instilling of deep mistrust and divisiveness is the great victory of the Bush administration, just as helping to bankrupt America was Bin Laden's. that's my conspiracy theory. Like magic, so much is based on misdirection. As a result we've lost the art of skepticism, but breed cranks instead.

Posted by Chris Davis on 05/05/2011 at 9:08 AM

"also proving he's out there" Autocooooorrrrrect!

Posted by Chris Davis on 05/05/2011 at 9:58 AM

I'm intrigued by the use of the term "conspiracy theory." Historically, that term has been used to marginalize the proponents of alternate explanations for events whose "official" (i.e., governmental) explanation strains credulity. The quintessential example is the "magic bullet" theory of the Kennedy assassination proffered by the Warren Commission, which has, by now, been thoroughly discredited, and which only a very small percentage of the public still accepts. And yet, any alternatives to that arguably fanciful explanation are still characterized as "conspiracy theories."

Gulf of Tonkin, Iran Contra, "I did not have sex with that woman," WMD's, Jessica Lynch, Pat Tillman, and so on. Being mindful of the saying "fool me once...," how many times must we be fooled by the official version of an event before we express at least some skepticism, if not utter disbelief, for what our government tells us? We act like children who don't believe our parents would ever lie to us, even after we discover the truth about the tooth fairy and Santa Claus.

Given how frequently our government lies to us, it would seem like the real "conspiracy theory" should be that the official version is the conspiracy.

Posted by M_Awesomeberg on 05/05/2011 at 10:47 AM

What's this about the tooth fairy? I'm always the last to know.

Posted by Jeff on 05/05/2011 at 10:53 AM

"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

And so with conspiracies.

Posted by CL Mullins on 05/05/2011 at 11:00 AM

I don't even believe CHG exists, why should I believe in the devil?

Posted by Packrat on 05/05/2011 at 11:34 AM

I don't believe CHG exists either. Probably just some made-up guy created by an extremely bored commenter.

Posted by Smitty Patterson on 05/05/2011 at 11:45 AM

Why doesn't Obama bring All the Troops Home? Because he ain't running the show!

Posted by MickeyWhite on 05/05/2011 at 11:57 AM

Two or more People, plotting an evil/illegal act, in secret. Yep I believe.

Posted by MickeyWhite on 05/05/2011 at 11:59 AM

I guess Bush/Obama (they are the same) decided not to follow the constitution.

Posted by MickeyWhite on 05/05/2011 at 12:01 PM

You know how Bin Laden really died? Pop Rocks and Pepsi. I've got a friend who's seen the pictures.

We're at a point where it doesn't matter if it's Obama, Bush, or whatever comes next, whoever praises the warmth of the sun will be called out for not recognizing a cold moon.

Posted by Chris Davis on 05/05/2011 at 12:31 PM

To be consistent with your earlier observation, Pesk, shouldn't that be "pricing the warmth of the sun?" After all, we live in a time of out-sourcing.

Posted by Jackson Baker on 05/05/2011 at 1:23 PM

There have been people contending that bin laden died as early as 2002 of renal failure, so to make it seem like all of this burial at sea, not releasing photographs, fog of war event confusion, and now 25-minute video black-out during the raid in the aftermath doesn't strike people as funny. Six years is the average life-expectancy of a person receiving dialysis, and bin Laden's kidney problems were diagnosed in the mid-1990's.

Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik, the real-life Jack Ryan with direct connections to several presidential administrations since Nixon claims this is a psi op. If Obama is chooses to preside in such suspicious manner, don't be shocked when his detractors use his lack of transparency to call into question his every move.

Posted by Marc B on 05/05/2011 at 1:59 PM

Isn't it odd how when the Repubs are in power they deny conspiracies and when the Dems are in power, they poo poo conspiracy theories.

It's almost like they were, you know.

Posted by CL Mullins on 05/05/2011 at 3:39 PM

I just want to know when I can expect my share of the reward money.

