Story of killings of bin Laden and Prabhaharan: Contradictions and double standards
A firsthand account of the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden contradicts previous official accounts and raises questions as to whether the terror mastermind presented a clear threat when SEALs first fired upon him.
The news organizations which had the privilege of obtaining copies of the book written by a US Navy SEAL who participated in the raid give the firsthand account how bin Laden died in the hands of the US Navy SEALs.
Bin Laden apparently was hit in the head when he looked out of his bedroom door into the top-floor hallway of his compound as SEALs rushed up a narrow stairwell in his direction, according to former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, writing under the pseudonym Mark Owen in No Easy Day.
The book is to be published next week by Penguin Group's Dutton imprint.
Bissonnette says he was directly behind a "point man" going up the stairs. "Less than five steps" from top of the stairs, he heard "suppressed" gunfire: "BOP. BOP." The point man had seen a "man peeking out of the door" on the right side of the hallway.
The author writes that bin Laden ducked back into his bedroom and the SEALs followed, only to find the terrorist crumpled on the floor in a pool of blood with a hole visible on the right side of his head and two women wailing over his body.
Bissonnette says the point man pulled the two women out of the way and shoved them into a corner and he and the other SEALs trained their guns' laser sites on bin Laden's still-twitching body, shooting him several times until he lay motionless. The SEALs later found two weapons stored by the doorway, untouched, the author said.
" Bin Laden, the leader of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, had gone into hiding after claiming responsibility for the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. He was discovered in Pakistan and killed May 2, 2011, in a raid led by American forces.
The White House informed the national and international media on May 3, 2011that Osama bin Larden was not carrying a weapon when he was killed by American troops when they stormed a fortified mansion in a Pakistani elite neighborhood just outside the capital of Islamabad.
Several experts on the rules of engagement in combat told The New York Times that in a raid on a target as dangerous as bin Larden, the American troops would be justified to open fire at the slightest commotion when they burst into the room.
John B. Bellinger, legal counsel at the (US) National Security Council and State Department in the previous Bush administration said: “If he were surrendering, or knocked out on the ground that would raise serious questions. But this is a guy who’s extremely dangerous, and if he’s nodding at someone in the room, or rushing to a bookcase or you think he’s wearing a suicide vest, you’re on sound ground to kill him.”
But according to the narrative provided by the White House to the media on Tuesday, nothing of this sort happened.
And the US Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette who was present when bin Laden was killed confirms in his book No Easy Day that they killed an unarmed, defenseless who posed no threat to the Navy raiders.
The Bissonnette narrative in the book totally dismisses what the White House media man Jay Carney said to the Washington media men and to the world at large.
Now, go through this dialogue very carefully between the White House spokesman and the media at the White House briefing room:
Mr. Carney: The resistance was throughout. As I said, when the assaulter entered the room where Osama bin Laden was, he was rushed by one individual in the room, and the resistance was consistent from the moment they landed until the end of the operation.
Media: How did Osama bin Laden resist if he didn’t -- if he didn’t have his hand on a gun, how was he resisting? Did he have any weapon?
Mr. Carney: He was not armed, is what I understand to be true.
Media: Since, as you said, bin Laden was not armed, why was the decision made to kill him as opposed to capturing him?
Mr. Carney: We were prepared to capture him if that was possible. We expected a great deal of resistance and were met with a great deal of resistance.
Media: But he wasn’t armed?
Mr. Carney: But there were many other people who were armed in the compound. There was a firefight.
Media: But not in that room when he went in? (AT note: The firefight was not in the room bin Larden was but in the courtyard outside the mansion).
The US Navy SEAL's narration totally dismisses what the White House spokesman said at that time.
Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in the State Department addressed the killing of unarmed bin Larden when he met the media in Colombo on May 4, 2011 during his visit to Sri Lanka.
Question: There were reports that when U.S. troops shot Osama Bin Laden he was unarmed and there was some controversy over that issue. The UN Human Rights Commissioner has also raised the issue and asked the United States Government to explain the circumstances in which he was shot, and other groups like the I.C.J. (International Crisis Group) and Amnesty International are expected to take up this issue. Do you think that as the country leading the campaign against terrorism, this kind of action can undermine the whole operation?
Asistant Secretary Blake: I’ve been traveling in Sri Lanka for the last couple of days, so I’m unaware of the specific allegations that you make. But let me just say as a general proposition that Osama bin Laden was the leader of an armed group that was engaged in armed conflict against the United States. He was therefore a lawful target under the laws of armed conflict. So we certainly stand by our actions and we believe that his death represents a very important step forward in our fight and in the international fight against al-Qaida and terrorism.
Reaction to bin Larden killing
Capturing the long-sought terrorist mastermind alive might have been an option, but it wasn't a top priority to the American administration.
"The costs of capturing bin Laden, as opposed to killing him, were pretty stark," said Seth Jones, a counterinsurgency and counterterrorism specialist who's advised the military on Afghanistan. "It creates almost a desperate push (by his followers) to get him free. Then what do you do with him? Who tries him? Where do you keep him? What sort of justice do you put him through?
"It was probably wise to kill him right there."
U.S. officials have said that bin Laden was unarmed but had resisted in some unspecified manner.
"If he had run out of the compound with his hands held up, obviously it might have been different," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., a former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman. "The first thing you want to do is accomplish the mission: Take the head of the snake."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that given the controversies, killing him was "less problematic to the United States than having him in Guantanamo and bringing him up on charges. It would be a very difficult set of years to go through that whole legal process."
