Osama, Obama, and Us

(Image ganked from Andrew Sullivan)

And now, some further thoughts on the death of Osama bin Laden.

* In a very practical sense, bin Laden’s death doesn’t change anything, particularly in the short run. He’s been on the run for years, al Qaeda is designed to be decentralized, the scope of our military operations in the Middle East far exceed the boundaries of bin Laden’s group. Today we still have troops in Afghanistan, and their job there will not be any easier today than it was yesterday. The Middle East itself is not the same region it was a decade ago; it seems to have developed a home-grown taste for democracy. So on and so forth.

But in an existential and psychological sense bin Laden’s death makes a huge difference. Dude’s been out there for years, and the fact The Most Powerful Country in the World™ couldn’t get to him was an overarching narrative frame for much of what else the US did in the last decade. But in the end we did get to him, and the frame has changed. No longer was the US engaged in a futile pursuit of a man who killed thousands of our citizens and would die of renal failure far out of its reach; now the US engaged in a ceaseless pursuit, and in the end bin Laden received a form of justice from his actions, i.e., an American bullet in (or as seems likely more accurate, through) the brain that conceived of 9/11.

Changing the frame from “hapless” to “implacable” means something to us as Americans and also, I expect, means something to others as well, particularly for the folks for whom “bin Laden is laughing at the US” was part of their worldview. What effect the existential impact of bin Laden’s death will have on the practical life of the US and the rest of the world over the long term is something we’ll get to find out in the coming months and years. No matter what, however, bin Laden will still be dead, and that has a cathartic, and I optimistically suspect in the long run useful, finality all its own.

* In the immediate aftermath of Obama’s announcement of bin Laden’s death last night I saw some folks on my Twitter feed note that it was too bad we killed him rather than captured him and put him on trial. I would have been happy with that as an outcome, but I can’t say that I would have been happier with that outcome than what actually happened. Bin Laden killed in a firefight with US operatives, none of whom were killed? All right then. No complaints on this end and good shooting.

There would have been some pleasure in seeing him in the dock, being confronted with his crimes, ably represented by the best defense his money could buy, getting buried by the evidence, and then kept in a tiny cell for as long as we could keep him alive. But inasmuch as I expect that bin Laden was akin to the types who maintain that a fringe on a court flag means its a court of the admiralty and therefore can’t try them for tax evasion — and was perfectly happy to have murdered lots of innocents in any event — this works too. I don’t imagine bin Laden was hoping to spend many days in a courtroom, either. In this one thing I don’t feel it to have been much of an imposition to oblige him.

* As the image at the top of this entry suggests, the fact that a closet Muslim socialist WHO ISN’T EVEN AN AMERICAN is the one who gave the order to kill the bogeyman who has haunted the US for a decade will be a terribly inconvenient fact for a lot of folks. Well, let it be. If only for it moment, it serves to remind us that the job of a president is a serious one, while the job of tearing down a president can be done by morons, and often is. This definitely puts Obama’s birther jabs at Donald Trump over the weekend at the White House correspondent’s dinner in a whole new context; as someone else has noted, Obama’s not a guy you want to play poker with, because he’s got the straightest face in the business.

People are already speculating what this means for Obama in 2012. I think it means that any rumblings about a Democratic primary challenge are now done. It also makes it more difficult for the GOP to paint him as Carter II: The Quickening, although of course they certainly will try to do so; they can’t help themselves, and I think at this point the Democrats would invite them to keep trying. In a larger sense, if the economy falters Obama will still be vulnerable in his quest for a second term. But if it’s coming along, then 2012 won’t be a happy presidential election cycle for the GOP. Dude had bin Laden killed. Kind of hard to top.

176 Comments on “Osama, Obama, and Us”

  1. Probably couldn’t have put him on trial anyway, given the obstacles that the Republicans (and not a few Democrats) have erected to any reasonable legal process for trying terrorists.

  2. “Dude had bin Laden killed. Kind of hard to top.”

    If you think Obama is directly related to the killing of bin Laden, you’re wrong.

    Yes, he authorized the final mission, but the intelligence that lead to this point began four years ago. Obama wasn’t even in office.

  3. “Dude had bin Laden killed. Kind of hard to top.”

    Won’t faze the die-hard anti-O cabal. “Show us the body,” they’ll say. Then, “Oh, sure, buried at sea. How conveeeenient.”

    Seriously, though, more important than the effects on the closed world of American politics could be the aftermath in Pakistan. If because of this, the ineffectual government falls to extremists, then we’ve got Osama-clones with nukes.

    And so the fun continues.

    Still, nice to see Obama step up where Bush stepped aside.

  4. @Theophylact — my thoughts exactly. He was never going to be “on trial” anywhere.

  5. PS. Don’t forget that the intelligence was garnered at Gitmo. The place Dems et. al. wanted shut down. Remember??

  6. I’m pretty sure little things like facts don’t sway anyone who thinks Obama’s a foreign Muslim socialist. However, for any reasonable people who might have been vaguely doubting of his effectiveness, hopefully this puts them on the straight and narrow.

  7. “As the image at the top of this entry suggests, the fact that a closet Muslim socialist WHO ISN’T EVEN AN AMERICAN is the one who gave the order to kill the bogeyman who has haunted the US for a decade will be a terribly inconvenient fact for a lot of folks.”

    Fact? I’m sure there’s already a conspiracy theory web-ring (remember those?) out there centered around the belief that this has all been faked, and there’s no body, so there’s no proof. Blah blah blah, wag the dog, blah blah blah, want my country back, etc…

  8. DH:

    “If you think Obama is directly related to the killing of bin Laden, you’re wrong.”

    Well, except for that part where as President of the United States, he authorized the specific mission that ended with bin Laden’s death. Which is pretty damn direct. The fact you feel obliged to brush aside that highly integral part of the chain of events (along with, implicitly, a number of other aspects of this event that can only take place at the level of the president) suggests a level of obtuse partisanship that doesn’t incline me to give your view of events any sort of credence.

    Which is to say: Peddle it somewhere else, DH.

  9. DH,

    Just because it was developed at GitMo doesn’t justify Gitmo. Who knows–the intelligence may have never been developed had there been a different process, or it could have emerged in 2005 and this could have been Bush’s triumph.

  10. I’m generally not a fan of this administration and its policies, but I’m impressed by the fact that he made the call. Obama ordered US special forces into a country we’re (mostly) allies with and didn’t tell their government we were doing it. That is a gutsy decision, and I’m glad he made it. Bravo, Mr. President.

  11. Best status update last night from my network of facebook friends:

    My guess for tomorrow’s lead on Fox and Friends: “Isn’t it WEIRD that President Obama was able to find Osama Bin Laden so easily? I mean, President Obama says he’s not a muslim with violent ties, so we’ll have to just take his word for it, but you’ve got to admit, he found him pretty quickly!”

  12. “This definitely puts Obama’s birther jabs at Donald Trump over the weekend at the White House correspondent’s dinner in a whole new context; …”

    Not to mention the leadership changes at CIA and DoD announced last week. I can easily see “promoting” the DCI to SecDef after pulling together the intelligence case that led to Sunday’s op.

  13. If this had turned into an Operation Eagle Claw then Obama might as well started penning a speech about the national malaise because the next year and a half wouldn’t have been pleasant. Add in that they were going into a friendly country which would probably go into national apoplectic fits if it had turned out bad.

    So high tension call? Yeah pretty much.

  14. This is going to really inconvenience the warmongers in Washington. After all, Bush kept bin Laden around for a reason, he needed a universal bogeyman to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, crush civil liberties and generally belligerenize the US.

    And now Obama comes along and has the bogeyman killed, just so he can win the next election. Really shows how Bush had a much better view of the long term and big picture.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the globe is simply thrilled at the now official US policy of sending out armed squads with explicit orders to kill individuals into whichever damn country they please. So much more honest. Can we please have your border guards too?

  15. Regrading the whole idea of “show us the body”: If OBL isn’t really dead, don’t you think he’ll have something to say about it? He did appear to have access to a recording device and at least a decade’s worth of envelopes and stamps, remember.

  16. “After all, Bush kept bin Laden around for a reason”

    I hope you’re being tongue-in-cheek, otherwise…

  17. I remember when all the late night jokes were “who are the Democrats going nominate to lose to Bush back in 1990/91 during Desert Storm”. Bush had a 90% approval rating at one point. Clinton won based on a marginal economy and a third party candidate (and great campaigning). I would say with $4 or higher gas, Obama is toast even if he gets all the troops home in the next two years. He is a fantastic campaigner, but he has a record this time and a record is the worst thing a great campaigner can get saddled with.

  18. The afterglow will soon be off and the GOP will find a way to give Bush all of the credit for this. But, for those who seem to think that Obama did not matter, that it was just a coincidence that we managed to find bin Laden now, I remind you of these quotations:

    “I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.”
    – G.W. Bush, 3/13/02

    “I am truly not that concerned about him.”
    – G.W. Bush, responding to a question about bin Laden’s whereabouts,
    3/13/02 (The New American, 4/8/02)

    “And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda.”
    – Barack Obama

  19. ben:

    “I hope you’re being tongue-in-cheek, otherwise…”

    Yeah, agreed. I think the argument that Bush wasn’t making the effort to capture/kill bin Laden is no more accurate (or less obtuse) than the argument that Obama deserves no credit for taking bin Laden out.

  20. True, al Qaeda won’t die immediately. But without Osama’s millions, it will be slowed down. Perhaps we can look forward to some infighting among high-level terrorists who want to take over the operation. They can take each other out and save us some trouble.

  21. The one aspect of a trial that could have been bad is that it would have invited hostage situations on a grand scale. If bin Laden were sitting in a US jail anywhere in the world, what would we do if massive numbers of US citizens in foreign countries were simultaneously abducted and threatened with death if bin Laden wasn’t released? I agree a trial would have been more civilized, but it would also have been much more dangerous. As it is, I think we can expect reprisals. I think we should try to avoid overt acts of celebration partly for that reason. But I’m happy no US soldiers were hurt.

  22. I have to ask you about this, because I’m interested to see where you stand on this, Mr. Scalzi.

    bin Laden is dead, and that’s a good and necessary thing. The guy did heinous things and was irredeemably bad news. But how did the televised public reactions to the event hit you? I personally found all the Mardi Gras-esque celebration to be a little grotesque and naive. It’s not that I’m not happy he’s gone, but people were acting like it was the end of WWII all over again. And while the victory was huge, morally, it was hardly THAT significant. Al-Qaeda was dealt a blow, but the sad truth about fanatics is that they can bounce back from damn near ANYTHING including.

    I could be way off base here, but seeing all those smiling faces, made me wonder: did the families who actually LOST someone in 9/11 react this way or was it more of a quiet relief that some form of justice has been brought to the murderer of their loved ones.

  23. In my ideal fantasy world, Bin Laden would have been caught back in 2002 by President Gore, tried for his crimes in the world court and sent to prison. Part of his sentence would be that every few years, he had to Interview Barbara Walters so we could all watch as he slowly became a sick and shattered shell of his former self. Then, in the fulness of time, he would die silently of old age in some jail cell.

