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Nothing but the truth

Published Jul 16, 2012 06:03pm


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“Any last questions before I say goodbye?” I chirped, closing after several days of lecturing at the Diplomacy and Global Governance summer school at London Metropolitan University.  London was humid, drizzly and the buildings around the university stifling in a decay that was unromantic – I was pleased to be concluding my summer stint in the city. A young Russian, perhaps the most vocal in class raised his hands. A smile curled his lips. “Can you tell me was Bin Laden really killed? Did he ever exist?”

Although my assignments in Iraq, Sri Lanka and Slovakia were spoken of, over the past couple of weeks, the insights shared most with students centered around Pakistan – both my time working at the Foreign Office and now as a visual artist. We spoke about the intricacies of government-to-government relations between Britain and Pakistan and looked at people-to-people diplomacy – how ordinary citizens are bridging gaps that less credible actors are unable to make. One area we honed in on was strategy.

In foreign policy terms, the higher profile the issue, the more it draws the interests of the analysts. I saw it happen with Iraq and Afghanistan and it’s happening too with Pakistan. The word “terrorism” also brings crowds. Reports, studies, surveys, polls – all attempting to make sense of it all – and many contradicting one another.  For the noble truth is that if you look at any given situation for long enough you will see straight through it and out the other side. A quest to cover all angles, if uncoordinated and left to run out of control begins to tear at the very fabric of the issue. My oft-quoted favourite philosopher, Jean Baudrillard is critical of opinion polls in his essay, The Masses. “People are always supposed to be willing partners in the game of truth, in the game of information. It is agreed that the object can always be persuaded of its truth; it is inconceivable that the object of investigation, the object of the poll, should not adopt generally speaking, the strategy of the subject of the analysis, of the pollster.” I have seen for myself in Iraq how dangerous it is to rely on surveys conducted by soldiers with guns as an absolute truth.

So strategy becomes clogged, it slows down with the weight of analysis and progress to solutions stalls whilst strategic direction is argued. In the case of Pakistan – I shared with the students some headline findings all taken from real bits of research. It was a crude and roughshod affair.

In half an hour the group of mainly Russian students learned of the Pakistani’s love for cricket and hockey; levels of literacy and mobile phone use; partition and the legacy of the British Colonialisation; the complex relationship that Pakistan has with it’s military; and the million-strong Pakistani diaspora in Britain – as a legacy of the Mangla Dam Project. I also shared my film work, the process behind it and the trip to Karachi to make it. One student asked me how I managed to find ordinary people in Pakistan. And all seemed surprised to learn that the sight of a non-Pakistani with a film camera drew smiles from children, waves from passers-by and many “ordinary” and “extra-ordinary” strangers who were keen to help and take part.

“It’s not actually what the media tells us what Pakistan is like” one girl stated. Bingo. If there is only one message that I hope the students take back to Russia with them it’s that. In Perceptions of Evil, I wrote that whilst we might all acknowledge mistrust in newspapers and the broadcast media, there is evidence to suggest that we, nevertheless build our perceptions of events, people and places by what the media tells us. Every consumer of news media needs to be awakened to the fact that as cynical as they might be, they are building perceptions based on the information they are receiving. The “truth” many news consumers receive about Pakistan is that it is of a backward, flooded nation, with extreme religious views that are prone to slide into violent acts every five minutes. A country of veiled, oppressed women who spend their days preparing hot curries for their husbands who return home to throw acid in their faces.

The media can play a positive societal role as self-appointed “truth finder” with investigative journalists honourably risking life and limb to uncover wrongs, but when it slides into a permanent fixation on the bad, the overwhelming effect is not truthful.

The only reference made to Bin Laden all week, was to discuss Sohaib Athar – the IT consultant who tweeted from Abbottobad during the raid on Bin Laden’s home under the name of @ReallyVirtual. His messages offer the news consumer something more credible and trusted. Yet, as his Twitter name suggests, in a very Baudrillardian sense, he can’t be taken as offering absolute truth. This is one man’s view.

