Media’s Mis-coverage of the Final Encounter with Bin Laden
Listening to the media coverage of the final encounter with Bin Laden I am reminded of a quote by Mark Twain, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”
Following are some of the comments I have heard, and the issues I have with them …
Bin Laden was armed or unarmed and should or should not have been shot.
While Bin Laden had not taken on the colors of a nation, he was the leader of Al-Qaida, with the specific goal of using terrorism to bring about the
destruction of western civilization. His threats were explicit, and the actions taken against the West are still breathtaking in their audacity and success. He was a sworn, dedicated, and successful the enemy of the West.
The U.S. has tried to try terrorists. In the past the U.S. did try to capture or kill a terrorism suspect. In the past it was a hard process fraught with conflicting laws and procedures. Now it’s even worse — thus a choice has been made, in favor of not capturing terrorists.
Bin Laden should have been arrested and put on trial – just like the German leadership after World War II in the Nuremberg trials.
Bin Laden did not represent any nation. Members of his organization span many nations, but belong to none. He was never a soldier or commander of an army – he was an enemy combatant. He was promoting one ideology and fighting another, with no wiggle room for individual thought. Where in the world could Osama receive a fair trial? How many jurors would be afraid of personal reprisals for convicting Bin-Laden? Who in New York are you going to find that could be impartial? How many of us watched his September 11, 2001 attack against the U.S. mainland in stunned amazement it was being televised around the world?
The Third Reich was defeated by brute force, not by the death of Hitler – that was just a bonus. Likewise, Al-Quida is not defeated by the death of Osama. For those with spotty memories, or a Politically Correct History book, the trials at Nuremburg were a series of Military Tribunals – not civil or criminal trials. That is what captured terrorists are getting, military tribunals.
As a note, Navy Seals are not taught how to arrest people – they are taught to eliminate threats. Period. Seals do not let their enemy define the rules — they simply play to win. I’m glad the West has such dedicated defenders of our rights, with a highlight on the right of the press to criticize our government. Their criticism would be less disingenuous if the press chose to arm themselves with some authentic points of historical and legal referents as opposed to …
The killing of Bin Laden by the U.S. will negatively reflect on the West as we see this Arab spring mood take shape.
Camel dung. The Arab World is rid of one more despotic leader. Bully for them. Further, not one more Arab leader will leave of their own accord. The damage to any hope of a peaceful settlement in, let’s say Syria, is coming from the treatment of Tunisia’s Zin Al Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak after they chose to step down — as opposed to fighting protesters. Step down and the West will freeze your assets (done to Ben Ali and Mubarak) and your countrymen will want to put you on trial (Mubarak – Ben Ali and his family first went to Euro Disney – no joke – then to Saudi Arabia). Libya’s Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi got half of the lesson – his assets that were within reach of the West were frozen. NATO is working on the second lesson for Gaddafi.
The intent of NATO, etal.. has been so clear that no Arab leader will leave peaceably. The path is clear, lose your assets in the West and fight the rebellion. If you lose you die, if you win you live. But if you resign, you will lose your assets, will be detained, and may be killed for your crimes or lynched for fun. Without an option to live free and keep their wealth, these leaders will fight to the death, taking tens of thousands of their citizens or them.
News of Bin-Ladens death is just noise to the man in the street facing Libyan or Syrian tanks …
We sent the wrong message by killing Bin-Laden, the West must be the beacon to the world, especially the U.S.
The message must always be crafted for the audience. No doubt much to their displeasure the message of the death of Bin-Laden was not directed toward Western media outlets. The message that was sent was clear and concise aimed at extremists who have had the U.S. and the West in their sites. Those blowing up bus stops, buildings, embassies, discoteques, and hijacking aircraft were the U.S.’s audience. For years we have sent the wrong messages. The message the West has sent in the past was, attack us and we will leave.
The Beirut U.S. Marines barracks bombing was the worst, followed in a close second by Spain and the train bombs. In Beirut the Marine barracks were bombed and the Marines left via troop carries that took the Marines off the beach. Just like Suleiman the Magnificent – the terrorists (freedom fighters from their point of view) had driven the enemy in to the sea. This was a very powerful image in the Middle East. In Spain, what was a dedicated coalition member against the terrorists folded after the twin rail bombings in Madrid just outside of the Atocha Train Station? If you get what you want with an attack, by all means keep attacking. They attack and we withdraw from the land or from the fight. The message in Bin-Laden’s death is resoundingly clear, if you attack the U.S. – we will bear any burden, dare any environment, do what needs to be done to bring the fight you started to your doorstep – and finish the fight. The U.S. sent exactly the right message to those who needed to receive it. Don’t Tread On Me.
As for being a beacon to the world – while the U.S. and the West always could and should do better — I don’t see a wave of immigrants heading to countries that have played host to Al-Qaida. The migration of people tells a more convincing story than anything anybody will pen on the subject.
Bin Laden was a leader to a generation and we will alienate that generation of Muslims.
