Saturday, May 07, 2011

Danny Schecter: Nailing Osama -- The Media's Delight

Nailing Osama: The media's delight
by Danny Schecter
Al Jazeera

The circumstances and timing of Osama bin Laden's death can be explained by one word: Politics.

The tip on bin Laden's whereabouts came in back in 2010. You have to assume the house was under surveillance. If they thought they "bagged him" they would be watching closely and choosing the right time to deep six the target (I actually wrote this lead paragraph sentence before reading this "Breaking News" from the Washington Post: "CIA had secret outpost in Abbottabad").

"The CIA maintained a safe house in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad for a small team of spies who conducted extensive surveillance over a period of months on the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed by US special operations forces this week (US officials)," the newspaper reported.

Both Afghan agents and Pakistani intelligence now say they told the US about the house as early as 2009.

So, they knew he was there. That was a reason drones weren't used.

The CIA wanted a more controlled high profile and dramatic intervention for public consumption, for what, in the end, was a marketing campaign – marketing the centrality of the agency's role in a war whose main audience is not on the battlefield, but in the homeland.

They needed a heroic narrative to revive support for a war they have been losing, and a scalp to sell to a conflict-weary and disillusioned population. It is no surprise that the Seals labelled OBL "Geronimo", reviving memories of fighting guerrilla-style Indian wars. Muslim renegades are apparently our new "savages".

The Native Americans took their enemy's head and hair – Donald Trump, beware; we shoot out their eyes and waterboard their brains.

The target was not "the terror mastermind" but the American people. It was an exercise in political mobilisation and perception management. It was the ultimate media operation, relying on many of the tactics used in Iraq that I document in my film "WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception".

We are as conscious about what we say as what we do, we always fashion a propaganda storyline demonising the enemy who is often compared to Hitler. Bin Laden lived in a "million dollar mansion" (it cost $48,000 to buy six years ago). He was heavily armed (he wasn't). He hid behind female human shields (he didn't). Who cares about facts... this was a TV orchestrated event. The Daily Mail in London complained that their raising questions led to being derided as "cheese eating surrender monkeys".

They could have captured him, but that would lead to the hassle of putting him on trial. Besides, what if he revealed his long connection with the CIA and US officials? Can't have that. So the kill order was given, along with a quick disposal of the body, mafia-style (as in "sleeping with the fishes").

The legal justification was self-defence, an argument that any government can use to dispatch its enemies.

Timing is everything

Why was it done, and why now?

To Read the Rest of the Essay

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