Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Good News: UK Coal Emissions About To Drop; Solar Roadways Doing First Commercial Installs Soon<

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 25, 2015

Because we could all use a bit of good news:

The UK is about to shutter yet another coal plant, as coal use (and atmospheric output) falls to levels not seen since the 1850s despite a rebounding economy. The rise in usage of wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy has finally hit a sort of critical mass, causing its growth to accelerate.

Worldwide oil demand has peaked, and that, along with the Saudi determination to flood the market to eradicate the KSA’s competitors in the Bakken and elsewhere (like Iran), means not just the collapse of oil prices, but the abandoning of risky, costly, and environmentally stupid oil-related projects worldwide.

Solar Roadways is, thanks to the help of Indiegogo and George Takei, gearing up to install its first commercial projects by the emd of this year. A Dutch public-private enterprise called SolaRoad has installed a solar bike path that has already exceeded projections for energy generation.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Killing Atticus Finch

Posted by Charles II on May 23, 2015

Free Don Siegelman. Fund the documentary.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

U.S. re-thinks confrontation with Russia

Posted by Charles II on May 20, 2015

Russian aggression in 2014 caught U.S. policy and strategy off guard, forcing reactive measures and reevaluation of U.S. policies towards Russia. Russia used nonlinear approaches and operated just beneath traditional thresholds of conflict to take full advantage of U.S. and NATO policy limitations. In light of this strategic problem, members of the Carlisle Scholars Program at the U.S. Army War College (USAWC) conducted a wargame which revealed four key considerations for future policy and strategy. This panel presentation will present the findings from that wargame. The views presented by the panelist are their own and should not be implied to be those of their sponsoring service, the U.S. Army or the U.S. Army War College.

See also Parry:

Belatedly, Obama has roused to the impending threat that these extremists pose not just to the Middle East but to the West. The prospect of the black flag of Sunni terrorism flying over Damascus or even Baghdad could force the United States into a catastrophic decision to reintroduce a large military force into the region, which was initially destabilized by the neocon-driven U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Though such a move by Obama or his successor might be politically unavoidable, the consequences would surely be disastrous, with the chances for a meaningful victory slim to none while further bankrupting and militarizing the United States

He could have hired me as his foreign policy adviser and I would have told him the same a year ago.

Posted in Russia | 4 Comments »

Russia cuts supply line to Afghanistan

Posted by Charles II on May 20, 2015

This is not sudden, nor is it retaliation. But it is serious.

Stars and Stripes:

The agreement with Russia survived numerous ups and downs in relations between the West and Russia. But Moscow officially ended cooperation when the United Nations mandate for military operations in Afghanistan expired in December, NATO officials said.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Neo-McCarthyism: silencing critics of U.S. Russia policy

Posted by Charles II on May 20, 2015

I have gotten a taste of those who want to shut down debate of US-Russia policy… and of those who wanted to silence debate over the invasion of Iraq, and those who wanted to silence debate over supply-side economics, and those who wanted to silence debate over the wisdom of sending troops to Vietnam, and those who wanted to silence debate over the wisdom of Jim Crow…. I espouse my beliefs because I believe they are true, not because I expect that opponents will love me for them.

But the attempt to silence debate over Russia policy is coming from very high levels, it’s trying to rekindle the hatreds of the Cold War, and it’s one in which a lot too many Americans are complicit by their silence. Let’s call what it is: totalism. And now James Carden has given us a detailed explanation of how it is being imposed.

James Carden:

As a result of the civil war that has raged in Ukraine since April 2014, at least 7,000 people have been killed and more than 15,400 wounded, many of them grievously. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 1.2 million eastern Ukrainians have been internally displaced, while the number of those who have fled abroad, mainly to Russia and Belarus, has reached 674,300. Further, the United Nations has reported that millions of people, particularly the elderly and the very young, are facing life-threatening conditions as a result of the conflict. Large parts of eastern Ukraine lie in ruins, and relations between the United States and Russia have perhaps reached their most dangerous point since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

And yet a special report published last fall by the online magazine the Interpreter would have us believe that Russian “disinformation” ranks among the gravest threats to the West.

While it would be easy to dismiss the report as a publicity stunt by two journalists attempting to cash in on the Russophobia so in vogue among American pundits, their thesis has gained wide acceptance, nowhere more so than in the halls of Congress.

