Foreign Intelligence Brief #370: The Details On The US Mission To Kill Osama Bin Laden
by Andrew Morrison | Osama bin Laden is dead, apparently double-tapped on the left side of his face yesterday by a US Navy SEAL (my money’s on Demi Moore). What does the death of one man do except piss his people off and make others feel temporarily OK about being broke? I don’t know, but for many of our neighbours to the south – six years to the day after George W. Bush pre-maturely claimed victory in the wrong war – it’s finally Mission Accomplished.
And so…it was a unilateral, middle of the night raid on a mansion in Abbottabad, a suburban town of 90,000 just outside the Pakistani capital of Islamabad and a stone’s throw from one of the country’s main military academies. The affluent area is also home to many retired Pakistani military and intelligence officials, which raises plenty of questions about Pakistani complicity in the harbouring of bin Laden, but that’s another story (seriously, though, how did they not know?). Still, I’m guessing former president Pervez Musharraf’s protestations today about “violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty” were received with a mocking “boohoo”.
The background on the assault reads like a Tom Clancy novel. After two “dress rehearsals” on a meticulously recreated facsimile of the compound at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, an undisclosed number of modified Black Hawk helicopters (shadowed by fighters and drones) took off from Ghazi Air Base in Pakistan and dropped some two dozen Navy SEALs from a special, some might say mythic team inside the “real” compound.
There are a variety of reports circulating about the oddity of the acreage in which they landed. It appears to be a significantly larger property than the others around it, with high walls topped with wire, two security gates, few windows and no internet or phone cables going in or out. It’s also butt ugly for a $1 million property, making it a total heat score. It was constructed in 2005, and it is thought that bin Laden moved in late 2010. Making it all the more attractive to the CIA was the fact that the residents only spoke Arabic and burned their own trash (perhaps they had uncommonly high hydro bills as well). Whatever: busted. Check the view from Osama’s window below. Beats a cave, no?
The SEAL team then moved in and initiated a firefight. This was a kill mission (there was no intent to capture). They identified bin Laden and shot him and three other men (two couriers and one of bin Laden’s sons), plus a woman who was apparently shielding one of the men (one report says bin Laden was using one of his wives as a shield). One other woman was wounded, and as many as 18 others in the compound were detained, though they did not make the trip out (reports suggest Pakistani intelligence officials were present in the immediate aftermath, though they were not informed before the operation took place).
After ransacking the house for whatever intel they could glean (hard drives, documents, etc.), they removed bin Laden’s body and got the hell out of Dodge. One of the helicopters they rode in on suffered some sort of a malfunction and had to be scuttled with explosives on site, but that was it for hiccups. No SEAL was hurt in the operation, which means the likelihood of a movie adaptation is slim. Hours after Obama’s speech and in the midst of all the spontaneous (some might say hideous) gloat-fests in Washington and New York (“U-S-A! U-S-A!”), bin Laden’s body was washed by Muslim men, wrapped in a white sheet and ceremoniously splashed into the Arabian Sea after Yemen and Saudi Arabia refused to take his body (nice).
While the foreign policy wonks ask what it all means, the little question that will shortly become a very big question is will there be a photo? Yes, and likely video, too, because 38% of Americans don’t trust DNA tests (unless they are conducted by Jesus) and facial recognition software is still the Devil’s work (the crazy birthers will require a long-format death certificate as well). Cue the inevitable Call Of Duty mod, and the Taiwanese recreation of the attack...
UPDATE: Apparently, the Obama administration could give a damn what 38% of Americans think (attaboy) and will not be releasing any photos of the deceased Osama bin Laden, saying there’s no need to “spike the football”.