With Friends Like These...

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It has become increasingly difficult to pretend that Pakistan is an ally and now it is all but impossible to go along with the ritual of denying the obvious.  Whether or not the vaunted I.S.I. (Inter-Services Intelligence) were sheltering Bin Laden, or had some how missed him living right under their noses, leaves us with a choice to believe they are either incompetent or perfidious. 

I suspect the latter and now that the I.S.I. is saying they raided the so-called “Waziristan Mansion” when it was being built because they suspected a high value Al Qaeda operative was living there, then forgot about it for almost a decade, their excuses are indeed becoming lame.

On Monday I spoke with Bob Baer, a veteran CIA Operations Officer, who offered a much more plausible scenario that suggests a cover story was negotiated between the White House and the Pakistanis that left the I.S.I. with a choice between very unpalatable options.  It would seem they chose to look incompetent so as to mute any popular backlash following the death of a “martyr” as the I.S.I.-friendly Pakistan news anchors are calling Bin Laden.

The early part of the White House narrative makes sense that they painstakingly put the evidence together over a few years, finally narrowing the search to the compound in Abbottabad near Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point.  Once they were certain, it is highly unlikely a cautious Obama, mindful of what happened to Carter when he launched a raid deep into hostile territory, risked sending in a SEAL team without the assurance that the slow-flying Blackhawk helicopters would not be shot down.

What Bob Baer speculates is that the White House, having sent CIA Director Panetta, then J.C.S. Chairman Mullen to Islamabad in recent weeks, issued an ultimatum that having been caught red handed the Pakistanis had to step aside and let the U.S. take care of business.  With the White House insisting that the Pakistanis were not informed in advance, the Pakistanis had to swallow their pride to void a backlash from any hint they had cooperated with the hated Americans.

And why are the Americans hated in Pakistan?  In large part because of the relentless anti-American propaganda fed by the I.S.I. to the new Fox News-like private media in Pakistan who spread sensation over facts.  Talk about kicking a gift horse in the mouth, the billions in aid from the Kerry/Lugar/Berman bill that the U.S. thought would win over public opinion, has been vilified by the I.S.I. media whores and most of it has not even been spent because the government is so hostile and corrupt.

Why do they hate us?  Probably because we provide them with the excuse of not having to look at themselves and face up to what kind of country they are.  You cannot help someone who will not help himself, and they resent you for trying.  Given that Pakistanis have a hopeless choice between predatory military regimes and corrupt feudal civilian kleptocracies, little wonder they are teetering on being a failed state.

But if one of the most plausible scenarios is true, that elements in the I.S.I. were protecting Bin Laden and that those at the top were kept in the dark, what does that say about Pakistan’s command and control if its fast-growing nuclear arsenal?  That is a nightmare question.  And the other possibility, that those at the top knew they were concealing Bin Laden and considered him an asset, is not much better.  If the latter is true, when it comes to 9/11, it leads to questions about what did they know and when did they know it.