The Schmidle Muddle of the Osama Bin Laden Take Down

by Joshua Foust on 8/4/2011 · 153 comments

A special guest post by C. Christine Fair

On Monday, August 1, the New Yorker ran a piece by Nicholas Schmidle, a young freelance journalist, which proffered a breathtakingly detailed account of the Bin Laden Take-down in May of 2011.  I have known Schmidle since the summer of 2006, when we met at my office at the United States Institute of Peace. He explained that he had a fellowship from the Institute of Current World Affairs that would allow him to live in Pakistan and write about his experiences for two years.

Mr. Schmidle had one serious problem: he was not an accredited journalist, which meant the Pakistani government was disinclined to give him a journalism visa. He sought my advice. I explained to him that visa issues are not my bailiwick but I outlined some of the key issues he could consider if and when he sets out upon his newfound adventure. Though he didn’t know much about Pakistan, Mr. Schmidle struck me as a fast study.

In the end, Dr. Shireen Mazari (an outspoken, anti-American polemicist) agreed to host Mr. Schmidle at the think-tank she ran at the time. However, it was a bargain with the devil: he still was not a journalist and he got his visa at the behest of a dubious shill for Pakistan’s intelligence agency.

Over the next few years, I watched Mr. Schmidle’s reporting. He had an eye for the key issues and he covered many important stories that others overlooked. I met him episodically in Islamabad when I came to Pakistan. In January 2008, Mr. Schmidle published a piece in the New York Times Magazine called the “Next-Gen Taliban.” In that article, he ventured into Quetta to attend an opening ceremony for the campaign office of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), which he described in anodyne terms as a “a hard-line Islamist party.”

Mr. Schmidle wrote that the men in attendance mostly spoke Pashto but “knowing Urdu, I could understand enough [of their Pashto] to realize that they weren’t rehashing the typical J.U.I. rhetoric.” That made the rest of the article immediately suspect.  I knew Mr. Schmidle, and knew that his language skills in Urdu were functional at best and, even if he had superb Urdu skills (and he did not), this would not render Pashto comprehensible in the slightest. (It is not an Indo-Aryan language like Urdu and therefore has a grammar and syntax that is starkly different from Urdu.) While one may recognize some Urdu words, without grammar and syntax the content of the discussion would have been opaque to Mr. Schmidle. Indeed, Pakistanis who have spent their entire life in the country speaking Urdu cannot understand Pashto and would never make the absurd claim to do so.  How could Mr. Schmidle understand, must less interpret, what was going on without knowledge of Pashto or a translator? It seemed to me that things were not as they were reported.

I had a similar feeling this week when I began perusing Mr. Schmidle’s account of the Bin Laden raid.  The account was deeply detailed. He described how the commander of the team, whom he called James “sat on the floor, squeezed among ten other SEALs, Ahmed [the translator], and Cairo [the malimois]. (The names of all the covert operators mentioned in this story have been changed.) James, a broad-chested man in his late thirties, does not have the lithe swimmer’s frame that one might expect of a SEAL—he is built more like a discus thrower.”

Schmidle detailed “James’” apparel and personal effects:   he was sporting “a shirt and trousers in Desert Digital Camouflage, [carrying] a silenced Sig Sauer P226 pistol, along with extra ammunition; a CamelBak, for hydration; and gel shots, for endurance. He held a short-barrel, silenced M4 rifle.”  He even inventoried the contents of this fellow’s pockets.

Mr. Schmidle then recalls, in riveting detail, the harrowing movements of the helicopters and how “the interior of the Black Hawks rustled alive with the metallic cough of rounds being chambered.” When the first helicopter encountered problems, Schmidle exposits how the pilot reoptimized his plans and aimed for “for an animal pen in the western section of the compound.” He next tells his readers how the SEALs in the ill-fated bird “braced themselves as the tail rotor swung around, scraping the security wall. The pilot jammed the nose forward to drive it into the dirt and prevent his aircraft from rolling onto its side. Cows, chickens, and rabbits scurried.”

He even describes how the translator Ahmed hollered in Pashto at the locals that a security operation was ongoing to allay their suspicions about the nature of the cacophony in the cantonment town. (This detail caught my eye as the majority of persons in Abbottabad, where the raid took place, speak Hindko rather than Pashto.) He account is replete with quotes and other minute details obtained from persons seemingly involved directly in the assault and presumably speaking to him in person.

The article was in fact so detailed that it left the unmistakable impression that Mr. Schmidle had interviewed at least a few of the SEALs involved in the raid. During an NPR interview, Steve Inskeep explains that indeed Schmidle had spent time with the SEALs who were on the mission to get Bin Laden. NPR subsequently issued a correction for reasons noted below.

If not Navy SEALS, then perhaps he met some Navy Otters?

All of this makes for a gripping read. Too gripping I thought to myself.  As it turned out, there is one very serious problem with Mr. Schmidle’s account: Schmidle never met any of the SEALs involved, as reported (with great tact and restraint) by Paul Farhi on August 3.

Farhi reached the same conclusion as I had: “a casual reader of the article wouldn’t know that [he had not interviewed the SEALS]; neither the article nor an editor’s note describes the sourcing for parts of the story. Schmidle, in fact, piles up so many details about some of the men, such as their thoughts at various times, that the article leaves a strong impression that he spoke with them directly.”

Surely a journalist or an editor with a commitment to informing—rather than amusing—a public would understand that disclosing this simple fact is critical to allowing readers to determine how much credibility they should put into this account.  In the absence of such disclosure, we are left asking whether this was second or third-hand information? Who are the people that he spoke to and how credible is their information?

Such an egregious exercise of incaution raises a number of questions about the entire report.

Schmidle has demurred from tackling this serious issue of credibility, integrity and veracity directly.  During a “live chat” with Mr. Schmidle on the New Yorker’s website yesterday, several persons including myself tried to ask Mr.Schmidle to explain this egregious oversight.  (I posed the question four times throughout the course of the “live chat.” The moderator did not post a single one. (Earlier in the day, Schmidle and I exchanged emails wherein I expressed my dismay at his reportage.)

Many of us were following this in real time via twitter. I was not alone: others—including other journalists—tried to ask other tough questions but the moderator did not post them either. I also tried to post a comment to this effect along with other readers’ comments. That comment has not yet been posted.

Finally, after a volley of fatuous queries to which Schmidle responded with a peculiar degree of detail, the moderator finally let one person raise the issue that he neither met any of the SEALS involved nor indicated as much in his report.

Unfortunately for the credibility of this exercise, this person was Erin Simpson—a friend of Mr. Schmidle.  Ms. Simpson had earlier defended him during a twitter exchange with me wherein she responded to my vexed queries that “he’s a good friend.” She further intimated that someone involved in the operation may have spoken to him because he is a “GO’s kid.” The latter point references the fact that his father,  Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert E. Schmidle Jr., is the deputy commander of the U.S. Cyber Command.

Schmidle answers Ms. Simpson in a familiar voice: “Hi Erin. Good question. I’ll just say that the 23 SEALs on the mission that evening were not the only ones who were listening to their radio communications.”

The response was risible and hardly addressed how he could have acquired such details of the operation through such means.