So I return to the question. Is Bin Laden really dead – did he ever exist? My alter-ego – a paranoid conspiracy theorist who has driven himself to distraction – would have been delighted by the question. But I was disappointed. Perhaps I had provided such fresh insight into Pakistan and my various roles at the Foreign Office, that the student considered I might be a holder of one or more noble truths?

“Can you live with the fact that for events such as these – the Death of Bin Laden, you might not ever know an ultimate truth? Or that there might not even be an ultimate truth?”

The student nodded. “Yes, I think I can”, he said. At which point I disappeared in a puff of smoke and left them wondering if I had been there at all.

Caroline Jaine is a UK based writer, artist and film-maker with a background in media strategy, training and diplomacy. Her book  A Better Basra, about her time in Iraq was published in August 2011. More about Caroline’s work and her contact details can be found here and on facebook.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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Caroline Jaine is a UK based writer, artist and film-maker with a background in media strategy, training and international relations. Her main research interests are in the perception of places and people as presented in the media. Her book A Better Basra, about her time in Iraq was published in August 2011.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (62) Closed

Khan Jul 16, 2012 10:20am
Osama is Alive not dead
Mr.T Jul 16, 2012 10:20am
@Caroline Jaine, we might never know how he dies or he really exists or not but he is not the first controversy or conspiracy which the world don't know about and i believe it wont be the last controversy and conspiracy, It's a simple rule make a enemy, then make him worth to be a opponent then kill him, so you get the idea now... But now world is more aware through media that how conspiracies works except from the people of third world or countries like Pakistan. It's time of every thing even if its dinosaurs, Pharaohs, Roman, Tatars or Mughals they came they rule now they are history, So are their people who lived at that time. We have to choose our path whom should we follow to be remember in history in good or evil to leave the path of our next generation.
Nick Jul 16, 2012 09:43am
Ed you said beautifully .
ikram Jul 16, 2012 11:29am
this what all is happening had to happen
Jokers Jul 16, 2012 10:22am
both the countries
ghaleezguftar Jul 16, 2012 11:33am
Did you read the book "The Puppet Master"? it has nothing in it despite whatever the name suggests! World governments are being run by Intelligence agencies and their armed forces. Apparently elected leaders are blackmailed and hijacked that is why we dont see peace coming despite more technology, education and awareness. Secrecy has become the world's worst enemy and we don't know it!
Jokers Jul 16, 2012 12:55pm
India and Paksitan will be fighting always but they don't know how much they are losing...only they are getting blood, poverty and illiteracy... That's what they want...right my dear indian/pakistanies.... Guys...look at other countries and they leaving so much peaceful lives. God bless you both.
Neo Jul 16, 2012 11:18am
i can't believe people still wonder if OBL was a actual person or a US conspiracy and whether he was actually killed or still living. either these people are fools or the ones who confess to have seen the dead OBL are oscar deserving performers. lets assume he was not in abbot'bad, then what the heck were US choppers and navi seals doing in the heartland of pakistan, when they know that doing so would surely jeopardize the already strained relations with pakistan... are they so dumb to ignore that case.. ?? if not, then surely it has to be a very very significant reason for them to raid and then boast about it.
Bin Laden Jul 16, 2012 10:36am
Only healthy criticism is appreciated.
Practical Jul 17, 2012 10:13am
Patriot u r a real Patriot because u hear what u say personally " We are peace loving people" What about the daily killing in Karaachi, Quetta, Lahore etc Is this your defination of "Peaceful".
Vimal Jul 16, 2012 11:02am