    But you know, a bullet to the head works just as well.

    I’ve never cheered for the death of anyone but I’m not going to loose any sleep over Bin Laden being hunted by a ruthless military force of elite soldiers, executed with precision by the craft of trained killers. I’d like to believe that justice is something best dispensed by the law rather than form the barrel of a gun. But I’m old enough now to realize — and to accept — that we human animals have a taste for blood and vengeance. It isn’t noble but then neither is killing 3000 people for your imaginary god. Today, there’s a little less evil in the world. I’m willing to take that, however it was achieved.

  24. On the “Show us the body” topic, I’ve got a few of thoughts.

    1) If we are going to go on for years regarding a stupid long form Birth Certificate, people are going to want proof that Obama is dead and it isn’t “some Muslim conspiracy arranged between Obama and Osama to fake his death” or some other whacko theory

    That being said,

    2) Osama Bin Laden was the leader of a group of religious extremists who were willing to kill massive ammounts of civilians to further their agenda. That same religion also has very specific rules regarding the treatment and burial of a body. Killing Osama is a good thing, being seen by Al Qaeda, other radical Muslims, and the larger Islamic world as descrating a corpse is not.

    Some people might see that desecration as just or deserved in light of Osama’s crimes but doing so won’t bring his victims back, it will only put additional Americans (soldiers and civilians) at risk of reprisals.

    The message has to clearly be “We killed Osama because he was a evil douchebag not because he was a Muslim evil douchebag.” Respecting the Islamic burial rites was one way to make that distinction. The problem is that “radical religious extremists” don’t always think logically what with the radical extremism and what not.

    I just hope that the American government (not just Obama, not just the military) has substantial evidence to back their asses up. Granted, I don’t think they would have went public without it but if we really can’t afford to fuck this up.

  25. Also, does anyone see the similarities between the general public response and the end of Return of the Jedi?Ewok Party!

  26. It is far from a war ender, but definitely one of the biggest morale boosts possible. It is indisputably some real closure for those who lost dear loved ones on 9/11. I also think that even though the war and terrorism will continue and the Al Qaeda will remain a threat, this will add to some of the huge history making revolutions going on in the Middle East. I’m intrigued to see if this adds to the unrest and massive push for democracy in the dictatorial oppressed nations. In the western front, it has given Obama a much better shot at being reelected in 2012. A historic moment, indeed, and with an ending fit for a summer blockbuster.

  27. #24. I felt disconcerted by the celebrations, but I would add that most of the real partying seemed to be done by people who were probably about 8 years old when 9/11 occurred. I also saw any number of people in the news footage who were at Ground Zero or otherwise being interviewed who were relatives and loved-ones of people who died during the attacks and although they seemed relieved, none of them seemed jubilant.

  28. I hope the first thing bin Laden saw when he opened his eyes in the afterlife was a spawn camper with an RPG.

    Yeah, maybe I need to cut back on the video games.

  29. The President gets high praise from me for this. He took a lot of risks when authorizing this operation and make no mistake: is authorizarion was necessary.

    He sent in a team on to foreign-friendly soil without informing them and killed people.

    And the mission was very risky given that it was in a town full of Pakistani military types.

    Kudos to the President, Seal Team 6, CIA covert Ops guys and the Air Force Special Operators that drove those Pave-Lows.

    Nicely done indeed

  30. Yes, he authorized the final mission, but the intelligence that lead to this point began four years ago. Obama wasn’t even in office.

    I’m guessing this is going to be the main talking point to come out of the emergency GOP spin sessions after the announcement: all the credit should go to former president Bush, who did everything but pick up the telephone for the final order, therefore Obama didn’t do squat.

    As Obama made abundantly clear in his speech, his role was pretty much to appoint and direct the people who do this stuff as their job, and then give them the go-ahead once their efforts finally paid off. But it’s amusing to watch the Cojones Gambit vanish right off the table for the 2012 election.

  31. Brandon: I thought the same thing, and wondered if I was the only person who found the images of people cheering and celebrating and waving flags outside the White House disturbing. I don’t often agree with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but I thought his comment about ‘sober satisfaction’ as an appropriate response was close to the mark.

    There’s a good article on the website ‘The Zeal and the Fury’ today addressing the issue:


    And it quotes a 9/11 survivor named Harry Waizer, who said “If this means one less death in the future, then I’m glad for that. But I just can’t find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama Bin Laden.”

  32. Thirdly, on the subject of “capture vs. kill” I think that capture is a very high risk scenario.

    1) Capturing Osama does introduce the strong likelihood of attacks against the American populace. Granted those attacks are possible in either case, but it eliminates hostage taking with the intention of negotiating for Osama’s release

    2) Where would he get tried? If you want a “fair” trial, good luck finding a unbiased jury. If you want a military tribunal, you would have to deal with overzealous ACLU types, etc. And god forbid the political response if somehow he (or his lawyers) found a loophole.

    3) Anyone saying that Osama gets life is a fooling themselves. While I believe the death penalty isn’t legal in New York, you can be sure America would find a loophole, even if they have to pass a 28th Amendment that applies specifically to Osama-type cases and waives “ex post facto”

    4) Who pays for his hypothetical life sentence? How would you feel knowing that your tax dollars were going to pay for Osama’s housing and health care for the remainder of his life? What would be the political response to that? Not to mention you can’t exactly put him in gen pop if you want him to last more than an hour.

    5) Osama probably didn’t have that much longer to live anyway. If we capture him and he dies awaiting trial, is the catharsis the same?

    6) What is the international response to this trial? There are a lot of open questions/possibilities there which are precluded by his timely demise.

    All in all, while the just thing would likely be to put him in jail for the rest of his life, the politically expedient action (both for Obama and the US government) was a bullet to through the brain.

  33. Voting aside, I usually don’t poke politics with a ten-foot pole – well, the normal low-level worrying of “how will we screw ourselves over next?!” aside – but I have to admit, that picture made me lol.

  34. yetistomper @36: At the risk of Godwinning the thread, we managed trials at Nuremberg on some pretty undisputably evil people; I think that if forced, we could have found a way to try Obama despite those meddling ACLU types and their dog. Which is a lot different than whether we should have captured and tried bin Laden: I don’t see any reason we should have. The guy wasn’t a head of state and he wasn’t ‘accused’ of anything. He was an open, avowed enemy. Those are the people we’re supposed to shoot at.

    Barbara @35: In the abstract, any loss of human life is a sad thing. But I’m not going to tell people hurt by 9/11 that they should keep it down a little.

  35. I am happy about this. If nothing else, it helps to restore my (possibly misguided) faith in some kind of justice in this world. Is it bad that one of the first things to pop into my head was the theme from Team America: World Police?

    As far as who will win in 2012, I think Democracy will win for once. Though this whole thing brings Trump’s candidacy to a new level of silly. If that’s the best one of the major parties can come up with, then America is in trouble.

  36. So, Bin Laden! How’s that “virgins” thing working out for you? Yippie ki yay, mo*%$&@#(%er!

  37. @mythago:

    In the abstract, I’d agree with you about the trial aspect, but we can’t even get a DOJ trial for the people we’re holding in Guantanamo. We managed it for KSM, and that’s about it.

    I dunno, maybe we can finally put some of this quasi-legal BS behind us as a country and go back to a legal system that actually functions, but it probably won’t happen unless Congress gets its act together and pushes back against the executive. Not likely to happen until we get the troops back from Iraq and Afghanistan, IMO.

  38. As far as the politics: Obama will now enjoy 3-6 months of high approval ratings, definitely above 50%, perhaps as high as 70%. Then again, so did GHWB after the first Gulf War.

    As far as the policy: Now that we’ve gotten the “face” behind 9/11, a lot of people are going to start questioning why we’re even in Afghanistan. Which means that the Afghan government, armed forces, and people now have a very small window of time to get their shit together before Uncle Sam starts looking for the exits. Americans have a very short attention span as is; lose the nation’s patience by being double-talking goldbricks and things go very badly.

    As far as the morality: Justice was done. That’s something worth celebrating. And to the dour “all life is sacred” types: don’t tell us not to be happy the man’s dead. That man renounced all claims to our mercy the second he started killing us. Whatever fate he got, he earned.

    As far as the funny: “Due to a last-minute casting change, for tonight’s performance the role of “Achmed the Dead Terrorist” will be played by Osama Bin Laden.”

  39. I don’t agree that this matters much for the 2012 race. Bush 1 saw the end of Communism and won Gulf War 1 LIKE A BOSS. In terms of Presidential arcs, the gulf war ended at about the same point in Bush’s term as Osama’s death for Obama.

    Bush I still got creamed at the polls, because of the economy.

  40. I for one would have been somewhat surprised if anyone had taken Bin Laden alive.

    I suspect that the special forces operators had quiet orders to ensure that he didn’t end up captured and on trial. Such an event, while positively reinforcing the rule of law and American ideals, would probably have led to a long and drawn-out affair, staged on the most public of stages, cementing OBL’s position as a “victim” of American imperialism.

    Better a quick bullet to the head and an anonymous watery grave, unreachable by supporters and unworshipable as a martyr. Preferably wrapped in bacon before they dropped him over the side….

  41. @Mythago in 36 – While that’s a good point, the political / legal systems are very different than they were back then. And I believe the Nuremberg trials were an international effort after a global war. Very different circumstances.

    And while Osama Bin Laden = Hitler is far from a perfect analogy, if Hitler had escaped to Argentina for years and he was finally caught by Israeli operatives in 1954, what would that trial look like?

  42. @Deano – The take Bin Laden alive was probably a quinternary mission objective

    1. Capture or kill Osama Bin Laden
    2. Minimize American casualties
    3. Gather intelligence on Al Qaeda members/missions/etc.
    4. Stay Hydrated
    5. Take Osama Bin Laden alive.

  43. mythago @ 38: I think what Barbara @35 and Brandon @24 were trying to say is that most of the anecdotal evidence they’ve heard of people who lost loved ones in 9/11, or people injured in 9/11 points to them celebrating more soberly than the majority of unconnected Americans seem to be. While I want to agree with Barbara and Brandon, I do see the flaw that it’s not a very scientific or accurate characterization, as I’m sure that more than a few people directly impacted by 9/11 will have joined in the Mardi-Gras-esque celebrations.

    At the same time, it is true that the people that I saw interviewed on CNN were pretty much talking about a “relief” and a sense of justice, rather than jubilation.

    I hope nobody is telling the people hurt by 9/11 to keep it down. (although I made that very mistake on my FB status yesterday, I see the Light now!)

  44. Sad but true. There will be those less intelligent people who will think this was a personal win for Obama.

  45. yetistomper @46: The circumstances were indeed very different; that doesn’t mean a trial would have been impossible, if there were any sensible reason to have one; we have a framework for international war crimes trials now. Which is, again, a bit beside the point. I would guess that the risk of losing American lives and the operation failing would have been astronomically higher if the order were “Kill his henchmen, but I want bin Laden alive and unharmed!” rather than “Just shoot the fucker.”

