Vijay Prashad in Frontline:
In early May, THE veteran investigati-ve journalist Seymour Hersh wrote a 10,000-word report in London Review of Books entitled “The Killing of Osama bin Laden”. The essay alleges that the narrative produced by the United States government on the events of May 2, 2011, is flawed. The fact of bin Laden’s death is not in contention. At least that is taken for granted. What is in doubt, Hersh argues in the report, is the manner in which the U.S. government found out about bin Laden’s presence in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad, the role of the Pakistani government in the U.S. operation, the way in which the U.S. Navy Seals killed bin Laden, and the manner in which his body was disposed of. The allegations are not all new. Many of them had circulated widely in Pakistan right after the operation. What gives them weight is that they come from a well-respected U.S. journalist and produced a denial from the White House.
What was the U.S. government’s story? The film Zero Dark Thirty (2012) closely reflects the official tale. Under torture, the film suggests, an associate of bin Laden led the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to the Al Qaeda courier network that kept bin Laden in operational control. The CIA followed the couriers until they found bin Laden in Abbottabad. A fake polio immunisation drive allowed the CIA to get the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sample of bin Laden to confirm his identity. At this point, the White House authorised the Navy Seals to fly into Pakistan—without permission from the Pakistani military—and seize bin Laden. The raid went as planned although one of the two helicopters crashed in the compound. Bin Laden was killed in a firefight. His body was returned to Afghanistan, from where it was taken to USS Carl Vinson to be buried at sea. A trove of intelligence was found in bin Laden’s compound, which was turned over to the CIA.