THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
Monday, May 09, 2011
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May 2, 2011
I am not likely to keep up on breaking news so I don't try. A few observations:
Abbottabad is essentially the West Point of Pakistan. The War College is there, and there are many retired flag rank officers. The community is like Beverly Hills or Highland Falls. Bin Ladin's family apparently visited him there for years.
An interesting observation from the area:
Of course this is India on Pakistan... NOTE that there is a photograph of bin Laden dead (probably faked).
I have come down with a cold. I won't attempt to "cover" this story, but I will put up interesting views including contrarian. It appears that Pakistan sold him out, but must be given plausible deniability. The Pakistani government cut the electricity in the entire area of the city. Think a Belle Aire community in the town outside West Point, New York.
There is a Wikileak document claiming that al Qaeda has a nuclear device which they will use in retaliation. I do not expect that to happen. Bin Laden was buried at sea, but not sewn into a pigskin.
It's not a cold, this is full blown flu. I don't trust my head, so I won't have a lot to say here, and I retain the right to disclaim it later.
It does occur to me that President Obama is not displaying megalomania in taking full credit for the operation that killed bin Laden. He is relieving Pakistan and the ISI of any and all responsibility, taking full responsibility for the operation on himself, and naming no underlings. Given the nature of the deed, this is an act of courage, and the President ought not be derided for that. Of the millions of sympathizers for bin Laden, there will undoubtedly be a few fanatics. The actual operations team and the chain of command should be kept anonymous for the safety of their families.
There was no way the operation could be carried out without the cooperation of the Pakistani government. This was the equivalent of Mexican Marines raiding a compound in Beverly Hills, then taking off from Santa Monica airport to go home, without any interference from either the Air Force or the local police. It seems clear to me that Pakistan was providing bin Laden with a place of refuge, and was persuaded to withdraw that and to cooperate with an operation against him. I am sure that no Pakistani wants any credit whatever for this, and I expect some Pakistani authorities to denounce the US for violating Pakistani sovereignty. It would be interesting to know what combination of stick and carrot was used to persuade Pakistan to give bin Laden up. Doubtless that will come out in time, possibly through WikiLeaks.
I have heard descriptions of the compound in Abbottabad as being no more than a hut; but I have also heard that it is valued at more than a million dollars, which is a lot of money in Pakistan, and it is not far from a major military academy. The town has a number of flag officer military retirement communities. I would be astonished if it were not in fact a fairly posh place inside; presumably there will eventually be pictures. I haven't had a chance to do a Google Earth examination of the area around Kakul Military Academy, but perhaps a reader will do that. Osama bin Laden had his family visit him in that house, and several were staying with him at the time of the operation. It wasn't a spider hole or a cave in the mountains. Abbottabad is not low rent territory. As far as I can figure, Osama's hideout was in a neighborhood equivalent to Highland Falls in New York. Of course that's mostly inference and speculation, but it's consistent with what I've heard from Russell Seitz, who has been to Abbottabad.
I have posted some mail.
And of course there are pictures everywhere now.
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|This week:||Tuesday, May
Despite getting my flu shots last Fall, I have got something indistinguishable from flu. I don't entirely trust my head.
The Pakistani ISI is not a monolithic organization, and as someone said today, it has a Department of Hedging Bets. In other words it is a leaky organization. At some point in this operation the US had to bring in the Pakistani government. The surviving helicopter needed refueling. They had just shot up a compound in a peaceful and orderly neighborhood, they had a body aboard, and they had to get back to the ship. Just who called who to do what isn't clear, but it is a fair inference that the Pakistani military had orders to lay off. Exactly when they got those orders, and who arranged them, hasn't come out and never will.
Note that this raid was months in the planning, and yet there were no leaks getting back to Osama bin Laden. That is at best puzzling. More on this below.
The Reuters story linked above says
A High Commissioner is a commonwealth ambassador. Clearly at least some part of the Pakistani government has now decided that it is better to get in on some of the credit here, even though President Obama made a point of saying this was a US operation without Pakistani help.
