By John Kendall Hawkins
Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
- George Orwell
The day IsIs went waswas there was a delicious media buzzbuzz, as President Donald J. Trump moped up to the dais and gave us an adlib about the kill in Idlib. That was good news for usus, Trump implied. He explained how Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi went boomboom — cornered, then chased, and hunted down by menacing dogs into a “tunnel” (what, his own personal Tora Bora?), clutching children to his chest and setting off a suicide vest, dying “like a dog” (refresh me, when was the last time a dog suicided? Oh, wait), whimperingsquealingcarryingon (Trump must have imagined this, since no audio feed was available). What is an ordinary, educated reader, such as myself, supposed to make of all this?
I’m neither a conspiracy theorist, nor a conspiracy fearist — just don’t piss down my back and call it rain. Do backroom deals still get made like back in Daddy’s paradigm days? Yes, they do. Do industries collude to undermine sound public policies? You bet. Do ex-spooks with high security clearances “retire” and go to work as contractors and consultants to make a buck leveraging insider information? That’s what Edward Snowden says. Did Wall Street types get together to swap spit on African-American dreams? What, are you a wise guy? If the brother of a guy running for president is the governor of a state with election results tight and disputed — shouldn’t that lead to a no-brainer automatic recount, rather than referring it all to politically motivated jurists? Hmph.
Conspiracy theory? (Just two guys talking.)14 Bring it over, conspiracy fearee.
I’m not disputing that al-Baghdadi is dead, unlike certain conspiratorial elements who claim he’ll just re-spawn elsewhere. The PR and merchandising section (featuring the pre-beheaded look) of Daesh has already confirmed al-B’s death and moved on, handing the torture, and suicide vest, on to the next Caliph. Wild rumors are afloat that the British have promised a future caliphate if ISIL remnants just disband now and go back to their secret bourgeois lives. (Did you believe that? Bring it over.)
Sweet cheeses. It’s not that many people doubt that al-Baghdadi is now al-Shabah (phantom), but the way it all gets reported to the public is maddening and pushes one to see it all as a Marx Brothers romp. As with the raid on bin Laden’s Abbotabad compound in 2011, questions abound. Odd details are noted. The “fake” war room photo taken hours after the raid. Why did the MSM go all Pavlov foamy when the story broke, passing on unattributed pablum to the public? Why was the world’s most wanted terrorist living in such an approachable compound? What’s with the phony tunnel? Didn’t the real estate agent promise 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and an escape tunnel? Maybe that’s why the caliph was girly-ululating, according to Trump.
I’m not saying that the raid never happened, unlike those meddling — and conspiratorial — Syrians are claiming. Said Assad about the raid, “Why were the remains of Baghdadi not shown? This is the same scenario that was followed with Bin Laden.” You consider the source, but you have to concede the point. Surely, the military could have released footage that went on for more than several seconds of raid time. It might have been just as long as the Collateral Murder video released by WikiLeaks, which featured all of that soldierly laughter at carnage. A chance to show Americans how raids are done right and with honor. Casus belli. It would have been more convincing had they shown the whole raid — breach, battle, boom, body extraction.
Plus, there’s no sign of dogs in the released video, nor any exploration for why dogs would be needed in the raid. Military officers say the body of al-Bagdadi’s remains were buried at sea, but what about the Islamic children’s bodies? What about the four enemy combatant women and the man who were killed at Idlib? Were they buried at sea? Come to think of it, if conventions require such sea burials, what about all the other enemy combatants slain on the battlefield? Did I miss something? I’m not going tinfoil.
Since the military appears to have blown up the compound shortly after the “suicide vest” went off, then how did raiders collect the tranche of “important” information reportedly found there? And why would it be there? Wouldn’t al-Bagdadi have learned from the UBL raid that he shouldn’t keep a rolodex and assorted confessions laying around? Should we now expect highly secretive special operation soldiers to come forward to tell their story to 60 Minutes or Fox in the near future as they did after Abbottabad? Am I hallucinating or did the raid get named after the Mueller Report?
Without doubting that the Abbottabad raid took place in 2011, one sees similarities in how the narrative arc was handled in each case. It’s still early days, but in the days, weeks, months and years after Abbottabad, there were so many versions released of what happened that night from people “in the know” — Obama, Brennan (x2, including the version he was forced to retract after following the raid in the situation room), Mark Bissonette (x2, counting the errata in his second print correcting the kill scene depicted in the first), Mark Bowden, Chuck Pfarrer, “Shooter” O’Neill, local neighbors, Sy Hersh, Edward Snowden, and Leon Panetta, who provided classified information on the raid to Mark Boal, the screenwriter of Zero Dark Thirty. That’s at least 12 different versions of the same event. Chinese hollers.
Books were written, interviews given, Seals broke their code of silence in unprecedented ways, and films were made. Kathryn Bigelow proclaimed that Zero Dark Thirty would essentially be a work of ‘journalism,’ given that so much of the script had been informed by government classified information; but others felt that that made it propaganda. But there was cynical emotional manipulation included — the seeming insertion of supernatural elements: a black cat crossing the viewer’s path just prior to a terrorist explosion; and a flock of omen birds flying off just prior to another terrorist action — which makes ZDT plain dishonest, let alone journalistic. Still, Hollywood bought the message and lavished it with prizes.
We should have learned by now to take the narratives that military PR people push with a healthy grain of salt. For 50 years we’ve had to hear lies told about the Gulf of Tonkin, the My Lai massacre, the bombing of Cambodia, the hubris revealed by the Pentagon Papers, WMD, Tora Bora tunnels, Abbottabad, and now the wobbly narrative of Idlib. The MSM goes along, like bell-driven dogs, at the sign of a meaty symbolic kill. They leave under-informed taxpayers funding wars overseas, in their names, without their consent, or understanding of purpose. Just Is. Democracies cannot last that way. As Ike warned.
BTW, how does al-B’s porn stash compare to UBL’s?