Wednesday, 8 June 2011

So is Bin Laden really dead?

Fox News reported the following on December 26th 2001:

Usama bin Laden has died a peaceful death due to an untreated lung complication, the Pakistan Observer reported, citing a Taliban leader who allegedly attended the funeral of the Al Qaeda leader.

"The Coalition troops are engaged in a mad search operation but they would never be able to fulfill their cherished goal of getting Usama alive or dead," the source said.

Bin Laden, according to the source, was suffering from a serious lung complication and succumbed to the disease in mid-December, in the vicinity of the Tora Bora mountains. The source claimed that bin Laden was laid to rest honorably in his last abode and his grave was made as per his Wahabi belief.

No wonder Hillary Clinton and her friends are losing the information war. They’ve been doing a marvellous job this month in turning the mainstream media into an Alice in Wonderland circus without the help of 'conspiracy theorists'.

The story on the killing of Osama bin Laden was dutifully reported right across the spectrum, including Channel 4 News, Al Jazeera and Russia Today. It is believed to be the ninth time that Osama bin Laden has died. Hitler and Goebbels knew that if you’re going to tell a lie you make it big. But what happens if that doesn’t work? If you can't eliminate the opposition, I suppose all you can do is to make the big lie even bigger, and bigger, and bigger, until the whole propaganda bubble either implodes in a wave of incredulity, or you start a war. To do that you enrage the population against some irrational monster who’s threatening the very survival of the people you’re trying to brainwash. In this case, though, they’ve just killed him off.

On May 1, President Barack Obama made an announcement in the White House that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a US operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and that his body had been taken into custody.

In his nine minute speech, that was all the detail he gave, other than that he himself had given the order, and that he and his team had spoken with their counterparts in Pakistan, who agreed that was a good and historic day for both their nations. The rest was a repetition of previous rhetoric. Some further details were given in a subsequent press briefing, but very few. They said they had received information from 'detainees', which led them to the 'compound' in Abbottabad in August 2010. When they saw the compound, a spokesman said, they were shocked at what they saw: It sat on a large plot of land, relatively secluded when it was built at the end of a narrow dirt road, had 12- to 18-foot walls topped with barbed wire, with internal walls sectioning off different portions of the compound, with two security gates, and the residents burned their rubbish rather than putting it out for collection as their neighbours did! Yeah, we've had complaints from neighbours on that score, too. Furthermore, the three-story building, had few windows facing the outside of the compound, and a terrace on the third floor had a seven-foot privacy wall. I suppose if you lived in a place like Pakistan you might think of taking that precaution. Apart from that, I remember seeing quite a lot of properties like that when I worked in Italy. Nearly all of them had noisy guard dogs barking at the gates!!! Further suspicious aspects of the 'compound' were that it was valued at $1M, that it had no telephone or Internet connection, and that the brothers who were said to occupy it had no explainable source of wealth. That was before they knew of a third family, whose size and makeup matched the bin Laden family members. In fact, they said, everything they saw "was perfectly consistent with what our experts expected bin Laden’s hideout to look like".

So why were they so shocked? They concluded that there was "a strong probability that that person was Osama bin Laden". On the basis of that they sent in their forces, meeting no resistance from local authorities, killing Osama bin Laden, three adult males and one female, who, they said, was being used as a shield by a male combatant. They detonated one of their own helicopters because of mechanical failure. The operation lasted under 40 minutes, and that was all the information the press was given in the briefing. In the subsequent question and answer session very little new information was given. One official denied that they had said that the helicopter failure had been mechanical. Apart from that, they said that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a firefight, and that they would ensure that his body would be handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition. They didn't know how long Osama bin Laden had been living at that compound. I would have expected any self-respecting journalist to be cautious over such a tale. There was lack of detail, evasion, and already hints of self-contradiction. There was also undue emphasis on the heroic role of the President. I should have thought that it might have occurred to some journalists that politicians sometimes don't tell the truth, or that in a war the first casualty is truth. Yet I couldn't find a single report in the mainstream media that questioned that Osama bin Laden had been in that 'compound' and had been killed by US forces, not even on Channel 4, Al Jazeera or Russia Today. Whatever the truth is, that is worrying.

The following day saw a further press briefing, mainly by the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, John Brennan. He confirmed that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a firefight, but stated that if they had had the opportunity to take him alive they would have done so.