The authors call for the creation of an “internationally recognized ratings system for disinformation” that would furnish news organizations and bloggers with the “analytical tools with which to define forms of communication.” While they throw in an obligatory caveat that “top-down censorship should be avoided” (exactly how is left unexplained), they nonetheless endorse what amounts to a media blacklist. “Vigorous debate and disagreement is of course to be encouraged,” the authors write, “but media organizations that practice conscious deception should be excluded from the community.”

What qualifies as “conscious deception” is also left undefined, but it isn’t difficult to surmise. Organizations that do not share the authors’ enthusiasm for regime change in Syria or war with Russia over Ukraine would almost certainly be “excluded from the community.”

Their real goal is not to fight Russian “disinformation” but to stigmatize and marginalize—even exclude from American discourse—anyone with a more nuanced view of Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis. They are waging this war against enemies real and imagined, and by doing so they are helping to create an atmosphere in which dissenting opinion on US policy toward Russia becomes impermissible.

Insinuations of unpatriotic disloyalty on the part of critics of US policy toward Russia are numerous, but consider a few examples. For much of the past year, Princeton and New York University professor emeritus Stephen F. Cohen, a leading scholar of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia and a Nation contributing editor, has been routinely castigated in The New Republic, the Daily Beast, The Boston Globe, New York, and Slate as “a toady,” “Putin’s best friend,” and a “Putin apologist.” The latest such attack came on May 6, courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which published a story claiming, without evidence, that “Cohen is essentially defending the Kremlin’s agenda in the West.” Hurling such barbs at a prominent scholar seems to be an attempt not only to marginalize Cohen, but also to silence other critics—including, and perhaps especially, younger ones.

Similarly, in June 2014, the Daily Beast ridiculed a conference attended by Columbia University’s Robert Legvold; Jack Matlock, former ambassador to the Soviet Union during the Reagan administration; and a leader of a Russian opposition party as a gathering of “anti-Semites and ‘truthers’” that amounted to little more than “a pity party for the Kremlin’s die-hard American apologists.”

Then, in August, Anders Aslund of the Peterson Institute for International Economics launched a screed against David Johnson, the proprietor and editor of a listserv that aggregates Russia-related articles. “What I find most surprising,” Aslund wrote, “is that you have several items from RT every day, which is to Putin’s rule what Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer was to Nazi Germany.” (emphasis added)

Americans who try to turn other Americans into enemies of the state in order to silence their expression of ideas are the ones who have no clue what America is about.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

The Shoot Down of the Shoot Down

Posted by Charles II on May 20, 2015

On July 19th, 2014, the Malaysian airliner MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine. It seemed likely that it was downed by hostile intent, and a surface-to-air missile seemed the likely agency. Although the U.S. rushed to blame Russia for the downing, accusing them of either firing on the civilian aircraft or providing a missile to Ukrainian rebels, the actual evidence for this was thin to non-existent. German intelligence reportedly concluded that Ukrainian rebels had shot down the plane, but using a missile captured from Kiev’s troops.

Now Robert Parry continues the debunking of the attempt to link Russia to the attack:

An Australian television show claims to have solved the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down mystery – the Russians did it! – but the program appears to have faked a key piece of evidence and there remain many of the same doubts as before, along with the dog-not-barking question of why the U.S. government has withheld its intelligence data.

The basic point of the Australian “60 Minutes” program was that photographs on social media show what some believe to be a BUK anti-aircraft launcher aboard a truck traveling eastward on July 17, 2014, the day of the shoot-down, into what was generally considered rebel-controlled territory of eastern Ukraine, south and east of Donetsk, the capital of one of the ethnic Russian rebellious provinces.

However, in mid-July, the ethnic Russian rebels were reeling under a Ukrainian military offensive to the north of Donetsk. Despite shifting their forces into the battle zone, they had lost Sloviansk, Druzhkivka, Kostyantynivka and Kramatorsk. In other words, the lines of control were fluid and chaotic in mid-July 2014 …
Another problem with the Australian TV account is that the video and photographic images show the truck heading eastward toward Russia, but there are no earlier images of the truck moving westward from Russia into eastern Ukraine.

There also appears to have been some fakery involved in the Australian documentary. In several instances, as the film crew traveled to eastern Ukraine to seek out scenes from July 17 video showing the truck possibly carrying BUK missiles, images of those sites – then and now – were overlaid to show how closely the scenes matched.

