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Conspiracy Theories

I’m a skeptic. I also love a good conspiracy theory. As a professional storyteller, I really appreciate the intrigue and drama that a good conspiracy theory entails. I respect the battle of “good” and “evil” and the mystery of which is which in these stories.

But most of the time, conspiracy theories tend to overlook the obvious: reality is usually much simpler than the involved conspiracies would dictate.

It’s been less than a week since President Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden and already there are so many accusations being made on all sides. From questioning whether or not OBL was actually killed, questioning whether he was killed recently or several years ago, and even whether or not the Pakistani government knew where OBL was living (since he was reportedly staying in a mansion just a few miles from the capital of Pakistan).

Even the most level headed politicians are getting in on this last one.

“How could they NOT have KNOWN Bin Laden was living there? It’s a huge mansion with no telephone service, and high walls topped with barbed wire! It’s just miles from the capital! The government HAD to have known!”


There was a story last week about a family that kept their daughter in a cage and fed her two pop-tarts a day. They lived in a mobile home in a mobile home park. They kept the kid this way for months or years and no one noticed until someone came knocking about an unrelated case and just happened to see the kid in the cage.

I know who lives in every house on our block. But there is no way that I can tell you if there are OTHER people also in there hiding in a spare bedroom or the attic. I see people come and go, but I can’t see the people who DON’T come and go. Unless I go through every room in every house, Osama Bin Laden could have been living next door to me…or you. Unless you’ve systematically checked every room in all of your neighbors houses. It’s not likely.

As for Bin Laden’s death, there have been suggestions that the timing was conveniently close to the release of Obama’s birth certificate. But c’mon! When, in ANY presidency has there ever been a time that WASN’T involved in some sort of controversy?

Political leaders that get things done face opposition. Always. And political leaders that don’t get things done face controversy for not doing anything. No matter when OBL’s death was announced people would have noticed that there was some controversy going on at the time.

Why didn’t we capture him? We could have gotten good information from him.

Look, we’ve been hunting this guy for ten years. He’s slipped through our fingers by just hours on many occasions. Clinton missed his chance and caught hell for it. OBL got away a few times during the Bush administration and Bush never lived it down. Now Obama finally has the change to finish the job. Can you imagine what would have happened if, while trying to capture or transport OBL the guy managed to escape? Everyone would have been screaming “Why didn’t you just KILL him?!”

The job of a president is never easy. You are always having your decisions scrutinized. And no matter what you do, there will be people from the other political party who will work to undermine your efforts and minimize the importance of your successes. This is true for Democrats and Republicans.

So good leaders make decisions and move forward and start getting more things done.

And then conspiracy theorists invent interesting alternative motivations and stories that I love to hear, but just can’t really sink my teeth into.

Getting Things Done, Just Personal, Success

  1. May 11th, 2011 at 09:21 | #1

    Hey Julian,

    Interesting post on this. Would love to have you “debunk” a few specific points about the OBL controversy if you’re up for it and have time to do so.

    1. Why would they kill him so fast? He was old, in poor health, walked with a cane and was not armed. The likely hood of him escaping the Navy Seals, who have the entire building surrounded and are fully armed while he is not, is very low. Our government says torture really works, so why didn’t we keep him alive and torture him and learn everything he knows?

    2. Why did the story from the White House change so much? At first, our president said on national TV, that there was a firefight and he watched it live. Then, the WH later stated there was no firefight and only one person was armed but was in a different part of the palace. Why does the storyline change if the WH watched it live? The head of the CIA actually came out later and said there was a 20-25 minute break in the feed right before “they went in”. So according to the head of the CIA, the WH didn’t even see what happened even though they originally claimed they did and even put out pictures from the “situation room” implying they were watching the action live.