Later he admitted: "And whether or not he got off any rounds, I quite frankly don’t know". But then he contradicted the previous statement that they didn't know how long Osama bin Laden had been living at the compound, firstly by insinuation. "We are looking right now at how he was able to hold out there for so long, and whether or not there was any type of support system within Pakistan that allowed him to stay there", he stated. Shortly afterwards he stated: "I think it’s inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time". They were now insinuating that Pakistan may have had a hand in hiding Osama bin Laden, using a technique which I well recognise and needs a name. When it happens because of stupidity, people refer to it as 'a storm in a teacup'. The problem is that virtually no-one believes that it can be contrived by intelligent people, however obvious that is. War propaganda needs to be better understood.

A further question was put on a widely published photo of Barack Obama with others watching the events unfold on screen. This picture had appeared widely throughout the press, showing these people watching the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Gathered in the secure Situation Room, deep within the White House, President Barack Obama and his most trusted aides were able to watch the operation unfold in “real time” as US Special Forces stormed the terror chief’s compound in Pakistan and relayed images of the raid back via satellite.

In response to a question of whether they were watching the operation, John Brennan replied: "We were able to monitor the situation in real time and were able to have regular updates and to ensure that we had real-time visibility into the progress of the operation". He later mentioned "seeing that helicopter in a place and in a condition that it wasn’t supposed to be", so the information would presumably have been visual, but he avoided saying so directly. One journalist asked John Brennan: "Bin Laden used women as human shields when American personnel went in?", to which he replied, "There was family at that compound, and there was a female who was in fact in the line of fire that reportedly was used as a shield to shield bin Laden from the incoming fire". Journalists returned to this issue a couple of times later, for clarification. John Brennan stated that his understanding was that one of Osama bin Laden's wives served as a shield. On the question of releasing photos of bin Laden to show the world that he was dead, he said that they were doing everything they could to make sure that nobody had any basis to try to deny that they had got Osama bin Laden, but when pressed he was evasive. He talked at some length about the President personally having taken the decision, and about there having been disagreement, and what the downsides would have been if it hadn't been bin Laden. He stated that they were 99.9% certain that it was Osama bin Laden.

There was a further press briefing the following day by Press Secretary Jay Carney, in which various contradictions were revealed:

One journalist asked: "So Brennan in his briefing yesterday made a couple of I guess misstatements or statements that later appeared to be somewhat incorrect, such as that the wife was shielding bin Laden and it turned out it wasn’t the wife and there may not have been a shield and it wasn’t clear whether or not bin Laden had a gun. Are you guys in a fog of war in this, or what gives?".

Jay Carney gave a new narrative, in which Osama bin Laden had not been armed and had not been shielded, but a wife had been shot in the leg in another room. Later, following further questioning, Jay Carney said, "Even I’m getting confused. In the room with bin Laden was bin Laden’s wife. She rushed one of the U.S. assaulters and was shot in the leg but not killed. A woman on the first floor was killed in the crossfire". He didn't know whether bin Laden's wife was armed. Eventually, he said, " Sorry. Mark, did you have -- let me go –". Another journalist asked, "In the narrative, which of those women was being used a human shield as Mr. Brennan suggested yesterday?", to which he invoked the "fog of war" – he didn't actually know. In answer to a question on how bin Laden resisted, he said that they had worked very hard to declassify information in record speed. On whether enhanced interrogation techniques had been employed he obfuscated.

The contradictions were reported in the mainstream media, as in The Guardian, which reported under the heading 'Osama bin Laden's final moments: America changes its story":

Bin Laden, according to a briefing on Monday, used his wife as a human shield and she was killed. By Tuesday, the White House reversed that: she had not been used as a human shield and she was not dead. The other point of discrepancy was the initial briefings that stated Bin Laden resisted and was killed in a "firefight", which suggests he had been armed. The White House insisted he had resisted, without saying how, but said he had no gun.

Even that was a sanitised version of the utter confusion being generated at those press briefings.

Then on May 4, Barack Obama was interviewed on CBS News. Much of this 30-minute interview was a repetition of previous rhetoric, but some specifics of the operation were discussed. Tentative statements and suspicions reported in previous briefing sessions were now turning into facts.

"We know he was there at least five years", President Obama stated. Shortly afterwards he said "But we know that for five to six years this compound was there, and our belief is that he was there during that time". That's not quite the same thing. He said that before they had done DNA testing on the body they were 95% certain that it was Osama bin Laden. "Did you see the pictures?", Obama was asked. "Yes", he replied. "What was your reaction when you saw them?" – "It was him". "Why haven't you released them?" – "You know, we discussed this internally. Keep in mind that we are absolutely certain this was him. We've done DNA sampling and testing. And so there is no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden. It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence. As a propaganda tool".