He was, for a short period of time, a voice against tyranny, an Arab who could stand up to the evil West and be a defender of the Arab man-in-the-street. The people of the Middle East, through state media, are endlessly harangued by zero-sum drivel blaming their plight on the West and Israel – ignoring their corrupt, inept and despotic leaders. The generations who actually believe this have, for the most part, come and gone. The sane voices in the Arab world are the young people standing up to the real tyrants – the President’s for Life, Royal Families, ever-present Emirs, and their sycophant followers. The actions these nations will take when freed is not to declare war on the West and Israel — quite the opposite. They are collectively trying to emulate our success in democratic governance and individual liberty. Pay attention to Bin Laden’s son. He thinks that the U.S.’s disposal of his father’s body at sea disgraced the family, and he is thinking of suing the U.S. government. How much more Western can you get! Bin Laden was just another common thug well past his expiration date. In his last days he was pleading for money – he had lost the goodwill of the broader movement and the support of his old benefactors.
It is not lost on anyone in the Arab world that the actions of Al-Qaida and Bin- Laden have killed more Muslims than Westerners, and they have not improved the ordinary Muslim’s lot in life. Many in the Middle East join us in a hearty farewell to a man who has caused so much damage.
The U.S. made a grave error in not telling Pakistan about our intelligence and what our actions were going to be.
Pakistan has its own demons it will need to excise. Pakistan was the lone supporter of the Taliban in Afghanistan. From intelligence sources I have been told that this was in deference to the Taliban in Afghanistan allowing Pakistan to keep Waziristan, a region that by historical treaty was part of Afghanistan. True or not, I can’t say — but it does make sense, for now Waziristan is more closely aligned with Afghanistan in its actions and the sentiments of the Pashtun tribes who live there. In any case, it is not governed by Pakistan. While nominally it is within the agreed borders that make up Pakistan, and it looks like it is a part of Pakistan, it is not ruled by the leaders in Islamabad. A key definition of who governs land is who has the power to commit violence against the people to enforce the laws and rules of the territory. If the populace does not submit to a government’s use of force, there is no government. Waziristan is not governed by Pakistan, but rather by feudal lords who oversee about 70% of the world’s opium production.
As a firm, we have a great deal of familiarity with Pakistan, and the people of Pakistan are sick of the corruption they see in elected officials, bureaucrats, and the intelligence service. Ordinary Pakistanis do not trust their government or the any of the institutions of the government. The number one fear in Pakistan is terrorism, the number two fear is terrorism, the number three fear is the impending civil war. Pakistanis are a proud people, and rightly so. They will rally and defend their collective honor against outsiders even when they know they are wrong. It would more accurate to characterize the problem in Pakistan as a battle between those who are governed, and those who wish to sell opium.
It is well known to locals that those who assist the opium trade tinge the ranks of Pakistani intelligence. Thus, any alert could have leaked and caused Bin Laden to scurry. Not that there is love or hate of Bin Laden it is simply that the information would have been too valuable not to sell.
Pakistan Intelligence failed or they were complicit with the Bin-Laden hiding out in Pakistan near their central Military base.
How many of you would know who is in the house next door if that person did not come out of his room for five years? Many kidnapped people have been held in homes in residential neighborhoods for ages without drawing suspicion (look at the histories of people like John Wayne Gacy or Elizabeth Smart). Bin-Laden had a lot of money and good connections when he built the house.
I understand how suspicious it is that Bin Laden was living in the same house for five consecutive years. It’s easy to conclude that Pakistan must have known. But how would they have known? Bin Laden was smuggled into town through Waziristan – a territory not ruled by Pakistan — and once in place, Bin Laden never left the house – a house with no phone or Internet connections. I’m certain that U.S. intelligence agencies expressed their disbelief in Pakistan’s credibility, and I am further certain that this is why Pakistan was NOT told about the planned mission. The most wanted man in the world was hiding in their country for over five years, and no on the outside had a clue. The U.S. understood the situation, and had a choice, tell Pakistan and risk losing Bin Laden, while simultaneously exposing a crooked and corrupt government. This would have no doubt resulted in a call to end U.S. aid to Pakistan and caused Pakistan to withdraw from the war on terror — leaving the region in worse state than it is. The other choice the U.S. had was to keep their actions private, apologize later, and let the world ask the very same questions of Pakistan. The latter choice allows aid to keep flowing and gives the West some hope of improving and stabilizing the region.
Pakistan should not be rebuked, but held closer and supported.
In the end…
The overall problem of the press coverage of Bin Laden is that the press is trying an age-old exercise of “make wrong.” The message they are trying to craft for their audience is that they alone are deliberative, they are the voice of reason, and that the U.S. is wrong. The press is trying so hard to be right and frame the issues that they have lost any relevancy in the discussion. They collectively look foolish.
I am using this review forum to rant and emphasize one of the key tenets of Due Diligence – the inquisitor needs to ask the right questions. All of the mainstream media to date have missed the trail ducks (markers), which would identify the path of inquiry. They left the path of reason and went off on the path of make wrong. They pretend, like a lost sailor, to know where they are — they keep moving with intent, scanning the horizon for some indication that they are not lost. (See first article on biases and heuristics….)