Monday, 11 May 2015

Obama, Osama bin-Laden, and Disinformation

We live in the age of conspiracy theories and the thirsting of the public for a story that challenges the manufactured news of the corporate media and government. The reason for this is that indeed news is so slanted toward molding public opinion than of informing. Government has intentionally used the media to induce political conformity so the truth of a news story is lost in propaganda. Disinformation has been an integral part of foreign policy in modern history and this is understandable when countries are enaged in war. From the Spanish-American War when the US launched its imperial global reach until the present era of modern surveillance and drone warfare, the media has been a tool in policy for the purpose of shaping public opinion at home and abroad.

The latest news story that is receiving modest attention in the US and strong refutations from the government, media, and apologists of foreign policy has to do with the claims of award-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. In the May 2015 issue (Vol. 37 No. 10), Hersh is reporting that according to a confidential Pakistani source, the government of Pakistan had captured Osama bin-Laden in 2006 and was holding him in a secret compound until the US military operation that resulted in his capture and death. 

Hersh claims that in exchange for a payment of $25 million, a Pakistani intelligence officer walked into the US embassy and revealed that his government was holding Osama bin-Laden prisoner in a secret compound. Because of the Pakistani government had itself lied about not knowing bin-Laden’s location it was and is in a very difficult position revealing what actually took place. Pakistan had no choice but to yield to the US on the the Navy Seals operation for the capture that would unfold exactly as Washington demanded, evidently staged if the sources of Hersh are telling the truth. Even before Hersh’s story, there were some unconfirmed reports that bin-Laden was indeed held in a compound in Abbottabad. Neither the US nor the Pakistani officials would acknowledge it, despite some serious questions about the official version of events. It is understandable that they could not possibly do so for they would derive no benefit of any sort and only damage their own credibility. 

Although Hersh claims that the Obama administration was facing reelection and needed a glorified heroic Osama capture to put him over the top with increasingly skeptical voters, the fact is that the US could not possibly permit Pakistan to simply hand Osama over for trial at the International Court of Justice at the Hague. After all, the US had spent hundreds of billions in taxpayer money and many lives on the global war on terror, and the only way to justify the military solution was the "Rambo-style" capture and elimination of Osama. The US had insisted that it would prevail on the war on terror, no matter what, and asked its own people and the world to support the policy. It was symbolically significant for the US to carry out the capture and killing of bin-Laden in the manner it unfolded to prove to voters at home and to the world that the policy of the war on terror rooted in military interventionism was working and no other solution was an option. Therefore, taxpayer dollars were not wasted on some wild goose chase where the Pakistanis catch the goose and hand it over.

It is true that Pakistan was receiving about $2 billion, perhaps more covertly and who knows about bribes through third parties to various officials in government, military and intelligence services. US aid was given largely because the Pakistani government had agreed to be actively engaged in the US war against al-Qaeda and jihadists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In exchange for occupying Pakistan militarily, determining Pakistan’s foreign and defense policy, and for “collateral damage” fatalities resulting from misdirected missions, the US had to provide aid. It is entirely possible, that Pakistan gave bin-Laden to the US because it feared cuts in aid and wanted to make sure that it secured even greater benefits if it cooperated, especially when it had no choice, according to Hersh. Given the nature of Pakistan’s internal politics and the sympathy within the government and intelligence services, it is possible bin-Laden represented a great deal of leverage for Pakistan and that is how they used it.

The publicly-stated US goal in invading Afghanistan and coercing Pakistan to accept US military intervention on its soil after 9/11 from which to launch operation against the Afghan regime, Taliban and al-Qaeda was to capture and/or kill Osama bin-Laden thus eliminating the terrorism threat to the US; a public relations promise that in reality would amount to nothing, considering Islamic militancy has actually been on the rise in the last five years. The publicly-stated goal placed the US in a very limited position because it entailed only a military solution was possible to the “manufactured war on terror” intended to replace the Cold War as the rationale for continuing the same foreign policy from the Truman administration to the present.

The unspoken US goal was to establish a foothold next to Iran or to encircle Iran and force it into making concessions on the development of nuclear weapons under the guise of developing energy.  In short, the real goal of the US was to determine the balance of power so that Iran does not enjoy that role or at least its power is considerably diminished. Osama bin-Laden was the catalytic symbol that held together an otherwise futile and contradictory US foreign policy with detrimental consequences to the economy drained by massive defense spending while China was capturing market share even in Afghanistan and Pakistan that the US controlled militarily. In other words, the US was desperate and needed a symbolic victory so that it avoids the Vietnam syndrome, considering that Iran and China had actually benefited from the US military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Seymour Hersh is not the focus of this story he uncovered but the credibility of the US government and American media must be questioned. If his sources are valid, there are two larger issues here: 1) under Obama with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State there was a massive lie and cover up of what actually took place; and 2) the role of the media in aiding the government with an incredible lie about what took place. No one expects confirmation that indeed Hersh is correct that the Obama administration blatantly falsified facts for such an admission would be unrealistic.

