Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dead Again

I guess it was inevitable. First we had the “truthers”, then the “birthers”... and now we have the “deathers” -- by which I mean the rapidly-growing group of people who are, at best, skeptical as to the official line on the death of Osama bin Laden. Points of contention might include, for example, whether he was killed at all, and if so by whom, where, and when. And you might say, “But, but! Isn't it crystal clear? I mean, at least in this instance?" Yes, that would be a highly desirable thing, for certain – but consider, the government's story about the raid and the alleged deaths keeps morphing, and will undoubtedly continue to do so. And this is quite remarkable considering that the operation was performed, supposedly, by a small elite unit, operating over a very small area in a very limited amount of time – and how many channels of communication were there from those people to the outside world? Supposedly only one, and a highly censored and controlled one at that. And yet the story keeps changing. One minute it was an intensive “firefight” with bullets flying for a considerable time; the next minute only one of the bin Laden people was armed, and was quickly dispatched. One minute bin Laden himself was armed; the next minute he wasn't. One minute he was using a woman as a human shield; the next minute she was on another floor. The number of people in the building, or in the compound, keeps fluctuating wildly; one minute it was a handful of adults, the next it was also a dozen or so kids, most of whom are already on adoption lists being faxed to infertile American yuppie couples. And so on.

Why the chaos? Why not just announce that the deed was done, “details to be provided at a later date... if ever”, and move on? But no – you have to remember that this administration is the ultimate spin machine. It's all spin, all the time, 24-7. So there of course has to be a story, a narrative, a script, to cover every possible contingency. What counts is the coverage -- and consistency, logic, and common sense don't enter in. (Let's not forget, for example, that Hillary Clinton is one of the inner circle -- she of the completely false memory of having been under sniper attack in Bosnia.) So what should have been a single message decayed in short order into a patchwork of mutually contradictory non-factoids, and we already know that we'll never know the truth -- that is, assuming there even _is_ a truth. And that brings us back to the “deather” question.

Who are the “deathers” (even if they themselves don't realize it as yet)? Well, they at least include some of the same folks who have been expressing skepticism all along as to whether bin Laden was dead or alive, and whether the U.S. government knew that, and if they knew he was dead why not admit it? The reason, of course, seemed pretty obvious – a live bin Laden is a much more potent motivator for the “War on Terror” than a dead bin Laden would be. We can all rally round a flag emblazoned “Kill bin Laden!”, but it's harder to rally round a flag emblazoned “Kill all those other guys, who might or might not be terrorists, and we don't really know who or where they are, but kill them anyway!” You know, as Americans we are a simple people. We insist upon simple causes supported by a single, simple idea... usually one summed up by “Kill the [fill in appropriate race, nation, ethnic group, religious group, political movement]”. So keeping bin Laden alive in the American mind was just good politics – and hence the skepticism. Surely the guy couldn't have been so cunning or evasive as to avoid being killed or captured by our forces (either overt or otherwise) for all those years... so, therefore, he must be alive and we must be allowing him to stay alive. Or – he must be dead but no one in the government will admit it. Thus ran the logic.

Then comes the news that bin Laden is dead -- “really most sincerely dead” as the Munchkin would say. So that would have tended to humble the skeptics a bit... except for the informational chaos that followed, and that has only added fuel to the fire. The former skepticism can now give way – seamlessly and with nary a bump – to a new skepticism, and this will take on one of a number of forms. For example:

1. He really had been dead for some time, but someone in the government decided, for whatever reason, that now was the time to officially declare him so. But this obviously could not be done by telling the truth – imagine how that would look! So we had to come up with this bogus raid instead. And who knows how many people (if any) were killed, or who they were?

2. He's still alive and the government knows it, but someone decided it would make a good propaganda ploy to claim that he had been killed. This is, of course, a highly risky scenario, and you could expect to see a photo of him, like Truman, holding up a newspaper announcing his death... so I'd put this in the “unlikely” category.

