The recent fanfare on May 1st 2011 from the screenwriters in the mainstream media over the US government’s announcement of the US Navy SEALs’ killing of Osama bin Laden reminds us once again how mainstream journalism requires Orwell’s memory hole in order to function. After all, this isn’t the first time we’ve been told bin Laden is dead. Like a bad action movie franchise bereft of new ideas and forced to regurgitate the same tired concepts with each sequel, rumours of bin Laden’s death have surfaced so many times since this uber-boogeyman allegedly carried out 9/11 that one can’t help but wonder if this “criminal mastermind” is actually a cat…
Like the infamous James Bond supervillain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Osama bin Laden has demonstrated an incredible knack for teetering around the edge or coming back from the grave when you least expect it (usually when the President is running low in the opinion polls). After his swift identification in the corporate press as the mastermind of 9/11 – without any evidence to support this – he denied all involvement in the attacks, stating shortly after in an interview with Karachi-based newspaper Ummat, “I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of a battle.”
Nevertheless, despite this denial and the inability of the US government to provide the proof requested supporting their allegations, the media immediately got behind the military-industrial-complex and began beating the drums for war against Afghanistan. Conveniently ignoring further requests for proof from the Taliban, who offered to hand him over if presented with evidence of his guilt, they happily suspended the standard principle of innocent until proven guilty in favour of a bloodthirsty, jingoistic call for large-scale bombing campaigns, saturated with appeals to the most base form of patriotism coupled with “you’re either with us or with the terrorists” emotional blackmail.
Once the war was on, however, the US government seemed to forget about bin Laden. President Bush expressed how disinterested they really were in capturing him just six months after 9/11:
“Deep in my heart I know the man’s on the run if he’s alive at all.” Bush later corrected himself, in his trademark blundering manner:
But what had actually happened to bin Laden? Admittedly, few in the media were about to challenge the Bush administration’s lack of enthusiasm for tracking the supervillain down, but nevertheless rumours of his death soon began to circulate. In January, 2002, Pakistan President Musharraf believed him to be dead on account of his kidney disease, saying, “”I don’t know if he has been getting all that treatment in Afghanistan now. And the photographs that have been shown of him on television show him extremely weak. … I would give the first priority that he is dead and the second priority that he is alive somewhere in Afghanistan.” In July of the same year, The New York Times reported that bin Laden was dead: “The news first came from sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan almost six months ago: the fugitive died in December and was buried in the mountains of southeast Afghanistan.” In the same month, FBI counterterrorism chief Dale Watson echoed these beliefs, saying, “”Is (bin Laden) alive or is he dead? I am not really sure of the answer … I personally think he is probably not with us anymore…” And again, in October 2002, Afghanistan’s puppet leader also claimed that bin Laden was “probably dead”. He explained on CNN, “The more we don’t hear of him, and the more time passes, there is the likelihood that he probably is either dead or seriously wounded somewhere.”
Further hints at bin Laden’s possible death came from various intelligence agencies, with sources inside Mossad claiming that any new messages from bin Laden were “probably fabrications” and sources from Pakistani intelligence, who claimed he was already dead and “attributed the reasons behind Washington’s hiding news on the death of Osama bin Laden to the desire of the hawks of the American administration to use the issue of al-Qaida and international terrorism to invade Iraq.” Perhaps a prophetic statement, for following on from this steady flow of rumours of his demise in 2002, bin Laden somehow managed to emerge from hiding – or beyond the grave – to help boost Bush’s approval ratings, once again becoming the poster boy for al Qaeda and dominating news coverage in the build up to the invasion of Iraq. This was the era of the bin Laden tapes dismissed by many experts as being fakes, much like the alleged “confession” video released in December 2001, not credible enough for even the FBI to consider hard evidence (when asked why bin Laden was not wanted for 9/11 on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, Chief of Investigative Publicity for the FBI, Rex Tomb, said, “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.”). He showed up once again in another video of dubious veracity just before the 2004 Presidential elections – his appearance effectively handed Bush his second term in office.
In 2007, news of bin Laden’s death came once again, this time from Benazir Bhutto, who claimed he was murdered back in 2005:
In 2008, former CIA case officer Robert Baer also suggested in an interview on National Public Radio that bin Laden was no longer alive. Questioned further he replied, “Of course he’s dead.” As he points out in his article for Time magazine, When Will Obama Give Up the Bin Laden Ghost Hunt?, the last reliable sighting of him was as far back as late 2001 – a fair statement, given the obvious lack of countervailing evidence.
The latest bin Laden propaganda extravaganza will no doubt go down in history as one of the most flawed, contradictory and downright absurd Pentagon psychological operations in recent history. Already the story has been changed repeatedly: first bin Laden was armed and used his wife as a human shield, then he was unarmed; amongst the first pieces of “proof” to come out was a photograph so obviously fake that someone with little to no experience with Photoshop could knock up a superior composite in half an hour. When this was proved to be a fake the media displayed its usual lack of credibility by ignoring the implications of faked evidence and moving on swiftly to the next lie. Such is the extent of the flip-flopping from the US government and the corporate press that one can’t help but wonder if they’ve suspended all pretence of common sense and have reached the point where they simply don’t care whether or not the public believe a word they say. Like true propagandists, when caught out on their lies they simply replace them with fresh lies and label anyone who holds them to account for their deceptions “conspiracy theorists”.
Those debating whether or not he was armed, or if the action was “lawful”, or, ultimately, even if he’s actually dead or not are missing the point. By engaging with these issues they are ostensibly lending credence to the propaganda. It’s a classic example of the media creating “controversy” within the spectrum defined by the official narrative and allowing lively debate to proceed within those confines. Likewise, those who are naively expecting the death of bin Laden to bring the troops back home from Afghanistan will no doubt find themselves sorely disappointed; it has been made clear repeatedly since the alleged killing that al Qaeda are now more than ever likely to attack. Like all half-baked serial films, Osama bin Laden: The Movie has been left with a cliffhanger, one which was made clear in the recent WikiLeaks “revelations” that there would be “nuclear reprisals” if bin Laden were killed or captured – a perfect excuse for greater expansion of police powers and quite possibly setting the stage for another false flag attack. Little wonder the timing of these events leads one to believe they’re scripted…