However, for one crucial scene – the image of an alleged “getaway” BUK launcher lacking one missile and supposedly heading back to Russia after the shoot-down – the documentary broke with that pattern. The program showed the earlier video of the truck moving past a billboard and then claiming – based on information from blogger Eliot Higgins – that the TV crew had located the same billboard in Luhansk, a rebel-held city near the Russian border.

This was the documentary’s slam-dunk moment, the final proof that the Russians and particular Vladimir Putin were guilty in the deaths of 298 innocent people. However, in this case, there was no overlay of the two scenes, just Australian correspondent Michael Usher pointing to a billboard and saying it was the same one as in the video.

But the scenes look nothing at all alike if you put them side by side. While Usher is standing in an open field, the earlier video shows an overgrown area.

Eliot Higgins of bellingcat rejects this:

Unfortunately for Parry, his accusation is entirely unfounded, and reveals his lack of investigative skill when it comes to this kind of open source information. Had Parry spent a few minutes on Google he could have easily found Bellingcat’s work on the video, and realised his error.

As we detailed in this July 22nd 2014 post, it was possible to establish the position of the camera, which is key to understanding what’s visible in the video.

Now Eliot Higgins is a very strange story. Over the course of a few years, he says, he went from being an unemployed man trained in administration and finance to one of the most respected experts on weapons systems in the world

Although Higgins has never been to Syria, and until recently had no connection to the country, he has become perhaps the foremost expert on the munitions used in the war. On YouTube, he scans as many as three hundred new videos a day, with the patience of an ornithologist. Even when a rocket has largely been destroyed, he can often identify it by whatever scraps survive.

He charged the Syrian government with having murdered civilians using the poison gas, Sarin, in the civil war:charge that has been refuted by Teddy Postol, who is actually one of the world’s experts on weapons systems:

Higgins, Postol said, “has done a very nice job collecting information on a website. As far as his analysis, it’s so lacking any analytical foundation it’s clear he has no idea what he’s talking about.”

See here for Postol v. Higgins, and here for Postol:

These Munitions Could Not Possibly Have Been Fired at East Ghouta from the “Heart”, or from the Eastern Edge, of the Syrian Government Controlled Area Shown in the Intelligence Map Published by the White House on August 30, 2013.

So, one has the question as to how the conclusions of the uncredentialed Mr. Higgins, who made such a serious error in the case of Sarin, were so rapidly adopted adopted by the media, while the conclusions of one of our nation’s foremost experts on missiles, was all but ignored. Even the NYT report that mentions it is a some-say-the-earth-is-flat piece, putting Higgins and Postol on equal footing and never making clear what Postol is saying, namely that Higgins was completely wrong in his identification of the missile and that the actual projectile almost certainly didn’t come from what our intelligence said was government-held territory.

Robert Parry may not be an expert in image analysis. But he is an expert in BS detection.

Posted in liar, Russia, Ukraine | Leave a Comment »

Kill Chain

Posted by Charles II on May 18, 2015

On Book TV, Andrew Cockburn in his book Kill Chain gives a realistic assessment of what drones can and cannot do (see here for an unrealistic estimate).

* We were warned by Pentagon whistleblower Tom Christie that drones only hit 21% of their targets (current accuracy may be better)
* A study of intercepting illegal border crossers in the US showed that a spotter in a Cessna outperformed five drones
* A large part of the push to drones is financial
* Drone imaging is not good enough to tell the difference between a young teen and an adult man, or between a woman and a man, especially in low light
* Targeted assassination doesn’t work. According to a study in Iraq by Rex Rivolo, attacks increased after leaders were killed. The replacements for leaders are often their relatives, intent on revenge and, of course, any collateral damage improves recruiting.
* Liberals are very keen on drones as a means of limiting casualties. However, drones terrorize and disrupt whole societies, since civilians know they are being constantly watched. Therefore, even as tools of reconnaissance, they have problems.

I recommend listening to Cockburn.

Posted in Afghanistan, drones, Iraq, terrorism | Leave a Comment »

Minnesotans: Call Governor Dayton NOW.

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 17, 2015

Sally Jo Sorensen has the deets:

 Bobby King of the Land Stewardship Project sends us this alert:


The legislature decided that instead of weakening the MPCA Citizens’ Board they would outright ELIMINATE it.  This outrageous idea, which was not introduced as a bill or heard previously in any committee, was unveiled late Saturday night and adopted in conference committee. Forty seven years old, the Citizens’ Board was established in 1967 with the creation of the MPCA to ensure the agency serves the public interest and to establish an open and transparent decision making process.  It has worked will and is a model the state should be proud of.


