Posts Tagged ‘Osama bin Laden’

Doing What He Said He Would Do

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Okay, now I’m now in danger of the backslapping that my conservative uncle said Democrats should stop, but I can’t resist posting this one.

Talking Points Memo has the history and the video for us.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

One of the weirder aspects of the death of Osama bin Laden is the degree to which Republicans do not want to credit Obama for his success in bringing bin Laden to justice.

The week after bin Laden was killed, my uncle (after an initially magnanimous response) wrote to me that Obama deserved the credit for “authorizing the raid,” but that Democrats should “quit slapping yourselves on the back,” since we wouldn’t have known anything about bin Laden if we didn’t torture people and “if you guys had your way” there would be no SEAL Team to get bin Laden. He then proceeded to list his oft-repeated parade of horribles (of course all Barack Obama’s fault) that the country should now be focusing on.

Of course, that’s not factually correct, nor does it reflect the position of  Democrats. But more importantly, the death of bin Laden is probably the best news for the US (with the possible exception of Barack Obama’s election) in the past 10 years. It makes sense to spend some time celebrating it before we go back to bemoaning how f-ed up things are and blaming them all on Obama.

In addition, Obama deserves more than just “credit for authorizing the raid.”  Of course little clues gathered here and there throughout the years helped, but the bulk of this operation was conducted during Obama’s time as president and with his team running it. Not only did he “give the final go ahead,” (as another of my conservative sparring partners said) but he devoted more resources to the hunt for bin Laden than were previously devoted to him; his team presided over the surveillance of the house he was in; they built mock ups of the building and planned down to the smallest detail, and (practice makes perfect) executed it without a single American casualty.

Instead of just flying a drone over and bombing the location, Obama decided (in the face of a divided counsel) to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and send these guys in commando style without informing Pakistan. This (by the way) is exactly what he said he would do during the campaign and everyone of his political opponents (from Chris Dodd and Hillary Clinton to John McCain) criticized him for it. Furthermore, he insisted that the force be larger than initially planned for so that it could return fire if the Pakistani’s attacked the SEALS. This is the reason that another helicopter was on hand to blow up the one that crashed. Instead of risking more lives (and causing even more headaches for us) he gave the approval to kill bin Laden instead of capture him.

Obama Adminisitration counterterrorism advisor John Brennan called the decision to authorize the raid “one of the gutsiest calls by any president in recent memory” In case you thought that Brennan was an just administration shill, Bob Gates (Bush I CIA Director, Bush II Defense Secretary) put it in even stronger terms on 60 Minutes:  

I worked for a lot of these guys and this is one of the most courageous calls — decisions — that I think I’ve ever seen a president make.

I’m thrilled for the country that we got bin Laden, but I am also happy that Obama was the one to get him. To me, it validates the type of operations that Obama’s team has focused on: targeted, surgical strikes that are lethal, but don’t involve large scale invasions of other countries in parts of the world that doesn’t like us very much.

As Jon Stewart points out, listening to Republicans like Andy Card say that “I think (Obama) has pounded his chest a little too much,” is laughable. Andy Card was the Chief of Staff to George W Bush when he landed a plane on an aircraft in a flight suit in order to celebrate the end of a war that we are still fighting 8 years later.

In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that happened.

Like I said (and the Obama Administration has stated many times) these things don’t happen overnight. Certainly the Bush Administration’s work contributed to the death of bin Laden. But the army of Bush Administration Officials who took to the airwaves to claim credit for accomplishing this mission just aren’t credible. As Stewart notes, “they’re like the Winklevoss Twins of getting bin Laden: If you were the guys who were gonna kill bin Laden… You woulda killed bin Laden.”

Mac Is Back: John McCain Sets Record Straight on Torture

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Here’s Greg Sargent on John McCain’s push back to Condi, Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al’s argument that evidence gained by torture led to the death of Osama bin Laden.

Nice development. Wasn’t sure if we were going to see the old McCain again.

Obama’s Big Week

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

What a surreal week Obama must have had leading up to the raid on bin Laden’s compound.

On Wednesday, the White House finally had enough and Obama took the extraordinary step of holding an impromptu press conference to announce that he was releasing his long form birth certificate. The birth certificate was released in advance of the press conference, so the nation was treated to the split frame of Donald Trump landing his oversized helicopter in New Hampshire and the podium in the White House where Obama was about to speak. 

In a ridiculous press conference in an airport hanger, Trump stated (multiple times) that he was  ”really, really proud of myself” and “really honored” that he had just wasted months of the nation’s time on a conspiracy theory with (very) thinly veiled racial overtones.

Just after, a visibly annoyed President Obama took the podium, announcing that he had released his birth certificate, stating, in an obvious shot at the guy who was just on everyone’s TV: 

We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers….We have better things to do. I have better things to do.

Conservative blogs snickered as Obama headed to Chicago to tape an episode of Oprah. Meanwhile very few people in the world knew just how pressing the “better thing” Obama had to do was.

On Friday morning, Obama gave the final go ahead for the raid on bin Laden’s compound. He then traveled to Alabama to visit the devastation wrought by tornados and meet with victims. Then it was on to Cape Canaveral where he met with Gabby Giffords and made a speech to NASA.