    MasterThief @42: The point, dour or not, is that mercy and justice are about our humanity – not whether somebody ‘deserves’ it. This is particularly true for followers of certain religions that believe all humans are created in God’s image and God’s mercy and forgiveness are infinite. Personally I think I can let go of aspirations to a better nature in this case.

  46. If the choice was capture or death, both sides would have probably chosen death. Osama Bin Laden being shot is a win for both sides. He becomes a martyr to his side and becomes more relevant than he was during the Arab Spring. (They’re already telling how he went down fighting.) The administration wins because they don’t have to go through all the motions just to reach the same result all the while giving him and his side a platform to denounce the U.S. and possibly raise insurgence.

  47. Good for Obama that when the opportunity came to rid the world of bin Laden he capitalized on it. I give most of the credit to the men and women who developed the intel and carried out the mission. Without their hard work we would be able to argue about who should get more credit for it.

  48. JS: I’m not missing that point, but let me offer a different perspective:

    Bush Sr. ended the communist threat and won a very popular war, which resulted in sky-high favorables (close to 90% for a little while), and lost to Clinton over an economy that was recovering from a low that, at its worst, was better than now. Right now, Obama’s achievement (and I give him all the credit he deserves for running down this lead relentlessly and giving the order to finish off bin Laden) is less than either of the ones that propelled Bush Sr. to such popularity, his poll numbers are peaking far lower, and the economic outlook is far worse than Bush Sr. was facing. Even a solid recovery is not going to help this moment retain the buoyancy to lift Obama into an easy 2nd-term win – even a solid recovery still puts us in a worse situation than Bush Sr. was facing.

    I don’t see Obama being able to turn this into an election-defining moment. It just doesn’t have that kind of narrative power. But I do salute him for his resolve, and I’m very glad he chose this course of action. Well done, Mr. President, and congratulations.

  49. @MotLy “There will be those less intelligent people who will think this was a personal win for Obama.”

    I do not consider myself to be less than intelligent and I have to say this was definitely a personal win for Obama. Bush clearly stated on more than one occasion that capturing or killing bin Laden was not a priority. Obama made it a priority from day one. Is it any wonder who managed to succeed?

    Funny how in the next election cycle all we will hear is the importance of “leadership”. Yet, in this case the same people seem to think it doesn’t matter who was the leader at the time.

  50. @Charles in 54: Didn’t Obama also once state it was a priority to close Gitmo? You’re fooling yourself if you think either president wouldn’t have wanted to announce Bin Laden’s death.

  51. It just goes to show how long it takes to develop actionable intelligence, and I am glad that President Obama decided to continue the policies of the previous administration. Its interesting to see how many people think this didn’t happen because of former President Bush, (the Democrat equivalent of the Birthers). Oh well, its not really surprising the partisan divide in this country is alive and well and has been since before 9/11; I think some one made the point above that this, like Desert Storm, does not guarantee anything for the President, the election of 2012 is still pretty far away and the bad economy and Guantanamo Bay is still around, which do you think is more important, our near problems or our far problems?

    Credit is due is where credit is due, Osama bin Lauden was killed under President Obama watch, that can not be disputed. But the President and his policies do not operate in a vacuum, and the previous administration policies helped developed much of the intelligence foundation that led to this successful operation.

    In the end this is simple good for America as a whole, we kill our enemies in the end, no matter how long it takes, so don’t fuck with us.

  52. @Deano#45 – I had the exact same thought, I could just imagine Obama explicitly but quietly saying he was not to be taken alive.

    I hope the guy who plugged him gets the MOH.

  53. @Dean #45: the order to kill was not quiet at all, the US goons are boasting about it quite openly: Reuters link . Change we can believe in!

  54. @Paul #56: we kill our enemies in the end, no matter how long it takes, so don’t fuck with us.

    Yes, and this is what makes people all over the world love you. To the point of suicide bombings.

  55. I just hate that this has to be a Bush vs. Obama thing. Can’t this be a victory for the members of the US Military and Intelligence Depts, many of whom have been training/working to defend this country before either man stepped foot in the Oval Office.

  56. Can I also just say that it’s sort of odd to see Sullivan, who was so obsessed with Trig Palin’s birth, snarking at anyone about any conspiracy theory at all.

  57. Paul @56: Since nobody has argued “all the intelligence and work on this started after Obama took office”, it’s interesting that you feel the need to try and refute such an argument. And ironic that you then complain about the partisan divide.

    Given that Obama contacted former President Bush before making the public announcement, and specifically (and in a positive manner) referenced Bush in his speech, I think it’s pretty safe to say that everyone is well aware that the hunt for bin Laden has been going on since 9/11. Unless you would have been willing to drag your toe bashfully in the dirt and say “well gosh, some of that intelligence was developed under former President Obama’s administration” if bin Laden had been killed on President Bachmann’s watch in 2015, then it’s a little disingenuous to jump up and down now complaining that Obama is a glory hog.

  58. I’m waiting for Fox News to explain how we have Reagan to thank for laying the groundwork for the capture of bin Laden.

    It’s going to happen.

    bin Laden’s death ensures that the next election will be 100% about the economy and that no Republican will mention the numbers 9 or 11 at any point in time (this also means that Rudy Giuliani will be incapable of speaking, which is all to the good) and it’s going to be really difficult to pin a “weak leader” button on him. The GOP will, briefly, cease to be the party of military might and be all about jobs and gas prices.

    Further note: I called it. When CNN annouced that there was a sooper-seekrit White House announcement coming up that wasn’t about Libya, I turned to my wife and said “We got bin Laden”. Confirmed 40 minutes later. Yup.

    Oh, and a big thumbs up to Wolf Blitzer who managed to fill nearly a full hour of air time without actually saying anything at all. That’s harder than it looks.

  59. Mythago #34: Re the Cojones Gambit, that’s kind of been my takeaway. I somewhat expect to not hear any more nonsense about Obama being made of materials softer than titanium, what with the authorizing that we go get bin Laden by way of a surprise invasion of a sovereign nation, nominally friendly, known to possess nuclear weapons. This is a non-zero quantity of balls, friends.

  60. #wingnutconspiracy Obama killed Osama as part of a power struggle for control of Al Qaeda. (Insert some nonsense about traditional tribal rules of succession here.)

  61. This isn’t “Death of Somebody Day” any more than VE day was “We Bombed Hitler Day” or VJ Day was “Killing the Citizens of Nagasaki With Radiation Day.” Folks are celebrating in the streets the end to … something. We don’t know what, yet. But it’s gotta be the end of something. My kid’s in freakin’ middle school and he doesn’t remember a day when he didn’t have to take off his shoes at the airport. I remember the weird feeling I had when the Berlin Wall fell and I knew that nobody was going to do bomb drills under their school desks again. Now, I know none of this is going away tomorrow. But the release of tension is great. So yeah, some people are screaming “Hell yeah!’ and ignoring the Puritanical shushers. Other people are hyperventilating quietly into paper bags. Others don’t know what they feel. Everybody I know is going to work today, taking lunch at the usual places, etc, though, so I think much ado has been made about a pretty moderate amount of jocularity.

  62. chaos @66: What amuses me is that conservative pundit David Frum, who I would gladly kick in the fork but whose intelligence nobody can dispute, got this a long time ago and tried to warn his fellow travelers. You don’t succeed in Chicago politics by being Captain Huggybear.

  63. chaos #66: Yeah, cause it’s really likely that Pakistan is going to avenge bin Laden by sending those nukes to NYC. I’m sure it took massive balls by Obama to do this, sort of like mocking the homeless during dinner at a 5-star restaurant.

  64. Today we still have troops in Afghanistan

    I’m not sure why. Al Queda is no longer in afghanistan. And the Taliban was never interested in attacking the US (well, maybe now that we’ve spent the last ten years bombing them, sure). And most americans actually support the idea of getting out. Politicians though seem afraid of getting cast as “loser”.

    the fact The Most Powerful Country in the World™ couldn’t get to him was an overarching narrative frame for much of what else the US did in the last decade. But in the end we did get to him, and the frame has changed.

    The big frame change I see is that we could conceivably spin this as victory in America’s war on terrorism and pull out significant troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and not have the politicians who support it be cast as “losers” who didn’t have the “strength to win”.

    I wouldn’t hold my breath. There’s a lot of money in waging war. On teh other hand, saving all the money would probably help the budget and deficit and economy.

    particularly for the folks for whom “bin Laden is laughing at the US” was part of their worldview.

    Suicide bombers expect to die. This won’t change their thinking that much. Maybe the support network and leaders will have less incentive, but people who’ve decided dying to kill someone else is OK won’t be terribly phased by this.

    Osama Bin Laden was in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets. The Mujahadeen fought the Sov’s for 8 years and eventually the Soviets pulled out in 1989. This gave Bin Laden the frame that a small group could take down a superpower. He then turned his sights on America. Al Queda’s first attack against the US was in 1992. The first attack against the WTC was 1993.

    But suicide bombers expect to die. They don’t even expect to “win”. All that generally drives them is an ultra black and white vision of “justice”. Atta, one of the masterminds behind 9/11, signed his last will and testement and offered his life to the cause in 1996, after seeing the Qana Massacre (an Israel attack against a Lebanese village that killed a hundred civilians) on the news. Five years later, he was flying Flight 11 into the north tower.

    So, overall, killing OBL wont stop suicide bombers as long as America as seen as committing grave injustices in the world (or doing so by proxy).

  65. @ # 62 mythago;

    I am not really refuting anything about where the intelligence was developed, simply pointing out because I think it is important. Nor am I commenting about the President speech, but am commenting on some of the things I have read here about how Bush didn’t go after Bin Laden because it was politically beneficial for him not to do so, which is ridicules. I can’t really answer a hypothetical, on a policy level I disagree with much of what the President has done to treating counter terrorism as a criminal issue; treating acts of terrorism as a crime and terrorist as criminals (IMO) is a mistake and would do terrible things to our criminal justice system if it happened; counter terrorism (preventative) and our justice system (punishment and deterrence) are two fundamentally different things with both different goals and approaches. In the end thou, he was killed under Obama so I can’t really say which way I would fall because President Obama has said one thing and done another.

  66. Tristan @71: Uh huh. So in his position, why, you would’ve just signed off on that one without a worry in your wee head. Remarkable. Given your spectacular grasp of international politics, I can hardly express how much it saddens me that you’re here, commenting on a blog, rather than making important national policy decisions.

  67. John,

    The point I was making was that this is a victory for America much more so than Obama. I can’t see this being a ‘political win’ at all. It was a confluence of events that happened to climax during his tenure.

  68. realistically, I don’t think Bin Laden had any chance of going to trial. If he did, he would have been convicted. If he was convicted, then why can’t we give all the other prisoners at Gitmo a trial too?

    And if you give them trials, then all that ugly information would come out about how they’ve been tortured, waterboarded, mock executions, real executions (about 300 prisoner deaths have been ruled homicides), and so on.

    And Obama wouldn’t want that harshing his mellow.