That the moderator passed on only softball questions and that this one question was posed by a “close friend,” raises more questions than the “live chat” could have answered.

What’s at Stake?

One may ask at first blush why a feel-good story about the Bin Laden raid is problematic or even merits sustained critique. From an American point of view, the story reads like the film script Schmidle may well aspire to write. It confirms all that we wanted to know about the raid and the bravado of our SEALS.  The shooter, who finally killed Bin Laden, even managed to mutter “For God and Country” in the femtoseconds that his synapses took to pull the trigger, according to Schmidle.

However, there are implications that go well beyond Mr. Schmidle’s limits of journalism integrity and his own personal aggrandizement and professional aspirations.

First, many Muslims across the world fundamentally doubt the events of the Bin Laden raid. Some believe Bin Laden is still alive. Others believe he died long ago. Others believe that the events of May 2 were staged to allow the Obama administration to make an exit from Afghanistan.  As Mr. Schmidle’s is the first (and so far only) account of the drama, these problems cast a pale of doubt upon the events that transpired that evening.

Second is the simple fact of Mr. Schmidle parentage. His father, as noted above, is the deputy commander of the U.S. Cyber Command.  Given the conspiratorial propensities of many within and beyond the Muslim world, Schmidle’s ties to this organization by virtue of his father would recast any serious inaccuracy in his report as a U.S. military psychological operation to deliberately misinform the world about the operation.

The reasons for this are at least two-fold. First is the charge of U.S. Cyber Command itself, which in it the lexicon of the U.S. Department of Defense is “pulling together existing cyberspace resources, creating synergy that does not currently exist and synchronizing war-fighting effects to defend the information security environment.” While the organization appears dedicated to protecting cyber infrastructure, others may interpret its role as using cyberspace to spread disinformation.  Second, cynics may justifiably wonder what influence if any his father had in the article. Schmidle explains this to Farhi “’He knew I was working on it,’ the younger Schmidle says, ‘but we both decided it was best not to discuss it in advance. We wanted to maintain distinct lines of operation.’” I have no reason to not believe this. However, given that questions that now hover about his report will other readers be so inclined?

Finally, whether or not the shooter actually said “For God and For Country” is another important question that affects the way in which the United States and is citizenry are seen across the world. The conflict with Bin Laden has been waged in lamentably civilizational terms focusing upon the clash of Islam and the presumably non-Islamic west.  Since 9/11, countries with Muslim minorities have been gripped by Islamophobia with some states outlying headscarves and minarets and others seeking to restrict the erection of new mosques. Anti-immigration concerns in Europe are thinly disguised efforts to deter future Muslims from migrating.  Success in the war of terrorism seems to be equated with success in turning back the spread of Islam. Several states in the United States have even introduced ludicrous and shameful bills to outlaw Sharia.

How would a proclamation that Bin Laden was killed “for God and for country” be read in a place like Pakistan where the war on terror has been largely seen as a war on Islam and Muslims? If this was in fact uttered, as an American, I am saddened that eliminating the world’s most notorious killer was done “for God” first and country second. If it wasn’t uttered, such a gratuitous detail hardly helps the United States make its case that it opposes terrorists not Muslims.

A Story Too Good to Check?

Whether Americans and our allies like it or not, Pakistan and Pakistan’s populations are critical to U.S. interests.  This will be true for the foreseeable future.  Journalists have an important function: informing our publics.  Journalists’ reportage shapes how Americans see their country abroad and understand the countries with which the United States engages. It shapes our support for war, for foreign aid, for particular bilateral relations. The U.S. experience with the Iraq war illustrates the extreme limits of how a supine and incompetent press became the vehicle to mobilize an angry public for an ill-conceived and unjustifiable war of choice.  The United States will long pay the price for strategic error.

Journalists have an equally important, if less appreciated, role in shaping how the outside world sees us. With the internet, the entire world reads our press, watches our television and hears our radio broadcasts.  Media hype and hysteria, xenophobia, Islamophobia and more quotidian issues of inaccuracy and incaution with handling sensitive pieces of information are for the whole world to see and to judge us.

With stakes this high, should not the standards of journalistic integrity be even higher? I should think yes. The New Yorker should immediately right this wrong by publishing an editor’s note disclosing the simple fact that he never interviewed the SEALS in involved in the raid.

C. Christine Fair is an assistant professor at Georgetown University and the author of Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States.


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– author of 1849 posts on Registan.net.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 153 comments }

Madhu August 4, 2011 at 8:50 am

I wondered about the level of detail in the story. When I first saw the article referenced at Small Wars Journal, I wondered why such a detailed account had been written given the massive criticism the WH received due to supposed leaks regarding the mission?”

At any rate, the phrase “….distinct lines of operation” is going to fuel an awful lot of nonsense. Too darn bad.

I respectfully disagree that Pakistan is critical to American interests, Dr. Fair. We are not an existential conflict such as the Cold War. Sadly, many of our prior attempts at “helping” the state of Pakistan has only made the situation worse by strengthening the Army or the corrupt civilian government. The Indians and Afghans and a great many Pakistanis will like suffer from this odd American need to hold on to her old client state. Bluntly, all our money and attention feeds the dynamic. State helpfully builds dams and who owns the construction and concrete companies? We feed LeT and Haqqani and whatever alphabet stew is bubbling in Punjab by increasing aid – civilian or military. Same dynamic as the Taliban in Afghanistan. Same economic principle.

At any rate, I’ve gone afar from your main points and good people can disagree on such things. I greatly appreciate this post and I’m very glad Joshua Foust has posted it. Good luck on all your endeavors. I try and keep up on what you’ve written because of a general interest in the region. I enjoy your work.

carl August 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Madhu:

Pakistan and its’ people are very important to the Americans. Critical? Arguable, but they are important.

The thing that bugs me about Ms. Fair’s comment though is this. I get the idea that she equates Pakistan, the Pakistani people and their welfare with what is good for the Pak Army/ISI/feudal elite that run the place. They are not the same. The military/feudal elites are in the process of destroying their country to benefit their own short term interests.

The strategic error we are making is refusing to cut our ties to those succubi and continuing to believe that what is good for the Pak Army/ISI is good for Pakistan, that belief being perpetuated by our own foreign police elites living inside the beltway. Ms. Fair is right, we will long pay for that error.

Madhu August 10, 2011 at 8:25 am

carl! Good to see you here. When I’ve got a chance (I’m terribly rushed at the moment), I’d like to discuss this issue more properly, perhaps at SWJ in the comments section. Where appropriate and all that….

So there is an entire “save Pakistan” lobby in DC and I’m not saying the good Drs. Cohen or Fair are a part of it. “Vital interest” is often code for that crew and they make a lot of money and get big budgets for scaring people into “saving Pakistan”

I’m talking about an old DC phenomenon that goes back to the Cold War and was still a part of the scene during the 90s and the Pressler Amendment (how much World Bank, EU, and other monies did the country get during the time the country was supposedly cut off? Good question for a journalist to dig up….I recall one blogger trying to track down the numbers and basically, no one knows how much money has been lost there so be very careful with people who say they have crunched the numbers on aid to that region. They haven’t because the records are not well-kept. No one knows the real numbers.)

