Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Pakistan, Osama Bin Laden and The Innuendo of Omission

I have been watching with some shock as the western governments and their media have rushed to condemn the Pakistani government for being unaware of Osama Bin Laden's presence in their country. I find it a challenge to follow their thinking, but will try to formulate it as forcefully as I can here.

So: Argument 1. OBL lived in a multi-million dollar compound in an affluent 'Garrison' town - built especially to hide him. Surely someone in the government knew of his presence there? How could they not - such a huge structure being built must have raised questions in the local prefecture.

Problem 1: It was built in 2005, four years after the US + allies invaded Afghanistan to find and kill OBL, destroy the Taliban and uproot Al Queda. Four years of people saying OBL was in the mountains of Tora Bora, 4 years in which rumours of his death were circulated, 4 years for security services to relax their questioning.

Problem 2: All we have is questions like "How could the compound be built without its connection to OBL being recognised?". There could be perfectly reasonable answers to this question without implicating some vast conspiracy in the Pakistani government, e.g. OBL had a businessman with a reasonably clean history register as the owner of the property. When questions were raised he answered them with a believable fiction that satisfied the planning department of the local council.

Argument 2. Abbottabad is a 'Garrison Town', filled with ex-military brass and a barracks for the training of army officers. Surely someone there suspected something to be amiss with a compound with 12 foot high walls springing up?

Problem 1: As a garrison town, it is populated by people used to accepting that there are those higher-up the chain of command who know things they do not. Asking too many questions will not help in having a long military career. Their thinking might be "So what if there is a new compound built in town? It's probably some general's residence or even a presidential hideaway. Best not to ask too many questions, or you might get implicated as a terrorist sympathiser."

Problem 2: Soldiers in the garrison are trained for a finite time there. Every term some leave for active duty and fresh faces come in. To fresh eyes, the compound might have looked like it had been there forever. They better not ask questions, or their commanders might think they are trouble, or some kind of terrorist sympathiser. Whatever the case, it's in a residential area, so it's nothing to do with them.

Argument 3. OBL was there for 6 years and no-one saw him. Either the locals were blind or they were in league with the terrorists.

Problem 1: For 5 of those 6 years OBL never left his bedroom. We can reasonably assume that he stopped going outside after year 1 because of concerns someone might see him over the 12' walls. If he was in league with the local prefecture and police force, why would he take such paranoid precautions?

Problem 2: It is not the duty of the police force to raid residential buildings without cause. The only way they would have found him is by searching every room or by doing what the Americans did for 6 months and watching the compound around the clock. Even at the end of 6 months, the American agents were still unsure there was really anything amiss with the place. When Obama ordered the mission, it was rated 50/50 that the tall shadow they sometimes saw pacing one room of the compound was their target, or just some weird hermit.

Problem 3: With the construction of the compound, the locals must have been used to supply trucks going in and out with bricks, steel and other building materials. It would be easy to hide OBL in one of those trucks, drive him from wherever he was (Afghanistan?) and install him in his new hideout without anyone raising an eyebrow.

Conclusion: There may be some complicity at some level on the part of the Pakistani government in the hiding of OBL. It would be foolish to rule this out. However, it is not necessarily the case and no evidence has been forthcoming to show it to be so.


Simply because he was present in their country does not mean that some alarm goes off in Islamabad and all the Muslims have a chill go up their spines, their spidey-senses start tingling, and a loud speaker says "Don't look now, but Osama Bin Laden has entered the country. Act natural and don't tell the Americans."

Their government has said that it was as much a failing of the international intelligence services as their own ISS that they didn't know he was there, which is a case of letting themselves off easy. But there is yet to be any actual evidence of complicity, or of flagrant incompetence, on their part that has been released or unearthed by any media outlet or government. All we have is the innuendo of omission.

It seems that Pakistan is being attacked for not being enough of a police state: for not going door-to-door in every town every month, searching every laundry basket and compost heap for a man no-one was sure was even in their country.

If a man stays locked in one room behind 12' high walls for 5 years, I would expect no-one to notice him if that room was in Hampstead or in L.A.

Why would it be different in Pakistan?

1 comment:

  1. Good case in Pakistan's favor. Only problem with this and other posts: the text-background combination could be much more user-friendly.