  69. Sihaya @68:

    This isn’t “Death of Somebody Day” any more than VE day was “We Bombed Hitler Day” or VJ Day was “Killing the Citizens of Nagasaki With Radiation Day.” Folks are celebrating in the streets the end to … something. We don’t know what, yet.

    The death of Bin Laden is fraught with a lot of symbolism. For the last decade, he’s been our national Bogey Man. Obama killed that Bogey Man (which explains why he can’t show us his real birth certificate as it would give away that he’s secretly Santa Clause). This has relieved a lot of psychic tension, even if it hasn’t altered anything operationally with our troops in Iraq/Afghanistan/Lybia or closed down GTMO. In the minds of many people, we got the bad guy. That’s what counts here. next week and next year, we’ll still have to deal with terrorism, but it will be manageable because it will be perpetrated by just a bunch of random dead-enders, not the shadowy cabal of our Enemy.

  70. Saith 007MerkinStyle@# 57, “I hope the guy who plugged him gets the MOH.”

    No. The Medal of Honor is awarded to a member of the military who “distinguish(es) himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty…”

    Awarding it to a SEAL who went in with overwhelming odds (the reports I recall seeing speak of 20 SEALs in the assault force, and three guards in the compound) and in the middle of a firefight shot a guy who “intelligence sources insist… saw combat only once, in a weeklong (artillery) barrage by the Soviets” would be cheapening the MoH to the point of meaninglessness.

  71. Nah, I wouldn’t, cause if I were in that position I hope I’d still have enough conscience and humanity left in me to try to do this by the book instead of ordering a execution “get-the-muthafugga”-style. But it’s preposterous to say it required courage on Obamas part to order this operation. Brutality and recklessness, yes, but not courage.

  72. Could we stop talking about this as if its the first time we went into Pakistan militarily?

    We’ve been sending in Predator drones there for a while now. How the hell do you think some drone flying at 10,000 feet knows which mud hut to shoot if there aren’t boots somewhere on the ground sitting in a duck blind with a telescope and radio???

  73. “In the immediate aftermath of Obama’s announcement of bin Laden’s death last night I saw some folks on my Twitter feed note that it was too bad we killed him rather than captured him and put him on trial. I would have been have been happy with that as an outcome, but I can’t say that I would have been happier with that outcome than what actually happened. ”

    I’m happier with the outcome as it is.
    Aside from other arguments against capture, the USA should not negotiate with terrorists. A trial would have been a negotiation of a sentence for justice. I don’t beleive it was necessary or the appropriate choice.

    Regarding celebrations: For 90% of Americans this is the closest thing to V-day we’ve ever experienced. I also think that like me, the majority are gleeful not over one man’s death, but over one nation’s perserverence that spanned a decade and two sitting presidents.

    Also, regardless of how effective of a blow against al qaeda this was, it WAS a blow. So, go team America!

  74. Paul@73: treating acts of terrorism as a crime and terrorist as criminals (IMO) is a mistake and would do terrible things to our criminal justice system if it happened;

    Oh lord.

  75. Jane@81: A trial would have been a negotiation of a sentence for justice.

    If the “frame” that comes out of this whole thing is that America needs more extrajudicial killings and less due process, then this country has truly gone down the shitter.

  76. Paul @ 73:

    Treating terrorists as anything other than the criminal thugs that they are buys into and promotes their posturing. They don’t have any magical powers that make them different from other criminals. They just kill people wholesale rather than retail, they’re not in it for (only) the money, and they’re better at manipulating public opinion. Insisting that they’re something other than criminals simply helps them with the latter.

    Well, not “simply”. Acting a if terrorists are special is also politically convenient for our politicians. There’s all sorts of things that they can get away with to “combat terrorism” that they’d have a harder time with if they treated crimes as crimes and criminal organizations as criminal organizations. (I doubt that this is a *conscious* ploy for most politicians, but given the set-up and prevailing sentiment, it’d be very hard to do effective pushback even if they were aware of the dynamic.)

  77. DH @75: Dude, we get it: You don’t want to give Obama any credit for this at all. That’s your business, but you can’t expect that to be very persuasive, especially since our esteemed host has laid out precisely why, politically, this is all to the win from Obama’s point of view.

    Paul @73: The idea that Bush would have deliberately kept bin Laden alive and under wraps, even if such a thing were possibly (the US couldn’t even hush up Abu Ghraib, for crissakes) is, if I may use the technical term, fucking stupid. That said, the hypothetical isn’t about Obama joining on in the imaginary secret conspiracy; it’s whether folks saying ‘this was all the previous administration’ would have said so if the current President were more to their liking. Say, if the announcement last night would have been by President McCain. I’m thinking that we wouldn’t have seen a lot of frowny “oh, he just picked up the phone, please, people” dismissal in that case.

  78. Paul @ 73:

    treating acts of terrorism as a crime and terrorist as criminals (IMO) is a mistake and would do terrible things to our criminal justice system if it happened

    Please get yourself to the Internet and look up such names as KSM, the Unabomber, Tim McVeigh, Eric Robert Rudolph, Army of God, NYC subway bombing plot, Time Square bombing plot, and you will see that not only is our criminal justice system able to handle trying people for terrorism, but it is robust enough to survive it too.

  79. Also worth pointing out vis-a-vis DH‘s repeated efforts to discredit Obama:

    Don’t forget that the intelligence was garnered at Gitmo. The place Dems et. al. wanted shut down. Remember??

    First, as of now, the only evidence that this is the case is coming from, of all places, Donald freaking Rumsfeld, possibly one of the few people “in the know” who has the least amount of credibility on the issue. And second, not all Democrats wanted to shut it down. And those who did–and this is a critical point–wanted to put those with actionable intelligence in other, better-run prisons. Your straw man to the contrary, no one was suggesting shutting it down and setting everyone free.

    Yes, he authorized the final mission, but the intelligence that lead to this point began four years ago. Obama wasn’t even in office.

    Actually, the “intelligence” that lead to this point started in the 90s, under Clinton. After an admittedly poor handling there, it was passed on to the next administration, who did a (literally) catastrophically worse job of handling it through August 2001, and then pulled a brilliant tribute to the Keystone Kops until 9/11. After failing miserably in Tora Bora in December, they waited all of 3 months before throwing up their hands and publicly proclaiming they were “truly not concerned” about him.

    I can’t see this being a ‘political win’ at all. It was a confluence of events that happened to climax during his tenure.

    Right, so it’s a win for those who had actionable intelligence 4 years ago, but not for those who, y’know, took action on that intelligence? Wow. I’m half expecting a request for a long-form death certificate.

  80. I think that it is a good thing that Bin Laden is dead. Though I’m one that would have prefered him standing trial I understand that wasn’t a realistic possibility after the firefight broke out. I do find the celebrations in the streets and on military bases to be extremely disturbing however. We saw people celebrating death in the streets on September 12, 2001 and condemed their barbarism for doing so. Today we have become the barbarians.

    Accepting a death as a necessity and even causing that death are one thing but taking gleeful joy at the end of a human life, no matter how dispicable they were, degrades us.

  81. In response to #2 DH

    From what I have been reading, GW said, towards the end of his last term, that he didn’t have any knowledge of where Bin Laden was or even had been in recent years and the intel that lead to his killing yesterday was based on information obtained within the last year or so. Sure, they knew about this courier that was Bin Laden’s right-hand man, but they didn’t know his name or where he even was. That bit of crucial information only came to light in the past couple years, post Obama being elected. So, if you don’t think Obama was directly involved in the events from yesterday, then you are totally wrong. To drive the point home a little more, the CIA even had the file on Bin Laden closed (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/04/washington/04intel.htmlscp=22&sq=bush%20bin%20laden&st=cse) back in 2006. I wonder who re-opened it? I hate to be argumentative here, but give credit where credit is due.

  82. DH: Don’t forget that the intelligence was garnered at Gitmo. The place Dems et. al. wanted shut down. Remember??

    The US captured KSM on March 1, 2003. He was waterboarded 183 times in the month of March. If that date doesn’t ring any bells for you, it was the date of the American invasion of Iraq. The publicly known list of things KSM confessed to are listed here:


    Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the director of the Khaldan training camp in Afghanistan, was captured in November 2001. al-Libi claimed that Saddam Hussein had offered to train two al-Qaeda operatives in the use of chemical and biological weapons. Al-Libi’s “confession” led to President Bush declaring, in October 2002, “Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases,” and his claims were, notoriously, included in Colin Powell’s speech to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003. The claims were of course, groundless, and were recanted by al-Libi in January 2004,


    Google around for F.B.I. special agent Ali Soufan who interrogated Abu Zubaydah. He’ll tell you that non-torture interrogation techniques were producing good information.

    Progressives don’t want to shut down gitmo because they’re a bunch of wusses. They want to shut down gitmo because it is a due-process-free zone. Because it is a torture-is-approved-here zone.

    And what did torture get us? Lies about nonexistent WMD’s in Iraq and lies about nonexistent connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Basically, torture got us into a needless war that has killed thousands of Americans and cost us countless dollars.

  83. oceanblue1 @90: I’m perfectly comfortable recognizing that our security apparatus under Obama carried on the mission that was started by our security apparatus under Bush. That’s far from “Bush did all the work!!!111”, which is something a) Mr. Bush himself did not say and has not even suggested and b) is the mark of someone emotionally invested in PvP-style politics.

  84. In the immediate aftermath of Obama’s announcement of bin Laden’s death last night I saw some folks on my Twitter feed note that it was too bad we killed him rather than captured him and put him on trial. I would have been happy with that as an outcome, but I can’t say that I would have been happier with that outcome than what actually happened.

    Well, we’re going to have to agree to disagree on that. My father spent five years having the soliders of the Third Reich trying to blow his head off (and coming uncomfortably close on multiple occasions). He was very happy with the war crimes trials in Nuremberg and Tokyo because we were better than them; the Nazis ran show trials, concentration camps and just murdered people they didn’t like.

    The rule of law’s a bitch, but I prefer her to all the alternatives. Like deciding you can conduct extra-judicial executions because your cause is righteous.

  85. Craig Ranapia:

    “Like deciding you can conduct extra-judicial executions because your cause is righteous.”

    Meh. As noted, there was a firefight. People get shot in firefights.

  86. I’m with Greg @ #91 on this: Even if the excesses at Gitmo were the only way we got the intelligence to track down bin Laden, it wasn’t worth it.

  87. The effort to eliminate Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda started with Clinton – remember the cruise missiles that were supposedly his attempt to “wag the dog” in light of Monica Lewinsky? I don’t know if the negative reaction fomented by his detractors led to Clinton backing off the pursuit, but he certainly missed his opportunity.

    The next missed opportunity came when the Bush transition team decided everything the Clinton team had to say was irrelevant. They dismissed warnings leading up to September 11 that an attack was imminent, and even after the attack Bush was on record saying he wasn’t concerned with OBLs whereabouts. I don’t believe that means they weren’t looking for OBL. But what I do know is while OBL was building and moving into his compound in Abbottabad in 2006, our forces had their hands full with Iraqi insurgents – a war we didn’t need to start and which distracted us from tracking down AQ.

