Monday, May 2, 2011

Obama Gets Osama

Even though the media coverage of the death of Osama bin Laden has been wall-to-wall, ESPN of all places ran it on their bottom-of-the-screen score ticker, I still felt like I should throw in a few of my own comments this morning. First is that along with giving credit to the SEALs team that carried out the operation on Sunday, credit also has to go to the Obama Administration for their careful handling of the intelligence leading up to the raid. I thought this graphic posed by several friends on Facebook this morning was pretty hilarious:



The raid came after six months of dedicated intelligence work that had narrowed bin Laden's likely whereabouts from a region in Pakistan to a specific mansion in the city of Abbottabad. The administration handled this analysis the way that covert intelligence should be handled – quietly, smartly and without fanfare. Unfortunately the same can't be said for some Congressional staffers who apparently leaked news of bin Laden's death in the hour ahead of the President's official announcement last night after their respective bosses had received courtesy calls from members of the administration to give them a heads-up about the soon-to-be breaking news. It shows again how Congress today, sadly, is more interested in self-promotion than in actually doing anything useful for the country. Those leaking staffers should all be fired. Today.

Other thoughts. I wasn't surprised that bin Laden was caught living in a city rather than hoping from cave to cave like a mountain goat. Ever since former Bosnian Serb president and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic was captured after years on the run living a fairly public life in Belgrade, Serbia where he had reinvented himself as some kind of alternative medicine guru, I thought the cave-hopping scenario for bin Laden was pretty unlikely.

Bin Laden's death does provide some valuable lessons to any others who find themselves the target of a global manhunt. First is not to live in a mansion owned by a pair of unemployed brothers; one reason why intelligence officials scrutinized the bin Laden compound was that it was built in 2005 supposedly for $1 million, yet its owners of record were unemployed and apparently lacking assets of their own. Blending in is also important. Analysts were further tipped off by the fact that this million-dollar home lacked Internet or phone service, something you think you would add if you were going to spend seven-figures on building a house. And they burned their trash unlike everyone else in the neighborhood who just used the curb-side refuse pick-up; perhaps bin Laden should have invested in a good quality paper-shredder instead if he was that worried about security.

I also have to admit that the mission leaves me feeling conflicted about Guantanamo Bay. I've been critical of the “eternal imprisonment” of some at Guantanamo Bay. Last week's Wikileaks story that US officials believe roughly ¾ of the prisoners there haven't actually done anything to warrant being locked up forever, but that they're being kept in prison “just in case” didn't do anything to improve my opinion of the place. Yet the intelligence chain that led to the death of bin Laden apparently started four years ago from intel gathered from a Gitmo prisoner about a trusted bin Laden courier, who happened to be one of the owners of the Abbottabad mansion. It does make you at least have to take another look at the utility of the place.

Finally, the death of bin Laden provides a great opportunity for the United States to declare victory and come home from Afghanistan once and for all (ironically this is the eight-year anniversary of George W. Bush's infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech on Iraq). The United States didn't go to Afghanistan to build democracy or fight for women's rights or to build schools or any of the other myriad of reasons that have become attached to the Afghan War. Or mission was simple: capture or kill Osama bin Laden and dismantle al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The capture or kill part has now been accomplished, and the fact that he was hiding out in Pakistan in the first place is pretty clear indication that al-Qaeda no longer exists in Afghanistan at least as a viable force. If this isn't victory I don't know what is.
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2 comments:

Love what you do, do what you love said...

We differ on our political views, but I beleive you got it right here. It is hard to judge others who have different information than is available to the general public. My only objection is your post should read US gets Osama. Obama was in the right place at right time. I have to believe any of the main 2008 Presidential candidates would have made the same decisions that led to teh death of Osama.

Just my thought!

Ed Hancox said...

Fair enough point, but there was a lyrical quality to Obama-Osama I couldn't resist. It was still a tough call for Obama to make, it didn't seem like there was a rescue option if things went bad for that SEAL team. And it's worth noting that Clinton passed on a likely chance to kill OBL - granted that was pre-9/11.
Thanks for reading.