By Joel Brinkley

May 4, 2011

Even as the world celebrates the death of Osama bin Laden, I also find myself utterly furious with Pakistan. The nation has betrayed us, once again.

It strains, even shreds, credibility to believe that no Pakistani in authority knew that the world's most wanted man was living a few miles from the capital, less than half a mile from a major military base. All that Pakistan has had to say about this since Monday morning -- I don't believe a word of it.

At first, even President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held back and offered indirect praise for their Pakistani "allies."

But then Monday evening, John Brennan, Obama's counterterrorism chief, simply couldn't keep up the lie. He told reporters: "I think it's inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time," at least several years. "We will pursue all leads" to find out "what sort of support system and benefactors that bin Laden would have had."

There's no way bin Laden could have lived in Abbottabad, a well-off suburb of Islamabad, in a heavily fortified house, far larger than any around it, for at least five years, in the middle of a military town -- with no one but American intelligence officials aware.

What nation would allow such a place to be built less than half a mile from a major military base without at least asking a few questions?

By now all of us know about Pakistan's duplicitous double dealing. While taking $22 billion in American aid over the last decade, the nation's intelligence service has consistently supported the Haqqani network and other terrorist groups whose sole purpose in life is to kill Americans in Afghanistan.

Last month, Pakistan's prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, traveled to Kabul for a meeting with Hamid Karzai, the equally duplicitous president of Afghanistan. Gilani encouraged Karzai to drop his strategic partnership with the United States and throw his lot in with Pakistan instead -- saying America had failed them both.

Karzai might well have gone along -- if not for the $100 billion the United States spends on the Afghan war each year, healthy portions of which wind up in the pockets of Karzai, his friends and family members.

Last week, Pakistan's military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, speaking to the military academy at Abbottabad, proclaimed that Pakistan's military has successfully cracked down on al-Qaeda militants and was "fully aware of the internal and external threats faced by the country." Standing on his roof, bin Laden might almost have been able to hear that.

In Islamabad, government officials are squirming. Prime Minister Gilani, asked about bin Laden's death, said the government simply didn't have "minute details of the incident." In previous weeks, he and other Pakistani officials had angrily demanded that the United States pull all of its intelligence officers out of Pakistan and end the drone attacks on the nation's tribal areas.

All of that resulted from the arrest in January of Raymond Davis, an American intelligence contractor who shot two Pakistanis who were trying to rob him. Pakistanis erupted in fury when it became clear that American intelligence operatives were secretly at work in their country. Now we know what they were doing.

So here we have U.S. Navy seals carrying out a brazen armed assault in the heart of Pakistan, with no Pakistani involvement. What's a government to say? We knew about it; we endorsed it? That would bring deadly riots.

Hours after bin Laden was killed, Prime Minister Gilani met with Marc Grossman, the U.S. diplomatic envoy to the region. Afterward, terrified of his own people's reaction, the prime minister's office issued the vaguest, most guarded and obtuse statement I could imagine.

"Gilani emphasized the need for constructive and positive messaging from both sides on today's operation," it said. "The sensitivities in this regard must be given due importance rather than giving it a spin." In other words, don't blame us.

In Washington, meanwhile, Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, claimed that his government simply hadn't known that bin Laden lived just 35 miles from his country's capital.

"If the Pakistani government had known that Osama bin Laden was there, we would have got him," he said on CNN. "We did not know, we had no knowledge. And if we had knowledge, we would have acted on it long ago."

Don't believe a word of it.


Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent for the New York Times


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