The article in the London Review of Books purports to be an “alternative history of the war on terror,” and it relies largely on a single unnamed source to question President Barack Obama’s narrative about the death of the man behind the 9/11 attacks.
That narrative from the president claimed bin Laden was killed in a firefight with US officials and that Pakistani officials weren’t told about the raid in advance.
While Obama touted bin Laden’s capture in a Pakistani compound as an “all-American affair,” Hersh alleges US officials got assistance from upper-level Pakistani officials. Moreover, bin Laden wasn’t “hiding” in Pakistan when Navy Seals found him like the US government claimed, according to Hersh.
Rather, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was holding bin Laden hostage, and a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer tipped the US off in exchange for $US25 million, Hersh writes in his article, which has attracted wide attention in just a few hours.
Hersh’s reporting relies primarily on information from an unnamed senior intelligence official with knowledge about the raid that killed bin Laden. Hersh also says he got corroborating information from two longtime consultants to Special Operations Command, and that he spoke to sources “inside Pakistan.”
Here are the main takeaways:
- The White House’s “most blatant” lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military officials were never informed of the mission, according to Hersh.
- While US officials say they found bin Laden by tracking bin Laden’s trusted courier, in fact they discovered his whereabouts from a former Pakistani intelligence officer who wanted the $US25 million reward the US was offering, according to Hersh.
- The government claimed bin Laden was hiding out, but the Pakistani intelligence agency had in fact been holding him captive since 2006 to use him as leverage against Taliban and al-Qaida activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to Hersh.
- While the White House has said it would have taken bin Laden alive if it could have and that he was killed in a firefight, Hersh claims that wasn’t the case. “There was no firefight as they moved into the compound; the ISI guards had gone,” Hersh wrote.
- The article also takes issue with the White House’s claim that bin Laden was buried at sea in a service that followed Islamic practices. “The remains, including his head, which had only a few bullet holes in it, were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains — or so the Seals claimed,” Hersh reported, citing his senior US intelligence official.
Hersh says the White House did not respond to his requests for comment. His reporting should be viewed with scepticism as it relies primarily on a single anonymous source. Even with that caveat, though, the article is startling read.≥
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