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As expected, doubters question bin Laden death claim

By ROBERT BURNS and CALVIN WOODWARD
May 3, 2011

(AFP)

Knowing there would be disbelievers, the U.S. says it used convincing means to confirm Osama bin Laden’s identity during and after the firefight that killed him. But the mystique that surrounded the terrorist chieftain in life is persisting in death.

Was it really him? How do we know? Where are the pictures?

Already, those questions are spreading in Pakistan and surely beyond. In the absence of photos and with his body given up to the sea, many people don’t believe bin Laden — the Great Emir to some, the fabled escape artist of the Tora Bora mountains to foe and friend alike — is really dead.

U.S. officials are balancing that skepticism with the sensitivities that might be inflamed by showing images they say they have of the dead al-Qaida leader and video of his burial at sea. Still, it appeared likely that photographic evidence would be produced.

“We are going to do everything we can to make sure that nobody has any basis to try to deny that we got Osama bin Laden,” John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, said Monday. He said the U.S. will “share what we can because we want to make sure that not only the American people but the world understand exactly what happened.”

In July 2003, the U.S. took heat but also quieted most conspiracy theorists by releasing graphic photos of the corpses of Saddam Hussein’s two powerful sons to prove American forces had killed them.

So far, the U.S. has cited evidence that satisfied the Navy SEAL force, and at least most of the world, that they had the right man in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The helicopter-borne raiding squad that swarmed the luxury compound identified bin Laden by appearance. A woman in the compound who was identified as his wife was said to have called out bin Laden’s name in the melee.

Officials produced a quick DNA match from his remains that they said established bin Laden’s identity, even absent the other techniques, with 99.9 percent certainty. U.S. officials also said bin Laden was identified through photo comparisons and other methods.

Tellingly, an al-Qaida spokesman, in vowing vengeance against America, called him a martyr, offering no challenge to the U.S. account of his death.

Even so, it’s almost inevitable that the bin Laden mythology will not end with the bullet in his head. If it suits extremist ends to spin a fantastical tale of survival or trickery to gullible ears, expect to hear it.

In the immediate aftermath, people in Abbottabad expressed widespread disbelief that bin Laden had died — or ever lived — among them.

“I’m not ready to buy bin Laden was here,” said Haris Rasheed, 22, who works in a fast food restaurant. “How come no one knew he was here and why did they bury him so quickly? This is all fake — a drama, and a crude one.”

Kamal Khan, 25, who is unemployed, said the official story “looks fishy to me.”

The burial from an aircraft carrier in the North Arabian Sea was videotaped aboard the ship, according to a senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because a decision on whether to release the video was not final. The official said it was highly likely that the video, along with photographs of bin Laden’s body, would be made public in coming days.

The swiftness of the burial may have raised suspicions but was in accord with Islamic traditions. Islamic scholars, however, challenged U.S. assertions that a burial at sea was an appropriate fate for a Muslim who had died on land.

The act denied al-Qaida any sort of burial shrine for their slain leader. Once again, bin Laden had vanished, but this time at the hands of the United States and in a way that ensures he is gone forever.

If that satisfies U.S. goals and its sense of justice, Brad Sagarin, a psychologist at Northern Illinois University who studies persuasion, said the rapid disposition of the body “would certainly be a rich sort of kernel for somebody to grasp onto if they were motivated to disbelieve this.”

Also expected to come out is a tape made by bin Laden, before U.S. forces bore down on him, that may provide fodder to those who insist he is alive.

Pakistan, for one, is a land of conspiracy theorists, and far-fetched rumors abound on the streets and in blogs throughout the Arab world. But that’s not just a characteristic of the Islamic pipeline. Many ordinary Americans — and one billionaire — persistently questioned whether Obama was born in the U.S. despite lacking any evidence that he wasn’t.

Sagarin said most people will probably be convinced bin Laden is dead because they cannot imagine the government maintaining such an extraordinary lie to the contrary in this day and age.

Yet, he said, “as with the birther conspiracy, there’s going to be a set of people who are never going to be convinced. People filter the information they receive through their current attitudes, their current perspectives.”

To be sure, even photos and video, subject to digital manipulation, may not provide the final word to everyone. But Seth Jones, a RAND Corp. political scientist who advised the commander of U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan, said the administration should do all it can to minimize doubts.

“There are always conspiracy theories,” he said. “There are individuals who believe that bin Laden wasn’t involved in the 9/11 attacks.”

__

Associated Press writers Zarar Khan in Abbottabad, Pakistan; Malcolm Ritter in New York; and Lolita C. Baldor, Ben Feller, Matt Apuzzo and Pauline Jelinek in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

 

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12 Responses to As expected, doubters question bin Laden death claim

  1. Jim0001

    May 3, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Like the boy who cried wolf, Obama has not told the truth on anything.
    Why should he be believed now? His veracity is non-existant.

