Sunday, April 20, 2014

Notes on Osama bin Laden's Reported Death

Written on May 4th, 2011
Edited in April 2014

The Raid

   White House Counter-Terrorism Adviser John Brennan said bin Laden was “engaged in a firefight” during the raid, and suggested that bin Laden was “hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield”. Brennan may not have intended to suggest either that bin Laden was armed and shooting during the raid, nor that he literally used his wife as a human shield during the raid.

   White House Press Secretary Jay Carney amended Brennan’s statements, saying that bin Laden was unarmed during the raid, and that “bin Laden’s wife… rushed the [S.E.A.L.] and was shot in the leg but not killed”.

   It has been widely reported that bin Laden did not show willingness to be arrested. CIA Director Leon Panetta says the S.E.A.L.s were supposed to capture bin Laden if he showed willingness to be captured. John Brennan agreed on Monday, saying that they killed bin Laden because he didn’t show willingness to be captured alive.

   Obviously, bin Laden’s natural response to someone trying to capture him alive and / or kill him would have been to have his men fire back, so in any situation except a completely willing and peaceful surrender in which bin Laden would have commanded all his men to fall back would have lead to the arrest of all of them.

   But this article says that bin Laden's daughter claims that he was captured alive, and then killed:

   Some believe that the orders were to kill bin Laden on sight. However, the Chicago Tribune reported that the only way the SEALs wouldn't have killed bin Laden is if he were naked, because him being naked would have been the only way the SEALs could have been sure that he did not have any explosive devices hidden under his clothing.

The "Burial" 

   People are claiming that bin Laden's corpse was cleansed, wrapped in a shroud, and buried within 24 hours of his death, in accordance with the funerary rites of Islam. They also say they buried him at sea so that his followers wouldn't turn his grave into a shrine. But Muslim funerary rites dictate that a person is to be buried in the ground in an unmarked grave with his head pointing towards Mecca, so both of the ideas in the preceding sentence are preposterous.

   The Salafis would never turn a person's grave into a shrine, and could never turn one into a shrine, because it would be unmarked. And that a person's corpse could be weighted and sunk to the bottom of the sea would obviously not ensure that his head would point towards Mecca.

The Intelligence 

   Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, and Sean Hannity claimed that "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding led us to bin Laden's courier, leading to bin Laden's assassination. But if Donald Rumsfeld is correct, such claims are completely false. Rumsfeld says that only three individuals (including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) were waterboarded, and that waterboarding never took place at Guantanamo Bay). There are no solid facts anywhere that suggest that "enhanced interrogation techniques" - waterboarding included - led to bin Laden's assassination.

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