This language is included in the Agriculture and Environment Budget Bill along with many other bad provisions, including a sham buffer program that puts off addressing the issue of dealing with agricultural runoff.  Read more in this letter from the Minnesota Environmental Partnership to legislators.


There is negotiating going on now to potentially take some of the bad provisions out of the bill.  We need calls to the Governor’s office now to keep this on his radar.


Call Gov. Dayton at 651-201-3400 or 800-657-3717 and say “The Ag and Env Budget bills ELIMINATES the MPCA Citizens’ Board.  This is a terrible idea. The Citizens’ Board has been around for over 40 years and creates an open and transparent decision making process that helps guard against undue corporate influence. This entirely new proposal was adopted late at night and is outrageous.  Governor veto this if it is sent to you.”


Also, leave him a message on Facebook. [Click here to visit his official Facebook page]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

General Durrani, Osama Bin Laden, And Trading One Narrative For Another

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 15, 2015

One of the people Seymour Hersh quotes by name in his recent story challenging the decidedly-questionable official US story on the raid on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound was none other than General Asad Durrani, a man with a vested interest in finding a way to explain, believeably, how bin Laden and his entourage could live unmolested for six years in a walled compound that was markedly different from the buildings around it, 800 yards from the Pakistan Military Academy.

The US’ official story, which up to now has been officially backed by the Pakistani government, tries to excuse this by resorting to the Sergeant Schultz Narrative, in which the Pakistanis were just too clueless to know where he was.  This story, while protecting both the Pakstanis and the US (because the only other choice until now is to assume that Pakistan deliberately harbored bin Laden as it has so many other jihadists, something the US tries to avoid openly acknowledging as Pakistan is officially an ally in the war on terror), is not very flattering to the Pakstani government.

Then along comes Seymour Hersh with a tale whose central aim seems to be to find a way to make the Pakistani officials look as good as possible (per Hersh, they knew exactly where he was because they were holding him prisoner and besides he was a harmless and demented crippled old man anyway) and the Americans look as bad as possible (they were so stupid the Pakistanis had to tell them where he was, and so bloodthirsty they shot him to pieces even though he was a helpless demented crippled old man, though the SEALs all did feel guilty about it afterwards and were angry at Obama for making them kill a harmless old cripple).

There are a few problems with this new storyline. For one thing, the SEALs may not all be too thrilled about Obama, but neither are they afraid to say so, as numerous SEAL books and other writings have shown. Does anyone really think that no SEAL who honestly thought that President Obama sent them to murder a harmless cripple would not have said so by now?

For another, at least one reporter has implicitly challenged Hersh’s view that bin Laden was a helpless old man who was of no danger or value to anyone. Carlotta Gall, who has covered the Middle and Near East for a decade and a half, states that bin Laden was not a helpless, useless prisoner of the Pakistanis, but an intelligence asset so valuable to (and thus protected and hid by) the Pakistani government that they dedicated an entire desk just to running bin Laden:

Beginning in 2001, I spent nearly 12 years covering Pakistan and Afghanistan for The Times. (In his article, Hersh cites an article I wrote for The Times Magazine last year, an excerpt from a book drawn from this reporting.) The story of the Pakistani informer was circulating in the rumor mill within days of the Abbottabad raid, but at the time, no one could or would corroborate the claim. Such is the difficulty of reporting on covert operations and intelligence matters; there are no official documents to draw on, few officials who will talk and few ways to check the details they give you when they do.

Two years later, when I was researching my book, I learned from a high-level member of the Pakistani intelligence service that the ISI had been hiding Bin Laden and ran a desk specifically to handle him as an intelligence asset. After the book came out, I learned more: that it was indeed a Pakistani Army brigadier — all the senior officers of the ISI are in the military — who told the C.I.A. where Bin Laden was hiding, and that Bin Laden was living there with the knowledge and protection of the ISI.

Sounds a lot different – and considerably more believable, in view of the past history of the Pakistani government – than either the USG’s “Sergeant Schultz” version or the Seymour Hersh “Supercunning ISI Agents” version of the Pakistani officials’ behavior in this incident.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something true/updated x3

Posted by Charles II on May 12, 2015

So is Sy Hersh’s story in the London Review of Books on the raid at Abbottabad in which Osama bin Laden was killed fiction? Is it old news, or even plagiarized? Is it true at all? Is it news at all? Or are a lot of people missing the point entirely?

