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May 03, 2011

Comments

belle le triste

I think everyone should just give up the struggle and use that german double S that looks like a b: oßama

Alex

Cute detail: OBL's gaff was about two miles from the Abbottabad Golf Club. Chota peg? Not while I'm on duty, General...

JamesP

Goddamnit. This is why I can't blame Fox when they make this kind of mistake.

ajay

And the ISI is so deeply corrupt that there's little chance of the information *not* leaking if they did have knowledge of the US raid.

"Corrupt" may be the wrong word; I think "sympathetic" might be more accurate. Leaky, anyway. Look what happened in '98.

JamesP

My understanding of the ISI is that it's *both* corrupt and sympathetic - that is, there's a large number of people who would inform on a prospective US attack because they're ideologically sympathetic, and an equally large number who would do so for cash.

Phil

I'm (for once) with Tariq. It's inconceivable that Pakistan didn't know where he was, therefore the US almost certainly did have an insider - but just the one, and one who knows how and when to keep his mouth shut. (Or does this stipulation blow the idea out of the water?)

As for the holier-than-thouathon, I don't feel offended and superior when I see people rejoicing in ObL's death or announcing that he's gone to Hell - I feel scared and disgusted. Scared because anyone who can celebrate one person's death can celebrate another, or lots more; disgusted because, although I haven't been a regular churchgoer for quite a few years, I am pretty damn sure that neither you nor I gets to pronounce on the state of anyone else's immortal soul (or indeed our own). And then scared all over again, because anyone who can smilingly label one person as EVIL can label another, or lots more.

JamesP

See, I don't get the belief that we're always an inch away from the slippery slope, and that declaring the self-proclaimed murderer of 3000 people evil is a dangerous precedent to set.

redpesto

I'd like to see any paper trail for the compound, or whether the Pakistani equivalent of Kirstie and Phil had a hand in it.

flyingrodent

I'm getting slightly annoyed by the holier-than-thou-athon around Bin Laden's death in some quarters.

Depends on how you look at it. I don't really care about the celebrations and won't lose sleep - I understand exactly where they're coming from - but they do strike me as pretty damn weird. They remind me of those nutters who drive up to death row prisons in America to get hammered on beer and wave "Burn, bitch, burn!" signs whenever there's an execution.

I mean, the person being executed usually deserves it. I just don't understand the urge to travel into the middle of nowhere to celebrate it.

Chris Williams

Let's assume that about 1% of Americans have bought into GWB's tish about 'the country is at war'. This is their VE Day, then.

My US contacts are, as you'd expect, not exactly representative. But many are coming up with the same reaction as this Iraq veteran: "Congratulations to our armed forces and intelligence community for getting rid of the motherfucker. Now, since there's even less reason to occupy Afghanistan, why don't we start bringing the troops home?"

skidmarx

I don't have a principled objection to the extra-judicial killing and dumping the body in the ocean, but neither might be the best course for those attempting to assert moral superiority. And if you can't win a morality contest with the world's greatest terrorist...

cian

See, I don't get the belief that we're always an inch away from the slippery slope, and that declaring the self-proclaimed murderer of 3000 people evil is a dangerous precedent to set.

The slippery slope in this instance is receding far into the background.

We have routine extra-judicial killings on the basis of god knows what.

We have torture as a routine mechanism of intelligence gathering.

We now have torture being used as a mechanism for softening up a prisoner prior to trial.

I agree with Phil, but we're long past the point where there's even any point condemning it.

Skidmarx: The US has no moral superiority over anyone at this point. Its always been debatable (like most western states), but they're rapidly sinking into the kind of cesspool the Israelis exist in.

ajay

It's inconceivable that Pakistan didn't know where he was, therefore the US almost certainly did have an insider

This is a non sequitur. If A knows something and B finds it out, it doesn't follow that B found it out from A.

JamesP

There's a substantial difference between "extra-judicial killing" and "killed resisting arrest," however. Obama is a careful type of fellow, and I suspect the orders will state the later while suggesting, in practice, the former. But, deplorable as other US actions have been, I don't think there's any loss of moral supremacy here.

I also think there's a substantial danger with characterizing the US as a moral pariah rather than singling out specific elements of diplomatic, military, or security policy. On a practical level, it alienates Americans and drives the victim-bully mentality even further forward. (It's the same with Israel, where that cycle drives the continued swing to the hard right.)

ejh

There's a substantial difference between "extra-judicial killing" and "killed resisting arrest," however

Well yes, the latter is usually the description when the former is the reality.

Alex

The data is in: the world public appears to prefer football to either war or monarchy.

Alex

Although, that might have been different had the Execution Channel been more widely available.