    It seems apparent that Obama devoted resources to finding and killing OBL that Clinton and Bush had not, and in doing so succeeded where they had failed.

  88. Thank you so much for writing this. You and Rebecca (at Girls Gone Child) have perfectly written my very mixed feelings today.

  89. Re: Celebrations

    I’m of the generation of children whose first great exposure to the darkness in our world was the images of planes crashing into the twin towers. (I was 11 at the time – I believe the popular term for us is “millennials.” ) For us, Osama bin Laden has been the boogeyman, the face of evil, the Terrorist himself. I’m not surprised at the parties that went on last night.

    It’s our generation’s “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead” moment.

  90. I’d rather have seen Osama bin Laden captured, and tried, preferably under Islamic Law. The Q’uran is specific about not killing women, children, or non-combantants, and I’m reasonably certain that shai’ra follows this prohibition.

    Meanwile, I suppose that Osama’s sons, Osama W. bin Laden and Djebbidilla bin Laden, are in the wings, ready to take over if no-one else does.

    And I note (with somewhat reluctant admiration, being Agnostic) that a Vatican spokesman has pointed out that a good Christian does not express joy for the death of anyone.

    And yes, I expect Religious Fanatics (of various kinds) to continue to do things I consider horrible.

  91. This is not a case of “it just happened to have occurred on his watch.” bin Laden could have been captured many years ago. Bush made a decision that Iraq was important and Afghanistan was not. He made the decision, and publicly said so on numerous occasions, that Osama bin Laden was not important. We should have had bin Laden in Tora Bora. I would have been easy, had we had the resources in place. Do you know how many US troops were in Afghanistan at that time? About 5,200. We could not get OBL at that time because we didn’t have the resources in theater. This was before the Iraq war, but Bush was already diverting resources to prepare for Iraq. In 2003 we had 6.5 times as many troops in Iraq as in Afghanistan. In 2004 we had 8.5 times as many in Iraq as in Afghanistan. Do you really think the resources of the CIA and NSA were allocated differently? We didn’t get OBL for the entire Bush term because Bush was completely focused on Iraq.

    So, now we have OBL. We have him because we have a much better leader in the White House. There have been clear and fundamental shifts in our war policy because we have new leadership. Bush didn’t tell the CIA that getting OBL should be the number one priority; Obama did. Sure, Bush would have been happy had they gotten OBL and I’m sure he would have crowed a lot about it, but we didn’t and we didn’t because Bush failed! You can’t defend him. He was inept and I don’t think he ever really understood who really did attack us. Obama has worked on ending the Iraq debacle and has focused on al Qaeda. We now have more troops in Afghanistan than Iraq. We have been bringing the war to Pakistan on a regular basis.

    Bush didn’t get OBL because he was a poor leader with messed up priorities. Obama got him because he is a better leader who recognized who actually attacked us on 9/11 and changed the focus of our defense resources the day he took office, a focus change that worked.

  92. @ #92 Agreed. I don’t think Bush did all the work, nor do I think Obama did all the work. But I am saying that Obama had more of a hand in the matter then simply saying “Go do it.” From what I read he was the one that made the decision to go in there and get proof that this was in fact Bin Laden instead of simply bombing the place back into the stone age.

  93. @ 87 Greg;

    I am not really commenting on whether or not our criminal justice system can handle terrorist trials, I am talking about the fundamentally different approached need to handle counter terrorism, which is mainly about prevention (i.e. stopping an act of terrorism) and our criminal justice system which is about punishing people, who break a defined and specific law. I would rather keep the two processes separate because because there is a huge danger of potential abuses; if the policing powers here were given the kind of preventative powers needed for counter terrorism. For example look at the people in Gitmo, who are mainly foreigners we picked up in different parts of world either as terrorist or as enemy combatants on the battle field, these people are engaged in asymmetrical warfare against the interests and people of the United States, its almost impossible create laws within our judicial system that would allow us to effectively combat terrorism without violating our constitutional rights or turning our police into some kind of state security apparatus that would look like the KGB or TSA on steroids with guns. That is why I agree with the decision to try the men in Gitmo under military tribunal and not in out justice system.

  94. Saith 007MerkinStyle@# 57, “I hope the guy who plugged him gets the MOH.”

    No. The Medal of Honor is awarded to a member of the military who “distinguish(es) himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty…”…

    That was me, not Merkin.

    It wouldn’t cheapen it at all, there is a rather broad tradition of awarding it to folks who have done things that have had a vital impact on our national objectives without facing overwhelming, immediate physical danger. The list includes Col Doolittle, Gen MacArthur (not the best example, admittedly), Gen Vandergrift, Maj Bong, Gen Roosevelt. We’ve moved away from that tradition, but too far in the other direction IMHO.

  95. @Paul, 102

    I would rather keep the two processes separate because because there is a huge danger of potential abuses; if the policing powers here were given the kind of preventative powers needed for counter terrorism.

    And yet, if you consider the two most recent cases of terrorists caught and then tried with the NYC subway bombing plot and the Times Square bombing plot, both were handled via counter-terrorism (also see the Washington Christmas tree bombing plot, althogh I don’t believe that’s gone to trial yet) and then effectively turned over to the criminal justice system for prosecution, your arugment doesn’t stand.

    Terrorism is a crime. An extreme crime but it is still a crime, and one our country has been dealing with since the ’60’s. Arguing that our system can’t handle it because the people doing it are foreign, or Muslim, or it’s post-2000, is nothing but bunk.

  96. Meh. As noted, there was a firefight. People get shot in firefights.

    OK, John, fair enough. I just have a very strong preference that terrorists get fair and open trails. A small and trivial courtesy that terrorists, by definition, don’t extend to their enemies.

    Which, of course, is now one of Donald Rumsfeld’s known unknowns since you can’t try a corpse for anything unless you’re a total freak.

  97. Paul: I am talking about the fundamentally different approached need to handle counter terrorism, which is mainly about prevention (i.e. stopping an act of terrorism) and our criminal justice system which is about punishing people

    The FBI has a Counterterrorism Division. They prevent terrorism using due process techniques.

    For example look at the people in Gitmo, who are mainly foreigners we picked up in different parts of world either as terrorist or as enemy combatants on the battle field,

    Well, specifically, the people at gitmo, by and large, were innocent. There were 800 total. ( That’s the number given out when Combatant Status Review Tribunals started. Several hundred were released before that. ) We have convicted something like a handful. I think there are one or two hundred left there now. All the others we released because it turned out they were innocent (and we held many of those for years and tortured many of those too) Why the horrendous false positives? Many of them were picked up by warlords and pakistani police/military/inteligence people who wanted a warm body to use to trade for the reward the US was paying for any members of Al Qaeda. And the US was in a panic to find people to blame and punish.

    And lets be clear about this:

    Gitmo is designed to punish people. It is a prison without due process. 300 or so of its inmates have died and their deaths have been classifed by the military itself as homicides. It is where these prisoners have been tortured for years.

    The “intel” that comes out of these torture sessions is useless. Torture got us false intel that led us into the Iraq war.

    People who are actually interested in preventing terrorism are interested in getting good intel, not punishing the prisoners they have whether they are innocent or guilty. The FBI uses due process, refuses to use torture, and has been doing a effective job of preventing terrorism.

    its almost impossible … to effectively combat terrorism without violating our constitutional rights or turning our police into some kind of state security apparatus that would look like the KGB

    This is fundamentally a false premise.

  98. Paul @ 102:

    You seem to be unaware of the existence of various sorts of crime prevention efforts. They map pretty much directly to the most effective sorts of counter-terrorism efforts around the world.

    As far as those being held in Gitmo, most of them as far as we know are only “terrorists” or “enemy combatants” according to their accusers. Holding human beings in captivity for years with hardly a pretense of due process to find out whether those accusations are true is simply wrong. It’s unfortunate that the term has been flung about and misused so badly, but this is one of those times where it actually applies — what has been done at Gitmo is deeply un-American.

    Simply repeating that terrorism is somehow existentially different from crime doesn’t make it so. It’s politically and rhetorically convenient, that’s all.

  99. Meh. As noted, there was a firefight. People get shot in firefights.

    We are talking about Obama who authorized a program that allows Americans to be assassinated far away from any battlefield, without any due process.


    I’m not saying these guys were sent in with orders that OBL be shot “resisting arrest”. I don’t know what happened. But I wouldn’t accept the official story as a recounting of waht actually happened either. I can say “meh” about OBL’s death for all the other functional reasons mentioned before.

    But given Obama has authorized the assasination program, it wouldn’t be impossible to conceive that they might have signed an assassination for OBL, and then used the story just to keep the martyrdom factor down.

  100. I come from a country that does not support the death penalty. I got to watch our Prime Minister go on TV and talk about how great it is that OBL is dead.
    Ummm. So we don’t condone the death penalty. Except when we do.

    I find it all a bit suspect that a man on dialysis was not able to be taken alive. Also, having him dead makes the networks much harder to pin down; no intelligence exploits are gonna be effective when the world’s media is blabbing about his death…

  101. I might get backlash here but I’m going to quote Martin Luther King Jr. “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy”.
    I feel for all the families who lost loved ones because of Osama Bin Laden but I can not condone killing another human!!

    On a somewhat related note I found it amusing that Fox news was reporting the death of Obama Bin Laden! Epic fail Fox news, epic fail!!

  102. @108 Greg: It’s war. There is no due process in a court of law for those who are waging war on our nation, nor should there be. Even the judge who heard the Al-Aulaqi case Greenwald refers to wasn’t impressed with the argument that targeting a terrorist anywhere in the world is somehow a violation of due process. Judge Bates’ response: You want due process, then surrender to the authorities first.

    >The Court’s conclusion that Anwar Al-Aulaqi can access the U.S. judicial system by presenting himself in a peaceful manner implies no judgment as to Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s status as a potential terrorist. All U.S. citizens may avail themselves of the U.S. judicial system if they present themselves peacefully, and no U.S. citizen may simultaneously avail himself of the U.S. judicial system and evade U.S. law enforcement authorities. Anwar Al-Aulaqi is thus faced with the same choice presented to all U.S. citizens.

  103. JohnW@103:

    You are misinformed in the purpose of awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor. It is not a favor for accomplishing a political objective. The Medal of Honor recipients you cite most certainly risked their lives in the actions responsible for their awards. These outstanding men happened to live long enough to to have their Medals awarded to them. Many other recipients are not so fortunate and their family members receive the honor instead. It is likely the participants in the action on bin Laden will receive a somewhat less-prestigious medal such as a Bronze or Silver Star or the Navy Cross.

    Concerning the thread about assassinating without due process:
    President Obama is hardly the 1st US President to authorize the killing of an individual without the nicety of a trial first. I would imagine the Vietnamese could provide with a nice list of people killed in the 60’s & 70’s that the American government would argue were no better than Osama bin Laden.

    The info I’ve seen on the timeline of the bin Laden action indicated that after the US became relatively certain of the probable location of bin Laden, Mr. Obama approved the taking of bin Laden dead or alive. It wasn’t until the intel on his hideaway became clearer and all things considered, unlikely that it would be possible to capture him alive using any combination of US forces, that the president approved the actual deployment to be a “kill mission” as the primary objective.

