Bin Laden: Does anyone actually know what’s going on?

When we first heard about the fatal shooting of Osama bin Laden, we were a touch skeptical. OK, so he was apparently buried at sea as a mark of respect to Muslim traditions, but several Islamic scholars have since criticised the burial, claiming that it actually violates the laws it was supposed to uphold. Meanwhile, we’re left without pictures of a body or any definitive proof that ‘Operation Geronimo’ actually did as we are told it did.

The White House has claimed that releasing pictures of bin Laden’s body would be an inflammatory move, presumably mindful of the possibility of reprisals on behalf of enraged cells loyal to bin Laden. Again, this could be true. It makes a certain amount of sense. But it certainly leaves a lot of room for ambiguity, interpretation, and questioning of the official version of events.

This impression is strengthened still further by the way that the details of bin Laden’s death appear to be changing almost daily. Originally, we were told that he fired an automatic weapon at the Navy SEALS who stormed the compound in Abottabad where he was living, and that he used one of his wives as a ‘human shield’ in an effort to protect his own life. In the first iteration, the wife was killed. Now, the story is that she was shot in the leg, and that Osama himself was unarmed — although he was supported by armed guards.

While we have no vested interest in either of these narratives, we do wonder how the details of an event so fundamentally important to the psyche of the Western world could be so botched. If the US administration is sincerely attempting to prevent rage and retaliation by burying the body at sea so quickly and by withholding photographic evidence of bin Laden’s death, then it’s also courting controversy.

Naturally, there are plenty of theories surfacing on the internet about the truth of the raid and of bin Laden’s death (and, for that matter, whether Al Qaeda were truly responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre). It’s difficult to sort the cranks from those who make valid points. We think this piece from David Ray Griffin deserves a mention, though. Griffin’s writing style appears balanced, and he’s prepared to acknowledge mistakes. He also raises what appear to be legitimate questions about the veracity of previous communications purportedly from bin Laden.

We don’t claim ownership of the truth in this confusing mish-mash of conflicting stories. We do, however, encourage you to make up your own minds.

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