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Messaging the Hunt for Bin Laden

Photo by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash

In last blog, titled The Hollywood Narrative Factory : Pentagon’s mark in Cinema, I wrote about the involvement & manipulation in Hollywood by CIA & Pentagon. This blog is for one of major propaganda boost CIA got in 2012. I am talking about Zero Dark Thirty. A film on hunt & killing of Osama. However this blog will start with film’s controversy but will end somewhere at different place.

Well, to find & finish that chapter was leg up that CIA really needed after 9/11. A film was made on it — Zero Dark Thirty. But their was gossip in the air about the relation between filmmakers & CIA on the subject of film. A conservative group — Judicial Watch obtained records from the CIA & DoD.

This was of meetings and communications between agencies and Kathryn Bigelow, the film’s director, and screenwriter Mark Boal for their film Zero Dark Thirty. As per the records, administration granted Boal and Bigelow unusual access to agency information in preparation for their film, which was reportedly scheduled for an October 2012 release, just before the presidential election, but rescheduled to release in December.

Zero Dark Thirty was not a usual film where influence of CIA was on project like the other ones (see last blog). In 2007, Paul Barry was appointed to Entertainment Liaison Officer by the CIA where he is going to work as point person for CIA in Hollywood. Paul objected about the extremely distressful scenes from CIA’s torture chambers, these were allowed in the final cut of the film.

However few mistakes while operation were also shown. May be the reason to show this was to convince that interrogation of extreme torture was necessary (desperately) in the hunt for Osama. The film was cinematic success.

And then came controversy. Senate Intell Committee was not entertained & protested, described the film as grossly inaccurate and misleading. Debate around this continued. To settle everything, CIA’s acting director stepped in public & said that film is misleading and type of interrogation shown in film is false, while the truth was that this information had come from multiple sources and methods of investigation.

Obviously this hunt is biggest propaganda victory in a long time. Everyone celebrated. But here is something to notice — it happened in President Barack Obama’s run for 2nd term in White House. Gradually this whole thing cooled, celebration diminished & crowds went home, and whole episode came under scrutiny. With this came so many questions. The first question was: how had Osama managed to avoid being noticed by Pakistan government for these many years? And that too when he was living so close to Abbottabad — a military base! The other frequently asked question was: why was Osama not taken alive?

Answers of these question was given by well known investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in 2015. He was the one who broke story of My Lai massacre of Vietnam war (won Pulitzer prize for this) & Abu Ghraib torture story. Both of these were published in New Yorker but when he was ready with a huge story on killing of Osama, New Yorker refused & that’s why it was later appeared in London Review of Book’s May issue heading — 'The Killing of Osama bin Laden’. Of course nowadays Hersh is labelled as conspiracy peddler by elite around D.C.

In that May issue, he claimed that this hunt was not all-American affair, and senior generals of Pakistan’s army & ISI were involved. This contradicts what was shown in Zero Dark Thirty that operation is exclusively a CIA thing. The storyline was that the CIA had spotted, interrogated and suborned Osama’s courier.

Hersh’s another jaw dropping claim was that this uncovering of Laden’s location was not because of CIA’s hard research or operation instead it resulted due to walk-in of a ISI in August 2010 who shared info with exchange of US $ 25 million. He further argued that Gen. Parvez Kayani (Pak’s army chief) & Gen. Javed Pasha (ISI Chief) both too were aware. Obviously, therefore, there was a deal that had been worked out.

Hersh added that originally it show that Osama is killed in an armed encounter in somewhere Afghanistan. Everyone knew that no one is gonna believe that Pakistan’s authorities were unaware of Laden’s hiding. Osama lived in Hindu Kush mountain till the Pakistanis lured him away to military base town of Abbottabad and kept him under cover. If Pakistanis surrender Osama to Americans, it would be foolish and that’s why they did it at correct time — before presidential election. At that time elections was getting ready & Pakis were, once again, running out of cash. Plus natural death of Osama too was one reason.

Getting Osama was win-win situation for all. Nothing exemplifies and explain the US-Pakistan and CIA-ISI relation better than this deal. When attack happened, there was total blackout. No traffic. No ambulances. No police patrols. But something went wrong & one of their stralth helicopters crashed. Soon they changed narrative and took credit keeping Pakistan out of it — as planned originally. But this version was pathetic to Pak because a cult of people were upset with letting the Americans into Islamic Pakistan to capture & killed an Islamic leader.

Another Pulitzer price winner journalist — Carlotta Gall (worked for NYTimes for 12 years) claimed very similar things in her book. What she wrote tallies with Hersh’s version. The Hersh story expectedly evoked angry responses. The blitzkrieg of criticism made Hersh into self-exile, even though Carlotta Gall provided some confirmation. Nothing came from CIA to disprove Hersh’s story except denials. It was not just Hersh. Ex-CIA agent Robert Baer said that this story did ring true. Another well known investigative reporter from expressed strong doubts on official version of events.

Well I can say that Hersh’s story isn’t perfect or something into which we should completely believe. There are possible flaws in it too. But this whole thing made clear that War on Terror was nothing more than a fairy tale created by official agencies & Hollywood. Movies like Zero Dark Thirty & Argo were good for CIA because they drew public support for its activities.

End is here. I gather whatever I can to explain stuff revolving around Osama’s hunt & Hollywood’s contribution. If there is something to add, be open & mention in comment section. You can follow me on Twitter, I tweets @TheUttam03. Please do clap if you liked. 🙋🏻‍♂️



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Uttam Vora

Uttam Vora


I am here to write about evrything I love. On politics, history, TV shows & finance kind of stuff. Also, I am on books.