An investigative journalist who’s built a career exposing high-level coverups going back to the Vietnam War is accusing President Obama of lying about key parts of the operation that killed terror mastermind Osama bin Laden.
In a ten-thousand word essay published in the London Review of Books, author and reporter Seymour M. Hersh asserts that the Obama administration’s version of the operation to capture or kill bin Laden was fabricated to hide Pakistani involvement.
“The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission,” Hersh wrote, citing reports from The New York Times and al-Jazeera that Pakistani military leaders knew about the raid.
Officials in the U.S. maintain that the Navy SEAL operation, retold in movies “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Seal Team Six,” was completely American and did not rely on any Pakistani forces, who would potentially have tipped off bin Laden.
Hersh depends on a single American source, “a retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad,” to support his accusation.
‘It didn’t take long to get the co-operation we needed, because the Pakistanis wanted to ensure the continued release of American military aid,” Hersh quotes his source, adding that secret Pentagon funds were used to provide “personal ‘incentives’” to Pakistani intelligence officials.
Hersh describes his source as being close to the leadership of Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency.
“A Pakistani with close ties to the senior leadership of the ISI told me that ‘there was a deal with your top guys,” Hersh wrote, asserting that Americans strong-armed Pakistani officials with threats of ending American aid programs.
Hersh claimed that the Pakistani intelligence service cooperated and participated in the SEAL raid with full knowledge that bin Laden would be killed. He quotes his unnamed American source, saying, “It was clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder.”
ISI guards posted around the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden lived were in on the raid, according to Hersh, and left their posts “as soon as they heard the rotors of the US helicopters.” He wrote, “the town was dark: the electricity supply had been cut off on the orders of the ISI hours before the raid began.”
Hersh accuses Obama of making “self-serving and inaccurate statements” and creating chaos in the weeks following the raid. It’s true that Obama shamelessly promoted bin Laden’s death in his re-election campaign—the Washington Post suggested that the Obama campaign “made the president the star of the story.”
Without a named source, many of Hersh’s claims seem fantastic—that the same Pakistanis who protected the ever-careful bin Laden would turn on him, and that none of the al-Queda leader’s sources would have tipped him off.
Hersh’s journalism career achieved international status in 1969 when he exposed the massacre of Vietnamese civilians by American soldiers in the village of My Lai. Since then, he’s been a persistent critic of American foreign policy, playing a key role in the exposure of the abuse of prisoners by American guards in the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib.
The latest column is in line with the rest of Hersh’s work.
“High-level lying nevertheless remains the modus operandi of US policy,” he wrote, “along with secret prisons, drone attacks, Special Forces night raids, bypassing the chain of command, and cutting out those who might say no.”
Obama lying to the American public would come as no surprise, but if Hersh’s claims are substantiated, the president’s biggest achievement could become nothing more than another false brag.