Monday, May 11, 2015

Fisher > Hersh, at least this time

Yes, I have read Sy Hersh's piece claiming that the Obama administration's story about the killing of Osama bin Laden is mostly false. And I have read Max Fisher's claim that it doesn't hold up. I've even read Kevin Gozstola's reaction to the Hersh and Fisher pieces and news reports about the administration's denials.

Personally, Fisher comes across as the most convincing. Essentially Fisher has three critiques of Hersh's article: (1) it was badly sourced (based entirely on the account by Asad Durrani, the guy who ran the Pakistani intelligence agency until 1992, that is, his tenure ended three decades before bin Laden was killed, plus another anonymous source), (2) Hersh's account is somewhat self-contradictory, and is (more significantly) contradicted by various things that have happened since the 2011 raid, and (3) in the past ten years, Hersh has not been a very credible source as he has promoted some pretty odd conspiracy theories that have not held up to further scrutiny.

Gozstola pretends that Fisher's only criticism was that Hersh relied on an anonymous source, which is only one half of the three reasons Fisher gives to doubt Hersh. And frankly, in my opinion the sourcing is not the biggest problem with Hersh's piece. The biggest issue, IMHO is the fact that Hersh's version of the story is pretty clearly contradicted by a bunch of public news events that have happened since. Like, the decline in U.S. aid to Pakistan following the raid and the breakdown in U.S.-Pakistani relations with regards to Afghanistan  (Hersh claims Pakistani intelligence sold out bin Laden in exchange for a bigger aid package and freer hand in Afghanistan), or the fact that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al Qaeda, has acknowledged the American recovery of a trove of documents from bin Laden's compound. Under Hersh's account, that could not have happened, which means that Zawahiri is playing along with the Obama administration's cover story for some reason. Both of those things, I think, are pretty fatal to Hersh's story.

(Gozstola's piece via Memorandum)