Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Obama Monetizes the Bin Laden Anniversary

 In a weekend email appeal to a dwindling circle of donors to his $500 million presidential center, Barack Obama claims that his extrajudicial murder of Osama Bin Laden 10 years ago was such a noble feat of sustained cooperation and courage among experts that it will "inspire a whole new generation of leaders." 

 But in order for them to remain properly inspired by his hit job, the mythology surrounding the actual sordid event must be perpetuated within a building whose appropriately brutalistic design bears an uncanny resemblance to the Aztec temple where people similarly came to be inspired and awed by ancient blood-soaked human sacrificial rites.

Obama Center

Aztec Center

So whether the accompanying video of a mawkish mutual tongue bath between Obama and retired Admiral William McRaven will be enough to inspire more people to open their wallets in order to help perpetuate the lies surrounding the assassination remains to be seen. That's because, according to recent published reports, the Obama Foundation doesn't even have the bare minimum seed money required by law to break ground as planned this fall on his Chicago museum and entertainment complex and professional golf course.

Therefore, Obama has resorted to enhancing the crass mythology of the grisly event with a crass attempt to monetize it.

He fetishizes it even further by using the American flag supposedly carried by the SEAL Assassination Team on May 1, 2011 as the main set decoration in his propaganda film.

"When you walk into my office," he writes to potential donors in the form of a film teaser, "the first thing you see is the American flag signed by the team that carried out the operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, against Osama bin Laden ten years ago."

"That gift is the most meaningful object I received as president."

You might think it would have been the Nobel Peace Prize. However, since that award was merely aspirational, and the flag symbolizes an actual accomplishment, I can understand Obama's rationale for which artifact  to brag about.

We don't get to see the autographs of the SEALs in the film, because just like the Peace Prize, they're carefully hidden from public view. The placement of their signatures on the back of the flag is ostensibly to protect the SEALs, whose deadly global missions are normally kept secret, lest they provoke retaliation and deaths of more innocent people. But as journalist Seymour Hersh tells it, it was Obama himself who put people in harm's way for his own selfish political interests. When he blabbed to the nation that it was the SEALs who carried out the hit job - and not the unmanned drone as the original fake story had been planned for public consumption - McRaven and his elite squad of killers were reportedly none too pleased to be outed by their Commander in Chief, who subsequently required all of them to sign nondisclosure agreements related to the Obama administration's fabrications. According to Hersh, quoting a "retired official," 

"It (the NDA) promised civil penalties and a lawsuit for anyone who discussed the mission, in public or private....  McRaven was apoplectic. He knew he was fucked by the White House, but he's a died-in-the-wool SEAL, and not then a political operator, and he knew there's no glory in blowing the whistle on the president." 

 The fabrications that McRaven and his troops had to keep quiet about included the phony story of bin Laden's burial at sea after Obama blabbed that the SEALs had control of the corpse; that bin Laden had been heavily armed and guarded in his compound rather than being held prisoner by the Pakistan military; that his death was the culmination of a prolonged firefight; and most damning, that Pakistani officials had no advance knowledge of the execution and were not bribed into cooperating with it. A  couple of officials even collected most of the $25 million reward money offered by the US government for the capture or death of the al Qaeda leader.

Regarding the complicity of the Pakistan government, Seymour Hersh quotes a retired US intelligence official:

"It didn't take long to get the cooperation we needed, because the Pakistani's wanted to ensure the continued release of American military aid, a good percentage of which was anti-terrorism funding that finances personal security, such as bullet proof limousines and security guards and housing" - all of which were and are financed by the Pentagon's off-the-books "contingency funds."

"We told them we would leak the fact that you've got bin Laden in your backyard. We knew their friends and enemies (the Taliban and jihadist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan) would not like it."

When Obama and McRaven (now, apparently, having advanced to a career as complicit political operator) schmoozed about the dangers to the American mission posed by those terrible Pakistanis, the reminiscences appear all the more cynical. The sustained cooperation and planning they boast about in the film is really about sustained bribery and shakedowns and lies. That they couldn't keep their stories straight in the aftermath of the hit is not surprising.

Perhaps the most grotesque fake news story was the CIA's John Brennan telling the media that information on bin Laden's whereabouts had been gleaned by torture. 

So it kind of makes one wonder whether the SEAL autographs facing the wall in Obama's office are actually affixed to those NDAs.

