Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Osama bin Laden: Questions, Answers, and Opinions

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: Things are not, in my opinion, simple.

Not usually, not when human beings are involved.

I've said this before, too: this isn't a political blog. I don't claim that some person or party is always right - and that everybody who doesn't agree is stupid, or a traitor, or a stupid traitor.

Moving on.

Osama bin Laden is Still Dead

Quite a bit of the news I've run into today centers around photos taken of the late Al Qaeda leader. After he'd been shot. He wasn't, I gather, looking his best. Quite understandable, given the circumstances.

Someone's going to decide to release that photo, and others, soon - or not. Either way, folks are going to be upset.

For what it's worth, I think that hunting down Osama bin Laden was the best of a set of none-too-attractive alternatives. I've discussed one aspect of the situation, in another blog:
"...I think that, someday, maybe, there will be an 'international authority with the necessary competence and power' to simply arrest someone like the Libyan colonel. (Catechism [of the Catholic Church], 2308)

Until we have something like Tennyson's 'Parliament of man, the Federation of the world,' we'll have to make do with the United Nations. Or whatever's cobbled together after that....
(A Catholic Citizen in America (March 22, 2011))
About Osama bin Laden himself, I discussed part of my reaction in another blog on Monday. (A Catholic Citizen in America (May 2, 2011))

As for Osama bin Laden, the war on terror, and all that:
  • Do I think Osama bin Laden is responsible for many attacks on innocent people, including the famous 9/11 incident?
    • Yes
      • He said he was
      • I have no reason to doubt what he said in that regard
  • Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, can we all go home?
    • No
      • Too many folks apparently think that 'defending Islam' means killing people who
  • Should Pakistani authorities have been involved in dealing with Osama bin Laden?
    • Yes
      • Ideally
  • Were Pakistani authorities shielding Osama bin Laden?
    • Maybe
    • Or maybe they're just
      • Incompetent
      • Disinterested
      • Too busy arresting political rivals
      • All of the above
Here's where this post gets a little political.

Living in Today's World

I think the American president made a prudent, if somewhat risky, decision by authorizing the attack on Osama bin Laden's safe house. I didn't vote for President Obama - but, as I've said before, it's different when you're in charge. I still disagree with many of President Obama's policies - but I don't think he's stupid, and I do think that he wants America to be around in 2012, so he can start a 2nd term.

I also think that Pakistan is not in as bad shape as, say, Somalia or Sudan. I also hope that Pakistan becomes a nation whose government supports the interests of Pakistanis - and controls more than most parts of the capital city. In my opinion, bringing Pakistan up to speed with countries like Germany or Japan will take a very long time. Generations. Maybe centuries.

Right now? I've heard and read opinions that the Pakistani military are the 'adult supervisors,' as one fellow said, for the country's government. I've also encountered assertions that Pakistan's analog to the CIA and FBI 'really' run the country. Also that nobody's running the territory - that Pakistan is a patchwork of rival factions. Sort of like Europe around the start of the Viking era.

Like I said, I fear that it may take centuries for Pakistan to catch up to where, say, Singapore is now.

That's not because I think Pakistanis are 'natives,' in the Victoria-era sense of the term. But because the folks living there seem to have been relatively isolated: ever since Alexander III of Macedon marched through, on his way to where India is now.

Quite a bit has changed since then, and I've discussed that before. (March 19, 2010)

Lots of Questions, Few Answers

I put excerpts from recent news at the end of this post.1

From what we've heard about the massive safe house complex where American forces caught up with Osama bin Laden - it's hard to believe that Pakistani authorities were not deliberately ignoring his presence.

But that's an American's viewpoint.

Abbottabad, Pakistan, is very roughly as far away from the country's capital as Leesburg, Virginia, is from Washington D.C..

I think that if a largish plot of land was purchased in a Leesburg suburb, and a semi-fortified compound built there, someone might have started asking questions. Someone other than the neighbors.

Add antisocial, counter-cultural behavior on the part of the compound's residents?2

Maybe I'm giving Pakistani authorities too much credit. Maybe they really couldn't tell that something was odd about the bin Laden compound.

I don't think so, though. I've known folks who lived in different parts of the world. And, linguistic and cultural differences aside, we're not all that different from each other. No one group really seems to have a monopoly on being smart. And that's almost another topic.

Related posts:
In the news:

1Excerpts from the news:
"The children in the white mansion with closed circuit cameras in Abbottabad never came out to play.

"Only now, after a stunning U.S. assault that killed Osama bin Laden in the small, tranquil Pakistani city and put it under an international spotlight, is it all starting to make sense.