On Saturday, the president did 15 minutes of stand up comedy at the Washington Correspondents Dinner, which featured him just savaging Donald Trump  (Jon Stewart later said that he tuned in to “The Celeberity Apprentice” on Sunday just to see if it had made a visible mark on him). As he was doing a standup routine that mostly revolved around making fun of the the birthers, a SEAL team in Afghanistan was preparing for the raid on bin Laden’s compound.

By mid afternoon the next day, Obama was huddling with his national security team in the White House Situation Room and watching the raid unfold. By 4:00, he was informed that bin Laden has been tentatively identified and by 7:00, they knew for sure.

At 11:00, he announced to the nation and the world that Osama bin Laden has been killed.

All in all, not bad for a week’s work.

The Photo

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Here’s Rachel Maddow on the evocative photo taken in the White House situation room during the raid on bin Laden’s compound.  

There has been much speculation on what was going on at the time the photo was taken, but Hillary recently said that she may have just been suppressing a cough:

I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs. It may have no great meaning whatsoever.

Certainly that is possibe, but look at everyone else in the photo. They are all staring intently at that video screen. As with all snapshots in time, it’s open to interpretation. I was thinking that this could have been the moment that the first helicopter went down. Everyone in the room thought for a moment that this could be Desert One all over again. Any guesses how many people were thinking of Jimmy Carter at that moment?

Bin Laden’s Decade Ends With A Whimper

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Like a lot of Americans, I had a little more spring in my step on Monday with last Sunday’s news that justice was finally served to Osama bin Laden at the hands of an elite SEAL team.

It seemed surreal, but it was some of the best news that this country has heard in a long time.

Ten years can go by quickly in this life and September 11, 2001 sometimes seems not so long ago. But watching the college kids celebrate in front of the White House I was reminded that they were 8, 9, 10 years old when the Towers went down and that they had lived most of their conscious life in the post 9-11 world.

There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then, but 9-11 shaped most of America’s history for the past decade. Two months after 9-11, we launched the War in Afghanistan and it now ranks as our nation’s longest war. Even the best case scenarios envision us fighting there for years and maintaining a presence for even longer.

Mere months after the War in Afghanistan began, Bush Administration officials had pivoted and were already using 9-11 as justification for an invasion of Iraq. Just over a year after the Afghan war began,  in a vote held just before the mid-term elections, the US Congress voted to give the president the authority to invade Iraq. In March 2003 we invaded Iraq and the rest (as they say) is history.

Both wars looked like easy victories for the country, but as the insurgencies in each country dragged on, the wars bogged us down, sapped our collective energy and drained the Treasury of over a trillion dollars. Meanwhile, the specter of bin Laden hung above our heads, taunting us via video from some shadowy undisclosed location. Despite our 12 aircraft carriers stationed around the globe, we still couldn’t find the man who knocked down the towers with 11 men armed with box-cutters.

Last Sunday’s raid put all of that to an end.  To be sure, we still need to maintain our vigilance as a country and there will almost certainly be more attacks in the future. Bin Laden may be dead, but Bin Ladenism survives, as do the splinter groups of Al Qaeda. But it seems like a large weight has been lifted. The circle has been closed and justice has been served.  

The day after the raid that killed bin Laden, I watched Richard Engel being interviewed from Benghazi and he commented on the coverage he had been watching on Arab satellite TV. He said that, while the headline news story on Arab TV was the death of bin Laden, as the day wore on, the stations began to talk more about the “new core issues” of the revolution in Egypt, the revolution in Tunisia, the uprising in Syria and the war in Libya

There was almost a sense that bin Laden was a man of the past decade, and a lot of people in the Middle East want to put him behind them…. people wanted to focus on what really will matter for the future of the region going forward for the next ten years, and that is these uprisings.

Bin Laden dreamed of establishing a caliphate governed by Islamic law that would stretch from Spain to Afghanistan. But if the events of the past few months are any indication, the muslim world will be looking more to the freedom and liberty that those of us in the West cherish than to the fanaticism and strict religious rule of Sharia law that Osama bin Laden offered.

The sense that bin Laden was a figure of the past decade was mirrored here in the United States. I remember where I was when I watched George W. Bush’s “bullhorn moment” at Ground Zero and I remember thinking that I was watching something critical in American history. When Bush responded to a firefighter who had yelled that he couldn’t hear him, Bush yelled back into the bullhorn:

I can hear you. The people of the world hear you…And the people who knocked down these buildings are going to hear all of us soon.

It was raw. It was tribal. It was cathartic. It was one of the most iconic moments of George W. Bush’s presidency. 

Similarly, Rudy Giuliani also inspired America with his resolution, moral certainty and competence in the face of crisis.

Years later, the image of Bush at Ground Zero was replaced in the American psyche with one of him landing on an aircraft carrier in a ridiculous flight suit and making his “Mission Accomplished” speech. His leadership after 9-11 was tainted by using it as a pretext to invade Iraq. Similarly, the memories of Giuliani’s bold leadership were replaced with the equally strong sense of political opportunism that Joe Biden famously characterized as “a noun, a verb and 9-11.”

As I watched President Obama escorted by Mayor Giuliani to a firehouse in New York, I was struck by the sense in which bin Laden, Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush were, in many ways, men who defined the past decade.

The ethereal terrorist in fatigues and turban who haunted our national conversation for the past ten years is gone. Our last image of him is not as a menacing terrorist, but a hunched over old man watching videotapes of himself on a tiny TV.

An era is ended and a new era begins.