    Considering the overwhelming forces on standby outside Pakistani airspace, it seems the US allowed for the possibility of many bad things happening (perhaps even the Pakistani military forcefully objecting to the US presence in Abbottabad).

    As I understand it, dialysis is not a 24/7 procedure. Depending on how messed up one’s kidneys are, I believe you can live a more or less active life in between dialysis sessions. (At least active enough to toss around automatic rifle fire.)

  104. John wrote: “the fact that a closet Muslim socialist WHO ISN’T EVEN AN AMERICAN is the one who gave the order to kill the bogeyman who has haunted the US for a decade will be a terribly inconvenient fact for a lot of folks. ”

    Alas, I do not agree that a mere -fact- ever has or ever WILL inconvenience some folks.

  105. Greg: Progressives don’t want to shut down gitmo because they’re a bunch of wusses. They want to shut down gitmo because it is a due-process-free zone. Because it is a torture-is-approved-here zone.

    I want gitmo closed because IT DOESN’T WORK. Way more false positives than actual terrorists. And any “intelligence” we got there is tainted–much of it useless and false information.

    Paul: I would rather keep the two processes separate because because there is a huge danger of potential abuses; if the policing powers here were given the kind of preventative powers needed for counter terrorism.

    You ARE aware, are you not, that the recent successes the JSOP has had in Afghanistan and Pakistan is BECAUSE they started to adopt some basic forensic techniques developed in police work? I think you want counter-terrorism to adopt more police-like behavior than to have the police adopt more military-like behavior; it’s simply more effective.

  106. (And to be clear, Gitmo is a due process nightmare. I’m just pointing out to people that it’s a process that’s abuses civil rights and doesn’t work. The supporters are real geniuses here….).

  107. Meh. As noted, there was a firefight. People get shot in firefights.

    Last I checked we are engaged in a war on terrorism worldwide. Osama Bin Laden, a terrorist, directly targeted and succeed in orchestrating an act of terrorism on our nation and foreign nationals present on our soil at the targets. He dies in a firefight with our military forces in a firefight. Last I checked this is war.

    Commenters here calling this an extrajudicial execution and/or advocating terrorism as a crime of greater degree to many other crimes do not understand, apparently, the difference between war between two enemies and citizens of a law-governed nation expected not to engage in criminal acts.

    You might as well say all war is a crime, in which case, we all of us should be tried in criminal court as defendants to the charge of engaging in any war against our enemies. I am no fan of war, but when an enemy attacks us I do not agree that our killing that enemy in a firefight as we defend ourselves can be termed an extra-judicial execution, assasination, or criminal act.

    Free people governed by law do have the inalienable and inherrent right to defend themselves against enemies who wage war on them, even if a war of terrorism. Our host, John Scalzi, calls this one absolutely correctly considered from any angle of ethics or morality.

  108. Yes, thank you Obama for continuing the Bush policies you directly ran against (like “torture” at Gitmo where we reportedly got the intel).

    Here’s a perfect explanation: http://theweek.com/article/slideshow/214840/where-credit-is-due

    But at the end of the day it’s really the military and intel folks who took the real risks and did the real ground work who deserve our thanks.

  109. ““Like deciding you can conduct extra-judicial executions because your cause is righteous.””

    Craig Ranapia,did you read somwhere that it was an extra-judicial execution? According to every report I’ve read, Osama Bin Laden was asked/ordered to surrender, refused, and engaged in a firefight. Although not officially affiliated with any government (hi, Pakistan!), OBL was an enemy combattant, in wartime, killed in combat. It would have been more convenient for the US if he’d marched out onto a battlefied the way enemies used to do; but since he made US forces hunt for him, the battle occurred at his lair instead of at some battlefield-like place.

    Extra-judicial execution, by contrast, is when you kill the guy after he puts down his gun and says, “I surrender.”

  110. And so what if a minority of Republicans don’t believe (or more likely doubt) that Obama was born in the U.S.. During the years from 2001-today over 40% of so-called “progressives” thought 9/11 was an “inside job”.

    So what’s worse: people believing that your guy isn’t technically an American or people on your side thinking the President ordered the murder of 3000 Americans?

  111. Scorpius:

    “Who cares if there are right wing morons because there are left wing morons too” is not an argument I would personally be proud of offering in public.

  112. Scorpius @120: There are many, many blogs around where everyone shares your political leanings, and thus will uncritically agree with unsourced and probably invented facts, and will happy nod along that bad things by ‘our guys’ are OK as long as you can come up with a bad thing ‘their guys’ did. I’m rather surprised that, by now, you haven’t figured out that Whatever isn’t one of them.

  113. [Steaming pile of pointlessness deleted. Scorpius, just because you think you’re making a cogent argument doesn’t mean you are. Your initial argument was bad and largely and your follow up was not better. Get a better argument before you post again on the thread — JS]

  114. you can’t try a corpse for anything unless you’re a total freak

    setting the stage for a very disturbing science fiction / detective crossover novel set in a world where suspected criminals who die before trial are raised from the dead as zombies and then tried and forced to “live” through any sentence before being unraised.

    That whole triple life sentence deal? Takes on a whole new meaning in this world.

  115. It feels odd, after a couple of moments of reflection (after the initial moments of joy!) to realize that this makes a difference here in the States, and makes a difference in Pakistan, presumably, with its tortuous politics . . . and maybe not much of anywhere else.

    “Bush Sr. ended the communist threat” — Scalzi where do you get these people? Do you have a central casting platinum card or something?

  116. MasterThief@111: Greg: It’s war.

    No. It isn’t. I wish it were. But it is NOT war. And that’s the problem.

    There is no due process in a court of law for those who are waging war on our nation, nor should there be.

    The Geneva Convention would like to have a word with you. For example, if for example during WW2 a Nazi soldier, the scum of the earth, walked up to your American unit, with his hands up, you would be violating international law if you shot him. He’s a fricken Nazi, but you can’t shoot him. Imagine that.

    And it doesn’t stop there. You have to take him and call him your “prisoner” and treat him in accordance to certain minimum rules. And one of those rules is “no waterboarding”. It’s fairly straightforward. America even convicted some Japanese guys for war crimes because they waterboarded a bunch of their prisoners.

    That’s war and the rule of law.

    The reason Bush started calling the people at Gitmo “detainees” was because he didn’t want to call them “prisoners of war” and treat them in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

    So, when you say “it’s war”, you’re actually saying that Bush and Obama are violating the Geneva Convention in how they’re treating their prisoners of war.

    And on that I would agree with you.

    But that’s not what most Americans mean when they say “Its war”. What they mean is some cheap bravado rambo movie version of reality where “its war” means “I don’t have to follow no rules”.

    You want this to be a war? Fine. I’m all for that. But right now it isn’t. And it hasn’t been for about 10 years.

    You want due process, then surrender to the authorities first.

    I suggest you research a place called “gitmo” and then explain how your statement fits into a due process free reality.

    Also, remember when you’re doing this research, that you’ll keep running into a term called “detainee”. It’s legalistic bullshit to avoid the rule of law that applies IN A TIME OF WAR.

    Declaring this as a war would be a FRICKEN STEP UP.

    gwangung@115: I want gitmo closed because IT DOESN’T WORK.

    I did mention all the false intel we got from gitmo. I think we’re in agreement there.

  117. mattmarovich @87 re: Time Square bombing plot
    Did you get far enough into the fine print to see that the first person to see the smoke anc call the cops was a Muslim immigrant?

  118. Gary Willis@117: Last I checked we are engaged in a war on terrorism worldwide.

    Last I checked this is war.

    war between two enemies

    You might as well say all war is a crime

    I am no fan of war, but

    enemies who wage war on them,

    even if a war of terrorism


    That is the entire problem. If this was a war the people at Gitmo would be prisoners and we wouldn’t be waterboarding them and torturing them.

    Since it is NOT a war, then you have two options left.

    Either you pursue this as criminal offense, arrest and put to trial the defendants.


    You are acting extra judicially. Outside the law. Outside due process.

    Three options total: (1) War (2) Criminal Court (3) extrajudicial (outside the law)

    Guess which one we’ve been doing the last ten years.

    People who keep saying “This is war” don’t know what the hell that word means.

    Declaring this a war and treating it as such would be an improvement. I’m all for declaring this as a war if we actually followed the rules for war. I’m also all for treating terrorism as a crime, and prosecuting within the framework of due process.

    But what we have been doing for the last decade or so is outside any rule of law.

    Once again, It’s not a war.

  119. @Greg, 129

    And it hasn’t been for about 10 years.

    Pretty darn close if you ask me. Honestly, if this does count as a declaration of war in a symantic sense then I agree with all of your points regarding PoWs/enemy combatants; I’ve made many of the same arguments myself.

    The one thing that many people don’t seem to get is that the GC doesn’t just apply to the other guy; it applies to us regardless if the people we are fighting are signatories.

    gwangung@115, and @Greg, 129

    Rumsfield acknowledges that some of the intel for this most recent operation most likely came from detainees at Gitmo who weren’t tortured.

    I bring this up only to point out that some information at Gitmo has, obviously, produced results. Wikileaks’ most recent release regarding Gitmo also, apparently, talked about the courier that led to this operation, so Rumsfield’s claim is at least partially verified.

    Please understand that this is not meant to be a support for Gitmo (which I think should be closed), how the detainees or enemy combatants are being treated (which I think is deplorable), but just as detail to clear up that one point.

  120. The one thing I must say impressed me about Obama’s actions is that he didn’t puss out and order a missile strike, air strike or other ‘less invasive’ method of dealing with Bin Laden. No, the POTUS put men in harm’s way to accomplish a mission that could not have been brought to a resolution by pointing at a crater and saying: there lies the scattered bits of our enemy. Clinton and Bush were both guilty of trying for the villain with lesser measures. Both failed. Even if they’d managed to kill him, Bin Laden would have become an Evil Elvis, always alive in the minds of the creatures he fed with his rhetoric of hate.

    Here’s to the men who risked their lives to eliminate the threat Bin Laden posed, and the President that ordered them in.

    I thank you.

  121. @Neil, 130

    I didn’t know that, but I think that’s pretty awesome in so far as it’s great ammo to use against the idiots who think we’re at war with Islam. Do you have any sources I can cite?

  122. John@132. You’re right. Sorry. I saw the word “war” misused seven different times in one post and I went a little crazy. Apologies.

  123. @113 SpiritThreeZero – I’m not misinformed about anything. I didn’t say anything about political objectives, but vital national objectives – like killing Bin Laden, or bombing Tokyo, or capturing Guadalcanal. Nor did I say that those men faced no physical danger. I think you would agree the danger Gen Vandergrift faced was of a much different degree than that faced by Mitchell Paige in his machine gun position as the Japanese overran it.

    The fact is, by today’s standards, none of those men would have won the Medal of Honor. The standards are too strict, I can think of half a dozen examples off the top of my head of guys that deserve it but didn’t receive it. I hope the guy who shot Bin Laden is not one of them. It would be a welcome change.

