'Booking' Secrets: Laden Classified?

Osama bin Laden was a huge industry when alive. He continues to be one in death, shrouded in mystery. No surprise, then, that ‘No Easy Day’ by a former Navy SEAL has topped the charts. Matt Bissonnette used the pen name "Mark Owen".

Had I read the book, and the contradictory version the administration provided about Osama being armed when the author states he was not, it would not make a difference to the question of secrecy in putting forth one version of truth.

The Pentagon probably did not expect it, so they said they would slap a case.

The Huffington Post quoted an official as saying:

"Also interesting is that according to the letter, to sue for (civil) damages, they would have to show that he not only violated his agreement, but that he did reveal classified information. I think that will be difficult for a lot of reasons. Maybe they are just trying to scare him."

It is obvious that if they take him to court, then it will be expected that they provide the secrets. That would be counter-productive.

There are several reasons for a book of this kind to become a best-seller. 9/11 is embedded in the minds of not only Americans but most of the world. The rationale varies. A defiant Osama continued sending videos from his hideouts. He became the face of terror, although he probably did not know who was on which mission. There is every possibility that he got more credit than he deserved.

When they got to him, it turned out to be a scene from the theatre of the absurd. Starting with the ridiculous reference to his house as the “Abbottabad mansion”, a rundown place with a room in which a figure bent over a squat TV screen, porn DVDs and sexuality enhancing drugs in the draws, all this right in the middle of the army quarters in Pakistan, leading to the battle scene. Then came the stories about groceries and chicken purchase, the wives fighting with each other, the sons being kept away from jihad. Finally, the body taken in a bag and given a sea burial. The solemnity of a video conference, the victory of ‘we got him’, the refusal to release pictures, the contradictory statements – this was more Laden territory.

To call this “one of the most successful military and intelligence operations in U.S. history” is probably not entirely right, for if Pakistan could keep him, then they could hand him over.

Yet, it is a book like this that will do more for the US government. It is after all, their man who is revealing classified information.

But what when the government uses an event, as it did with artefacts of 9/11 that I had written about here?

We see it in the world every single day in some form or the other. Blood-stained artefacts – a word that itself is vicarious – do not reveal history. Personal recollections are often unique. History is connecting the chains and an ongoing process of exorcism. The external demons often get internalised. Commemorations, such as this one, seek to capitalise on sorrows unknown.

What really is classified anymore in a world of WikiLeaks and disgruntled officers and security staff all waiting to talk about their years with the men and women in power?

Secrets work well in literature. It gives the non-fiction genre an edge. Real people appear interesting – teakwood closets with skeletons tumbling out, idiosyncracies that rattle in the dark, truths camouflaged with falsity, and lies with truisms.

Powerful people have no way to ensure thagt their drivers, nannies, bodyguards, personal trainers, housekeepers, mistresses, toy boys, spouses will not at some point want to “bare all”. Reading is voyeurism, watching a world not one’s own.

How many stories about Marilyn Monroe have been there? Does one come any closer to the truth? It is a matter of perception. “Misery literature” does the same, with parents, siblings, children writing about a childhood they did not have – a denial of life becomes reason for a life to be related.

The personal space gets occupied by the subject, the writers and the readers. Somewhere along the way, secrets are shared.

In the case of the Osama book, it puts a government in a quandary. It is too recent for it to qualify as history and too late for it to be a real report. The insider is the deep throat – choke, swallow, gasp. Reality makes for good fiction.

(c) Farzana Versey

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