The Obama administration will be remembered in history as the one that brought Osama bin Laden to justice. Its handling of the situation was practically flawless.
Nevertheless, there are two things in which the government erred slightly. With respect to these two matters, the Obama administration’s mistake was to tell the truth. In this cases, it would have been better for the United States if the government had told lies.
Initially, the administration stated that the terrorist “was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was in.” The story should have stayed that way.
The fact that Bin Laden was unarmed makes it seem like the terrorist was assassinated by the American government. Now, a lot of Americans don’t really give a damn (to be frank, neither do I). But if Average World Citizen thinks that American soldiers shot Bin Laden unarmed, that does damage to America’s image. Better for people to think that American soldiers had no other choice than to shoot Bin Laden due to his vicious resistance.
America did not inform Pakistan of its operation.
Ever since the Bin Laden raid, relations between Pakistan and America have collapsed. Pakistanis are furious that America violated Pakistani airspace without permission. Many Americans, on the other hand, feel that Pakistan might have known where Bin Laden was hiding. The American government has acknowledged rather proudly that it told Pakistan nothing. The implication, of course, is that Pakistan is not worthy of being trusted.
But what if Obama had announced at his press conference that the government had cooperated closely with Pakistan throughout the entire operation? What if he had said that Pakistan’s president himself had granted airspace permission? What if he had then taken the time to thank Pakistani spy chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha and army chief-of-staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani for their indispensable help?
The effect would be profound. Americans would have no reason to mistrust Pakistan due to the help they provided in the Bin Laden operation. Pakistan would have no reason to be angry at America; after all, the operation would have been carried with the happy assistance of its government. There would have been no violation of airspace if it had been freely granted in the first place.
That would be a lie breathtaking in its audaciousness. And Pakistan would have a hell of a time denying it. You would have Obama profusely thanking the Pakistanis for all the help they provided in bringing Osama bin Laden to justice, and the Pakistanis adamantly denying that they’d ever done such a thing. Private conversations with the Pakistanis might be a bit awkward, though. It would probably be best for American officials to keep up the charade even talking in private. A lie told enough times becomes a truth, after all.
The best thing is that this lie not need to be believed to have its effect. American newspapers and the world at-large could report their skepticism, but American-Pakistani relations would be preserved. The trust between America and Pakistan would be destroyed, but the two countries never trusted each other in the first place. Pakistan would be furious, but it’s furious already anyways.
A Final Thought
It’s possible that in fact the administration is actually lying right now about these two “truths.” The fact that Bin Laden was shot unarmed is probably true (what benefit does the United States get from lying about that?)
But maybe high Pakistani officials did in fact cooperate and acquiesce to America’s operation, and now both governments have fooled us all. That would be the ultimate, however unlikely, mind-bender.