Applying Occam’s razor, I find the Hersh version of events more convincing than the Obama administration’s. The official version may well be the true version, but looking at the two stories objectively, as a recital of events leading to other events leading to other events, Hersh’s is the more feasible and requires fewer assumptions, fewer leaps of faith. (I am completely discounting Hersh’s citation of his sources, which depends largely, but not entirely, on one anonymous one. I am just comparing his version of the “facts” with the official version of the “facts.”)
Reading the LRB piece reminded me of the most bizarre aspect of the Obama version. It seemed bizarre at the time, but after its solemn reiteration by the news media, the reasons given for it, and my assumption (leap of faith) that the administration was sort of telling the truth, I finally accepted it: the burial at sea.
Really, how likely is it that a quick and quiet nighttime burial at sea would be the way the corpse of this dreaded terrorist, the murderer of thousands of Americans, who had been hunted for years, would be disposed of? I would have thought that the most likely place bin Laden’s remains would have ended up was some cold storage facility in the DC area, then eventually on a transport to Saudi Arabia for a family burial. (The Administration’s citing Islam’s quick burial requirement as a rationale is laughable.)
Hersh’s tale of the disposal of the body is almost as bizarre as Obama’s, but the reasons he gives for it are a wee bit more believable. He says that the body was so shot up that it ended up in pieces which the commandos dropped out of a helicopter over the mountains of Afghanistan. With no body, just body parts, that solution fit best with what Hersh says was the original plan, to attribute the death of bin Laden to a drone strike on an Afghan mountain hideout. That plan changed, Hersh says, when the Administration realized that because of the helicopter accident and explosion at the Abbottabad compound, the drone strike cover story wouldn’t work.
As I say, both stories are bizarre, both stories have lots of holes but, by my lights, the back story to Hersh’s body disposal makes more sense than the various reasons – mostly revolving around not wanting to make bin Laden a martyr – given for the burial at sea. The same holds true comparing other elements of the two stories. Generally, Hersh’s version of events makes more sense, seems more likely, than the official one.
P. S. from the Columbia Journalism Review