Actually that was more like the "Execution plus Either Triumph Beyond Imagining or Total and Irreversible Self-Humiliation Channel"...

Phil

I don't get the belief that we're always an inch away from the slippery slope, and that declaring the self-proclaimed murderer of 3000 people evil is a dangerous precedent to set

What scares me - & what I assumed you were talking about - is people reacting to a killing by celebrating our side's ability to triumph over evil. I don't think it's a slippery slope argument at all - I think that mentality is already there, and giving it any encouragement is a bad idea. The fact that this particular person was guilty of evil actions makes this more scary rather than less, because it makes it harder to dissent from - what, you're not glad he's dead? Cf. Blunkett cracking a bottle when Harold Shipman topped himself.

ajay

Interesting military ethics thought: an IED is basically a completely autonomous and undiscriminating armed UAV which doesn't actually move around.

BenSix

"A woman killed during the raid of Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan was not his wife and was not used as a human shield by the al Qaeda leader before his death, a U.S. official said on Monday, correcting an earlier description."

Phil

You've got to wonder how far down the chain that kind of misinformation gets. Ideally you'd want not only the spokesperson but the person who briefed them to believe they were telling the truth.

What a nasty administration this is in some ways - intelligently nasty. (I'll take 'intelligently nasty' over 'stupid, crazy and terrifying' any day, but it would have been nice to make even more progress than that.)

john b

Also, how far up the chain. We all know that the sets of "what happened" and "what the commander in chief is told" are almost as disjoint as "what the commander in chief then tells the proles".

ajay

Sounds more like uncontrolled rumour and speculation than conspiracy, if you ask me.

Seeds

I was definitely a holier-than-thouer in the last thread, so I'm pitching in another "Amen" to what Phil said.

And... something doesn't have to be unreasonable or surprising to be unpleasant or unfortunate, does it?

Some Palestinians were gleeful when the towers fell - I'm not saying it's the same thing, mind - and though I didn't find it unreasonable or surprising, it doesn't follow that I was faced with a choice of either ignoring the fact or becoming a vegetarian.

Seeds

I'm not sure it matters what the actual orders were - special forces will be special forces, after all.

Think of the SAS in the Iranian Embassy, except a lot less public, and it's not so surprising that he ended up dead if the orders were anything other than "capture at all costs".

I don't have the cite to hand, but I read yesterday that this was the same SEAL team that went to rescue Linda Norgrove.

cian

The navy people I knew, who'd trained with the SEALs, thought they were meatheads. They do seem to have that reputation in popular mythology, with the Rangers being the thinkers. My wife said that the couple of people she knew who ended up in the Rangers were smart.

Leonard Hatred

My US pal got bored of the partying pretty quickly. I don't really like it, but I can understand it. Ten years of the guy as your symbol of evil, the bogeyman stalking the world. And Jamie's probably right, that the US is a pretty glum place at the moment. It's silly, but it's probably harmless. I've seen people elsewhere saying that his body should've been tied to a truck and paraded through NYC, so, you know, it could have been worse. Burial at sea seems like a good move, for all it makes me think of the end of the Big Lebowski.

Seeds, Seal Team Six is the name of the unit. There are no teams 1-5. It's the branch of the SEALs that is specifically deployed for "counterterrorism" rather than the regular activities special forces get up to. So technically, yes, it's the same unit, but probably not actually the same guys.

cian

But, deplorable as other US actions have been, I don't think there's any loss of moral supremacy here.

What's to lose, they've already done far worse than this. The US slipped a long time ago. I wish it were otherwise.


I also think there's a substantial danger with characterizing the US as a moral pariah rather than singling out specific elements of diplomatic, military, or security policy.

So what do you suggest? Ignore that it uses torture and extra-judicial murder? Ignore its elite's continued moral pretensions, and use of as a form of soft power?

Leonard Hatred

Unless I'm misreading you and it's actually the same guys, in which case, apologies!

jamie

I'm not sure all the partying was entirely spontaneous. Did anyone else see the circa 2008 Obama signs at the celebrations outside the White House?

JamesP

I think that when challenging any neurotic power, whether it's the US or China, the way to do it is generally a) to let the locals handle it - and it's not as if the actually quite substantial number of sane and reasonable Americans needs to be told how wicked their country is on a regular basis, b) to engage with and praise the good things about their national and political ideals and emphasize the gap between those ideals and their actions.

redpesto

They remind me of those nutters who drive up to death row prisons in America to get hammered on beer and wave "Burn, bitch, burn!" signs whenever there's an execution.

c19th Tyburn, anyone?

