"If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties." — Sir Francis Bacon
When word emerged Sunday night that President Obama would be making remarks from the White House at 10:30 pm, viewers knew it must be important. When it began to leak that America had finally found and killed Osama bin Laden, there was joy from sea to shining sea.
The nagging pain that this radical Islamic assassin had never received American justice was finally relieved. Crowds gathered in front of the White House and at Ground Zero to chant joyously “USA! USA!” But for most, it wasn’t jubilation. It was the silent fist pump, and a silent prayer of thanksgiving for the safety of our extraordinary military.
Unfortunately, while the president spoke for the whole country in remembering the pain of 9/11, his remarks left a gaping hole. He made no generous bow to all the efforts of his predecessor George W. Bush as well as his team. My one regret is that Bush 43 didn't get this scalp. He deserved it more than anyone.
Instead, Obama played subtle and wholly undignified games. He underlined that Osama had “avoided capture” under Bush (but neglected to mention Bill Clinton) and “continued to operate” during his tenure. But “I directed” CIA director Leon Panetta to make getting Osama the “top priority” (as opposed to?), and “I” gave the go-ahead to the final mission. Obama also avoided Bush in a Medal of Honor ceremony on Monday afternoon. Even in a Monday night “bipartisan” event at the White House, Obama honored the “military and counter-terrorism professionals” and “the members of Congress from both parties” who offered support to the mission — but no credit for Bush.
If the roles had been reversed, you know Bush would have been more generous. It’s what Bushes do.
If ever we needed proof that politics is a land of make believe, the recent killing of Osama bin Laden is it.
The world is certainly a better place without this terrorist in it. But to judge from the orgasmic eruptions of everyone from journalists and pundits to politicians and students, an impartial spectator could be forgiven for thinking that the reign of Islamic terror or jihad had finally been brought to a close.
In truth, the reign of Al Qaeda hasn't even been ended. In fact, this terrorist organization just received new life from the martyrdom of the one man whose face has come to symbolize for untold numbers of Muslims unwavering resistance to the Infidel. It is critical to remember this.
Had George W. Bush still been president when the events that his administration set in motion reached their culmination this past weekend, Democrats would be among the first people to remind us of this. After all, it was the Democrats who, during the better part of the last decade, tirelessly cautioned Bush against supplying Al Qaeda with a recruitment tool via his aggressive foreign policy. That they now fail to recognize that the killing of bin Laden promises to be a much greater incentive than anything that Bush had done shows that their warnings were insincerely motivated.
They were, in a word, playing politics.
If the Democrats weren't playing politics, then they would also be lamenting the unapologetic displays of American chauvinism that chanting crowds of students and others have arranged on college campuses and other locations — including out front of the White House. For sure, bin Laden's death is something from which to derive satisfaction, but chanting "USA!" in response to it can't but strike Muslims similarly to the way that the chanting crowds of Muslims who rejoiced over the collapse of the World Trade Center struck us.
But Democrats not only refrain from criticizing these "arrogant Americans"; they have essentially chimed in right along with them.
If Democrats weren't just playing politics with Bush's prosecution of "the War on Terror," then rather than sing hosannas to President Obama, they would now be talking about bringing him up on criminal charges. The killing of bin Laden, for as richly deserved as it undeniably was, was nothing more or less than an assassination. Furthermore, it was an assassination that ensued upon the invasion of a sovereign nation. That this is so is borne out by the Pakistani government's claim that it was not informed of this American "kill mission" before it transpired.
Some friends of mine, along with many others no doubt, fear that this most recent episode will guarantee President Obama's reelection. Equally doubtless is that Democrats plan on exploiting this episode toward just that end. However, neither the nightmares of Republicans nor the dreams of Democrats are likely to materialize because of the killing of bin Laden.
Foreign policy issues will no doubt be trumped by $5 dollar per gallon gasoline, 9% unemployment, $1.65 trillion dollar deficits and escalating national debt. After the first Gulf War President George H.W. Bush’s popularity was at 89% and by the 1992 election it had dropped to a mere 29%. In essence his popularity was a mile wide, bit an inch deep. I expect this to be the same with Obama in 2012.
Obama may very well get re-elected or he may very well not; but with November of 2012 a year-and-a-half off, and with everything else that composes Obama's track record, it would be as foolish to place all of one's eggs in the bin Laden basket as it is foolish to think that the killing of bin Laden went any distance in harming Al Qaeda, much less Islamic jihadists the world over.