The answer is that it depends… on what one is looking for in journalism, in what one calls journalism, and so on. Let’s dispose of the plagiarism one first. Raelynn Hillhouse did, indeed, write blog posts in 2011 calling into question the Administration’s story, and laying out a counternarrative that at the very least resembles that of Sy Hersh. She has accused him of doing either fiction or plagiarism. If he were doing fiction, then her own work, which she has presented as fact must be fiction; clearly she doesn’t think so and–whatever her politics–she has some serious journalistic and academic chops (“R.J. Hillhouse, a former professor, Fulbright fellow and novelist whose writing on intelligence and military outsourcing has appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times”). This claim of hers might be wrong, but it’s not fiction.

So is Hersh plagiarizing? Hillhouse states that “I trust my sources–which were clearly different than his.” If Hersh’s sources were different, then it’s clearly not plagiarism.

So, perhaps it’s old news, news that Hillhouse reported on her blog in 2011, but (according to The Intercept) that only made it to the New Zealand Herald. [It also made it into The Telegraph, but was not followed up on.] But if news never makes it out into the mainstream so that it can be discussed, can it be said to have been reported? The answer has to be “no.”

Next we get to the question of whether it is true. Here we have to be careful. The articles that I have read attacking Hersh’s reporting are problematic at best. One by Max Fisher, is filled with invective and largely devoted to attacking Hersh’s reporting on planning for an attack on Iran and chemical weapons in Syria. With regard to Abbottabad, it claims that Hersh alleges “a spectacular international conspiracy,” which is clearly false. Hersh is talking about an assassination conducted with maximum deniability and involving only a handful of players. International, yes. Spectacular, no. Nor a conspiracy: just the ordinary grubby dealings of an imperial state that can’t stop meddling.

If we focus on the few specifics that Fisher raises about Hersh’s reporting on the Abbottabad raid, the criticism comes down to this:

* “his allegations are largely supported only by two sources [ISI chief Asad Durani and a U.S. official], neither of whom has direct knowledge of what happened, both of whom are retired, and one of whom is anonymous”
* “His other two sources are anonymous ‘consultants’ who are vaguely described as insiders.”

Criticism of sourcing is fair. But, first, Fisher completely mischaracterized the latter two sources, who are very specifically described as “longtime consultants to the Special Operations Command.” That’s specific enough to Google and come up with an idea of what kind of person fits the description, like Colonel Jose Baez and Brian Hayes (not that either one is likely to be Hersh’s source).

Contrary to Fisher’s assertion, the retired intelligence official Hersh sourced seemed to have very direct knowledge of the “walk-in” who told the US about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad and about military discussions regarding the raid and about diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. This suggests he was at very high levels. Someone like Leon Panetta. Suppose, just for a moment, that Panetta was Hersh’s source. Would that change how people are reacting to the story?

There is at least one other CIA source in the story, used to corroborate the meeting with Pasha, that Fisher didn’t notice. Hersh also mentions one or more sources, “from inside Pakistan,” who might include “A Pakistani with close ties to the senior leadership of the ISI.”

So, is Hersh’s sourcing adequate? I don’t know. But Fisher apparently did not read Hersh closely enough to understand what it was.

Now, in addition, Fisher asks questions, like
* “Hersh’s entire narrative turns on a secret deal, in which the US promised Pakistan increased military aid and a “freer hand in Afghanistan.” In fact, the exact opposite of this occurred, with US military aid dropping and US-Pakistan cooperation in Afghanistan plummeting…”
* “Why, for example, would the Pakistanis insist on a fake raid that would humiliate their country and the very military and intelligence leaders who supposedly instigated it?”
* “why would Pakistan bother with the ostentatious fake raid at all, when anyone can imagine a dozen simpler, lower-risk, lower-cost ways to do this?”
* “why would the US cut a secret deal with Pakistan to allow that country a “freer hand” in Afghanistan”

To paraphrase Fisher, “raising questions about [Hersh’s] story is not the same as proving a spectacular [failure of journalism].” That anyone even regards these questions as logical inconsistencies makes one wring one’s hands about the capacity of journalists to analyze stories. Yet Joshua Keating not just bit, but swallowed Fisher’s screed whole. Again, there’s little that can even be addressed. For example, Keating says,

Hillhouse’s claim didn’t get much coverage other than an article in the Telegraph [in 2011] by Pakistan correspondent Rob Crilly, who didn’t exactly endorse her premise. (Crilly blasted Hersh’s article yesterday, calling it “utterly devoid of facts” and likely to appeal to the “soft minded.”