3. The government doesn't know whether he's alive or dead, but... propaganda again, and also high risk, etc.

OK, so I'm going to settle on Option #1 as the only credible counter-government-story one. But why not just settle for the simplest explanation, which is, in fact, the one the government has provided? The answer to this – as with JFK, 9/11, and countless other conspiracies – is in what I call “cover-up logic”. In a nutshell, if there is nothing to cover up why was there a cover up? In this case we have the hourly shape-shifting stories as to precisely what happened, even though, of all the possible stories to come out of the “War on Terror” this should have been just about the easiest one to nail down. And then there's that “burial at sea” nonsense. Oh right, I forgot – all devout Moslems get buried at sea. Right? Of course not; it's ridiculous. A goodly number of Moslems live in land-locked places at least 1000 miles from the nearest sea. The advantage of “burial at sea” is that you don't have to prove who was buried, or even that _anyone_ was buried. And the only ones performing an autopsy are a bunch of sharks. Now that's what I call “concealing evidence”. Oh, but it was all done for perfectly good reasons. I mean, there was a jet all warmed up and ready to whisk bin Laden's body off shore in less time than it would take Bill Clinton to proposition a hat-check girl. Please, people! Why aren't we all rolling in the aisles over this? Maybe because it's too depressingly familiar. Or... another way of putting it is that it's too absurd not to be true. At least that's the assumption the administration seems to be operating under.

Well... I'm not going to attempt to build an air-tight case at this point. But don't be surprised if the buzz over the Internet and elsewhere on this doesn't keep accelerating and getting louder over the next few days. Because every time the government seems to step on its schvantz, you can be sure that there's a lot more to the story... and that the minor embarrassment of schvantz-stepping is well worth it, compared to the consequences of people finding out what really happened.

And I suppose I should mention a few side-bar issues at this point as well. Clearly, if the operation really did happen as described by the government and its press lackeys, no one in their right mind would have let the Pakistani authorities in on it ahead of time. Read my lips, people – they're not on our side, OK? No one in the administration will admit this... they keep talking around it... but that's the way it is, has been, and will be. It's our war over there, not theirs. And maybe this incident will help people (like in Congress, for instance) keep this in mind. If so, it won't be a total triviality.

Could this have, in fact, been Obama's “October surprise”? If so, the timing was a bit off. No, his party's strategists are much smarter than that. Why let a perfectly good killing go to waste?

As to whether bin Laden was armed or not – implication being, it's hardly fair and sporting to gun down an unarmed chap, no matter the offense, don'tcha know. Right. I'm amazed they didn't just bomb the place, or demolish it with a few tons of high explosive. At least we've shucked off the illusion of “gentlemanly war”. And “precision strike” sounds so... precise. So high tech, so... intelligent. So non-ham-handed. And so forth. As satisfying as “bunker busters” are, something that lends itself readily to a made-for-TV movie is far preferable. (For the role of bin Laden, I nominate Anthony Perkins. Hey, he's the right height, the right weight... the right eye color. You say he's dead? Even better.)

And – oh yes – as to this event increasing the “pressure” on the administration to get us out of the Middle East, because... well, now we can finally say “mission accomplished”, right? That, of course, is a fond delusion, because as we all know by now, the War on Terror is never-ending, and will last as long as the Republic, if not longer. So let's not have anyone getting excited by some kind of “bin Laden bonus”. The people who want us in the Middle East still want us there... the vested interests have not changed... and all the politics and spin-meistering are concerned with is tweaking the fine points, never in questioning the overall rationale.

By the way, isn't that a bizarre picture of the White House “war trust” gathered around in their Sunday shabbies (except for Hillary, note) watching the proceedings? Obama looks strangely small, like some kind of midget (or Sammy Davis Jr.). What he really looks like is a pizza delivery guy who accidentally got in a picture of the White Power Structure at play. (And why does it always have to be me who points these things out? Is everyone else blind?)

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