2 May 2011
I hope the story of the killing of Osama bin Laden proves to be simple and straightforward, but I am worried about a couple loose ends. There seems to be a contradiction between what the President and his aides were saying about the circumstances of bin Laden’s death, and we in an unseemly hurry to rid ourselves of his body.
In his announcement the President said: “After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.” The key word to my ear is “after.” This indicates that bin Laden was not killed in the chaos of the firefight, but at some more deliberate moment following. A statement like this would have been very carefully crafted, and yet it is at odds with a New York Times story this morning.
When American operatives converged on the house on Sunday, Bin Laden “resisted the assault force” and was killed in the middle of an intense gun battle, a senior administration official said, but details were still sketchy early Monday morning.
I have not seen any reports nailing down the actual time of the assault on bin Laden’s compound, but sources seem to indicate it was on Sunday. The news of the success of the mission broke in the US media on Sunday night. Given time zone differences, this would indicate that the attack probably occurred within the first twelve hours or so of Sunday in Pakistan. It has been reported that American forces buried bin Laden at sea, again, from the New York Times:
Muslim tradition requires burial within 24 hours, but by doing it at sea, American authorities presumably were trying to avoid creating a shrine for his followers.
I hope that is accurate, but I can’t help having a very bad feeling about this combination of circumstances. We are told there are DNA samples to prove that we killed the right man, and I frankly don’t have much doubt about that. But are there photographs to document our treatment of him while he was in our hands, dead or alive? Unfortunately we can no longer assume the US took the high road, and if we did anything to be ashamed of during these critical hours of justice being served, you can be sure we will see it exposed slowly and painfully over the coming months and years.