The Obama administration deftly shaped the media coverage of its prized kill by detailing a picture-perfect, morally unambiguous special forces operation, which culminated in the death of Osama bin Laden. Most of the details of that narrative have now unravelled, but the conventional wisdom that the tale established remains.
As Glenn Greenwald put it, that's par for the course: “the narrative is set forever by first-day government falsehoods uncritically amplified by establishment media outlets, which endure no matter how definitively they are disproven in subsequent days.”
In his address to the American people, and in subsequent media briefings by senior officials, we were told that a small force of as many as 25 Navy Seals stormed the compound with orders to take bin Laden alive, if possible.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that once inside the compound, they came under heavy fire and “were engaged in a firefight throughout the operation.” The SEALs killed Osama bin Laden's son when he lunged for them on a staircase, and finally encountered their quarry in a bedroom, where, after taking a woman believed to be his wife as a human shield, bin Laden died in a vicious fire-fight.
The operation, Obama said, was carried out “with extraordinary courage and capability.”