Meanwhile, details of the operation begin to leak out. First Osama bin Laden was armed and was shielded by his youngest wife, who was wounded. Now the buzz is that he was not armed and the woman in the story was his 12 year old daughter, who was in fact wounded. There is no word about her teddy bear. The latest stories are of the President's decisiveness, but no one has decided to release the pictures of bin Laden. There are leaks about the operation, yet for months the entire operation was kept a strict secret without leaks. The President was decisive, yet there was no decision for months. This complex operation was carried out quickly and decisively, meaning that it required a great deal of planning and some preparation, but the ISI got no warning, or if it did, none of that leaked to bin Laden. Bin Laden was unsuspecting and his guards were armed -- there was a fire fight -- so presumably he could have made a run for it had he had ten minutes warning, so presumably he had no such warning. Surely his security team had a contingency plan for what to do if the word came through that the safe house was compromised.
There were weeks of planning. They had a Muslim cleric present to do
funeral rites, yet no one decided in advance what to do with the photographs
of the body. He was buried at sea with Muslim ritual, rather than sewn in a
pigskin sack after being greased with pork lard, yet there are no
photographs of the ritual. The Times of India had a photograph of the dead
body -- you could see it on the link I posted yesterday morning -- but it is
gone now, and best information is that it was a fake.
Now there are no photographs anywhere. Why? Surely he is dead. Why are there no photographs of the dead body? Surely he is not actually in a CIA safe house being interrogated? Surely there is not a water board in his future?
So Pakistan didn't know where he was, or who was in that oddly sealed mansion; Pakistan didn't take any part in the operation, but two US helicopters flew across hundreds of miles of Pakistan to assault a house in Pakistan's military retirement city, lost one, refueled the other, and returned to the sea without any surveillance by Pakistani air assets or even by a local police helicopter. Bin Laden could have escaped with ten minutes warning, but he made no attempt to do so. This was considered for months in the White House, but nothing leaked out to the press. The photos are too gruesome to be released, but release is still being considered. No one is doing any alterations of the photographs, but we still want to think about whether or not to release them.
And so it goes. My head isn't working very well, but this all seems very odd to me. Of course much of it is the usual confusion that happens just after an operation of this sort, but things are getting more confused, not settling out. Very strange. And the White House is tweaking the story a bit. More to come.
If there were helicopters and a half hour gunfight outside my house, I'd sure as hell be armed by the time someone got to an upstairs bedroom.
I seem to have full blown flu. I'm going back to bed.
And as it gets later, there is another revision and it was his wife after all, and the death photos will be released Real Soon Now.
April 4, 2011
I am beginning to wonder if they didn't actually capture Osama bin Laden. It's not likely, of course; but President Obama, having made a fairly courageous decision to send in the shooters rather than just blow the hideout to bits, seems to have made a bit of a mess of the aftermath.
Bin Laden was buried at sea with Muslim rites (presumably conducted by Christians since a translator was involved), which is not likely to satisfy anyone. Muslim True Believers do not accept burial at sea if there is any alternative. Others would say that Osama bin Laden deserved a different set of last rites: to be greased with pork lard, sewn into a pigskin sack, and set out where hyenas or birds of prey or both could finish the job. After the Arab conquest of Persia following Qadisiyah, there was a long struggle between Mazda fire worshippers and Islam; the Mazdan burial ritual proscribes exposing the body to the sun and leaving it in a place where it is vulnerable to birds of prey, one reason for the Islamic taboos on having the body consumed by predators. Another possibility would have been to put his head on a pike for display at Ground Zero.
Of all those who have opinions on what ought to have been done with bin Laden, few will be satisfied by what was actually done with him. It does not seem a satisfactory solution to the situation. Of course it can't be undone now. He's in the Indian Ocean, accompanied, I suspect, by the excretions of a goodly number of the crew (wait until that story gets out).
And now the President won't show us the pictures. There is no announcement of who did the DNA tests and what tests were done. No experts have come forward to explain. It is as if no one thought about what to do to close the operation.
Which tells us that the "months of planning" were not planning at all. It was dithering, not planning. Proper planning would have determined in advance what to do with the body and with the photographs of the body. And now we must wait until Sixty Minutes on Sunday night to find out precisely what will be done.
