Were the US Navy Seals on a kill or kill-or-capture mission? As the post-kill party winds down, questions are being raised about the Abbottabad narrative, some on details of the Navy Seals operation, others on policy drawing from the politics of those at the microphone.
Was Osama bin Laden armed, did he resist?
Why the reluctance to release pictures/videos?
Could this operation have been possible, leave alone succeed, without “enhanced interrogation (torture)” mandated by George W Bush?
Why was Bin Laden given such an elaborate funeral?
“Bin Laden was … shot and killed. (But) he was not armed,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday. The earlier narrative had an armed Bin Laden trying to shoot his way out of the raid. Though not armed, Carney insisted, al Qaeda chief did resist.
He was also said to have used a woman — not specified who — as a shield. He hadn’t actually. The story is likely to undergo a few more edits. About releasing pictures, pressure is coming essentially from some crazies and conspiracy theorists who doubt if it the Seals indeed killed Bin Laden. They demand proof.
The administration has held off so far arguing, one, the pictures are too graphic, and, two, they might anger and incite his followers to retaliate. But CIA chief Leon Panetta has hinted the pictures might be released.
The remaining questions are broadly tethered to politics, raised mostly by the conservatives. Republican senator Lindsey Graham, for instance, has blamed “oversensitivity” for the elaborate funeral rites for Bin Laden. Graham and other critics don’t question the burial at sea, most people appreciate the logic that it was done to prevent Bin Laden from turning into a shrine.
And the last question, about enhanced interrogation, is pure politics. The point about how “waterboarding” (suspect dunked into water and made to struggle for air) gave US intelligence the critical information of the hunt, was first made by Republican Peter King.
The courier, who eventually led the US to Bin Laden, was forced out of Khalid Mohammad Sheikh by waterboarding him. These are only some of the significant debates swirling around Abbottabad. Pakistan’s role is the other, but one that is unlikely to be settled in haste.