May 5, 2011

Osama bin Laden: Who to believe and what to believe?

I have taken my time in writing this second blog post vis-a-vis the whole OBL saga for two main reasons; 1) because the details emanating immediately after the American operation on Pakistani soil were sketchy at best, and 2) I was waiting for the Pakistani government’s official reaction to the whole drama that was conducted in Abbotabad a couple of days ago.

Barack Hussein Obama
President Obama
While it has been made abundantly clear to the world at large by President Obama and his team repeatedly by saying OBL is dead, questions, and pertinent ones I must add, have found their way into all the rhetoric that has been flying around. President Obama’s decision to not release OBL’s dead body’s photos is stupid, even though Nick Kristof thinks it’s a “wise” decision; but more importantly, Obama’s reasons for not releasing the dead man’s photos are even more stupid.

He says that the photos will act as “trophies” and pose a security threat to the US and its military personnel around the globe. Have we forgotten Saddam Hussein and the way he was presented and shown to the world when he was captured from an underground location? Also, Obama says that imagine how we would feel if al-Qaeda starts putting photos of dead American soldiers out for the world to see. Mr President, they already do that. The reason they don’t attract that much attention is because they are “soldiers” not officers. Trust me, if al-Qaeda got hold of Admiral Mike Mullen, for instance, not only will they put him on a camera for the world to see, but they won’t ever let the world forget it by repeatedly showing the video. Similarly, it is foolish, alarming and extremely suspicious to not quash the rumours that are circulating around the world. In Pakistan, the effect has already materialized as the question of OBL’s death has been replaced by the failure of the security establishment to shoot down the helicopters. People (the media particularly) is continually stoking the people’s imaginations by repeatedly questioning the discrepancies in the American version of events (which by the way changes every 24 hours. What’s the catch?)

The Pakistani government
The Pakistani government has once again proved that it is full of the worst kind of nincompoops ever in the history of the world. While a foreign state blatantly raped Pakistan’s sovereignty, our President and Prime Minister were more interested in securing their asses for the foreseeable future. Then our dear PM went abroad for a tour de France which if international news reports are to be believed, should make any sane Pakistani’s head bow down with shame. The French foreign minister demanded that PM Gilani explain to France how come the world’s most wanted terrorist was found hiding in Pakistan. Mr Foreign Minister, know thy limits. The idiot from whom you ask these questions is akin to banging your head against the wall. Friendly advice.

The Pakistani military
They have finally acknowledged that there was incompetence in the intelligence collection. Well they had no other choice now, did they? They could hardly have said “yes, we were harbouring the world’s most wanted man. Suck it.”  But the incompetence is not restricted to data and intelligence collection alone. We had an American death squad roaming around in Pakistan for over an hour and a half and yet the best Salman Bashir (Pakistani foreign secretary) could come up with was how fighter jets had been scrambled but then they were called back because the Americans had landed.

Perhaps the only sane explanation (one that makes sense anyway) has come from a BBC report which cites unnamed intelligence officials as saying that the jets were scrambled but then were called back because the Americans contacted the Pakistani military high command. Also the report goes onto mention – well, it mentions the intelligence official’s bragging actually – that if OBL was indeed hiding in Pakistan with the ISI’s help, the ISI would have done a much better job of securing him, and if this was indeed an ISI op (which he said it wasn’t) then the officer in charge of picking out such a location for OBL should be court martialled.

The question now is who to believe, and what to believe? There are extreme discrepancies in the stories of both the Americans and the Pakistanis. The one conclusion that I’ve drawn watching all this drama unfold is this: The Pakistani military is hiding something from the population. Why they’re doing that is anybody’s guess – maybe the US said they’ll give us more money to buy fancy boy toys? – but if their official statement is to be taken at face value, that there was an incompetency problem, then all our military generals ought to go jump off a bridge. Because this, this is simply unacceptable and nonsensical.