White House’s story on Bin Laden take-down now changing




This is not helpful.  I have no idea what it must be like for the White House and the military to get their act together on such short notice, and to inform the world of the accurate details only hours after the attack.  Still, that’s no excuse.  Their credibility is going to be judged on their word.  They simply cannot get the story wrong on such basic details.

First we’re told Bin Laden was firing back, now we’re told he wasn’t armed.  Odd that he wouldn’t be armed.  And if the mission was to extract him alive, then why was he shot if he wasn’t armed (I couldn’t care less that he was shot, but we were told the mission was to get him alive, then why was he shot? or was it collateral damage?  And if so, why not just say that?)  Then we were told he held his wife in front of him as a human shield.  Now we’re told he didn’t.  We were told he was shot twice in the head, now it’s once in the head and once in the chest.  They had his body, how did they get that wrong and now get it right, when the body’s already gone?

This strikes me as unacceptably sloppy.  It also begins to call into question the other “facts” of the story.  What else did they tell us that at some future date we’ll find out they got wrong?  Mistakes are made, I get that, and accept that.  But you have his body, how do you get wrong where he was shot?  How do you get wrong that he was firing back when he wasn’t?  If you know the truth now, how didn’t we not know the truth then?  It’s a simple matter of asking our guys who were there.

This is a huge story, and hugely important, politically, but also simply important to all of us who suffered through September 11.  You just aren’t permitted to get it wrong, especially on details that seem rather easy to get right, and especially when you’re the President of the United States.

(And yes, it’s Politico.  But it’s Josh Gerstein, who I’ve dealt with repeatedly, and he’s a good guy and good reporter.  And in any case, Slate is reporting the same concerns.)

UPDATE: Slate seems to be suggesting that these kind factual errors are common in big stories the first few hours.  They cite Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch as an example of stories that ended up wrong.  Um, Pat Tillman was an intentional cover-up.  And the Jessica Lynch story wasn’t much better, as I recall.  Neither is what we should expect as business as usual from our government.

Then Slate talks about how the sources were anonymous, so we should have expected some error. No, our own Joe Sudbay was invited on one of those “anonymous” calls Sunday night. He was on it with a lot of top reporters, and a very senior administration official.  Just because we aren’t permitted to tell you the official’s name hardly exonerates the White House for hypothetically putting an official on a call who then gets it wrong.

If you’re not 100% sure of the details, don’t give them until you are.


CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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