Assuming Hersh is correct, it is easy to understand why the US would want to cover up what actually took place with Osama bin-Laden. In the 1980s during the Mujahedin war against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan, the US helped to create Osama bin-Laden along with US ally Saudi Arabia. In the last decade, the US has played all sides of the war on terror, directly and through third parties like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States siding with jihadists in Libya and Syria, opposing them in Afghanistan. These kinds of contradictions of playing all sides reflect a policy rooted not in ideology and principles of freedom and democracy, but opportunism and deception with the intent of stretching out the counterterrorism regime.

The US war on terror has been at the core of the US foreign and domestic policy. It has implications on the federal budget, while it has a great impact on keeping the defense industry strong, with massive banking financing behind them. Above all the war on terror helps to keep both the domestic and global agendas focused on a foreign enemy instead of the absence of social justice and the massive problems confronting people’s lives with unemployment, underemployment, low-paying jobs, dwindling middle class and massive capital concentration in the hands of a few billionaires. In short, the domestic and international counterterrorism campaign that the US government has institutionalized has become an integral part of the American culture and keeps the existing political economy intact and the existing social structure. However, it is backfiring both in the domain of foreign affairs as well as the domestic arena where democracy has fallen victim to counterterrorism with minorities paying the price in urban centers and the middle class continuing to weaken. 

The mainstream media that has always been enthusiastic to reflect and reinforce the views of the government, especially the CIA and Pentagon, is skeptical about Hersh’s story because he does not reveal the informant’s name and he does not offer incontrovertible proof - written documents, audio or video to back this story. Common sense tells us that in the absence of a Snowden-like or Wikileaks-type revelation, it is very difficult to produce evidence of a Pakistani intelligence officer walking into the US embassy and making a deal on Osama. In its official response to the story, the White House and CIA dismissed Hersh's story as baseless and false. This was expected, as was the reaction of US media attacking Hersh for irresponsible journalism.

However, it is important to consider that the US government has denied numerous stories about operations that in time proved the government had engaged in disinformation on a grand scale. This is everything from conducting medical experiments at home and other countries half a century ago, to carrying out counterinsurgency operations in Africa, Latin America and Asia, to assassinating political leaders, as the Frank Church intelligence committee uncovered and where Seymour Hersh was also a key player as an investigate journalist in the 1970s. For decades, the US government and media denied any CIA involvement in Salvador Allende’s Chile. We know now that they were blatantly lying. The list of manufactured stories by the US government is long as is the role of the media going along with such stories.

The disturbing element in all of this is how the media has a very close relationship with former defense, national security analysts working as “news commentators” trying to mold if not reinforce the lies and deception. Part of the reason is the connection with defense contractors, but also the role that finance capital plays as well.  When FOXNEWS covered the Hersh story, it relied on a former Reagan administration official on security who simply denied that there is any legitimacy to what Hersh is claiming because he cannot prove it. Her argument was that she believed the CIA director whom she has known for years and “he is a good man” who presumably would not lie on a serious matter such as this. In other words, the media with close ties to government always reinforces the official version until it becomes politically necessary to put a different spin on the story, let us say to use the information Hersh has uncovered against Hillary Clinton running for president because she too was part of the alleged Obama lie on Osama bin-Laden.

Exactly 70 years ago (1941), Orson Welles made Citizen Kane based on the life of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst whose newspapers molded public opinion and influenced politics to a degree that some argue the corporate press determined the course of politics instead of reporting it in an open society where people are provided with information from all sides and all perspectives so they can make up their own minds. In an open society "Citizen Murdoch" and corporations with management that thinks like Murdoch have the right to present their views freely and to reinforce disinformation that the CIA and other government agencies dish out. We know that to expand a media empire or an internet corporation that shares private information with the NSA means insider political influence will result in political favors and contracts among other perks for the media and communications industry.  

In a democratic society, the public is 'consuming news' often unaware that it is really disinformation. This is a major reason that conspiracy theories have become so popular. For example, the more that the US tried to demonize Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine crisis, the more the disinformation was backfiring, leaving the Obama team to argue that more money was needed to devote countering the Russian propaganda campaign. This reveals that the only response for the ineffective disinformation campaign was more disinformation, as though the Russians enjoy a ubiquitous influence over Western public opinion.

Time will prove if the Hersh story is legitimate or simply another "journalistic plant" to disinform and distract. In time we will know if this story is partially true, or if it is even worse than Hersh described it. For now, we are left with the Obama administration that came to office in 2009 with the pledge to end exactly the kind of practices he has been pursuing in foreign policy and in the process lying to the American people, as in the case of US drones killing of a US and Italian hostage in January 2015. This does not mean that the world will ever know a single version of what took place with Osama bin-Laden, the Pakistanis and the Americans, but a clearer picture will emerge at some point. Meanwhile, the foreign policy of destabilizing the Middle East, the foreign policy of contradictions, and the defense policy of outspending all rivals to maintain Pax American will continue until it brings the nation deeper in debt, economically weaker with a dwindling middle class in a country where the word democracy will not have much meaning.

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