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.