So on the basis of unpublished DNA evidence and the President's assessment of unseen photos, they are 100% sure it was him. It would be interesting to get some comments from DNA experts on this, as every national newspaper reporting this interview should have done. He was asked "There are people in Pakistan, for example, who say, 'Look, this is all a lie. This is another American trick. Osama's not dead', and he replied: "You know, the truth is that - and we're monitoring worldwide reaction -- there's no doubt that bin Laden is dead. Certainly there's no doubt among al Qaeda members that he is dead. And so we don't think that a photograph in and of itself is gonna make any difference. There are gonna be some folks who deny it. The fact of the matter is, you will not see bin Laden walkin' on this earth again". The fact of the matter, actually, is that no-one has seen bin Laden walkin' on this earth since December 2001. On Pakistan, Barack Obama said: "We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan. But we don't know who or what that support network was. We don't know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government, and that's something that we have to investigate, and more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate". We've now come a long way from not knowing how long Osama bin Laden had been in that 'compound'.

That half hour interview was spun out to an hour's programme on CBS news, in which the president's heroic role was hyped up, and the few facts available were developed into a dramatic narrative of how Osama bin Laden had been resident in Pakistan for at least five years, with possible duplicity in Pakistan in keeping his whereabouts quiet for that period (

The narrative is presented on the website in three video parts under the title 'Killing Bin Laden: The President's Story'. Part 3 shows the FBI web page for bin Laden, without pointing out that 9/11 was not mentioned on that page, and includes a clip from a video released during the weekend, purporting to show Osama bin Laden watching videos in his 'compound'.

The subsequent White House briefing was vacuous (Link). The presumed Pakistani complicity was hyped up further by one questioner, who said that Osama had been "living and protected by the Pakistani intelligence and military and living like a maharaja". Eventually, one questioner asked: "Can you clarify, has the President indicated to you in any way that he wants you to stop giving out any clarifications or information?" "No", replied Jay Carney. "Or that he wants DOD [the Department of Defense] to stop? Because you’re directing us in that spirit –", continued the questioner. Jay Carney replied that they had provided a great number of details, and that they didn't have any new details provide, shortly afterwards adding that the level of detail and the amount of information had been rather extraordinary. "So can’t we keep doing that?", asked the questioner. "Well, no", came the reply. The questioner tried pursuing details over the burial at sea: "There’s always a written naval record of a burial at sea. Could we have a copy?", he asked. Jay Carney agreed to ask the President, but added that there was no point in trying to tease out all these details on an operation that they had provided a great number of details on. Following up on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, the same questioner was told that they had multiple ways of gathering information, and different methods of getting information. I'm sure journalists present would have loved to know just what they were, for their own purposes. Although some sense of realism started to creep into the mainstream media, the whole thing was being sanitised. A gang of school kids having beaten someone up in the playground would have to do better than that in explaining their actions, otherwise their parents would be know about it very quickly. The whole thing depends on the projection of authority by arrogant people, and the submissiveness of the public.

The whole narrative provides a fascinating study of how creating of 'a storm in a teacup' can work, at any level. I first came across this in the committee I was in in 2005, when the Treasurer was fishing for some point of trivia that she could seed a quarrel on. She started off by complaining about the amount of paper I had used in photocopying minutes and accounts, when she herself had been in a position to provide years of reports on computer disc if she had wanted to be helpful. Eventually, she complained that she didn't like the tone of a question I had put, and on the basis of that created a narrative that turned me into the Osama bin Laden of the whole association. That's how quarrels are manufactured, and it's how wars begin. The big news in both cases should have been the fact that they were obfuscating, and that perhaps that could indicate that they were covering up for previous lies.

A more convincing account of the death of Osama bin Laden had been provided by Nick Kollerstrom, in his article 'The Last Days of Bin Laden', in which he makes out a case that Osama bin Laden died in December 2001.

On May 5 this year he published a further analysis, under the title 'Bin Laden dies – again!' , in which he analyses the evidence and the contradictions.

What I've attempted in this newsletter is to analyse the propaganda techniques employed. By this stage, virtually everyone other than the Western mainstream media seemed to be recognising that things weren't quite as they had appeared. I retrieved about 70 000 items when I googled "Osama bin Laden Is Dead Again" (in quotes). But we haven't finished yet. A good propagandist will dismiss the likely reactions with a preemptive strike, and that is exactly what happened. It was being put about by some journalists and bloggers that anyone who disbelieved what they were being told about the killing of Osama bin Laden was a 'conspiracy theorist'.

I took particular exception to The Daily Telegraph's Damian Thompson, who wrote a blog headed 'Osama bin Laden dead – but no body. Now for an explosion of conspiracy theories'. It was a sneering and offensive article, which I found particularly objectionable coming from a journalist specialising in religion.

