Anyone who knows anything at all about the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., knows that controversy regarding possible conspiracies in these deaths, particularly those of JFK and Dr. King, rages on and presumably will do so until the end of time. Other aspects of our national history are subject to the same skeptical instinct — notably the catastrophic attacks on the World Trade Center buildings in New York and the Pentagon in our nation's capital.
A breed of conspiracy theorists who have won the sobriquet "truthers" (whether so dubbed by themselves or by their critics is uncertain) continues to maintain that the co-conspirators in the September 11th attacks include not just the young jihadist fanatics who hijacked the planes but previously unsuspected individuals and governments (including our own) supposedly on our side of the world's various dividing lines.
The truther instinct is generally distrusted within the mainstream of American thought, as are the various conspiracy theorists on the assassination watch.
But Seymour Hersh, the enterprising Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has unearthed any number of previously hushed-up scandals — including the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib — has struck again, and this time at the core of what had been generally unquestioned, the account of how heroic Navy seals had stormed the Pakistan hideaway of al-Qaeda chieftain Osama bin Laden in 2011 and in the course of a gunfight brought down that international villain, whose body was then — to placate the opinion of world Muslims — given a proper Islamic burial at sea.
Hersh has published a comprehensive article (in the London Review of Books) that debunks all that. And, while not everybody has accepted his version of events, his track record as an authoritative final arbiter of the historical record speaks for itself.
In Hersh's account, bin Laden was not inhabiting a hideaway; he was lodged in a prison as a captive of the Pakistani government, which was waiting for an appropriate moment to trade him for American moolah ($25 million is what the Pakistanis got, according to Hersh). Other apspects of Hersh's version: The Seals were escorted into bin Laden's place of confinement by the Pakistanis; there was no firefight; and bin Laden, who by that time was a sick old man with virtually no control of any ongoing terrorist activity, offered no resistance but was shot to pieces by automatic weapons.
Further, the "courier" whose discovery supposedly led the CIA to discover bin Laden's whereabouts never existed, and the story of the valiant storming tale told by President Obama to a grateful nation was an improvisation, concocted for immediate political effect to replace a previously arranged cover story that would have had bin Laden shot during a combat raid somewhere in the mountainous wilderness area of Pakistan.
There is more to Hersh's account, and all of it, like this sample, so thoroughly discredits the accepted explanations we had taken for granted as to cast grave doubt, by implication, on all of the other official explanations challenged for all these years by conspiracy theorists. We may have to apologize to all those truthers we have consistently mocked.
And that's only the beginning.