PS: Re. parading the corpse: Bush might have dragged OBL's body behind his chariot around Ground Zero live on Fox (sorry, I watched Troy last week), but perhaps Obama's (a bit) better than that.

belle le triste

Last execution at Tyburn was the highwayman John Austin in 1787: and the crowds that gathered -- especially for highwaymen -- were often pretty sympathetic to the executee, weren't they?

ejh

Lots of people have watched Troy, but very few have got as far through it as that. (I certainly didn't.)

redpesto

Ta, belle - sorry for the errors.

ejh - I even made as far as the end....which will surprise anyone familiar with what happens to Agamemnon from Greek drama.

ajay

Seal Team Six is the name of the unit. There are no teams 1-5.

Actually, they seem to go up to 10. DEVGRU is the old SEAL Team 6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SEAL#Navy_SEAL_teams_and_structure

I even made as far as the end....which will surprise anyone familiar with what happens to Agamemnon from Greek drama.

Oh, let me guess. He gets kicked to death kung-fu style by Andromache? He falls off a cliff? He walks off into the sunset with Briseis?

belle le triste

He moves in the Furies.

redpesto

Oh, let me guess. He gets kicked to death kung-fu style by Andromache? He falls off a cliff? He walks off into the sunset with Briseis?

I won't say - spoliers an' all that - but any of those would have been in keeping.

Incidentally - and more on topic, in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, Hector says 'I am unarm'd' before Achilles and his Myrmidons kill him anyway.

Seeds

...And I see that there are ca. 120 soldiers per "team", so probably not the same individuals involved.

Cheers for the correction Leonard.

ajay

He moves in with the Furies.

"Good morning, Furies."
"Good morning, Charlie!"

Leonard Hatred

Ajay: Well well well. Shows what I know.

cian

So now apparently Bin Laden was unarmed. Shot while resisting arrest.

What a nasty administration this is in some ways - intelligently nasty.

The sad thing is that they only seem to display intelligence when being nasty.

ajay

Actually I am rather liking the idea of a "Troy"/"Charlie's Angels" spinoff focussing on the Furies. Every week brings a new parricide to harass for Meg, Alex and Tissy!

skidmarx

Your myth, should you choose to accept it...

Dan Hardie

I've seen too many people die violently to actually be happy about Osama's death, but I won't pretend I'm upset about it.

Killing an unashamed mass murderer was a perfectly good thing to do in itself, but what makes this all the more admirable is that it unavoidably exposes the criminality of the ISI and the wider Pakistani military. The ISI has spent decades murdering Afghan, Indian and Pakistani civilians -sometimes with its own triggermen, more often by arming and protecting criminals like Osama- for reasons that would be laughable if the consequences weren't so tragic. At the same time, the Pakistani military has subjected its own country to something that looks awfully like an armed protection racket.

The ISI and the Generals have now lost perhaps their biggest bargaining counter with the Americans, and they have turned every Senator and Congressman in Washington against them.

Ahmed Rashid is nobody's idea of an optimist, but he wrote in the FT that Osama's killing is going to make it incredibly hard for the ISI to carry on with its normal murder-by-proxy games.This could be the beginning of the end of the Pakistani Generals' mad and evil 'policies' in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

ajay

The ISI and the Generals have now lost perhaps their biggest bargaining counter with the Americans, and they have turned every Senator and Congressman in Washington against them.

True - and I certainly hope you're right in your last para - but caveats; the ISI still has a lot of influence while there are foreign troops still in Afghanistan; all those trucks full of supplies that have to get through the passes can be allowed to get through, or not, depending on how the ISI feels that day. ISI and the army more generally are still central to the Pakistani economy and that's not going to change overnight if ever. ISI also still, presumably, controls or influences charming chaps like Gulbuddin Hikmatyar and can turn the taps on and off to him as well.

Dan Hardie

Those are the cards in the Generals' hands. Some of the cards in American hands are that the Pakistani Army is bankrolled by the US, as are significant portions of the Pakistani economy (and if Pakistan ever needs another IMF bailout, as it may well do, we all know who the biggest donor will be).

Every American who actually watches the news now aware that the Pakistani Army probably sheltered the guy who killed 3,000 of their fellow citizens. Obama should now be able to say to the Pakistani Generals: 'I can turn your oxygen off and the voters will back me'.

ejh

Although Pakistani citizens may ask why it is that the US has been providing these people's oxygen for as long as it has.

ajay

Obama should now be able to say to the Pakistani Generals: 'I can turn your oxygen off and the voters will back me'.

Or, rather (because I doubt that US aid to the Pakistani army per se ever had much of a constituency among US voters), "I can turn your oxygen off and you won't be able to say that I'm undermining an ally's effort to fight Al Qaeda and find bin Laden".

Dan Hardie

Yes, that's why I said that the ISI have lost their biggest bargaining card. It could all be very good news.

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