Here is a comment I posted elsewhere that kind of gets into some of this. It’s all over the place and for discussion purposes only:

DC seems a funny town from my perspective. I think there are lots of competing agendas and not everyone is on the make or take, you know? Even very well meaning people probably run into lots of nasty stuff.
.
The issues include DC bureaucracies like State, the CIA, DOD, and others with a budget interest in “saving Pakistan,” NGOs, congressionals that can be lobbied by a variety of companies to include defense contractors, and so on and so forth.
.
Then there is the old Cold War tilt toward the Israel-Saudi-Pakistan “sunni” containment axis, first toward the old Soviet Union, and now toward Iran. Competing oil pipelines. NATO politics (Russia and Iran). Lots of money in Mideast sharia banks (I mean nothing negative about sharia banking, just that there is a lot of money in banking, sharia or otherwise. This is a factor that gets ignored in our dumbed down public domestic debate. But who am I to complain? I’ve enthusiastically taken part in much of the dumbing down myself and only now am I trying to change….an intellectual journey, you might say.)
.
My personal opinion is that Abbottabad was the shot-across-the-bow for all of these old vested interests. The American people cannot be fooled anymore and they see that we are being dragged into a strange global proxy of business and political interests not always aligned with ours.

I don’t know if I’m right or wrong. I’m just trying to educate myself, that’s all. Any corrections or comments to the above are welcomed!

(Good series of posts and articles at the Atlantic, Mr. Foust. You are really turning into an interesting analyst. Unpredictable and not automatically “right” or “left”. I like that. I’m sick of our domestic conversation. It’s totally dumbed down).

TJM August 4, 2011 at 10:00 am

“He account is replete with quotes and other minute details obtained from persons seemingly involved directly in the assault and presumably speaking to him in person.”
And if we can presume it, then our presumptions are the author’s fault.

From the article, without editing…
“Most of them spoke in Pashto, but, knowing Urdu, I could understand enough to realize that they weren’t rehashing the typical J.U.I. rhetoric.”
Another way to interpret that sentence is that while “most of them spoke Pashto,” some did not. Among those who did not, it seems possible that they spoke Urdu. In that case, he may have understood enough of it.

VS August 5, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I am sorry but I do not buy this semantic hair-splitting. This Pashto anecdote resonated with me because I was a bit taken aback by the Pashto reference in the Abbotabad Raid article because it simply did not make sense. This second reference tells me this is somebody who is talking out of his a*s.

Bob Windrem August 4, 2011 at 10:19 am

For the record, Savannah Guthrie of NBC News reported the For God and Country line in NBC nightly News on May 4.

india_review August 4, 2011 at 10:21 am

Out of curiosity its Christine Fair a Muslim or Christian? Ofcourse the name sounds christian but just to confirm.

Asking this just to know if she could herself by biased in some way, see this as asking for disclosures if any.

Christian August 4, 2011 at 10:43 am

Out of curiosity its india-review a Muslim or Hindu? Ofcourse the name sounds hindu but just to confirm.

Asking this just to know if commenter himself by biased in some way, see this as asking for disclosures if any.

awayday August 4, 2011 at 11:13 am

No need to be so snarky Ms fair, as you know, people ask questions for all different reasons, as as you know people from different cultures are very interested in how and why things are written.

Mike August 4, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Hey awayday, you do realize the person replying is Christian and not the author (Christine), right? Two different names. Two different people. I believe you owe the author an apology for your unfair accusation.

CJ August 4, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Christian is not CHRISTINE….

HBA August 4, 2011 at 3:45 pm

IT questions and comments like this which make this world a dangerous place to live in. every person his his or her right to deduce what they think and Christine did what she thought is right and how she thought about it. Give us all a break we are all humans and let live like that not who is who by religion

Debbie August 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm

lol; good one!

Christophe August 5, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Brilliant response – revealing a bigot’s gratuitously “innocent” query for the righteous yet timid aspersion it is by regurgitating his toxic fear-baiting upon him verbatim. Kudos!

india_review August 7, 2011 at 4:05 am

All you guys are needlessly cribbing. Lets not debate the fact that we could all be biased in our world view. We are because things that are happening around us directly.

I do not know any reporters who are not baised at some level. And with terrorism and islamophobia and Americanphobia things just get eve more biased.

Chritine picks up on what the words of the NAVY SEALS were, did god come before country or country before that? Who cares about that!

If the author can doubt US, i can doubt her. Its my right.

Now all the commenters, trying to liberal, shut up! I have a right to ask any question i feel like.

Christophe August 9, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Of course you have a right to ask any question you feel like. Unfortunately, you don’t seem to have the intelligence to ask any sort of coherent question.

Likewise, all your respondents have an equal right to express their views. Telling others to “shut up” while arguing for your own freedom of speech doesn’t exactly strengthen your defense. Nor anyone’s respect for you.

You might want to look up the meaning of the the word “cribbing” if you can handle the complex technology of a dictionary.

india_review August 7, 2011 at 4:06 am

Typo: *things happening around us directly affect us.

Ali K Chishti August 4, 2011 at 10:25 am

It’s an interesting rebuttal. I strongly back, Christine on her claims as a Urdu speaker myself, I don’t know Pashto – it’s like asking a Dutch to understand Urdu. However, since I was on ground at Abbotabad a day later and spoke to many neighbors, who ever ‘Ahmed’ was did spoke in Pashtu and Urdu both to neighbors although, Christine’s bang on it being a Hazara country who speaks Hindko.

timtim August 4, 2011 at 10:50 am

this was fact checked – the editor ran with it

you sound butthurt

doylecjd August 4, 2011 at 10:56 am

I don’t think a simple acknowledgement of who validated the information or who provided the information is too much to ask. The article reads as if the author rode along with the operation or had direct access to a number of the operatives. To not acknowledge if indeed he did not is misleading at best.

I see C. Christine Fair’s challenge as she states it, she smelled bullshit and called out the author and the publication to prove that it’s not. Seems simple to me without delving into a personal attack.

Ahmer Kureishi August 4, 2011 at 10:56 am

Spot on, Fair: The sprinkling of religious sentiment is so generous in the piece it reminded me of Dubya’s crusade talk:

“Godspeed to you and your forces,” Obama told [McRaven].

At one point, Biden, who had been fingering a rosary, turned to
Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman. “We should all go to Mass
tonight,” he said.

I am inclined to propound — at the risk of being labelled a conspiracy theorist — that this is a piece of propaganda/psyops from the U.S. military (and not civilian) establishment, designed to fuel right-wing hubris and bravado at home and inflame extremist Muslim opinion abroad.

The President was “in awe of these guys,” Ben Rhodes, the deputy
national-security adviser, who travelled with Obama, said.

The senior adviser to the President compared the experience to
watching “the climax of a movie.”

Brian, who has the all-American look of a high-school
quarterback….

And yes, the ‘For God and country’ gem is also inscribed on ‘an American flag that had been on board the rescue Chinook’, ‘stretched, ironed, and framed’, signed by ‘[t]he SEALS and the pilots, presented to the President, who promises ‘to put the gift “somewhere private and meaningful to me.”’