    3. Why would they have dumped the body so fast? With Saddam, we got to see him in jail, we saw the trial, then we later saw the leaked hanging video. We get none of that with OBL. The government said it was paying respect to the Muslim religion. The problem is 1. According to Muslims, that isn’t what Muslim religion calls for. 2. Even if it was, why would we care that he gets a proper burial and ceremony? Was it really to show respect to the Muslim world, or was it to provide an excuse to never have to prove to anyone that the whole thing went down like they say?

    They say it’s because the pics are too gruesome and would cause animosity in the Muslim world. Okay then, they were recording the action the whole time from their helmet cams. Why not release video/pics from before his death? Show up until the point of his death. He’d still be alive, nothing gruesome. Just cut it right before we kill him. Why won’t they release those files? The only evidence the world has are words from a talking head on tv.

    Here’s an interesting article with even more strange questions about the OBL situation: http://goo.gl/ldOVI

    I would love (when you have time) an in depth response to each question if you feel you have it in you. Calling people “conspiracy theorists” doesn’t prove or disprove anything so if you could be specific, that would be cool. Looking forward to your response to this stuff.



  2. May 20th, 2011 at 07:50 | #2

    Hey David, first let me apologize for taking so long to respond to this post. I never got notification that you posted it, I just happened to find it. But let me address my thoughts on your points.

    1) Why didn’t we capture OBL rather than kill him? You have to remember that we were conducting an illegal mission on the soverign soil of an ally nation without their knowledge or consent. We were dealing with a man who had a long history of evading and escaping from our forces. While I am not privy to the specifics of the mission, it is not at all inconceivable to me that the objectives would include getting out BEFORE local law enforcement or military showed up. If that meant killing OBL rather than trying to secure him and extract him, I could see that option being left on the table.

    Maybe it would have been better had the soldiers on the ground attempted harder to capture him, but I think you should talk to someone (like a SWAT officer, or soldier who’s been in a firefight with live ammuntion) if it is plausable that a decision made under time pressure like that might not have been the best decision as viewed from arm-chair analysts 2,000 miles away sitting in an air-conditioned room with hours and hours to contemplate the actions of the boots on the ground.

    Remember again that we were conducting a military operation in an upscale neighborhood just outside the capital of a national ally who’s people are largely unapproving of the United States. View this from the other side. What sort of response might the US take if Saudi Arabian soldiers flew into the US under our radar and attacked (with machine guns, explosives, and multiple military helicopters) a wealthy neighborhood on the outskirts of Washington, DC?

    I think it is safe to say that if the police showed up before the miltary raid was over and the soldiers gone, there would have been a firefight between soldiers and law enforcement which, no matter what country we’re talking about, would be considered an act of war.

    I contend that while it would have been better to have captured him alive, I think the MOST important part was to accomplish the mission (dead or alive) and GET OUT before the situation escalated. In a tense situation with trained soldiers and a very high-value and elusive target, I won’t second guess the decisions made on the ground.

    Remember, too that these operations are not like Hollywood movies. These are situations where things go wrong all the time (we lost a helicopter in fact). There have been many other similar attempts that failed with catastropic results (Iran hostage rescue attempt under Carter and the “Blackhawk Down” situation in Somalia under Clinton as two of the more famous escapades). I think the need to prevent something similar from happening is far more important that whether we capture OBL to get his information, or just kill him and take all the myriad tapes, computer files, written journals, and hours and hours of video and get the information from those sources as best we can.

  3. May 20th, 2011 at 08:28 | #3

    David, you also asked about some other points which I’ll try to address:

    2. Why did the story from the White House change so much? At first, our president said on national TV, that there was a firefight and he watched it live. Then, the WH later stated there was no firefight and only one person was armed but was in a different part of the palace. Why does the storyline change if the WH watched it live? The head of the CIA actually came out later and said there was a 20-25 minute break in the feed right before “they went in”. So according to the head of the CIA, the WH didn’t even see what happened even though they originally claimed they did and even put out pictures from the “situation room” implying they were watching the action live.

    As a writer I think words are very important. I have the luxury of writing my words, choosing them carefully, review them, changing them, ensuring that what I write accurately conveys exactly what I mean, and then (and only then) posting them for the world to see. As thinking writers, you and I have that opportunity.