It is all very puzzling. Why has Obama spoiled his triumph? Is this just advisors who are too clever by half, or is there a story in here? All very puzzling indeed.
There are now reports from Pakistan that there were no weapons in the bin Laden compound, so there could not have been a firefight. This seems unlikely. Bin Laden wasn't heavily guarded, but surely there were some weapons in his hideout. Several people including one woman, and one of bin Laden's sons, were killed. We haven't seen the teddy bears yet, but I'm watching for them.
Perhaps we can run some pictures of al Qaeda beheading people along with pictures of the mutilated corpse? The President has released pictures of mutilated corpses, just not this one.
And I now have reports that in some California schools they are questioning the violation of bin Laden's civil rights. We can hope that's a joke.
There are also reports that they were growing hashish in the bin Laden compound. While the use of hashish is traditional in some Muslim cultures -- the word "assassin" was long thought to derive from the Old Man of the Mountain who used hashish as part of the rituals of training for his dedicated followers -- it is, like alcohol, forbidden by most Islamic schools. Al Qaeda proclaims itself a very traditional and orthodox Sunni religion.
It was not a good week to be the youngest son of a Muslim terrorist leader. Meanwhile the war in Libya splutters on.
Meaning that Gaddafi still controls his forces and is moving into control of Misurata. What comes next? Will Seal Team Six be sent in for Qaddafi?
The question is one of the character of the President. Does this seem a likely description of the man in action? I have no experience with the President as decision maker.
I can say from my own knowledge that this story is very consistent with Panetta's character and personality as it was two decades ago. I once made speeches at fundraisers for Congressman Panetta, a Democrat, because he was supporting SDI and certain other space programs, and I thought him a good influence on the California Democratic caucus. As a Congressman he was best described as a New Democrat. I haven't met with him since Clinton appointed him Chief of Staff. Some describe him as a relentless liberal. My experiences with him concerned space military policy back in Reagan days, and I did not find him a relentless ideologue at the time. That was, of course, long ago.
During the Reagan administration I found him a Realist in foreign policy, realistically but not fanatically pro-Israel, and generally in favor of investing in military and space technology. Given the choices President Obama could have made, I was not displeased with his choice for Director of Central Intelligence, and became even less so when Senator Feinstein was unhappy with that choice.
When Speaker Pelosi accused the CIA of having a policy of lying to the Congress, former Speaker Newt Gingrich said:
You'll have to make up your own minds about the story. I do not find it incredible.
Pictures taken by the Pakistani journalists the morning after, and sold to Reuters
May 5, 2011
President Obama does not believe in a a war on terror. He is hardly alone in that view. War on a concept rather than an enemy is a very open ended affair.
Fortunately, it can now end. The man who declared that war is dead. Osama bin Laden's death briefly obscured the most significant event: Arab Spring -- mass uprisings against the existing order, in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, with unrest in Iran, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen, and all across the Near and Middle East. The old order in the Arab world is coming to an end. The regimes in the non-Arab Muslim world are unstable.
The war on terror is over. We can declare victory and come home. That should save at least $200 billion a year. Spend half that developing nuclear power. Use the rest in political bribes to grease the way for relaxation of regulations. Suspend those preventing development of domestic energy resources. Start a new era of economic freedom. Economic freedom plus low cost energy is the key to prosperity.
The first step is to disengage from overseas adventures. We have given Iraq and Afghanistan a head start on the new movements across the Arab and non-Arab Muslim world. They now have their chance to build a better society. Now it's time to build ours.
I don't suppose either the Republican leadership or the White House will agree with the new policy. Politics as usual will continue. Here is a bit more of it.
Continuing yesterday's story:
The thrust of all this is that President Obama acted more like the chairman of a faculty committee than as a decision maker. That's hard to determine, as it should be.
Hillary Clinton, and President Clinton's former chief of staff Leon Panetta come out well in the story, but that's not unexpected considering where the leaks are coming from.
Perhaps we know how to find him...
May 6, 2011
It has been a long week. I seem to be recovering. Apologies.
I hope to be back in business shortly.
May 7, 2011
.Recovering. Sort of.
May 8, 2011
It was a good day. I'm still recovering.
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