  2. bogofree

    May 3, 2011 at 9:30 am

    I think they have OBL’s birth certificate.

  3. Sandune

    May 3, 2011 at 9:48 am

    I was planning a reply to this article until I read the above replies. Apparently the only way to prove that OBL was killed was to admit it was Bush’s plans all along. Let’s see, Bush is a White Christian and Obama is _______________.

    • Jim0001

      May 3, 2011 at 10:20 am

      My comment was not about what I believe about OBL’s death. It was merely an observation about the complete and total lack of veracity the temporary soujourner in the white house has. There are those who find conspiracy in everything but this administration provides nothing that can be believed.
      Even listening to Barach Hussein Obama detail the raid implies that he was a one man raiding party, a veritable Rambo. Everything was I, ME, MY….
      I bet if he told the truth we would find out that the CIA & JSOC were also involved.
      You wouldn’t know that from listening to him though!

    • bogofree

      May 3, 2011 at 7:21 pm

      And mine was mearly a reflection on the foolishness of debating if he was dead last night or seven years ago. Foolish as the birth certificate issue.

  4. Lillibet

    May 3, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Geez, when the neighbors think the whole episode is a form of government drama, special reports for the world expecting a victory, and wowie, there is the victory, the extrajudicial execution of Public Enemy No. 1, well…

    Then there were these obituary announcements and other reports in 2001….

    Australia calls the pics of the face of the recently allegedly Bin Laden to be fakes that were going around the Internet tubes two years ago, when perhaps he died a second time???

    There were a few too many “trust me’s” going into Iraq. A few too many all around.

    Even the physical evidence from the seminal event leading to this recent Navy Seal operation, way back in the long-ago memory was not fully examined as would any other mass murder scene be examined. That too made me wonder, because so much of the evidence was not evidence at all — measured against what would be evidence in a court of law.

    And, of course, so much of the War on a Tactic has been based on information that one could not call 24 carat, hand to God, truth…

    Well, what do you expect? Of course there will be doubters.

    The burial at sea, done to protect the religious sensibilities of the victim, also seems a tad over the top. You hunt a man for 10 years, execute an operation, do a short round of “high fives” and announce burial at sea to protect religious sensitivities? Puhleeze.

    Give us solid, well grounded, factually supported truth. We’ve missed it here in the Homeland, err…Heartland.

    I am a fact based person. I want proof. I don’t want to take someone’s word for something. Not at all.

    There was a president who said, “trust, but verify.”

    Perhaps it was slang for show me the money, the valuable proof. The real deal. Either way, I want real, tangible proof. I don’t want much…just the facts. That is, I want sufficient facts to really believe that what happened happened as they say it happened.

  5. Danny Adams

    May 3, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Most of the “They didn’t kill bin Laden” arguments I’ve seen around the Net aren’t claiming he’s still alive, but rather that he died years ago and the fact was covered up (for, they usually say, political gain). The articles / comments usually point to various foreign intelligence services and newspapers stating their beliefs that he died of kidney failure in December 2001 and buried in a secret location in Afghanistan.

    • Lillibet

      May 3, 2011 at 6:29 pm

      Well yes, when a person has end stage kidney disease, is treated in the US hospital and was seen in a Pakistani hospital the nights before September 11 according to Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research, there are those pesky questions.

      After all, access to medical care, electricity, purified water and a ready blood transfusion supply tend to be limited in the caves of Afghanistan or the tribal areas of Pakistan. Patients at that stage don’t live for decades, they more often only live for months following the need for such high level medical treatment..

      Doubts, as they say, are a terrible thing to overcome when the evidence has been destroyed, or buried at sea.

  6. woody188

    May 3, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Knowing there would be disbelievers, the U.S. says it used convincing means to confirm Osama bin Laden’s identity during and after the firefight that killed him

    Other than producing the body. Funny how they showed Saddam’s slain sons but the guy they claim is the reason for the War on Terror? Like WMD in Iraq, just take it on faith.

  7. Wayne K Dolik

    May 4, 2011 at 1:16 am

    Habeas Corpus was and old American tradition. When the bounty hunter got his guy he brought it to the local Sheriff to collect the reward. It was slung over the back of a horse.

    Remember Habeas Corpus? Probably not.

    • Lillibet

      May 4, 2011 at 7:32 am

      If the Judge already has the body and is thus already convinced of the identity, due to a special op, there is not much reason for the “corpus” to be habeus’d.

      So to speak.

      If the Judge is in truth, the people knowing what is going on via an open proceeding, as courts are supposed to be, then habeus should apply. However, we did away with that rule in the George W. Bush administration, so move along, nothing to see here, just trust what you are told.

  8. Morgan Harper

    May 4, 2011 at 7:00 am

    This is good news for everybody in the free world. Yes there is a risk of reprisals, but surely in spite of this the world is now a safer place.