The culmination of years of surveillance, with Navy SEALs bursting into a residence and engaging in an epic firefight with the world’s most wanted terrorist (hiding behind his wife and armed with an AK-47) in his palatial estate certainly makes for good copy, and movie studios were already lining up to turn it into feature films. The only problem was it never happened.
Not how it was told to the American public on Sunday night and Monday morning, at least. With the public still basking in the glorious victory and officials presenting it as a vindication of eternal warfare, and promising more of the same, factoids began to creep out which blew the whole story apart.
We now know that bin Laden was entirely unarmed, his wife was shot in an entirely different room. There was no “human shield,” no Ak-47. Bin Laden’s palatial estate, presented as damning evidence of Pakistani culpability, turned out to be a moldy, unairconditioned house.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, incredibly, is still talking about a “highly volatile firefight,” but it now appears that the only armed people in the house were the Navy SEALs, and they were engaged in a “volatile firefight” with an unarmed, sickly man who they repeatedly shot. CIA director Leon Panetta speculated that bin Laden didn’t have any armed guards because he assumed his information network would alert him to possible threats.
Even this official story seems to be in doubt now, however, with bin Laden’s 12 year old daughter in the room at the time of his death. The report now is that bin Laden was successfully captured alive first and then summarily executed by the troops.
President Obama has vowed not to release the photos of bin Laden’s death. This is being spun as an effort to avoid a backlash, but might be an effort to manage the rate at which new evidence challenging old lies continues to come out.