I read Crilly’s original piece. It may not endorse Hillhouse’s claims, but it doesn’t exactly discredit them either. If, as Crilly now says, the story is junk, why did Crilly publish his piece on 2011?

Keating says that Hersh’s article claims that,

… the documents seized from his compound were fabricated in order to make him appear to have been active up until his death.

This seems to be a hasty misreading of what Hersh said. What Hersh said was that

These claims [of bin Laden’s direct involvement in operations] were fabrications: there wasn’t much activity for bin Laden to exercise command and control over.

I don’t see where Hersh says that the documents were phony. However, his source asks some questions about 175 pages of documents that were released:

The retired official disputed the authen[ti]city of the West Point materials…

The questions that the source asks are good. Why are these documents being processed by a contractor with no CIA analysis and before the information contained in the documents could have been acted upon? It’s all very irregular.

Keating also says,

[NYT correspondent Carlotta] Gall concluded that at least some in the country’s spy service [ISI] knew where the terrorist mastermind was. But this is very different from Hersh’s much bolder assertion that the Pakistani agency was keeping him under house arrest and the whole raid was staged.

Keating links Carlotta Gall, who actually says:

Finally, on a winter evening in 2012, I got the confirmation I was looking for. According to one inside source, the ISI actually ran a special desk assigned to handle Bin Laden. It was operated independently, led by an officer who made his own decisions and did not report to a superior. He handled only one person: Bin Laden.

This is not the entire ISI, as Keating implies, but a small compartment within it. This is important, because it’s difficult to keep secrets that are widely held, but–as Iran-Contra demonstrated– easy to keep secrets that are closely held. It is entirely possible that we didn’t notify the Pakistani government of the raid, all the while being in close contact with elements of the ISI and the military.

As for bin Laden being under house arrest, what Gall (ibid) describes is even more disturbing:

Bin Laden did not rely only on correspondence. He occasionally traveled to meet aides and fellow militants, one Pakistani security official told me. “Osama was moving around,” he said, adding that he heard so from jihadi sources. “You cannot run a movement without contact with people.” Bin Laden traveled in plain sight, his convoys always knowingly waved through any security checkpoints.

In other words, the ISI had the capacity to control his movements. For a time, he was undoubtedly useful (Gall, ibid):

Bin Laden rejected Akhtar’s request for help and urged him and other militant groups not to fight Pakistan but to serve the greater cause — the jihad against America. He warned against fighting inside Pakistan because it would destroy their home base.

That must have been very convenient for the Pakistani government. However, at some point, regardless of how one thinks the raid happened, bin Laden’s worth to Pakistan diminished (as al Qaeda weakened and was displaced by the Taliban) or the risks he posed rose, as the Americans discovered his presence. At that point, Pakistan had to give him up. Is it so difficult to believe that Pakistan told the U.S., we won’t resist an assassination of bin Laden, as long as you make it look as if we were not responsible.

Is it difficult to believe that the crash of the helicopter made impossible the plan to grab bin Laden, send him out of town, and kill him under circumstances that wouldn’t look like the ISI had been hiding him and had also ratted him out?

And is it difficult to believe that then, when the Administration’s story made it clear not only that the ISI knew where bin Laden was but that they had also ratted him out, it created a serious rift between the US and Pakistan that resulted in a suspension of aid?

These are the kind of answers that seem pretty obvious to me, but not so much to Fisher.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the editors of the main English-language paper Dawn takes Hersh seriously.

Maybe Hersh is wrong. But I think that if one doesn’t enter the fray with a pre-determined conclusion in mind, what he has written is at least plausible.

And, I think that the most important part of the story hasn’t been recognized. For me, the basic story that the ISI knew where bin Laden was and to some degree stood aside for the US assassination was likely to be true from the start. But who among our leaders was lying, and to what degree? The answers Hersh gives are uncomfortable. I think that may be why so many people who know better are so exercised that they aren’t exercising judgment in examining the story.


Phillip Carter also challenges Hersh. Again, the article is marred by attitude:

Many of the actual details in the piece, such as the reported obliteration of Bin Laden’s corpse by gunfire, shred any remaining credibility the article might have.

This is not refutation.