After all, on numerous occasions after I had imbided a case of Kentucky Nip and my faculties were crystal clear, I observed that OBL was "probably in Pakistan or Afghanistan or Iraq or Iran or Finland at least SOMEWHERE over there, maybe hunkered down in a cave or quite possibly roaming around the mountains, or even — yes, it's a stretch — living in a mansion in the suburbs somewhere, but he is DEFINITELY overseas." And if that doesn't quality as a bona fide tip, then the terrorists have won.

Posted by Vance Lauderdale on 05/05/2011 at 6:06 PM

Unfortunately Charles has proven time and time again that he really does exist. And not that anyone cares, but I have it from some very informed sources that it was Bin Laden and he is definitely dead.

Posted by mad_merc on 05/06/2011 at 7:11 AM

Merc, I don't think anyone really believes it wasn't BL or that he isn't dead. The question is, as Marc B pointed out, when?

Let's play Ferinstances. Suppose the Pakistanis who had been hiding him for years sent the president an email saying Bin Laden had just died quietly in his bed of renal failure. Do you think the message managers would let that be known that the most heinous villain of our time had passed peacefully in the night, surrounded by his loving familiy? Say it ain't so, Joe! No, we'd helicopter in, shoot his body full of holes, and steal it. Then, once it was done, we'd show his death photos to some forensic experts who would say, clearly those bullet holes are post mortem, which would force us to dump his body at sea and never release the death photos.

Just saying.

Posted by Jeff on 05/06/2011 at 7:45 AM

As mayor of the Munchkin City
In the county of the land of Oz
I welcome you most regally
But we've got to verify it legally
To see...
If he...
Is morally, ethically
Spiritually, physically
Positively, absolutely
Undeniably and reliably dead!

As the man behind the curtain, I thoroughly examined him
And he's not only merely dead,
He's really most sincerely dead

Then this is a day of independence for all the munchkins
And their descendants
Yes, let the joyous news be spread
The wicked Osama at last is dead!

Posted by CL Mullins on 05/06/2011 at 10:44 AM

It is worth noting the significant difference between conspiracy theories, and well earned mistrust of those in power.

As coverups of government misdeeds unravel, they follow the dictum of Justice Louis Brandeis that "sunlight is the best disinfectant". Debunking is based on first noting inconsistencies, and then sorting out verifiable facts until a clearer picture is obtained.

What the Humbug, CHG, and their birther, deather, denier compatriots are playing is the opposite... instead of sunshine, they are shining you on.
They are fabricating implausible alternate theories and piling on a smokescreen of propaganda to obscure, not clarify.
And in the time it takes to unravel one skein of 'coulda-shoulda-woulda' rants about thermite at Ground Zero, or vans full of Mexicans faked videos and planted bodies, a dozen more have sprung up.
Their game is piling on to obfuscate coupled with sophistry, to make the theorists seem knowledgable about something that they aren't.

How are real hoaxes and coverups exposed? By *reduction* of information down to verifiable facts, and rational analysis.

The Gulf of Tonkin was exposed by comparison of actual records with the government's claims, not by spinning fantastic stories. LBJ's self awarded Silver Star for imaginary heroics was debunked when the crew on the same mission went on record with the facts about that day. The truth about My Lai, Dr. Mossadegh's overthrow, Watergate, Bay of Pigs, et al. was brought to light by documentation, not by fabrication of massive conspiracies where not one single person ever spilled the beans about the coverups.

Same thing applies in the bin Laden raid...the US government has earned a reputation that requires it to spin everything, including the fact that the sky is blue. That *doesn't* mean that anything and everything put forth by those who distrust said government must be correct.

For example, the notion that no Navy corpsman could ever possibly be highly trained enough to collect a DNA sample, is not logic, it is a flawed premise.
And swallowing such nonsense just because the offical version is suspect (as it should be), is superstition, not critical thinking.

Posted by Neondragon on 05/06/2011 at 10:54 AM

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

Posted by M_Awesomeberg on 05/06/2011 at 12:48 PM

eh who gives a shit. raptures coming in like 2 weeks IIRC.

Posted by wvfii on 05/06/2011 at 1:17 PM
Showing 1-25 of 30

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