"It was important to me," Obama therefore explains in revisionary retrospect, for him to travel to Fort Campbell, Kentucky after the hit, in order "to shake every one of their hands." There was, of course, no mention of the enforced cover-up. Whenever official lies are concerned, the liars can always rely on the Grand Old Flag to erase the actual truth:

"That flag means a lot to me. When you swear an oath to be Commander in Chief, you have an obligation to the more than 1 million Americans serving in our nation's military to only send them into harm's way when absolutely necessary - and to approach the job with a level of seriousness that reflects their decision to commit to a life of service."

For his part, McRaven openly smirks in the film as he tells Obama that he was almost fooled during White House assassination planning sessions into believing that the former president was the one with 35 years of military experience.

The smirk later morphs into a maudlin catch in the voice as he describes Obama shaking all those hands. The former president, right on cue, then wipes away an invisible tear from one of his parched dry eyes.

Or as the Washington Post describes the bathos in an Obama Foundation press release disguised as a news article:

 "Well, you came off the platform. You went down..."McRaven recalled to Obama in the video. The retired SEAL pursed his lips, broke eye contact with Obama and fought to contain his emotion.

 "That's how I felt," Obama said shaking his head.

 "Receiving that flag," he later writes in his fundraising email, "I was humbled by the fact that the team recognized how much I care about them as Commander in Chief."

That, readers, is the subtle language of the protection racket. The threats are disguised as cajolery and concern, and those at the receiving end get the message. Just as Obama cynically shook down the SEALs by flattery and hand-shaking, feigning gratitude and humility, so too is he now attempting to shake down potential donors through appeals to their patriotism and fear of an outside enemy. And the media is dutifully duped.

Ben Rhodes, former Obama deputy national security adviser and current Foundation official, moderated the murder retrospective. He was just a little less adept than Obama when it came to muting his own triumphalism:

But what struck me about this conversation between Admiral McRaven and the President was how they were impacted by the outpouring of emotion that followed the raid. I remember late in the evening, after the president had announced the operation to the world in the White House East Room, I walked down the colonnade next to the Rose Garden and could hear chants of “USA!” from crowds that had gathered around the White House, a sense of catharsis after a difficult decade."

Was Obama's buckraking propaganda film also a subtle warning to Joe Biden, who so distressed Neocons from both political parties as he nearly simultaneously announced the end of the war in Afghanistan, and who is featured prominently in the video, striding jauntily down the steps of Air Force One in his aviator sunglasses to join Obama on stage in Fort Campbell to soak up all the enforced appreciation from the SEALs?

Was he perhaps the NDA bagman? Did he have to sign his own NDA, knowing what he knows? So far, his lips are as sealed as those of the SEALs, one of whom had to forfeit millions of dollars in book and speaking fees after he violated his own NDA for writing his own largely phony account of the bin Laden raid.

All fake news is not created equal. Some fake news is more fake and more profit-worthy than others.  It's especially not considered fake when a president does it for flag, mom, apple pie, and personal legacy, and when corporate media establishments owned by billionaires are themselves so invested in maintaining the happy-talk myths of American exceptionalism and the fading American imperium that holding their media-political complex colleagues to account is no longer what journalism is all about.

Just ask Seymour Hersh, who could not get his piece on the assassination published at his own magazine, The New Yorker, or at any other American mainstream outlet.

If you Google the topic today, you'll find that the entire front page of search results is composed of smear pieces of varying intensity against Hersh and his article, which was ultimately published in the London Review of Books and linked above.


Jay–Ottawa said...

Good Old Obama. Poor guy, having no legacy, he must pass the hat to invent one.

Good Old London Review of Books
Vol. 37 No. 10 · 21 May 2015
"The Killing of Osama bin Laden"
by Seymour M. Hersh

voice-in-wilderness said...

Related to this, I've been tracking Obama's presidential papers, though there is little reporting on them after the initial surprise that he would not create the traditional presidential library. The many truck loads of them are stored in a former furniture store in a Chicago suburb. Conditions unknown. The plan is to digitize them.

In February 2019 Obama's team announced that they were about to let a contract to begin digitizing. It appears that never happened. I wrote NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) about a week ago to find out what is happening, and the reply was nothing new to report.

So, we are now in the fifth year following his administration and his papers seem to be in limbo, with Obama struggling to fund what he really cares about, his "brutalist" center and golf course. The biggest surprise is that Trump did not cause the records to just disappear. Imagine Tony Soprano saying, "Nice little warehouse you've got there ..."!

Jay–Ottawa said...

"In February 2019 Obama's team announced that they were about to let a contract to begin digitizing. It appears that never happened."
- Voice

How like Obama: talk, promise, crickets.