I cannot believe than any genuine Christian would write such stuff, especially not a former editor of the Catholic Herald. I asked in a comment, "How is not believing everything we are told by The Daily Telegraph conspiracy theory?" (Ian Fantom 05/02/2011 04:06 PM), and whether, if The Daily Telegraph had information that the FBI didn't have, did they have links with MI6 or the CIA. Someone replied "You'll have to ask Con Coughlin about that! : - / ", so I looked up Con Coughlin and found lots on reported links with MI6.

I also found that Damian Thompson was author of the book 'Counterknowledge', about "misinformation packaged to look like fact". What a hypocrite.

It sounds like the DEMOS pseudoscience, which we dealt with last year.

As the US war fever against Pakistan was being ramped up, Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, paid an official visit to China:

There he was told that the US had been asked not to violate Islamabad's territorial integrity, following the killing of Osama bin Laden. The Pakistan news agency quoted diplomatic sources as saying that China had "warned in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China".

According to the report, the warning was formally conveyed by the Chinese foreign minister at last week's China-US strategic dialogue and economic talks in Washington.

At the same time, it was reported that China had agreed to give Pakistan 50 JF-17 fighter jets.

We now have a potential military conflict between two major nuclear powers, over the sovereignty of a third nuclear power, in an operation in a part of the world already involving three nuclear powers, and bordering on a further two. All this has arisen through military rhetoric, based on no publicly verifiable evidence, which remains largely unquestioned by a compliant Western press. By its belligerence, the US is clearly pushing Pakistan into the arms of China. President Zadari has held talks in China on a wide range of areas of cooperation. He said that language was the most potent instrument for promoting people to people contacts and called for elaborate institutional arrangements for teaching Chinese and Urdu languages to the students, workers and people of Pakistan and China.

In the long term this was a most effective way for giving a boost to the existing relations, he said.

Meanwhile, some of the British newspapers were carrying front-page headlines, screaming out that Osama bin Laden had been responsible not only for 9/11, but also for 7/7. The Sun put out a front page headline on May 4: 'BIN LADEN UNARMED – Just like his 9/11 and 7/7 victims'. I wrote a comment for their website: "The verdict of the 7/7 Inquest is not due until Friday. How can The Sun preempt that verdict with a statement on today's front page stating that Osama bin Laden was responsible? Is that not contempt of court?". On checking later I found that my comment was not there, and the headline had been changed.

I can understand The Sun upholding its normal standards of mendacity, but why should the Daily Mail put out such headings? This is the newspaper which has so consistently given prominence to stories pointing to possible state crimes. It was The Mail on Sunday, which first went public with the Shayler Affair. So if even The Daily Mail is screaming at us that Osama bin Laden was responsible for 7/7 when there is not a scrap of evidence that he was, we have to wonder what on earth is going on. They wrote a headline:

"'I've been waiting for this for 10 years': Relatives of Britons killed in 9/11 and 7/7 attacks say Bin Laden's death has finally brought closure", and part of the article featured 7/7, saying "Justice has been done".

I wrote a comment for their web page, but a friend wrote in the Keep Talking group: "It wouldn't at all surprise me if the Daily Mail don't accept any comments for that article". I replied: "Interesting observation. They haven't disabled comments linked to the Daily Mail article, but 23 hours after my comment was submitted, it still hasn't appeared. There's just a note saying: 'No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards'.

I sent another comment, saying simply: "The verdict for the 7/7 inquest is not due out until tomorrow. I don't think you should be preempting it". That didn't appear either. Now it says simply that comments are closed, and there are none. These headlines came out days before the verdict was due out for the 7/7 inquest.

I was not aware of Osama bin Laden being even mentioned in the public hearings of the inquest. He was certainly not a feature in the inquest, and when the verdict was published there was not a single mention of Osama bin Laden. There were only two mentions of Al Qaeda, and they were only in passing. There was nothing in the verdict to incriminate either. So when a verdict can be preempted like that, one really has to wonder whose hand is behind the mainstream press.

The 7/7 inquest verdict of 'unlawful killing' came as no surprise to anyone, nor did the pronouncement of guilt on the 7/7 Four, since that was pronounced by the coroner before the hearings began. The verdict was announced on the same day as the results of the UK referendum on the voting system and local government elections, which grabbed most of the press attention. Newsnight was dedicated entirely to the voting, but they did have a Newsnight Special during the day. I saw part of that by chance, when Jeremy Paxman stated that he thought that they had to presume that the bombing hadn't been carried out by the state. He didn't say why they had to presume that, but I should imagine it has something to do with keeping his job.