"The al Qaeda leader, widely believed to be hiding in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, was actually one of the mysterious neighbors next door -- acutely aware that one false move could tip off U.S. intelligence agents hunting him....

"...People had been scratching their heads for years in Abbottabad, a typical medium-sized Pakistani city, 50 km (31 miles) northwest of the capital Islamabad.

"Residents had tried to come up with some answers. They must be a religious family so that's why the women were never seen, kept inside.

2 "But that didn't explain why the men of the house never attended weddings or funerals -- unusual behavior in Pakistan's deeply traditional Muslim society...."

"...Questions are mounting about why Pakistan failed to locate or bring bin Laden to justice.

"According to two sources at the briefing Tuesday, CIA Director Leon Panetta told lawmakers that Pakistani officials either 'were involved or incompetent. Neither place is a good place to be.'

"The senior Pakistani intelligence official said there is now 'total mistrust' between the United States and Pakistan, and that if Panetta made such a statement, it is 'totally regrettable. (Panetta) of all people knows how much we have been doing.'

"In an interview with TIME magazine, Panetta said 'it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission. They might alert the targets.'

"Sen. Richard Lugar, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he thinks many Pakistanis might have known where bin Laden was, including people in the government.

" 'This is one reason we did not inform the Pakistanis of our actions,' he said Tuesday, noting 'there were probably many who were very uncomfortable about the presence likewise.'..."

"Pakistan has jumped to defend its intelligence agency, saying it has been sharing information about Usama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad with American officials, and that their findings ultimately led to his death, Sky News reported.

"A senior official at the ISI, Pakistan's government intelligence agency, told Sky News they received information six months ago that bin Laden was living at the compound and shared it with the CIA.

" 'It is as a result of the information we shared that they got Usama bin Laden,' the ISI official told Sky News.

"The U.S. did not share information during Sunday's raid on bin Laden's compound that killed him, fearing it would jeopardize the operation. The ISI official says that embarrassed the agency.

" 'Our relationship will be affected because of the manner this was conducted,' he told the British news agency...."

"Guantanamo Bay prison authorities named Pakistan's main intelligence agency a terrorist organization along with Hamas and other international militant networks, according to leaked documents likely to damage already rocky relations between the spy body and the CIA.

"The 2007 documents from the Guantanamo Bay prison were part of a batch of classified material released by the WikiLeaks website and included interrogation summaries from more than 700 detainees.

"The publicity about the documents in Pakistan coincided with a visit here Monday by Gen. David Petraeus, top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

"Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which falls under the control of the country's powerful military, declined to comment, but it has consistently denied any ongoing links with Islamist militants.

"The ISI is included in a list of more than 60 international militant networks, as well as Iran's own intelligence service, that appear in guidelines for interrogators at Guantanamo. It says the groups are 'terrorist' entities or associations and say detainees linked to them 'may have provided support to al-Qaida and the Taliban, or engaged in hostilities against U.S. and coalition forces.'

"The CIA and the ISI have worked closely together since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to hunt down al-Qaida operatives sheltering in Pakistan. But U.S. officials have often voiced suspicions that elements of the ISI were either linked to or supporting militants even as the two countries publicly talked of their alliance in the campaign against extremism.

"Those suspicions appear to be bolstered in part by documents about some individual detainees that were first reported by the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper.

"For instance, the profile of Harun Shirzad al-Afghani says the U.S. believes the detainee attended an August 2006 meeting that included a variety of militants as well as representatives of Pakistan's military and intelligence service. Those gathered decided to increase attacks in certain provinces of Afghanistan, the profile states, citing an unidentified letter.

"The profile also states that al-Afghani claimed that an unnamed ISI officer paid $12,000 (1 million Pakistani rupees) to a militant involved in transporting ammunition to a weapons depot in eastern Afghanistan....

"...In a rare public accusation last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, said the ISI had continued links to the powerful network of an Afghan warlord that has bases in a northwestern tribal region of Pakistan. Hours later, Pakistan's army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, rejected what he called 'negative propaganda' by the United States....

"...Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told Parliament late Monday that the country's civilian, military and intelligence leaders had taken steps to end any 'trust deficit' with the Afghan government, which has also accused the ISI of meddling in its affairs in the past. Gilani made no direct reference to the classified documents...."
(Associated Press, via


Brigid said...

Repeated word: "the situation, in in another blog"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

P.S. The big thing in the news here seems to be who actually shot bin Laden. Why that would be an issue is beyond me.

Brian H. Gill said...


Got it it. ;)


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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.