Ahmed, look within your political circle. Can any party ever utter anything aganist Islam. Every single political party in Pakistan has looked down on minorities, just because you all share the same views does not mean everyone is a saint. This is from a person who returned to India after facing attrocities in Pakistan for being a HIndu
Patriot Jul 16, 2012 12:42pm
I live in Rawalpindi which is not so far away from Abottabad, where this whole drama happened. I think there are many questions unanswered in the so called raid, like why was not our intelligence agency informed of the raid. We have caught so many people for them. Secondly and the most important. Why wasn't his body displayed or given back to his family so that DNA tests could be done. Even enemies have death rights. And lastly why was the US administration so keen on hushing the matter. I believe that they might have killed him a long time ago in the tora bora. The drama was staged only to pressure Pakistan. We are peace loving people. Our dear neighbour is always ready to malign us. What a hypocrisy? They say they want friendship and keep a dagger in their midst
Hasnain Jul 16, 2012 10:46am
:S Dude, we live without knowing the truth about most things. Not our top priority. People are hungry and dying. People here are preoccupied with gaining access to food and security, and not the truth
Naseema Perveen Jul 16, 2012 11:02am
it is a very debatable issue whether Bin Laden is dead or not... it may be an another joke that Bin laden is DEAD or HE may NOt be....
Baba Sidni Jul 16, 2012 11:01am
Big deal, if we can't find out, weather Bin Laden was for real, we as a senseless mob have been living on lies for generations, and now we don't care. We have evolved now to become a dumb society.
Syed Jul 16, 2012 12:06pm
who cares?
Peace Jul 16, 2012 10:50am
The truth of matter is we both do!
abdulahh Jul 16, 2012 10:50am
we can said that what happening in pakistan every day bomb and killing is PAK govt conspiracy ....! every one know that hundred of terrorist camp thrive in pak why dont pak govt act??
irtaza Jul 16, 2012 02:22pm
What's this? the admin is deleting my comments for no reason Dawn is anti free speach
shah Jul 16, 2012 02:39pm
It is all about power and money those who have them they can make the lie truth and truth lie.
Ali Jul 16, 2012 02:49pm
You have great questions and I do not like to reject OBL death but will add some logical scenarios: 1) what if the navy seals were never there? 2) What if the the choppers were not there either and all made up. 3) Maybe that is why one was left looking like a crashed chopper for the media. A few facts: No bullet casing were found on the site. Also no DNA test carried out by Pakistan not even to clear suspicions.
Indian - reloaded Jul 16, 2012 10:15am
No, in my neighbouring country :)
viju Jul 16, 2012 10:38am
Yes. In afghanistan
Indian Jul 16, 2012 08:31am
Bin Laden might be dead but there are numerous Bin Ladens still out there, especially in my neighbouring country.
ed adelmann Jul 16, 2012 08:54am
bin laden's death...another drama staged and produced by US govt..similar to the 9/11 drama...killing its own innocent people n blame it to bin laden....attack the poorest n most back ward country with latest n most dangerous weapons....welcome to US govt...there r millions of other lies, not 1 or 2...its a war driven Dracula needs blood to survive, US needs enemies...and if doesnt find one, it creates one.
Pakistani Jul 16, 2012 09:11am
Yes in my neighbouring country :)
Ali Jul 16, 2012 02:53pm
U just noticed that.
Bakul Jul 16, 2012 02:57pm
Your analysis may be true for Pakistan. There may be some countries like that in this world. But surely, the entire world is not like that - thanks to democracy.
Krish Jul 16, 2012 04:24pm
This Alice in Wonderland kind of article can do justice for those who wants to pass over the entire record of history of the last century, not just of the sub-continent, but of a divided Germany post-War. For those who have a sympathetic mindset for the millions who got displaced in home and hearth, both in Europe and South Asia, you write-up, may actually rub salt in the wounds. Well, so be it !
Neo Jul 17, 2012 12:18pm
