Posted at 11:25 AM ET, 05/02/2011

Conspiracy theories surrounding Osama bin Laden’s death


Osama bin Laden (By Mazhar Ali Khan/The Associated Press)
After the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was confirmed by President Obama late last night, celebrations quickly sprang up outside the White House and near Ground Zero in New York City.

But some people aren’t celebrating yet. Instead, conspiracy theories are being formulated about the more ambiguous aspects of bin Laden’s death. Why isn’t there a photograph of bin Laden’s body? Was he actually buried at sea? Did they really use his sister’s brain? We run down the occurrences and coincidences that are starting to spur skepticism and conspiracy theories already.

Buried at Sea

Bin Laden was reportedly transported from Pakistan to Afghanistan for DNA analysis, then was taken to be buried somewhere in the northern Arabian sea, according to a U.S. official. The Post reports that the U.S. government did not want there to be a gravesite that could be used as a shrine. The exact location of Bin Laden’s final resting place may never be known. Some conspiracy theorists doubt that bin Laden is dead because the body was disposed of so quickly. Others take issue with the lack of photographic evidence.

Slate’s David Weigel points to this comment from the Facebook page of anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in 2004 while serving in Iraq: “I am sorry, but if you believe the newest death of OBL, you're stupid. Just think to yourself--they paraded Saddam’s dead sons around to prove they were dead--why do you suppose they hastily buried this version of OBL at sea?” Weigel believes this is the beginning of a larger trend he tentatively calls “Deatherism.”

‘Mission Accomplished’ Anniversary

Yesterday was the eighth anniversary of President George W. Bush’s so-called “Mission Accomplished” speech. To some, this coincidence is an opportunity to use “Mission Accomplished” as a rallying cry — to show that almost 10 years after 9/11, the mastermind of the attack is dead. Others may see this as not a coincidence, but a carefully planned public relations act.

The 9/11 Confession Video

Bin Laden originally denied having any involvement in the 9/11 attacks. "I would like to assure the world that I did not plan the recent attacks, which seems to have been planned by people for personal reasons," bin Laden said in a statement to Al Jazeera in 2000. But a 2001 video released by the Pentagon showed a man the Bush Administration believed was bin Laden confessing to planning the attacks. Many conspiracy theorists said the video was a politically motivated fake.

Zombie Month

Bin Laden was identified through facial recognition and DNA provided by the brain of his deceased sister. Two Obama administration officials said the DNA test proved that they had bin Laden’s body with 99.9 percent confidence. But is it just a coincidence that yesterday was the beginning of Zombie Awareness Month? (Undoubtedly, yes.)

Bin Laden and Pakistan

Despite being one of the most wanted men in the world, bin Laden was reportedly able to live in a luxury compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan — only 65 miles from the capital city — undetected by military forces. Some critics are questioning this. “How could [bin Laden] be in such a compound without being noticed?” Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Fox News Monday morning. Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Hussein Haqqani, said his government “had no knowledge” that bin Laden was in the country. The Post reports that “a Senate hearing on U.S.-Pakistan relations is scheduled for this week.”

This post has been updated.

By  |  11:25 AM ET, 05/02/2011

 
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