The full verdict was published on the inquest's website and I followed a running commentary on The Guardian's website.

There was discussion here in the comments section, and various people had been complaining about the moderator taking out legitimate comments. Eventually I found that I was being moderated out when I mentioned '7/7 Ripple Effect'. I had stated that I had previously seen a comment mentioning '7/7 Ripple Effect', but that I couldn't now find it. Instead, what appeared was: "This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn't abide by our community standards …".

Eventually, though, all trace of my comments was being deleted. As a test, I entered a comment with just the words "7/7 Ripple Effect", and that was deleted shortly afterwards. This is The Guardian, which has exposed the News of the World in phone hacking, and sponsored Nick Davies in the publication of Flat Earth News, a book which exposes all sorts of distortions in the mainstream media. There has to be some big reason why '7/7 Ripple Effect' cannot be mentioned. Eventually, the moderator, Guardian journalist Laura Oliver wrote: "As the live blog updates have finished this thread will keep going for a while longer - but will be closed to comments from 7pm (GMT)".

I replied: "It seems that as far as I am concerned you have closed this thread already. Is there a D-notice or a superinjunction on this topic?". That comment stayed.

A devastating analysis of the 7/7 inquest verdict has been provided by Nick Kollerstrom. It was quite clearly a fake inquest, for which Lady Justice Hallett had been specially brought in. She gave no credible reason for abandoning the inquest into the 7/7 Four, or for ignoring evidence that they could not have been present at their own suicides. She was also highly critical of 'conspiracy theories' without specifying what they were and who was proposing them.

I should have thought that was extremely sloppy judicial practice, if not unethical and cowardly. Many people would have known that the main 'conspiracy theory' at the time was the reconstruction presented in the video '7/7 Ripple Effect' by John Anthony Hill, under the pseudonym Muad'Dib. Any person criticised in a court of law should surely have the right to defend himself, and his claims should be subjected to critical analyis. This he could not do, because he had no representation in the inquest, mentions of his video were being censored by the mainstream media, and he himself was being held behind bars on a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Lady Justice Hallett should be suspended, pending a proper judicial inquiry into her conduct. I am delighted to report that Muad'Dib was acquitted on May 12, just six days after publication of the 7/7 inquest verdict.

A group of up to 25 supporters attended the four days of the trial, including Nick Kollerstrom, who wrote the proceedings up on his website.

I wasn't there myself; I was busy trying to draw attention to it in the mainstream media. Muad'Dib has shown a great deal of courage and composure during his lengthy ordeal, and should be congratulated for that. Had the authorities not arrested him and subjected him to such treatment, then there was little harm that he was likely to have done to them, since he was living quietly, and not seeking publicity as author of the video. His videos sent to the court would simply have been ignored. However, by making such a fuss over him, the authorities have themselves brought this issue to the attention of a lot of people, and brought themselves into disrepute.

During the trial, the Press Association put out a press release saying: " 7/7 bombers 'were innocent patsies'":

A man sent a DVD to bereaved families from the July 7 attacks claiming the four London suicide bombers were "innocent patsies", a court heard.

One of the packages included a letter to John Hyman telling him his daughter Miriam did not die in the Tavistock Square bus blast but was murdered by the security services at Canary Wharf in London, Southwark Crown Court was told.

and this report was reproduced in several regional newspapers.

Later, The Yorkshire Post reported the acquittal under the heading ' Man cleared over ‘7/7 bombers are innocent’ DVD ':

Annabel Darlow, prosecuting, said the “central thrust” of the film was that the four who had been identified as the 7/7 bombers were innocent men who had been set up by the authorities and murdered.

She said: “It was argued in the film that the explosions on the Tube and on the bus in Tavistock Square were not caused by bombs from the rucksacks but, in fact, the Tubes and the bus had been pre-rigged by the powers-that-be with explosives.”

The fact that the video has been shown to a jury in a court of law is a powerful argument for sacking the censors. I managed to publish an article in Le Monde Diplomatique, but only in the Esperanto edition, and that carried a disclaimer at the end from the Paris office!

May 2011 has been an incredible month. I would have had more than enough material without even mentioning Osama bin Laden or Muad'Dib, as story after story hit the headlines. But the end of the month is approaching, and I have to stop. Muad'Dib is now getting his life together again, and still in temporary residence in London, where we hope to meet him again shortly at our next Keep Talking meeting. I was amused by a piece that Al Jazeera put out, showing video clips of television announcers confusing 'Obama' with 'Osama'. I'm surprised no-one yet has talked of 'Obama sin Laden'.

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