Mike August 4, 2011 at 11:30 am

Re: the “god and country” bit. From the article:

“The first round, a 5.56-mm. bullet, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye. On his radio, he reported, “For God and country—Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.” After a pause, he added, “Geronimo E.K.I.A.”—“enemy killed in action.”

So, the SEAL didn’t say that as he shot OBL. That was said AFTER OBL was killed and as the SEAL was speaking into his radio. Kind of an important distinction.

Luther Blissette August 4, 2011 at 12:14 pm

So bin Laden killed people ‘for God’ and the SEAL who killed bin Laden killed him ‘for God’. Hmmmm….

Maybe God should stick to doing his/her/its own killing to avoid this type of confusion.

Jason Jones August 4, 2011 at 4:19 pm

There wouldn’t be anyone to fight our wars if religion was excluded from them.

Kevin Dann August 4, 2011 at 11:37 am

Thanks Joshua Foust for so clearly laying this out. I smelled a hoax from before I read the first sentence of Schmidle’s piece, for the ridiculous double-spread video game-style “photoillustration” gives the whole thing away. Schmidle’s prose reads like a cross between a script for an old Western and a modern shoot-em-up video game. I had immediately looked into Schmidle’s journalistic pedigree, and the fact that he is a fellow with the New America Foundation (whose Board sports warmongers and Neocon fantasists like Francis Fukuyama and Anne-Marie Slaughter) confirmed for me that this whole piece was put-up job to further reinforce the “We got him!” hoax.

Bill August 4, 2011 at 11:59 am

It’s important to note that the SEAL who pulled the trigger on bin Laden radio’ed “For God and Country…” after bin Laden had already been shot (at least, that’s how Schmidle describes it in the piece). This is an important distinction as you seem to imply he says it either before or during the act of shooting. If it’s the former, the SEAL is confirming the kill to his commanders (an important step in the mission, I would presume). If it’s the latter, yes, it probably does have some cultural repercussions.

Bill August 4, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Didn’t see Mike’s comment above mine even though I read through them before posting. Oh well.

Midori August 5, 2011 at 2:14 pm

I still find it a specious quote. And not at all in character with the team guys I know. I really think it’s a Schmidle moment … melodramatic and made for Hollywood.

Luther Blissette August 4, 2011 at 12:09 pm

A NYT reporter with spooky ties to the military, White House and foreign intelligence – Yep.

A “fact checked” NYT article from anonymous sources that effortlessly combines insider knowledge, disinformation and Hollywood fantasy – Yep.

Business as usual at America’s ‘newspaper of record’ – Yep.

…but I have to admit that crashing a billion-dollar sci-fi helicopter into a pig-sty in order to kill an single unarmed man is the best metaphor I’ve heard for America’s post-911 foreign policy in a bit!

Mike August 4, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Your comment might be good, if it was at all legitimate. The article in question appeared in the New Yorker Magazine, not the New York Times. Two completely different publications and companies.

Luther Blissette August 4, 2011 at 12:19 pm

My bad – I was thinking of Schmidle’s “Next-Gen Taliban” article.

I’m sure the fine people a the New Yorker would never stoop to the NYT’s level and diligently keep a firm firewall between their magazine and the Obama White House.

Harish Puri August 4, 2011 at 12:40 pm

The sharia is a barbaric system of jurisprudence that may have had some relevance in Seventh Century Arabia. If a modern, non muslim state seeks to ban or outlaw it, why should that seem ludicrous or shameful?

california Red August 4, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Agreed. I wish the author of this piece didn’t editorialize about the wisdom of anti-Sharia laws.

The Constitution of the United States pretty much precludes Sharia law being administered anywhere within our borders. Having additional state or local laws that reinforce the mandate separating church and state is not shameful or misguided. It is a reaction by people afraid that their Constitutional protections are being ignored.

Sjaria law as a polical system in the US cannot be tolerated, just like we cannot govern from the Old or New Testaments.

Mikey August 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Excellent Point!

The Lost Flaneur August 4, 2011 at 1:35 pm

One correction: Pashto IS an Indo-Iranian language. You can search it, …. what did God create the Google for?!

dirc August 4, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Ms. Fair said, correctly, that Pashto is not Indo-Aryan, and Urdu is Indo-Aryan.

You are correct that Pashto and Urdu are both Indo-Iranian (per Wikipedia). But Ms. Fair never said that both languages were not Indo-Iranian; she said both were not Indo-Aryan.

Your statement and hers are true. You are “correcting” something she did not write.

Geoff August 5, 2011 at 10:48 am

Pashto is a member of the Iranian family, while Urdu is a member of the Indo-Aryan family. Both are members of Indo-Iranian (a subbranch of Indo-European, of which English and French are also members). Pashto and Urdu are no more mutually intelligible than English and Swedish–probably less so. Pashto is related to Farsi (the language of Iran) while Urdu is very close to Hindi (one of the major languages of India). So, no, you couldn’t ‘kinda get what they were saying’ if you spoke one and not the other.

RetiredE9 August 4, 2011 at 1:42 pm

They didn’t use M-4s.

phranc August 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Yeah, this is also a detail that stood out to me as well.
HK417 or SCAR MK17 would make a lot more sense…
Also surprised about the suppressed P226?

Oppenheimer August 4, 2011 at 4:10 pm

If true, one possibility why the smaller caliber carbine may have been used by a sole operator is that the bullets intended for Bin Laden were cast with metal retrieved from the twin towers at a time before SEALs went with the larger assault rifle round. Also, it is public record that the SEALs have adopted the Sig and they employ suppressors for night missions.

neuromusic August 4, 2011 at 6:27 pm

“one possibility… is that bullets intended for Bin Laden were cast with metal retrieved from the twin towers”

seriously? is this just speculation or do you have a source?

Kurchatov August 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Oppenheimer is now being filtered as spam. Consider me his nefarious twin.

It was just a persistent rumor. Though I do note that some military equipment, such as Navy ships and aerial bomb casings, have in fact been constructed with metal salvaged from the twin towers. I suppose the notion is this practice boosts American moral. Search it online if you doubt me.

Noneyabusiness August 5, 2011 at 7:09 am

M4s and HK416s fire the same rounds.

Carrying a 226 with a can already attached? Ain’t gonna happen. The reasons why it ain’t gonna happen are something I am not going to elaborate on.

There is no effing way the Jedi from Dam Neck would talk to any reporter, period. With all of the craziness that has gone on since the raid (reporters going to supposed Teamguy hangouts trying to interview Teamguys, etc.), it’s a safe bet that they all wish the credit had been given to the Pakistani military or the US Coast Guard or someone else but anyone but them.

“For God and Country”? Give me an effing break. More likely he smiled to himself because he was looking at a year of free beers, courtesy of his bros. Maybe he said “Ohhhh that’s gotta hurt”. Much more likely. :)

RetiredE9 August 4, 2011 at 5:13 pm

“Also surprised about the suppressed P226?”

