Posts Tagged ‘Seal Team 6’

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.”