US position on Prabhaharan killing
In October 2009 the US State Department presented a report to the Congress on 'Incidents During the recent Conflict in Sri Lanka' .
In the Executive Summary the report noted "This report is submitted pursuant to the Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 111-32), which directed the Secretary of State to submit a report ?detailing incidents during the recent conflict in Sri Lanka that may constitute violations of international humanitarian law or crimes against humanity, and, to the extent practicable, identifying the parties responsible.
This report focuses on incidents that occurred from January 2009, when fighting intensified, through the end of May 2009, when Sri Lankan government forces defeated the LTTE."
This State Department report gave credibility to the pro-Tamil Tiger lobbyists in the United States and Europe that Sri Lankan armed forces violated international law in killing unarmed leaders of the LTTE, including its leader Prabhaharan, who were stepping out with white flags to surrender.
The observations, sentiments expressed in this official State Department report based on ambiguous reports the American Embassy in Colombo received gave political ammunition to the pro-LTTE/separatist lobbying groups to create an anti-Sri Lankan voice in the power centers in Washington and capitals in the European Union.
This is how the unconfirmed and ambiguous date/reports that the American Embassy in Colombo received were incorporated in the report of October 2009.
(Begin Quote) May 14-18 – An organization reported information from its sources that ?all the LTTE persons remaining in the NFZ were massacred.? The GSL maintains that these senior LTTE leaders in fact did not raise white flags or give any indication to the SLA soldiers in their vicinity that they intended to surrender, but instead continued fighting and were subsequently killed in the ensuing final battle.
May 18 – Embassy Colombo, as well as press and foreign governments, received reports that LTTE political leaders Nadesan and Puleedevan, along with other LTTE leaders, were killed while surrendering to GSL forces. (End Quote)
Then the report goes on to say:
"According to these reports, Nadesan and Puleedevan spoke to international and domestic actors who acted as intermediaries with the Secretary to the Foreign Ministry, Dr. Palitha Kohona, to negotiate their surrender along with 300 other people. Nadesan requested the presence of UN Secretary-General envoy Vijay Nambiar to witness the surrender, but was told that he had President Rajapaksa’s assurance that the safety of surrendering LTTE leaders would be assured. On the morning of May 18, Nadesan and Puleedevan led a group of approximately one dozen men and women out to the SLA troops, waving a white flag. According to a Tamil witness who later escaped the area, the SLA started firing machine guns at them. Everyone in the group reportedly was killed."
Following the revelation of the US Navy SEAL of the manner in which bin Larden was killed, does the following statement made in the 2009 State Department report on Sri Lanka applies to the United States: "The United States recognizes a state’s inherent right to defend itself from armed attacks, including those by non-state actors such as terrorist groups. The United States also expects states and non-state actors to comply with their international legal obligations. This report compiles alleged incidents that transpired in the final stages of the war, which may constitute violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) or crimes against humanity and related harms."
And where does the following remark in the report fit into what was revealed by the Navy SEAL:
"Killing of captives or combatants seeking to surrender—A number of sources alleged that the GSL committed unlawful killings. Multiple reports alleged that in the final few days of fighting, senior LTTE leaders contacted international representatives in an effort to broker a surrender but were killed after they allegedly reached a surrender agreement with the GSL."
As noted above, capturing the long-sought terrorist mastermind alive might have been an option, but it wasn't a top priority for the Obama administration.
Capturing a long-sought terrorist mastermind Velupillai Prabhakaran and his top players in the Sri Lankan episode were cornered while the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tiger fighting cadre were exchanging lethal fire. If any of the top players of the LTTE emerged from their hideouts the military was not sure if they were wearing suicide vests to harm the soldiers who were in close proximity.
According to the US Navy SEAL's description such a scenario never existed when they confronted Osama bin Laden.
US Violated International Law
Curtis Doebbler, professor of law at Webster University and Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations, both in Geneva, Switzerland, says that the action against Osama Bin Laden violated international law.
He says International law prohibits targeted killings in several ways.
First, a targeted killing, as this one was, is carried out often by the use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of a foreign state. In this case the President of Pakistan has made it clear that his country did not authorize the American action. Instead, the US sent about two dozen troops in helicopters into Pakistani airspace and attacked a house in a civilian neighborhood without the permission of the Pakistani government. National security, one of the most crucial attributes of both political independence and territorial integrity, was violated.
Second, targeted killings are summary and extrajudicial executions that violate the right to life. It is hard to believe that the US had no other option but to kill Osama Bin Laden. According to US reports he was killed by two gun shots to the head at close range fired from American soldiers' guns. Moreover, after he was killed, the US claims they took his body. These facts indicate that the well armed and protected US troops operating illegally on foreign soil could have made an attempt to capture Osama Bin Laden, but instead merely executed him.
When a life is taken in the course of an illegal action there is a prima facie violation of the human right to life. Even American law makes killing carried out during the commission of another crime a more serious offense. Moreover, if this was not the case, states could merely elevate a situation in which they were acting to the level of an armed conflict so as to label their targets combatants and thus enemies who may be lawfully killed. Such action is discredited, even by the US itself, who has admonished leaders in the Middle East for the use of excessive force against their people even when those leaders have claimed to be dealing with a war. (AT Remark: Do you see a similarity of what he is taking in relation to the Sri Lanka situation that prevailed in May 2009 of intense fighting between the lethal armed forces of the LTTE and Sri Lanka military forces)
- Asian Tribune -