@Ali - if you can recollect the entire saga, then you would remember that the choppers were first spotted by a pakistani blogger who was fortunately or unfortunately online at that moment in abott'bad. so he was the first one to witness it. if choppers were there, then surely navy seals too... it doesn't need any logical explanation and for your last one, mate, they don't need to leave anything on that site if they ought to.. that crashed chopper was the only glitch in a very successful operation. i bet you wouldn't even find the remaining dead bodies on the site if that chopper would have intact.. as for the bullet casings, those can be cleaned up.. now why these crucial evidences and DNA tests were not left for pakistan is the thing you need to ponder on... its quite obvious for the rest of the world though.
Kamran Khan Jul 16, 2012 05:33pm
What if Pakistani administration was also part of the whole drama? What would you say? If they were offered money for conducting a drama in Abbotabad. I doubt they would have denied the amount of the money they were offered in return.
Agha Ata Jul 16, 2012 05:43pm
You said, “..., you might not ever know an ultimate truth? Or that there might not even be an ultimate truth?” It maybe a very long title, but one can write a whole book on this subject. Billions of man hours have been wasted on thousands of mysteries with a hope to find the ultimate truth, whereas just the line above could be the answer to any of those mind boggling mysteries. ONLY IF we knew the difference between wether there may be an ultimate truth that we can know or there may not be an ultimate truth at all. Only if! I have read many accounts as to who said this prayer, and I am sure you know the prayer, and it is very close to what you said. The prayer ends with these words. “…and the wisdom to know the difference.” Only if …. !
Mr.T Jul 16, 2012 05:46pm
i think you change your id from khan with pathan...
Sam T Jul 16, 2012 06:19pm
You need help. Please see a doctor
True Pakistani Jul 16, 2012 06:54pm
- india and pakistan will always be 'fighting' (even though pak army always takes to its collective heels when faced with the indian soldiers) so long as there is pak army, the most corrupt organization any where in the world.
yousapzai Jul 16, 2012 07:01pm
Everybody, kindly read the article again, its not about India or pakisan or that matter it is not even about Osama ben Laden. Its an abstract topic where she uses osama as an example.
Razzaq Jul 16, 2012 07:17pm
OBL was killed and rightly so.Any more OBL in making must be killed and killed soon and ruthlessly to save the lives of innicents.
Hakeem Cann Jul 16, 2012 09:25pm
The question is not about physical death of ABL, but the satanic legacy he left behind. His thurst for humen blood, especially the Muslim blood in Pakistan is a living hell for ordinary humen, left alone the christians, sikhs, hundus, ahmadis and the shias. I hope and wish he is burning in the 7th depth of hell for the crimes he commited and is still on.
HumanBeing. Jul 17, 2012 03:56pm
Agreed with all what you wrote except exploitation of YOUR NATION ? Which nation ? Pakistani ? This would be joke of the year!!
Prabhu Jul 17, 2012 02:09am
given back to his family so that DNA tests could be done. - The DNA test was conducted against his son and confirmed. Even enemies have death rights. - Enemy is differnt and Terrorist is different. Enemy is someone who fight you standing infront of you. Terrorist is someone who deserves no rights. And lastly why was the US administration so keen on hushing the matter. I believe that they might have killed him a long time ago in the tora bora. The drama was staged only to pressure Pakistan. - Who hushed it. It was done a like brave Achillies and they did it successfully. Again about pressuring Pakistan, they why Pakistan sent the doctor who helped US to 30 years prison. No smoke without fire.
Prabhu Jul 17, 2012 02:10am
We are peace loving people. Our dear neighbour is always ready to malign us. What a hypocrisy? They say they want friendship and keep a dagger in their midst - You must be kidding. You kill thousands in India every year and accuse that we are trying to malign you. First all your politicians and Media said the 10 mumbai attackers are not even from Pakistan and showed the clips that the villagers saying there is no in liven in their place with that name. Later Dawn unfolded everything and your goverment expected. Thats the respect your contry gives to your own citizen and you are asking about giving death rights to Terrorists. Against this, all the killed terrorists are buried with full Islamic rights in India though many muslim clerics in india refused to do the final rights as they are terrorists.
