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Osama bin Laden and Mao Zedong

Osama bin Laden and Mao Zedong

  by William H. Benson

May 18, 2016

     In recent months, the journalist, Seymour Hersh, published his most recent book, The Killing of Osama bin Laden and the Importance of Truth in Democratic Governance. In it, he criticizes the Federal government’s official narrative of bin Laden’s death, and calls it “a fabrication, a fantasy,” worthy of “Lewis Carroll.” “The story stunk,” he says, “from day one.”

     Hersh lambasts Mark Bowden’s popular book, The Finish, because it parallels the government’s narrative, unlike Hollywood’s alternate version, Zero Dark Thirty.

     First, Hersh points out that the CIA’s barbaric torture of informants, as depicted in the movie, did not help at all in finding bin Laden. Instead, one of Pakistan’s disaffected agents, motivated by the $25 million reward, walked in and gave to CIA officials bin Laden’s location.

     Hersh contends that certain of Pakistan’s officials had nabbed bin Laden in 2006, and that they had detained him at the compound at Abbottabad, less than two miles distant from Pakistan’s version of West Point, where they could watch over him.

     Once the Americans knew of bin Laden’s location, Hersh believes, they confronted Pakistan’s officials and demanded that they release him to them. Pakistan’s officials agreed but demanded more United States taxpayers’ money. It was the White House and the United States military that decided upon a stealth operation at night that included twenty-three Navy seals.  

     Hersh wonders, how did two Black Hawk helicopters fly into Pakistan’s territory, without any response from Pakistan’s military? Where, he asks, were the guards at the compound on the night of May 1, 2011, when the attack began, and why did the local police fail to respond?

     Finally, Hersh argues that the Navy seals did not transport bin Laden’s body back to a U. S. naval vessel where they then prepared it for burial at sea in accordance with Islamic law. Hersh claims that we may never know where the Seals buried Osama bin Laden’s body that night.

     Which version of bin Laden’s killing is true? The Pentagon’s? The White House’s? Hollywood’s? Mark Bowden’s? Or Seymour Hersh’s?

     Most would agree that Hollywood’s version is the most questionable. Federal government officials have dismissed both Hollywood and Seymour Hersh’s versions. Also, Mark Bowden wonders about Seymour Hersh’s claims. If Hersh’s ideas are correct, Bowden asks, then how were so many Federal and military officials duped into believing in the ruse, in the fabrication of events, that Hersh lays out?

     We may never know the truth. Like the Bay of Pigs fiasco, many files are classified and unavailable.

     China’s Cultural Revolution began May 16, 1966, fifty years ago this month, when Mao Zedong unleashed the fury of student militias that he called the Red Guards, who, according to the New York Times, killed “a million or more people, persecuted tens of millions, and destroyed thousands of historical and cultural monuments.”  

     Most Americans have little, if any, knowledge of the terror that gripped the Chinese people for ten years, until Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. For Americans, the late sixties and early seventies was a time of growth, an expansion of freedoms, a change in music and lifestyles, and anti-war demonstrations.

     For the Chinese though, those years meant misery and terror. It was as if a giant iron block had dropped upon the Chinese people, who felt smashed and crushed.

     Mao insisted that his officials push anyone—university professors, writers, intellectuals, doctors, or even common laborers—who was suspected of capitalist or bourgeoisie thinking, out of their respective positions in society. Thousands found themselves exiled to the countryside where they were forced to slop the hogs, toil in fields, clean houses and barns, and endure endless hours of Marxist instruction.

     Accusations and finger-pointing were rampant. Employees turned on their supervisors. Students turned on their professors. One son turned on his own mother because she criticized Mao Zedong for causing so much confusion and havoc. The Red Guards seized her, lined her up, and shot her. Many took their own lives. Mao’s appetite for social upheaval was unchecked.

     The result: the economy collapsed, hunger and privation resulted, and people starved. Today, China’s government remains reluctant to admit the truth, to seek justice, and to punish the perpetrators.  

     In America, people possess a Constitutional right to state their opinion, but in dictatorships, people have no such right, and can do little, other than wait and keep their heads down.

     In his book, Seymour Hersh makes his case. “Good leadership requires vigorous and honest debates, a multiple number of disagreements, different perspectives, and a consideration of all possibilities.” It is a messy business, but, he insists, it leads to truth, to better judgments, and to wiser decisions.

     The killing of Osama bin Laden, and China’s Cultural Revolution. Hersh believes that the American people have not heard the whole truth about bin Laden’s killing, which may or not be true, but we know that the Chinese people have not heard the whole truth about the Red Guards’ deplorable actions during China Cultural Revolution. 

 The literary agent, A. O. Scott, recently wrote, “The real culture war [or revolution] is between the human intellect and its human enemies: sloth, cliché, pretension, cant.” Mental sloth is lazy thinking. Cliché is passing around stock phrases. Pretension is a claim of doubtful value, and cant, according to the dictionary, is “the repetition of conventional, trite, or unconsidered opinions or sentiments.”