  124. Craig Ranapia,did you read somwhere that it was an extra-judicial execution?

    No, Laura, but I will cop to a point being made extremely clumsily. Words have meanings, and should be used with care and precision. Mea maxima culpa.

  125. Meanwhile, I suppose that Osama’s sons, Osama W. bin Laden and Djebbidilla bin Laden, are in the wings, ready to take over if no-one else does.

    I see what you did there.

  126. A friend suggested that they shouldn’t have killed him, they should have captured him and forced him to spend the rest of his life going through security at Dulles.

  127. JohnW@137:

    I understand you mean well. Vital national objectives = political objectives, as a politician (the civilian part of our government) has determined the objective. I didn’t mean with a Democrat/Republican connotation. Your opinion notwithstanding (and I will not deny the likelihood there are people who might deserve one that will never receive it), the standards for awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor are very strict on purpose. (One of the most restrictive requirements is that the evidence of the gallantry be incontestable and pass the standard of extraordinary merit.) If it was easy to get, everyone would have one and what would the value of the Medal be?

    People who perform extraordinary acts of heroism do not do so for the glory or some pretty medal. [Ask the conscripted guys who received a Medal of Honor and you may find out they probably would’ve rather had that day off from work.] We the People need these awards to remind us there is a price for our Liberty and some people do actually pay the ultimate price.

    If you read the citation accompanying the award of a Congressional Medal of Honor, among the frequent mention of dealing death to an enemy of America, you will find saving lives of fellow American soldiers to be the more important aspect of the action. There is not much honor in the killing of another human but there is much honor in saving the lives of your comrades, especially at the expense of your own well-being.

    Rather than quibble over a medal for the guy who double-tapped bin Laden, let’s agree that we should say thanks to any SOF member we meet and buy them the beverage of their choice. And let’s hope they are out of a job soon.

    For some reason, SOF people seem be permanently dehydrated. ;-)

  128. I flippantly predicted this when Obama was elected but I’m surprised we got Osama in actuality. It’s a weird thing to celebrate someone getting killed but I understand it. My main surprise(or disappointment, really) is the number of people on the right saying it’s not enough that we killed him and we have to desecrate his corpse as if that’s what the real victory will be.

  129. I’m not suggesting to pass them out like Skittles. I think this is a pretty big deal – public enemy number one going on ten years now.

    I’m not sure I agree with you about the saving lives versus killing enemy soldiers bit – there are a lot of citations for what are in retrospect pretty insane actions of men singlehandedly knocking out numerous enemy positions while under concentrated fire. I think the award has gravitated towards that over the years, for good or bad. I do agree that nobody does these things to get a medal, but it is our responsibility to recognize truly extraordinary service to the country, like killing OBL.

    But, yes, free beers for all special ops guys, in perpetuity! Too bad we’ll probably never know the identity of these sailors.

  130. Also: I hope the guys who iced him get to stay anonymous for their own safety. Free beers are nice but living is better.

  131. @John W: While killing Bin Laden is a big feather I don’t think it deserves an MOH. For some people in the op it won’t even be worthy of anything with a V attachment. But the men involved are all probably going to get a big career boost nonetheless.

  132. Greg @131

    I do not agree with your argument that our leaders ignoring the Geneva convention at Gitmo (or anywhere else) during this war on terrorists somehow magically converts it to some other animal than a war. War is armed conflict between enemies including firefights like the one that killed Osama Bin Laden. War and wars existed long before anyone met at Geneva and agreed some international rules for waging war. The meaning of the word war is determined by the speakers of the language from their daily common usage of the term. We English speakers have pretty consistently used the word war for 1,500 years to mean armed conflict between enemies inclusive of firefights as happened over the weekend.

    Now, I agree with you that our leaders have not follwed the Geneva conventions in this war on terror, so I do concede your point that we have acted in what you call an extrajudicial manner. We did not follow international law on waging this war on terror. We are still waging the war, nevertheless. I voted in part for Obama because I hoped our acting in an extrajudicial manner would end. It did not, sigh. I shall look for another candidate next time more willing to follow the Geneva convention. But I will not be so silly as to call our war on terror anything less than a war on these terrorists and their networks. They are our current enemies seeking our destruction and we will shoot them dead when we can with our military forces.

    I do wish we would declare war formally with a 2/3rds Congressional vote (as was done last in WWII) following our own Constitution. I wish we had done that for all our wars of the 20th and 21st century. Sadly, when our leaders acted unconstitutionally in Korea, Vietnam, et. al. we citizens did not hold them to account by sending them home and electing candidates willing to follow our Constitution. We have only our collective selves to blame.

    Who would we declare war on in this war on terror? The terrorists themselves, their networks, and the nation states who affirmatively support and harbour them. But, as Americans I think we don’t have the political will to do that. So things rock along as they are, us in a war (out of harmony with our own Constitution) content not to force our leaders to follow our own consitutional rules, much less the international rules of the Geneva convention.

    But war is war–armed conflict between enemies until one side or the other is defeated. This war on terror will outlive us all it seems.

  133. Oh, kudos to President Obama for first seeking to send Osama Bin Laden’s corpse to a willing receiving nation and then following Islamic law concerning burial within 24 hours when no nation states agreed to receive it. Bush and Obama have made it clear our war on terror is not against the Muslim religion but against extremists who violate their own Muslim religion killing innocents, ours or anyone else’s. Our nation’s values respect the religion and the non-religion of our own citizens and those around this globe. Further, preventing a future shrine or pilgrimage site to Osama Bin Laden an in-ground burial could generate, the decision to bury at sea in a respectful manner was brilliant thinking. Kudos to the advisor who suggested the approach to the President and to the President for taking and acting on the advice.

  134. Sean H at 143: Desecrating the corpse:

    Possibly if one challenged such a suggestion, the response would be something along the lines of how, well, *they* wouldn’t hesitate to do something like that, or worse. Somehow that makes it okay, or even laudable. I don’t see how that follows, but it seems perfectly obvious to them.

  135. Bearpaw @ 149:

    I was having pretty much that same conversation with some coworkers today, except instead of desecrating a body, it was over whether suspected terrorists should have the benefit of a trial if captured, since /they/ wouldn’t do the same for us.

    Said ‘orkers didn’t even know what the Nuremberg trials were, nor did they care when enlightened. I despair.

  136. SeanH:

    It is probably safe to assume the actual names of the participants in this action will remain classified as long as any of them remain on active duty. It is more than enough for the world to know that SEALs were involved. JohnW & I agreed that we should honor all SOF members as there is no doubt that any one of them would have taken out bin Laden if given the chance.

    Gary Willis@148:
    I won’t claim to know for a fact, but I doubt anyone in the Obama administration came up with the idea of how to handle bin Laden’s remains. The counterterrorism portion of SOF/CIA has had nearly 20 years to prepare for bin Laden’s demise. They also have a lot more people highly skilled in Islamic culture than the Administration. Due to the highly classified nature of this mission, only the CIA, SOF, a few Cabinet members (for example, Gates and Clinton) and the Commander In Chief likely knew of the operation before it was begun.

  137. Gary Willis at 147:

    Calling it a war is dumb for pretty much the same reason that pretending they’re not criminals is dumb. That’s *their* framing. It lets them posture as something more important than the criminals that they are. (And too many of our leaders and pundits and so on go along with it because then they get to posture, too.)

    And defining war as “armed conflict between enemies until one side or the other is defeated” is meaninglessly broad. Though, as we’ve seen, it’s *politically* useful. Especially when it’s left as an unofficial war — that way the people in charge get the “war-time” political and profiteer bennies while being able to gloss over war-time responsibilities, like following international law, properly financing the war, etc. So too, this “war” can be stretched out indefinitely.

  138. SpiritZeroThree @151
    No problem with your observation. I consider those various agencies as part of the administration, all of whom could be the advisor. Even if not in the administration, kudos to whoever advised Obama on the burial at sea within 24 hours option.
    Bearpaw @ 152
    Meaninglessly broad? Yeah, probably. Being a high school English teacher I am oversensitive to the ways many commentators try to slice the meaning of words here at John’s Whatever blogsite too thinly to suit their argument of the day, month, or whatever (pun intended). War is such a commonly understood noun among English speakers that I was reacting to Greg’s slicing it so thinly as to suggest not following the Geneva rules when fighting an enemy somehow transformed the activity into something other than war. Trying to kill your enemy who is trying to kill you is the essence of our common understanding of the meaning of the common noun war as English speakers, at least in my view. Are the terroists criminals? Sure, but that does not make them any less our enemies in this war on terror (as we call it). Kill them before they kill us is our collective charge to our military forces expressed through our elected Commander in Chief.

  139. a) during the weeks after 9/11 the Taliban offered TWICE to produce bin Ladin on a platter to Bush, who responded with “nah!”.
    b) after swaggering into the spotlight to posture about “dead or alive” Bush,when asked later what he was specifically doing to back it up, said “I really don’t think about him much.”
    c) the right-wing twits are now claiming 43 put this in train while he was in office?
    Sounds like loony bin B.S. to me.

  140. So, let’s summarize the last ten years shall we

    Most Powerful Nation on Earth inflicts it’s will on planet for some 50 odd years, does some good things, does some bad things, regardless bodies get piled pretty high by all accounts, Omelet Egg Making and whatnot, cost of doing business

    At some point, various flavors of religious nutjobs foreign and domestic, get upset for a plethora of reasons, some good, most bad, few rational. Buildings are blown up, airplanes become not-air planes, etc

    One particuallt talented and/or lucky nutjob conceives of an unusually flashy velocity assisted suicide for young nutjobs

    Planes are flown into buildings, with spectacular results, except not so spectacular really for those few who can do math, though quiet impressive on camera

    Most Powerful Nation on Earth goes completely apeshit, empowers dimwitted monkey boy to suspend many things held sacred, various countries are invaded for various reasons, some good, most bad, with spectacular results, this time even for those few of us who can actually do math

    After Most Powerful Nation on Earth has reaffirmed self same status over literal mountains of corpses, what passes for sanity resumes, new leader provides closure in the traditional method, 50 caliber,double tap to the head of th Devil, mayGodHaveMercyOnYerSoulSplashGlug

    Celebrations commence.

    Go us.

    My faith in our nation restored.

    Flag please, that I might wave it?

  141. The intelligence wasn’t gathered at Gitmo. No prisoner picked up in 2002 knew anything about where bin Laden was in 2011. The intelligence came from Pakistan. The Americans convinced Pakistan that it was in Pakistan’s interest to support America against Al-Qaeda. That was diplomacy.

    The intelligence success was shifting attention away from Iraq back to Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s where America’s real enemies always were. Obama put Al-Qaeda at the top of the agenda, as Clinton did back in the ’90s, not for any ideological reasons, but simply because it was Al-Qaeda that chose to be enemies in the first place. The Iraq thing was a mistake and a distraction, a waste of more lives, money, reputation, and honor than anything bid Laden could have accomplished.