    Even with that opportuntity, I have gone back and read stuff I’ve written from years before and thought “I can’t believe I said that like I did. What I MEANT to write was ______”. When speaking I’ve often said something that wasn’t what I intended at all. Sometimes it stems from misunderstanding a word or misusing a word. I just read a Facebook update from someone who suggested that happiness in life was just a matter of “excepting Jesus”. While I have many athiest friends who would agree with that statement, I can assume with confidence what she MEANT was NOT what she wrote.

    So, I can believe that politicians who have never held a pistol or rifle and never served in any branch of the military might misuse the word “firefight” and apply it to something that might should have been called a “covert military assault”.

    I also believe (as I know you do, too) that our government is NOT in the business of sharing with us “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. I know our government has strong systems in place to hide information from us. I have friends in high places in the government who refuse to tell me even simple, verifiable facts and they’ve been coached not to even express an opinion about certain issues.

    So, could this have been someone using the term “firefight” when they meant something else? Could have been.

    Could this have been an example of them not wanting to reveal too much information about the specifics of this illegal raid on a soverign ally? I think that is very plausible.

    Could it be that we actually captured OBL several months or years ago, tortured him to death, froze his body, then recently thawed it out, flew it into a foriegn country, shot it up, then flew it out and dumped it into the sea all in some secret attempt to keep our enemies guessing what we’re up to? I just think this one is the least likely scenario.

  4. May 20th, 2011 at 08:34 | #4

    3) Why did they dump the body so fast?

    I will tell you that on this one, I’m not sure. I like to think I have all the answers, but this one still puzzles me. I find it plausible (but not very satisfying and not extremely convincing) that they dumped it at sea in order to keep people from creating a shrine or a rallying point.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure what value his dead body would provide if they have pictures and video (which is your 4th question and one I’ll address next).

    So, I will admit that I don’t understand why they dumped his body so quickly. I think that was a mistake on their part, but again, I don’t know all the details (and don’t think we will ever know all the details). It does seem to indicate a suspicious behavior and I’m willing to hear other thoughts on this.

  5. May 20th, 2011 at 09:39 | #5

    4) Why won’t they release photos or video of OBL?

    Either they are hiding something or they aren’t. If they are, then of course they won’t show the photos if they feel that the pictures would reveal the truth they are trying to hide. That’s one plausible explanation.

    Another plausible explanation is that they realize that once you release photos you can never get them back. They might be calculating all of the reprecusions that releasing them would entail and deciding on the best course of action. By not releasing them yet, they still have the ability to release them at any future date if they decide it would be in the best interest of either our national security or (also plausible) the re-election campaign of Obama. But once released there is no way to recall them.

    I expect that if the photos are released, it will happen in October, close enough to the elections as to help influence the polls.

    I also suspect that if photos were released, they would be treated with as much or even MORE skepticism than the report of his death. Look at what happened when Obama released his long form birth certificate and posted it on the internet for everyone to see. Imediately people began suggesting that it was a Photoshopped document and had been faked. I suspect similar accusations to arrise when/if the photos of OBL are ever relesed.

    So what value is there to releasing the photos? Those who believe he is dead don’t need any more proof, those who don’t will assume the photos are somehow faked, and only the morbidly curious will gain anything from seeing the pictures.

    And what potential harm might arise from releasing the photos? If publishing a cartoon in a newspaper is enough to incite millions to riot and many to murder innocent jounalists I find it entirely plausible that the photos could be used by extremists to rally similar reactions. This is particularly true if (as some reports suggested) OBL was cowering unarmed behind one of his wives. Not exactly the image we want to reveal was going on just before he was shot to death.

    So with little to gain and the potential for incredible losses, I wouldn’t be surprised if the photos were never released. But I don’t think that means there is something secret that would be revealed in the photos, nor does it mean we don’t have them.

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