If you’re close enough to use a pistol, suppression become…..irrelevant

Oppenheimer August 4, 2011 at 5:46 pm

At night, shooting an automatic pistol that is not suppressed is like launching a flare or flicking a bright flashlight on and off given the short barrel length of the sidearm and burning gas that escapes after a round leaves the muzzle. This betrays your position, destroys your natural night vision and temporarily blanks your artificial night vision gear. All bad consequences for the shooter and those close to him. However, the baffles inside a suppressor trap or redirect most of the burning gas. If you see a suppressed automatic pistol firing at night, then odds are that it will be the final event you witness on this earth. Accordingly, the operator community often prefers to fit suppressors on pistols when conducting night missions. You will see threads on the barrels of most sidearms used by them. Don’t take my word for it, go do some night shooting with an automatic or, for really great sparks, with a revolver.

George Frazier August 7, 2011 at 12:39 am

Suppressor? Was it for suppressing sound or flash? My limited knowledge says each do both but each does one better.
Did that make sense?

brandon August 4, 2011 at 6:41 pm
Ishmael August 4, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I know many SEALs, but I’ve never met one who would utter such a corny line as “For God and country.”

Dan August 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm

True, sounds more like something a Brit would say.

phranc August 4, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Agreed. It’s more of a Bruce Willis line…

Oliver August 4, 2011 at 7:16 pm

For God and Country is a translation of the Latin phrase “Pro aris et focis”. I’d regard it as a very American phrase, with strong asssociations with with the US military. It’s also the motto of the American Legion.

I can’t imagine anyone in the UK saying it. The UK isn’t really into god nor country, regardless of the national anthem.

Prison Chaplain August 4, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Pro Deo et Patria, “for God and Country,” is the motto of the US Army Chaplain Corps. I also regard it as a very American phrase. And, by the way, Christian Just War Theory states that God permits that the civil authority should execute justice against tyrants and murderers (cf. Romans 13: 3-4). Thus, a lawful military operation to kill a mass murderer of thousands can, in fact, be “for God.” This is no cover for jingoism or crusade talk…. It’s just a fact.

George Frazier August 7, 2011 at 12:43 am

Good one, Chappy! I’m adding that one to my talking points [I'll quote you as Chappy if that's alright].

Jack August 4, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Fantastic analysis, Ms. Fair. Thank you for this well-written piece. All too often, the New Yorker, NY Times and others supposed top-tier publications look the other way in the face of reporter fraud. They would rather pretend their fraud doesn’t exist than uphold any high standards of journalism.

Oppenheimer August 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm

What is this “malimois” that Dr. Fair refers to? A Belgian *malinois* is a breed of dog favored by militaries and law enforcement. It was clear, albeit unacknowledged, that the Schmidle article was based upon second or third hand accounts. JSOC operators NEVER grant interviews while on active duty. Further, Schmidle was unlikely to have been granted direct access to the Administration and CIA personnel he mentioned. None of this discredits Schmidle or his stylized account given the nature of the assassination mission. Except perhaps in the mind of an author whose scholarly contribution is Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States. Piff paff.

Crusoe August 4, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Sorry, but if the article leads the average reader to believe the reporter had direct access (when s/he did not), it’s misleading. It does exactly that, and should have at minimum an editor’s disclosure.

The author has a fair point – the excruciating, Tom Clancy-like detail in describing the operators is meant to imply that there were direct interviews done.

I think everyone wanted this story to be true, and The New Yorker went with it far too easily.

As to your picky dog breed spelling bee question, it’s an obvious typo (there’s yet another one in the article, sport). One shouldn’t ask questions one already knows the answer to. It tends to make one seem insufferable…

Oppenheimer August 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm

I concur with your view that the New Yorker should have published an appropriate disclosure. The magazine failed in this respect. Nonetheless, no educated person could reasonably perceive Schmidle’s article as an unadulterated investigative journalism piece seeking Pulitzer grid coordinates. It was facially obvious from the first paragraph that the article was stylized. No team of objective journalists could hope to gather and report so many minute details that are inherent in any such mission, for example, the actual destruction sequence applied, supposedly, to the sensitive and irretrievable electronics aboard the special helicopter that had crashed — JSOC would never authorize divulging such information publicly. Schmidle’s article was an entertaining read that Schmidle based upon the information that the government provided to him through official channels as well as some guesstimation by him. I do not see how an educated reader who has paid even cursory attention to the America’s wars over the past several decades could be deceived. As you admit, the article was Clancy-esque from its beginning. 0.02

Ahmer Kureishi August 5, 2011 at 4:20 am

In other words, the Schmidle account of Bin Laden takedown was as accurate as an Ian Fleming James Bond title is of MI6 ops. :)

I could go along with that — although I personally prefer Fleming.

Max Friedman August 5, 2011 at 12:25 am

A Belgian Malinois is used as an explosives sniffing dog because of its extremely sensitive nose. How do I know? I had one live with me for over a year (my son is a K9 dog handler and his Malinois stayed with us. A real pussy cat when you get to know her but with one heck of a bite for bad guys).

As to what the soldier who shot Bin Laden might have said – more like “Die MF” or “Payback’s a bitch”.

If time allowed, he might have said, poetically, “One bullet for man, a whole clip for 9/11″.

Re getting a story like this, I left Vietnam right at the time that the Son Tay Raid took place. Details didn’t come out for years, and as a journalist, I would have loved to have interviewed the raiders, but no one did for a long time. Most American reporters didn’t expose our operational tactics during a time of war, unless they worked for the New York Times. Ask Joe Treaster about that incident and how his carbons showed that someone tampered with his stories back in NYC.

Llarry August 4, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Good article, except for the following foolishness:

“The U.S. experience with the Iraq war illustrates the extreme limits of how a supine and incompetent press became the vehicle to mobilize an angry public for an ill-conceived and unjustifiable war of choice.”

One can easily argue that the Iraq war was justified, and all wars are “wars of choice.” Your use of that meaningless bumper-sticker slogan, one of the most egregiously thoughtless and superficial terms ever invented, undermines pretty much everything you say.

Debbie August 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm

What part is she wrong about? The the press was “supine?” That’s been demonstrated. Its incompetence–hello Judith Miller. An angry public? Yep after 9/11. War of choice? Yes, it was, and I would add we know it was a war of choice, largely because of bloggers who then pulled the press dragging into acknowledging, uh, they may have gotten some things wrong. Like yellow cake, fed on a platter by Dick Cheney to a reporter who he knew would eat it.

Luther Blissette August 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm

+1 Debbie

Llarry August 4, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Funny that you took issue with everything except what I said. I said the Iraq war can be easily justified, and all wars are wars of choice. The phrase “war of choice” is used almost exclusively by people who oppose all war waged by the U.S. for any reason. The fact that Fair uses this frankly brainless rhetoric shows that she likely has an agenda of diminishing our ability to wage war. Creating an artificial distinction between “war of choice” and “war of necessity” is the first step in that process.

tde August 4, 2011 at 2:24 pm

When I read the article my bullshit detector went off.

However, you state: “The shooter, who finally killed Bin Laden, even managed to mutter “For God and Country” in the femtoseconds that his synapses took to pull the trigger, according to Schmidle.”

Scmidle never claimed that. He said the SEAL said that in his radio broadcast immediately after the encounter.

So, on one hand, there is Schmidle’s reportage which seems too good to be true. But, if you are going to quibble about other peoples’ honesty, making demonstrably false statements yourself is _not_ the way to go.