  142. #53 Tony: Bush had nothing to do with the fall of the Soviet empire. Gorbachev chose not to send tanks into Czechosolvakia when Czechosolvakia allowed East German tourists to cross into West Germany. The Iron Curtain was opened from the inside, not from the outside. Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Boris Yeltsin brought the end to Soviet tyranny. The West were just spectators in this history, no matter what the claims of those who’d like to take credit for the actions of others.

  143. It’s disappointing to see all the delusional anti-Obamists here, who would certainly be claiming credit for this kill if a Republican were in office ( heaven forfend! we got enough problems).

    You SINCERELY say you wouldn’t grab credit if it were your man at the top???

    Liars. You’re just frackin’ liars. And you’re not fooling anyone.

  144. After reading some and scanning nearly all of the preceding posts, I really can’t believe the ping pong back and forth that’s going on. The visceral hatred on display is leading many down the “Bush/Obama Derangement Syndrome” path. Take a deep breath folks, we’ve witnessed history. Rejoice that it happens to also be wonderful news. President Obama made the call. Furthermore, he made the right call to put boots on the ground to do the deed; Thank-you President Obama. The path to yesterdays action started in the last administration; Thank-you President Bush. Beyond these two men, thank you to the thousands of service members who have worked for years on bringing us to this wonderful day. So time to drop the R and D and listen to the wake up call. It’s common sense time. Otherwise, the only people who are served by “We the people” squabbling about birth certificates and blood for oil are the professional politicians.

  145. @156 by Alex von Thorn – For what it’s worth, they’re reporting that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed gave up the name of the courier that led us to Bin Laden. That piece of intel was essential and started the path to the end of Bin Laden. Also, your claim the West had nothing to do with the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Soviet Union is bizarre. The West began chipping away at it with the first plane load of supplies that flew in during the Berlin airlift. I can tell you that family who were there (on both sides of the wall) during that time felt they weren’t forgotten and never gave up.

  146. @160 KG actual references please. “They” are also saying that information was buried under so much garbage we had no idea that information existed until other evidence came to light.

  147. the Taliban offered TWICE to produce bin Ladin on a platter

    This would jive with history as I recall it.

    After the Soviets left Afghanistan, the Taliban reverted to being local tribe/warlords. Their interest was strictly in local affairs. The story that I recall was that another local warlord ruled over a village and was abusing power (as warlords sometimes do), and eventually he put at risk the honor of a local village girl. The local religious leader, who had fought the soviets, gathered together a posse, saved the girl, and either killed or rode the bad guy out of town.The local religious leader became the new defacto local warlord. He set up a religious rule of the area, and became the head of the Taliban. His interestests, and the Taliban’s interest, was strictly local. They wanted to study their holy works, and live according to their religion. And their interests were limited to their tribal region within Afghanistan.

    Back in the day, OBL saw the Soviets and America as the two great evils in the world who abused all the other countries to their own greedy ends. He was a religious extremist who saw the solution to all the worlds problems as being found in a strict extremist (his) interpretation of Islam. He went to Afghanistan and saw the local holy warriors fight the soviets and win. This inspired him with the idea that he could take down the other superpower, America, and free the world from their greedy, unholy dominance.

    After the sovs left afghanistan, OBL went back to his home country, Saudi Arabia and tried to set up shop as the leader of a religious revolution. He started pissing off the King though, and was getting into more and more trouble.

    As Gulf War 1 was heating up around ’91, Iraq had invaded Kuwait and Saudi Arabia was concerned they were next. So was America. Bush Sr started sending troops to SA to defend it and to prep for invading Kuwait. OBL approached the King and said don’t use infidel Americans to defend this holy land, we holy warriors, Al Qaeda, will defend it for you. The king either kicked him out of SA or OBL fled before being captured.

    So, OBL was now without a state. He tried to set something up in… Yemen I think, But he pissed of the political leaders there and it wasn’t working. Then he remembered some other religious extremists he knew who had their own little state in Afghanistan. The Taliban. OBL went there and said, can we set up training camps for holy warriors? They shugged adn said sure.

    If I recall the history correctly, OBL set up camp and trained people for some time, living alongside the Taliban. And OBL plotted and planned the 9/11 attacks at this time. The actuall attack on 9/11 was launched without the knowledge of the Taliban leader. And what I recall was that the Taliban were pissed because they knew the 9/11 attacks meant America would invade Afghanistan, and they’d just kicked the soviets out a few years before.

    When OBL fled afghanistan through bora bora part of it was to run from American troops and try to hide in Pakistan, and part of it was likely because the Taliban kicked his ass out of their tribe.

    So, OBL got kicked out of Saudi Arabia, got kicked out of… Yemen I think, and fled and/or got kicked out of Afghanistan. OBL has a history of ticking off the local leaders. So I wouldn’t be surpised if the Taliban offered his head on a stick to America. Too bad Junior is such an idiot that he turned down the offer.

  148. Oh, and for those of you (obviously Republicans) saying that Obama finished the job but the meat of the work was done by Bush Junior:

    Does that mean Reagen finished the job of bringing down the Soviet Empire, but the meat of the work was done by Carter?

    Back in the late 70’s, Carter funnelled a bunch of money into Afghanistan to buy himself a local revolution. The Soviets occupied the country and Carter funneled the money to some local warlords to start some trouble. Carter specifcially hoped that it would drag the Soviets into a vietnam-style quagmire, drain their money, siphon off their military hardware, keep them too busy to worry about anything else (Because who would be so stupid as to start two or more wars voluntarily on different fronts? Oh wait…) and in general, weaken the bear.

    Money was funneled. Trouble was started. Soviets invaded to maintain control. Quagmire ensued.

    Afghanistan isn’t called “The Graveyard of Empires” for nothing, ya know.

    Soviet Union was drained and weakened. And when some upstart little satelite country revolted in eastern europe, they didnt have the resources, money, tanks, or will to crush it. Empire crumbled.

    All thanks to a Democratic President, former navy officer, former peanut farmer, Jimmy Carter.

    You don’t give Carter credit for bringing down teh Soviet empire? No? It was all thanks to Reagan? And Sr?


    But you insist Bush Jr gets teh bulk ofthe credit for OBL? And Obama was just dotting i’s and crossing t’s?

    Huh. That’s weird.

    If I didn’t knwo any better, I might think you were looking at history through right wing colored glasses or something.

  149. Jim: “They” are also saying that information was buried under so much garbage we had no idea that information existed until other evidence came to light.

    Hell, Clinton as much as whacked Bush Junior upside the head and said “It’s Al Qaeda, stupid!” as they were handing power over to the new adminstration. And Bush was like, “I think I’ll go cut me some brush on the ranch”.

    THen there was that intelligence guy who came in and told Bush “It’s Al Qaeda, Stupid” and Bush was like “OK, you’ve coverered your ass, now leave me alone” then went and cut some brush on his ranch.

    And when Al Qaeda hit the towers and every intel guy said “It’s al qaeda, in afghanistan, stupid”, Bush was like “I think I’ll have someone go kick Saddam’s ass” and then went and cut some brush on his ranch.

    Unfortunately, it looks like 8 years of willful ignorance can start to rub off the president and affect the whole damn country.

  150. Greg, a reminder that I prefer people to aggregate their posts when they respond to multiple people. Multiple sequential posts from a single person messes with my feng shui.

  151. Great news all around. I do not give Obama the credit, rather the men and women who did the actual work.
    Where Obama does get credit is for having the stones to say “go” and Bush gets credit for setting everything in motion.

  152. Where Obama does get credit is for having the stones to say “go”

    or…could be having the stones to WAIT to say, “go”. I’d be the temptation to go earlier may have been nigh irresistable.

  153. I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I kind of hope that all the generations of Vikings that were buried at sea are metaphorically kicking his ass.

  154. Much fun, several lol’s, and more than a few ferChrissakeses were had while reading this discussion. I can think of no person more deserving of a traumatic frontal lobectomy than OBL, and I’m glad he got it. Bravo Zulu, Team Six! And to everybody who had anything to do with the op starting ten years ago! The celebrating in the streets was perfectly understandable, if a trifle unseemly IMO, given that the bastard had eluded us for so long.

    The suggestion by JohnW@#57(and #144) that the SEAL team member who capped him be awarded the Medal of Honor comes from a good place, but SpiritZeroThree pointed out ably in #113(also #142 & #151) that he was doing exactly what he was supposed to do. If you could meet him and thank him personally, I’d give good odds that he’d say, “I was just doing my job. Same thing any of my team would have done.” And that is a Good and Right thing. I would never dream of putting myself on a level with Spec-Ops types, but I did spend the Reagan Administration in the Navy doing spooky things; I know how it feels to swear to kill or die for my countrymen and to keep my country’s secrets. You never, ever forget that promise.

    Changing direction: Has anyone heard anything about the Team having found a dialysis machine? Our late friend was supposed to be a near-terminal kidney case. If he never left his McPalace, he must have had at the very least a nurse and a machine about as big as one of those dorm-room fridges. I’ve been more or less glued to CNN for 2 days, and not a peep. Y’all seem so well-informed; anyone got something?

    And I’d like to point out a little contrast. President #43: Flight suit complete with *very uncomfortable* parachute harness and much package-showing-off swaggering around on a carrier’s flight deck in front of giant “Mission Accomplished” banner. President #44: Announcement to the press from the White House, in suit and tie, lasting no more than ten minutes on a Sunday night. To use another well-known nerd quote: “Fascinating”.

    There. Me spleen be vented. Thank you for your time & attention.

  155. @yippie – uh, not really. bin Laden started living in that compound in 2005 or thereabouts. The government didn’t confirm this until 2010, five years later and over a year after Bush left office. Not only that, multiple members of the Bush administration have stated that the intelligence that lead to the discovery of bin Laden’s compound was *not* obtained through torture. Add in that among Bush’s first acts in office in 2001 was dismantling virtually every Clinton-era intelligence protocol (as detailed in the 9/11 report, which I’ve read twice), and I really don’t see how Bush gets much credit for this.

    Bush seems to realize this, too. He didn’t try to take credit for the attack in his public statement AND he declined Obama’s invitation to appear with him at Ground Zero tomorrow. It was Obama’s call, resulting from the Obama administration’s work, and Bush knows it.

  156. @Deidre The information that bin Laden was near-terminal and on dialysis has been widely debunked in the press as far back as 2006 and it is in the press quite a bit right now.

  157. Charles@#174: Thank you. Hope I didn’t make too much of a frackin’ idiot of myself. It was very late when I wrote that, and I’d forgotten the debunkery you mention.

  158. I may have missed someone making this point, but the most fascinating thing to me in all of this is that, from a strategic point of view, this decision has almost no upside for Obama. It’s a nice tick in the polls, it shows that he’s not soft, but it does not win him a second term. And it was pretty much the best case possible for the mission.

    Now think about the worst case – special ops forces captured raiding a compound (that does not contain bin Laden) in a sovereign foreign nation. In the worst case, Obama has lost any chance at a second term.

    It conclusively shows that he’s more focused on doing his job than keeping his job.

    That’s why I’ll be voting for him.

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