"This is a sorry sight", said Macbeth in William Shakespeare's play, looking at his bloody hands moments after he murdered King Duncan. His wife thought that's a foolish thing to say, and when she noticed he had brought the bloody daggers from King Duncan's bedchamber, she thought him even more foolish. She told him he must take the daggers back, place them with the King's sleeping grooms, and smear the grooms with blood. Macbeth, however, was so shaken that all he could do was stand and stare at his bloody hands, so Lady Macbeth took the daggers from him. When she went to do the job she thought he should do, Macbeth still stood and stared.
He then asked himself if all the water in the world can wash away the blood: "Will all great Neptune's blood wash this blood / Clean from my hand?" And he answers his own question: "No this my hand will rather / The multitudinous seas incarnadine, / Making the green one red."
The gruesome scene passed through my mind when I read the Telegraph this morning that the White House is backtracking on how Osama bin Laden died. The latest account - not the final account, most certainly - admits that the initial account was riddled with errors. So, the initial claims that the al-Qaeda leader had died while firing an automatic weapon at commandos have been withdrawn, with President Barack Obama’s spokesman admitting “he [Osama] was unarmed”. A dramatic description of bin Laden using his wife as a “human shield” and forcing her to sacrifice her life also proved to be false. The woman was still alive and was taken into custody with several of the terrorist’s children.
In an embarrassing climb-down, Barack Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, admitted that the previous version of events — which came mostly from the chief US counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan — had been put out “with great haste”. The Telegraph says, "The about-turn left the US open to accusations of a cover-up."
To be sure, contradictory versions have begun appearing from Islamabad. The Pakistani authorities now say they had co-operated with the US and had kept the building under surveillance since 2009, which completely rubbishes Obama’s account of a four-year CIA operation to identify bin Laden’s hiding place. The Pakistanis also suggested that their soldiers had raided the building in 2003 — two years before the building was even built, according to the US — looking for another senior al-Qaeda operative.
So, what about the earlier report that Obama and Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state and other senior officials had watched the assault on a live feed provided by a camera mounted on the commando's helmets? The White House is yet to figure out a cogent explanation. Maybe, let us hear the final, authoritative version from Obama himself, duly certified in a sworn affidavit by Clinton who was first witness of the carnage in Abbottabad? The issue isn't as simple as it seems. Navi Pillai, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has already posed the uncomfortable question whether the US operation in Abbottabad was consistent with international law.
Things are indeed becoming murkier and murkier. Osama's blood cannot be easily washed away from the fixtures in the Oval Office. So much calumny has gone into the making of the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Lest we forget, Taliban was prepared to compromise with George W. Bush and hand over Osama for standing trial on 9/11. But, no, Sir, the Texan president wanted a full-fledged invasion of a decrepit country and the massacre of its desperately poor people as a mark of bloody retribution. Obama knows that the national mood still continues to be the same, as the obscene scene of American women and men celebrating in front of White House baying "USA", "USA" amply testified.
However, history is for posterity. The investigative journalist and author Gareth Porter once again reminds us that this entire slice of history since 2001 was completely unnecessary. The chilling facts are: i) Taliban offered to hand over bin Laden in October 2001; ii) Taliban dropped the pre-condition that Americans must come up with evidence of bin Laden's complicity in 9/11; iii) Taliban was desperately seeking a face-saving formula to avoid confrontation with the US, but "Cheney and Rumsfeld were determined not to allow a focus on bin Laden to interfere with their plan for a U.S. invasion of Iraq to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime."
Like Macbeth's predicament, will all the clout over the information order that is at its command, the White House is fumbling, unable to cope with regimentation of the flow of current history. So rapid is its flow and the streams out of Abbottabad are mixing with the rivers of blood flowing out of the Hindu Kush, Mesopotamia and the Libyan deserts. It seems there were 23 children and 9 women in the compound in Abbottabad at the time of the assault. They were apparently "handed over" to the Pakistani authorities. By whom? When? Where? Maybe, we won't know as the dead don't tell tales. But then, the living witnesses can speak, can't they, some day?