JW Smith August 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Sounds like the author is just upset that she didn’t write such a riveting piece. Perhaps if she is really so enamored with the integrity of journalism in the United States she should pick to pieces just about every headline, article, and news segment presented to the American people daily. There are few, very few, journalists and editors who don’t inject bias into the headlines they write, the articles the create, and the news segments they produce. Why do journalists feel like they need to provide their personal insight and opinions? Just tell us who, what, when, where, and IF you know it, why.

Crusoe August 4, 2011 at 2:58 pm

A few things. The ‘You’re just jealous’ argument is for 5th graders. Leave it on the playground when you’re speaking with grown ups.

Also, the author is arguing that “riveting” in this case means “fictional.” That was kind of the point.

The point wasn’t that the original story was “biased.” it was that it may be UNTRUE. Nuance, right?

James L August 4, 2011 at 3:32 pm

It doesn’t sound like that at all. What a silly accusation. She brought up many apparently valid concerns about the article. You worry about reporters adding in their opinions but attack her for calling one out for seemingly making up a great many details of an article of such note? Why such a rude Ad Hominem attack, offering any supporting evidence, instead of applauding her for bringing to light these issues.

Debbie August 4, 2011 at 4:08 pm

“Sounds like the author is just upset that she didn’t write such a riveting piece.” I no you are, but what am I? Yeah, it must be that she’s green with envy to not have written a semi-hoax.

Zach August 4, 2011 at 2:59 pm

I don’t really see this post as much of a “takedown” of the Schmidle piece. Really, it is a very long call for the NY’er to add an author’s note that the reporter did not speak to any of the SEALs on the raid — a very fair point. But, I’m not sure we need 1,000 words to get there.

Other than that, what do we really expect? The CIA and SOCOM must love all the differing accounts of what happened that night in Abbottabad, it’s perfect for them.

As for “Ahmed,” my colleague who was also in the town very shortly after to cover the raid (like a commenter above) also said locals told him that a man spoke Pashto to them as he exited a helicopter (we may even have a video of it, I need to check).

Daniel August 4, 2011 at 3:00 pm

There is something about the New Yorker article that has bothered me that nobody mentions.
We claim to live in a civilized country under a rule of law. We conduct wars according to international conventions which describe in detail what behavior is acceptable and what is a war crime. For example, when we captured Saddam Hussein we did not kill him despite his crimes which dwarfed those of Osama. We gave a fair trial to Sirhan Sirhan. Saddam was tried and executed according to legal process.
According to this article, Osama was executed by a Seal intentionally while unarmed and according to it this was done on purpose and decided in advance apparently on orders from above. I have not seen this claim made before anywhere.
By the way, doing this was a completely crazy idea. Hardly anyone knew where Osama was. If the seals had taken all the live ones away including Osama, nobody would know what happened to him. Information from him and his computers could have been analysed and processed and used before any of his agents knew anything about him, We could have prepared hoax communications from him.
Why was he not tased?
If this article is correct, the Seal who killed Osama is a war criminal and so are those who ordered his death and condoned it, according to the Geneva Convention.
The apparent reason for doing this was the inconvenience of having him alive. It reminds me of partial birth abortion when a child already half out of the womb is murdered because his life is inconvenient.
There are those who claim this was done by Obama to improve his image.
I would rather believe that this story is a hoax, and Osama was killed under the belief that the life of the attacker or of other Seals was in danger.

tde August 4, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I thought that the Geneva convention applied only to signatories of the Geneva convention.

PATRICK August 5, 2011 at 9:06 am

you’re kidding right?

Tde August 5, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Not kidding at all.

Ahmer Kureishi August 5, 2011 at 4:30 am

Now’s that a Daniel come to judgement.

brad August 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Did you really write “why was he not tased?” ?

Really? This was a military operation conducted to kill or capture the most wanted man in the world, not an episode of Cops. Perhaps if Bin Laden were wearing a white tank top and had a pabst in his hand, he would have received a nice little shock instead of a well placed round to the chest and another to the grape.

Or maybe he yelled “Don’t taze me, bro!”

Watcherdownsouth August 4, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Hmmmm. Methinks that commenters Harish Puri and Llarry both have valid points.

The article by Mr. Schmidle does indeed read as an piece of fiction. Some of the “details” mentioned are impossible to know without access — access the U.S. Military is not providing, regardless of whose son you are. I am the nephew of a retired 4-star FORSCOM commander — do you think that they will give me access? Not.

But this does not condone Ms. Fair’s obvious jabs that are not based on Schmidle’s writing but on her own political leanings. Commenter Harish Puri brings up a valid point about sharia. The U.S. has widespread and accepted system of jurisprudence, with its roots in English Common law. Any competing system of jurisprudence would undermine our current system and our Constitution. Furthermmore, sharia is completely out of step with modern society and its emphasis on equal rights for women, and for equal rights regardless of “race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or age”. How can Ms. Fair come down on the side of sharia, as she seems to do?

Next up is her clownish comments regarding the Iraq war. Commenter Llarry above sums it up very accurately, so I will just add an “Amen” to his comment. Ms. Fair, you are correct to question Mr. Schmidle’s account, but unfortunately your bias, as Llarry points out, “undermines pretty much everything you say.”

Regards.

James L August 4, 2011 at 3:41 pm

The laws passed banning Sharia law are absurd… as useful as banning geese from driving. A waste of government time, effort and money, done just for political propaganda to stir up the base. I would fight and die to defend against the imposition of sharia law, just like many many other liberals. I just happen to understand that it simply is not a real issue. There is no such threat. No secret cabal of evil God-hating socialist secular humanist lefties wanting to create a freaky ultra-orthodox theocracy. Really.

Debbie August 4, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Yeah, how dare she. It’s not that the Iraq war was clownish; it’s that those who notice how very clownish it actually was are the clowns. Right. Regards.

Luther Blissette August 4, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Openly stating basic facts truth about the Iraq invasion “undermines pretty much everything you say” ?!?!

That may have worked back in the 2002 – 2006 era but having to toe the ‘support the troops’ party line at (political) gunpoint is less popular these days.

I’m less worried about Fair’s ideological purity than about her insight into this issue.

Llarry August 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm

“Openly stating basic facts truth about the Iraq invasion ‘undermines pretty much everything you say’ ?!?!”

Another person with reading-comprehension problems. I said that the Iraq war can be easily justified, and the use of the stupid, nonsensical phrase “war of choice” undermines everything she says. “War of choice” is a term confined to those who appear to oppose all war waged by the U.S. If Fair is indeed of that mindset, anything she writes about American troops is suspect.

jawbone August 5, 2011 at 1:52 pm

If the Iraq war could have been so easily justified, why didn’t Bush/Cheney do just that? Instead of using lies and other misleading information?

You may have a point, but it’s not realted to what happened in the run up to the Iraq invasion.

Which makes me wonder why you keep saying this….

standfast24 August 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Very cogent observations. What we got was a re-creation/simulation,
that claimed to be an original.
Frankly, I suspect it will take a few years for the real story to be written. (Maybe longer given security issues).
Yes, it was a very entertaining read, but “The New Yorker” is clearly an Obama mouth piece so I expected a big dose of how Obama makes all the hard decisions..ect. along with the story.