HumanBeing. Jul 17, 2012 03:52pm
They(us) can do such raids many times, their technology is 1000 times better than Pakistani Army's one! With regard to strain in relations with Pakistan, Pakistan was supposed to be guilty of sheltering OBL, this is enough to cover!!!
Muhammad shahzad Jul 17, 2012 02:45am
Asama Ben laden is never lived in Pakistan this only the american propaganda which are spreading around
kashif Jul 17, 2012 02:56am
I can not stop myself laughing. very good Bin Ladin "Only healthy criticism is appreciated."
B R Chawla Jul 17, 2012 03:49am
Who says Bin laden is dead. He is very much alive, vibrating and kicking in the guise of thousands of Terrorists and Talbans who strike at will on the innocent and hapless citizens with the blessings of the radicals home grown with bless ins of Bin Laden. He shall not die. At best he can be eulogized like the demon king Ravana of the Hindu mythology. Much as he is burned year after year he feels rewarded for his sinful acts. Chawla
virendra kaul Jul 17, 2012 03:53am
Peace and friendship is a two way street. You cannot do a "Kargil" or a "Mumbai" and not admit it, take no action on the perpertraters and then say let us start it afresh. Words like "strategic depth" and Jihadi factory in my backyard don't help peace process. When you grow from a 'Patriot' to a 'Statesman', you will see the difference.
Virendra Kaul Jul 17, 2012 03:55am
Conspiracy theories, a hit selling item in Pakistan.
Dixit Jul 17, 2012 04:44am
Please yaar... sach ko maan kyon nahi letey. The first step to get rid of evil is to accept that it is evil......simple..isn't it.
Girish Jul 17, 2012 05:29am
So his wives and children were actually yours wisehead ?
Sylvester India Jul 17, 2012 05:31am
A blind patriot is a liability to the nation. You had Obama's children and widow. If OBL wasnt there - let go of poor Dr. Afridi at least !
Bilal Berberi Jul 17, 2012 06:38am
100% agree with you Irtaza! Anti of all speeches contradicting their policies.
Ali Jul 17, 2012 06:43am
For Obama to remain alive had to kill Osama. Simple as that.
Komal S Jul 17, 2012 06:56am
So what if you lived close to Abottabad, Your whole defence forces were caught knapping! As a pakistani you should be thankful they did not hand over the body to the family or pakistani authorities, it would have been a huge nightmare to deal with. It was good that US did not want to gloat over this incidence. Of course you can imagine conspiracies.
Saadia Jul 17, 2012 07:00am
Usama bin Laden - living or dead- was not at all killed or even found by the American forces. If he had been why did USA threw his body without making it public? We all know how much Obama and American force were desperate to catch Usama. They all just dramatized it so they can save their neck at the time when they are losing in Afghanistan at the hands of Talibans. Plus they just wanted a way to pressurize Pakistan and exploit our nation
Saadia Jul 17, 2012 07:06am
only God knows the truth..
ISH Jul 17, 2012 07:36am
Rofl on this thread...never expected such comments at the bottom of such serious article..
Shubs Jul 17, 2012 09:03am
I can say with a 100% certainty, that if the US Navy helicopter had not crashed, the biggest conspiracy theory in Pakistan would be that the raid did not take place at all...that it was just a hoax.
kanwal Jul 17, 2012 09:10am
Pakistanis dont buy conspiracy theories deae Virendra. I know many many indians, mind you they were nt muslims, who believe heartily in Tere Bin Laden. Lol
soul of reaper Jul 19, 2012 05:22am
soul of reaper Jul 19, 2012 05:23am
usama is in the heart beat of every mujahid
Neo Jul 20, 2012 07:26am
this state of living in denial even when things are crystal clear to the entire world is gonna cost you your country Naseema.. god help pakistan and its people.
Ali Jul 20, 2012 07:32am
Patriot - hypocrisy on you my dear friend.. you just need to wake up and smell it.... why US didn't informed pakistan about the attack or even gave them a chance to do the DNA tests have obvious reasons known to the entire world... they were wise in throwing the mutilated body of OBL without showing it to the entire world too.... guess what, that act saved the world with another few 1000s of revengeful terrorists. they are busy with conspiracy theories now :)