Pakistan’s military fell asleep at the switch multiple times, allowing Bin Laden to live near Pakistan’s version of West Point

Gall (see above) makes it clear that it wasn’t neglect, but collusion.

[His sources are]at least two degrees of separation from the small teams in the Defense Department and CIA who led the operation

This is a useful piece of information. However, if my guess that his main source is at the general level of Leon Panetta is correct, then it might be irrelevant.

[skipping over some]

Hersh goes on to dispute the fact that Bin Laden was then buried at sea, suggesting that his body may have been thrown out of the SEALs’ helicopter on the way out of Pakistan, and that the entire burial at sea was concocted as a cover story. This too goes too far, reflecting a more vivid imagination that sees secrets in the shadow of truth, where no reporting or evidence exists.

Journalists are trying without success to get the logs of the USS Carl Vinson:

Although the Obama administration has pledged to be the most transparent in American history, it is keeping a tight hold on materials related to the bin Laden raid. In a response to separate requests from the AP for information about the mission, the Defense Department said in March that it could not locate any photographs or video taken during the raid or showing bin Laden’s body. It also said it could not find any images of bin Laden’s body on the Vinson.

The Pentagon also said it could not find any death certificate, autopsy report or results of DNA identification tests for bin Laden, or any pre-raid materials discussing how the government planned to dispose of bin Laden’s body if he were killed.

The Defense Department also refused to confirm or deny the existence of helicopter maintenance logs and reports about the performance of military gear used in the raid. One of the stealth helicopters that carried the SEALs to Abbottabad crashed during the mission and its wreckage was left behind. People who lived near bin Laden’s compound took photos of the disabled chopper.

The AP is appealing the Defense Department’s decision

This is not helping Carter’s case.
Carlotta Gall has commented:

Among other things, Hersh contends that the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, Pakistan’s military-intelligence agency, held Bin Laden prisoner in the Abbottabad compound since 2006, and that “the C.I.A. did not learn of Bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the U.S.”

On this count, my own reporting tracks with Hersh’s. Beginning in 2001, I spent nearly 12 years covering Pakistan and Afghanistan for The Times.

I do not recall ever corresponding with Hersh, but he is following up on a story that many of us assembled parts of.

I cannot confirm Hersh’s bolder claims — for example, that two of Pakistan’s top generals, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the former army chief, and Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the director of the ISI, had advance knowledge of the raid. But I would not necessarily dismiss the claims immediately. Hersh’s scenario explains one detail that has always nagged me about the night of Bin Laden’s death.

Hersh’s claim that there was little or no treasure trove of evidence retrieved from Bin Laden’s home rings less true to me.

I would guess that certain people are going to start walking back some of their more reckless comments.
Thanks to Jo6pac, the following post from Pat Lang’s shop, in which FB ali which used open source technique to try to flesh out Hillhouse’s post. It’s very interesting. An excerpt or two:

The Saudi motive behind this request [sanctuary for bin Laden in exchange for calling off al Qaeda from attacking Pakistan] presumably had to do with their internal imperatives. The bin Ladens are a very rich and influential family in Saudi Arabia. Osama and al Qaeda, and their goals, are supported by a large number of religious Saudis (even though the royal family considers them enemies). If bin Laden were to be hunted down and killed by the Americans in the tribal badlands of Pakistan, it would give the regime a black eye in the view of many of its people as well as being a serious blow to the bin Laden clan. It made sense to the Saudis to get Osama bin Laden into a safe hideout while at the same time neutralizing him as a functioning jihadi.

The cover story finally agreed upon was that the US had carried out a drone strike on the house (though none would in fact take place). This would account for the night-time explosions at the house, and, more importantly, provide an explanation to give to the Saudis for bin Laden’s sudden and unfortunate demise (his body having been almost obliterated by the bombs!). The US’s agreement was simply a ruse, however, in order to keep the Pakistanis cooperating; having rejected the drone option because it did not allow a definitive claim of the operation’s success, the US administration had no intention of going through with this cover story.

As for the fallout from the operation, it was, as expected, mainly on US-Pakistan relations. If the US had the intention of making it easier for the Pakistanis by fudging the site of the raid, the crashed helicopter’s tail sticking up from bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound ended that option. This stark evidence of the US incursion left the US with no option but to (in Hillhouse’s apt phrase) throw the Pakistanis under the bus.

Posted in Pakistan, terrorism | 8 Comments »

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