If Democrats weren't just playing politics during the Bush years, then they would now draw our attention to the fact that President Obama deserves no more, and arguably significantly less, credit for finding bin Laden than his predecessor, for the trail that lead to bin Laden was pieced together over a period of at least five years, long before Obama was elected to the presidency. And if Democrats weren't just playing politics, they would as well acknowledge that the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, as well as the "enhanced interrogation techniques" that were applied at rendition sites in Poland and Romania and that they so blatantly deplored, proved indispensable to assembling that trail.
If Democrats weren't playing politics against Bush, they would now warn us against confusing symbol for substance. The real "mastermind" behind 9/11, Khalid Sheik Muhammad, has been in our custody for years — i.e. long before the Obama administration was so much as a thought; bin Laden was for the most part a figurehead.
During a White House press briefing Sunday night, a senior administration official credited post-9/11 "detainees" with providing the links of information that led to bin Laden's $1 million dollar compound in Pakistan. According to a transcript of the call, a senior administration official said:
“Detainees in the post-9/11 period flagged for us individuals who may have been providing direct support to bin Laden and his deputy, Zawahiri, after their escape from Afghanistan.”
“One courier in particular had our constant attention. Detainees gave us his nom de guerre or his nickname and identified him as both a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of September 11th, and a trusted assistant of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the former number three of al Qaeda who was captured in 2005.”
“Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden. They indicated he might be living with and protecting bin Laden. But for years, we were unable to identify his true name or his location.”
“Four years ago, we uncovered his identity, and for operational reasons, I can't go into details about his name or how we identified him, but about two years ago, after months of persistent effort, we identified areas in Pakistan where the courier and his brother operated. Still we were unable to pinpoint exactly where they lived, due to extensive operational security on their part. The fact that they were being so careful reinforced our belief that we were on the right track.”
The New York Times, no fan of Gitmo or enhanced interrogation of terrorists, disclosed Monday that it has information indicating that the detainees are likely housed in Gitmo:
“One of the Guantánamo detainee-assessment files disclosed recently to WikiLeaks and obtained independently by The New York Times may provide a clue about the origins of the intelligence that led to the breakthrough.”
“That document, an assessment of Mr. Libbi, who was transferred from a secret C.I.A. prison to Guantánamo Bay in September 2006, discusses his interactions with a courier for Bin Laden — who is identified in the document by the initials UBL — in Pakistan. Footnotes to those sentences cite what appear to be C.I.A. accounts of interrogations of Mr. Libbi in 2005 and 2006.”
Waterboarding" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed during his detention in an overseas prison was crucial to Sunday's operation, according to Rep. Peter King (R-New York), appearing on Fox News O'Reilly Factor on Monday night. King linked his comments to his briefing by the White House Sunday night. He said:
“The intelligence that led the United States to find the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden came through the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Muhammed (KSM). The nickname for a courier of Bin Laden's was obtained from KSM through waterboarding, later confirmed by another detainee that was interrogated in 2007, according to King. It took U.S. Intelligence four years to identify who the courier actually was and follow him to the compound where Bin Laden was hiding.”
Bin Laden is dead because our intelligence officers who toil anonymously and our magnificent military operated under the law of war, not because a band of lawyers operated under the rules of civil procedure.
We're told that bin Laden was given a chance to surrender. He chose death rather than surrendering ultimately into the hands of lawyers.
As recently as March 7, Obama reiterated his commitment to close Guantanamo Bay. It remains open with no sign of closing. We also know that if Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder had had their way, terrorist detainees would be housed somewhere inside the United States, all lawyered up and claiming a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.
Those who remain unconvinced that using enhanced interrogation on terrorist detainees is effective and lawful should read "The Terrorism Memos: Shall We Be Clueless on Terrorism?" co-authored by Peter Ferrara, general counsel for the American Civil Rights Union. Ferrara and his co-authors conclude:
“We have reviewed the four challenged legal memos. As we will discuss below, they add up to 124 single spaced pages of careful legal reasoning reviewing all applicable statutes, treaties, cases, and word definitions, and applying that law to a thorough discussion of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques utilized under President Bush. We find not only that these memos involve a thorough, well-reasoned, praiseworthy legal effort and analysis. We find that their conclusions are correct under applicable law.”
Obama rightly credited the intelligence and military heroes who brought bin Laden to justice Sunday night:
“Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who've worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.”
“We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.”
If Obama intends to be "relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies," he should reject once and for all the policies and procedures that would treat war as mere criminal conduct. We must continue to avail ourselves of the courage, skill, and professionalism of the men and women serving in our intelligence community and our military.
It is altogether fitting and proper that the last thing a war criminal sees is the American flag on the helmet of the American military bringing him to justice.