TexEd August 4, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Interesting discussion. But, I have ALWAYS questioned the assassination story, it was too glib and there was no proof. The story of dumping UBL’s body into the sea didn’t make sense, at least to me.
The other story that fits the “facts” is that a badly hurt UBL was seen to be still alive and was taken to a place as our guest (I like Diego Garcia). If UBL is dead to the world, there is no one who can complain about how many cable channels he has and so forth, while trained attendants give him the opportunity to discuss all he knows.
Schmidle’s article (which I did not read) is perfectly logical in view of this alternative version, as will be the movie that is, almost certainly, being written as we speak.

Ben August 4, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Thank you Mrs. (Ms?) Fair,
If it wasn’t for people like you who are educated enough to notice this kind of stuff, I would still be thinking how incredible it is that a ridiculously scripted ‘For god and Country’ line was actually squeezed in among all that action. No I understand how truely “incredible” it is.

Toryalay Shirzay August 4, 2011 at 3:53 pm

@Harish Puri, right on! I have lived under the Sharia rules for a long time and I want everyone to know ,they are very oppressive and some even satanic. No just person should even think of being sympathetic much less being an apologist for this evil system of jurisprudence.To those nonmuslims who try to be nice and defensive of Islamic laws,you are both not sufficiently informed and misinformed;so please dig deeper before jumping on the islamic band wagon.

HBA August 4, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I have no doubt in my mind that this is part of the same script still unfolding since May 2. The observations by Ms Fair could not have been more apt and point blank. For God and Country the pictures of OBL were not to be shown to the world but they let the NAVY seals sit and talk and accompany Mr Schmidle who very interesting.

J. Scott August 4, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Ms. Fair, You lose any credibility with a dumb statement like this:

“Several states in the United States have even introduced ludicrous and shameful bills to outlaw Sharia.”

Madam, I would think, as a woman you have more sense. Do you really want Sharia law here in the States? Nuts!

Ben August 4, 2011 at 5:39 pm

What she was pointing out was not that we should have sharia law, but that we are under no threat to have Sharia laws supersede our own and thus the laws forbidding it are an overreaction. Anyone who believes that places (like Dearborn Michigan) have any form of Sharia Law are falling for a far right scare tactic to get people to vote for whatever candidate is going to save them from the evil muslims.

Nathan Hamm August 4, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Sweet Jesus! Really? Please tell me this comment is performance art intended to prove its stated position is mouth-breathingly asinine.

jawbone August 5, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Speaking of religious and culturally based quasi-legal systems, in the US observant Catholics are subject to Papal law regarding marriage ans divorce. However, no court enforces the religious laws.

Same for Orthodox Jewish “law’: It is not considered to be enforceable in federal and state courts. To the best of my knowedlge (and IANALOPOOTI).

mike August 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I knew this article was bullshit when they said Biden had a rosary and wanted to go to church. Otherwise it reads like a Tom Clancy novel. Good story though. Liked the part where they shoot the terrorist.

Jimmy C August 5, 2011 at 10:25 am

I agree Mike. Also, Shmiddle’s inference of Obama’s passion for ‘getting bin Laden’ coupled with his respect for anything military lends to the ‘far-fetchedness’ of the story. This current administration has not love or respect for our military or the men and wormen who serve in it. Now, if he had quoted Biden as saying ‘we should all go to O’Malley’s Pub’ it would be more believeable.

Kate August 4, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Did anyone else notice how in the article he discusses needing evidence of how tall Osama is listing his height. The article says there wasn’t a tape measure on board so one of the seals in the mission who’s 6″ tall laid down along side him to show he was four inches taller. Then ends the article saying that Seal Team 6 gave Obama the tape measure. How could a story with this blatant contradiction be published? Please let me know if I read this wrong.

brandon August 4, 2011 at 6:44 pm

You misread. Obama gave Seal Team 6 a tape measure (as a gift). “McRaven greeted Obama on the tarmac. (They had met at the White House a few days earlier—the President had presented McRaven with a tape measure.) “

Brian Black August 4, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Just to clear up the line for you. I’ve spoken to my inside contact, and this is what was said.

The operative kicked open the door to one of the top floor rooms, to find himself facing Osama. The operative then said “knock knock” before emptying a full mag into Bin Laden and saying, “looks like you’ve been tali-banned!”. The shooter then turned to a collegue and said “get back to the chopper, Billy. Do it now”. Then off they went.

jpeditor August 4, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Pot, meet kettle. LOVE watching leftist jihadi appeasers* wrestle with each other over who can apologize more for Americans jumping for joy that OBL is finally dead (even if took too many years for Bush’s intel strategy to help Obama get him).

You also left off the facts of the “burial at sea”. Before OBL was wrapped in the shrouds, a ham sandwich was shoved down his throat, a kosher hotdog up his rectum, and an honor guard of Navy Sailors urinated on him profusely.

* (Here’s how we all know you’re an appeasing fool:)*

“Since 9/11, countries with Muslim minorities have been gripped by Islamophobia with some states outlying headscarves and minarets and others seeking to restrict the erection of new mosques. Anti-immigration concerns in Europe are thinly disguised efforts to deter future Muslims from migrating. Success in the war of terrorism seems to be equated with success in turning back the spread of Islam.”

And you have a problem with turning back the spread of islam in the West? Because you got a jihad pass promising they will kill you last in exchange for your support?

James August 5, 2011 at 1:03 am

I have great deal of respect for the guy’s at Blackfive. When they published the link to the story I read the article, and was immediately unimpressed.

Indeed it read like a movie script, and a powder puff, PR, piece for Obama.

In the article Obama is portrayed as strong, indecisive leader who was compassionate and concerned for his troops safety, while giving orders and directing the operations.

There is no such leader in the White House, the only part that was probably true was the golf game.

jawbone August 5, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I became suspicious of the author when I came across a televised interview (sorry, forgot which show). The author was telling the interviewer that Obama had demanded that the military include backup choppers, which the military had not planned on doing.

Say what?

It was Obama who insisted on having back up choppers on hand just in case something went wrong? The military were going to go with no back up –some happy horse hockey puck story, but Wise Obama saw the error in not having redundancy. “We have to be able to bring our people home,” he is said to have insisted.

Oh, pleeeeeze. That was so over the top I clicked away. Besides I was falling asleep.

Mark August 5, 2011 at 1:18 am

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I wonder how he offended her.

PolPundit August 5, 2011 at 3:22 am

He mustn’t have, she probably jumped at the opportunity to shine some limelight on herself.

PolPundit August 5, 2011 at 3:06 am

It seems that the Christine Fair has found a great opportunity to further her own agenda. Get off your high horse Christine. At worst, Nick’s piece was a propaganda item, like most of yours. ‘Pot kettle black’. What did it really have that made you jump up and down, salivating at an opportunity to piggy back on this to show off your trumped up concerns ? Was it the mention of Pashto, so you could show off that you know about 3-4 languages spoken in that country ? Are language translation skills good enough to become foreign policy wonks these days ? Or did you decide to stand up and defend Pakistan from Nick’s attack ? Surely, Pakistanis deserve better than a rabid ‘scholar’ trying to rip apart other columnists. Or were you defending your own perceived territory of being a ‘Pakistan’ expert, where others should refrain from entering ?

In one of the exchanges, you try to forward an principled objection to ‘leaks’ : “I disprove of classified stuff being leaked period w/o proper procedures. I’m old fashioned”. Really, you are about to burst an artery because of your stand against government leaks ? And in the article you indicate that Nick is making shit up. So which one is it Christine, if he’s made this stuff up, surely you can’t claim any grievance against leaks. And if this information has truly been leaked, he obviously hasn’t pulled it out of his ass, like you try to indicate in your verbal outburst. Take a chill pill and don’t get your panties in a twist.

Instead of wasting your time on such diarrhea, you should probably visit some Indian embassies and consulates. Just walk in and get some inside scoops, like how you claimed that Indian embassy staff confirmed to you personally that they were spreading terror in Pakistan. Why do we even need CIA to spy on other countries, just send Christine and her ‘sources’ will spill everything, just for an opportunity to interact with such a ‘credible’ scholar.

PolPundit August 5, 2011 at 3:20 am

“How would a proclamation that Bin Laden was killed “for God and for country” be read in a place like Pakistan where the war on terror has been largely seen as a war on Islam and Muslims? If this was in fact uttered, as an American, I am saddened that eliminating the world’s most notorious killer was done “for God” first and country second. ”

Have you been living under a rock ? What’s so surprising in God and Country ? Do you even know what the USMC motto roughly translates to ? “Always faithful to God, Country, and Corps”… Read those words again and note the sequence. This wouldn’t be the first time someone mentioned a phrase to the effect.

And who cares a rat’s ass as to what the folks in Pakistan think about Bin Laden’s death ? Bin Laden is dead, a lot of us would have loved if his death wasn’t this quick and if he was tortured before being killed. If Pakistan has a problem with that, its their headache, not ours.

P.S. : Did you call Schmidle a ‘chuth’ ? Surely you don’t kiss Pasha with that potty mouth.

Bob August 5, 2011 at 6:41 am

“…The U.S. experience with the Iraq war illustrates the extreme limits of how a supine and incompetent press became the vehicle to mobilize an angry public for an ill-conceived and unjustifiable war of choice. …”

That sentence tells me all I need to know about this author’s viewpoint: She hates George Bush, she’s embarrassed by the pride and patriotism that resulted from 9/11, and she hates it when the U.S. actually asserts and defends itself. And she apparently can’t stand that the campaign in Iraq worked.

Sounds like sour grapes to me.

nazarrabi August 5, 2011 at 7:57 am

long live ,u,s,a birtsh ,jews, the real enmey of pashtun are tajicks azbucks iranin,panjabi.dont lit these people fool you pashtuna,in the name of islam,its a samething if gulam of panjabi tjaicks azbucks iranin arabs,or u.s.a birtish jews, to me i rather be ruled by british or americans

amir mateen August 5, 2011 at 8:44 am

I agree with your contention that Pashto is not easily comprehensible to people who speak Urdu. But it remains Indo European language like Urdu. Belonging to the same tree does not always means that languages are mutually comprehensible.

Ben August 5, 2011 at 8:56 am

“…White House officials cancelled scheduled visits, ordered sandwich platters from Costco”…….Really?

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/08/08/110808fa_fact_schmidle#ixzz1U9u3zsoa

Anonymous Gov Contractor August 5, 2011 at 9:56 am

Looks like Christine did some pretty good detective work to me.

Jimmy C August 5, 2011 at 10:36 am

Ordering from Costco is a cost savings measure, didn’t you know? It is part of the Obama led economic recovery strategy which will eventually revive our country! It’s right in line with his Obamacare.
Anyway, I thought I’d focus a bit on the Costco thing since it is as inane as the difference between Urdu and Pashto…really…who cares.
Beware of Pakistan, they are no friends of the US.

Jerry August 5, 2011 at 10:40 am

Folks, you’re all missing the point, IMHO. Here’s the key question: how did Nicholas Schmidle do the research for his story? Is it purely based on his sources, or is it dramatized, or is it completely fictional?

The problem here isn’t somebody’s perspective on the conflict, or the relation of languages within Pakistan. It doesn’t matter if you thought the article was riveting, or a piece of garbage. The problem is that a journalist and a magazine presented an article as factual truth, when there’s reasonable doubt that the author, at the very least, took some liberties with the story.

Here’s the question to me: how much of his story is factual, how much is interpretation and interpolation, and how much is it from his imagination? And nothing I’ve been able to find on the web has been able to answer that question.

Just because you want to believe a story is true, doesn’t actually mean the story is true. Personally (and here’s my bias), I want to believe his reporting is authentic, because I really want to know what the hell happened that night. But, this also wouldn’t be the first time somebody has ‘embellished the details’ to make a story. And since I don’t know any of the individuals involved personally, all I can go on is what they write and how other people react to it.

PolPundit August 5, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Jerry,

You make a very valid point, because you are looking at it objectively, without a bone in this fight. However, the pretentious Ms. Fair isn’t and that’s why folks have commented against it. She’s herself prone to spreading propaganda and when she tries ripping into someone who allegedly makes up stuff, people will definitely take note.

After I read her outburst, I know she’s outraged, or pretending to be, but I am not clear why. Among other things, she claims that this narrative will deeply offend the Pakistanis. Any Pakistani expert worth their salt would know that the penetration of english press in that country is minimal. Forget an article by Nick/Schick/Dick in a foreign paper, even their own english newspapers can’t compete with the urdu press. So being outraged on the basis of this becoming very controversial, is nothing but pretense. Its just a reason thrown in to get some meat in her ‘take down’ of Schmidle. If you look at the reasons that she has mentioned in her article, most of them are just smokescreens for getting her own agenda across.
And to me, it all looks like personal vendetta against Schmidle.

As for the usage of “God and Country”, she’s right, it was very offensive. Maybe the SEALs should have shouted out “For Allah and Ummah”, strapped on a suicide vest on Bin Laden and remotely detonated him into a million pieces. This way, his followers around the world would have been very proud that he died a martyr and would receive his share of 72 virgins. This would have also avoided the artificial controversy of burying him at sea.

Jimmy C August 5, 2011 at 10:56 am

journalist and a magazine presenting an article as factual truth….an oxymoron, don’t you think?

Grammar Nazi August 5, 2011 at 11:13 am

“cast a pall” not “cast a pale”

Hazel Meade August 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Interesting. The last time I recall reading a news story that was as gripping an entertaining as a work of fiction, it was. It was a story in the New York Times by Jason Blair.

Adam August 5, 2011 at 3:35 pm

God almighhty!

I think “God and country” is an expression. I would be more dismayed if he said “For country and God!”.

I’m an atheist but I’m not sure I expect a SEAL to focus on the “optics” of what he says while killing OBL. What a silly thing to fixate on.

T2 August 5, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Show me the data! …. I mean photos.

How can everyone believe this crap with out seeing proof?
What happened to the wives?
Children?
No one can interview these people? WTF!

Lee Fernandez August 5, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Bin Laden is in South America, where they all go!

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