Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 10:58 AM

Osama bin Laden is Dead

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

[Author’s Note: Due to unprecedented reader interest I’ve decided to run this commentary, which was published originally yesterday (Monday at 12:27 pm), for another day.]

Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children…

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body…

The United States is not at war with Islam… Bin laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

We will be relentless in our defense of our citizens and our friends and allies… And on nights like this one, we can say to families who lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: justice has been done.

(Obama address to the nation, Whitehouse.gov, May 1, 2011)

This, in part, is how President Obama stamped “mission accomplished” last night on America’s 10-year quest to avenge the al-Qaeda attacks on September 11, 2001. There’s no denying the psychological boost this will give the war on terrorism. And the celebration this news prompted across the United States is understandable.

But, as victories go, this one is pyrrhic at best. After all, almost as many American lives were lost prosecuting this war as those that were lost on 9/11. What’s more, tens of thousands of innocents in Afghanistan and Pakistan were killed as collateral damage and over one trillion dollars were spent just to arrive at this point.

Not to mention that bin Laden effectively won this war many years ago when he forced every country in the Western world to implement new security measures and erect defensive eyesores – all of which cost hundreds of billions (if not trillions) of dollars and have proven time and again to be utterly feckless in preventing more terrorist attacks. Remember 7/7…?

Then there’s the fact that Obama himself is on record conceding that bin Laden no longer had much to do with al-Qaeda’s operations. Instead, for years now, America’s enemy number one in this respect has been Anwar al-Awlaki, leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula:

CIA: al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [as its Yemen-based group is called] is now the biggest threat…

(CBS News, August 25, 2010)

It was al-Awlaki, for example, who was behind the notorious attempt on Christmas Day last year to blow up an airplane filled with passengers over Detroit. And there are bound to be attempts now by every al-Qaeda franchise in the world to avenge this spectacular assassination of bin Laden, who was still the inspirational leader to Muslim terrorists everywhere.

Of course, this begs the question: will it take another ten years before the Americans take out al-Awlaki? And let us not forget that bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, as well as the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar (both of whom were charged with planning 9/11 along with bin Laden) are still at large.

On the other hand, the killing of bin Laden sends the forbidding message to all of his wannabe successors that the Americans will never cease in their efforts to hunt them down and kill them too – no matter what or how long it takes.

And, for the record, despite talk about attempts to take bin Laden alive, I’m sure this is the last thing Obama wanted in light of the political grief he suffered for attempting to bring lowly al-Qaeda foot soldiers to justice in the United States. No, for Obama, this was the best possible outcome: bin Laden dead and not a single American even wounded during this stealth mission.

But I feel constrained to admonish the Obama Administration and American media alike to appreciate that the transparency in government that applies to civilian activities does not, indeed should not, apply to military operations.  Specifically, disclosing blow-by-blow details about this covert operation was not only unnecessary, it was manifestly foolhardy. A general overview would have sufficed. Frankly, I fear that in this age of Facebook, Twitter, and WikiLeaks – when people seem obsessed with knowing everything about everything, there’s far too little regard for the critical role secrecy plays in “covert” military operations (i.e., before, during, and after they are executed).

In the meantime, Pakistani leaders clearly have some ‘splainin to do. After all, they claimed for years that they had no better intelligence on the whereabouts of bin Laden than the Americans. But the fact that American Special Forces gunned him down in an ostentatious mansion just a stone’s throw from Pakistan’s main military academy makes a mockery of their claims. Talk about “hiding in plain sight.”

That said, the Americans are sensible enough to allow the Pakistanis to do or say whatever is necessary to save face. Unfortunately, the Catch-22 is that the Pakistanis will have to admit that they were either harboring bin Laden (with all of the untenable treachery that entails) or so incompetent that he was able to hide right under their noses for as many as six years without them sniffing him out.  I have no doubt, however, that the Americans will just use the leverage they now have to force the Pakistanis to be extremely solicitous to prove their trustworthiness as allies in this ongoing global war on terrorism.

On the home front, I cannot resist noting the unpatriotic chagrin Obama’s partisan critics must be feeling today. Not least because they have been propagating the patently false notion that Obama is the weakest leader in U.S. history and has made America the laughing stock of the world. Now every major world leader is publicly marveling at Obama’s leadership and the daring way he commanded his troops through their execution of this covert assault. (And, lest anyone suggest this was just dumb luck, recall that – just months into his presidency – he displayed similar leadership and command in rescuing the American captain of the U.S-flagged Maersk who was being held hostage on the high seas by Somali pirates.)

More to the point, no less a person than their war hero, former President George W. Bush, will be the first to concede that Obama has just pulled off the most significant military accomplishment in this long (and ongoing) war. And it speaks volumes about Obama’s leadership style that, before addressing the nation, he went out of his way to share the news in private with Bush and former President Bill Clinton – both of whom tried in vain to kill bin Laden.

In fairness, though, the pied piper of Obama’s critics, talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, once famously said that he was praying for this president to fail. Yet this development forced even him to eat his words.  Here is how he did so on his show just moments ago:

We must open the program today by congratulating President Obama. Our military wanted to go in there and just scorch the earth … but President Obama single-handedly understood what was at stake here. He alone understood the need to get DNA to prove the death … it was President Obama single-handedly and alone who came up with the strategy that brought about the effective assassination of Osama bin Laden… Thank God for President Obama.

(Huffington Post, May 2, 2011)

Finally, apropos of having some ‘splainin to do, there’s this:

What seemed like a stunning victory in Afghanistan is being undermined by a resurgent Taliban – making this war now seem almost as half-assed and lacking in purpose as the war in Iraq. And, to add insult to the mess America has made of both wars, al-Qaeda terrorists remind us almost daily that they remain as great a threat today as they were on 9/11….

Finally, earth to the CIA: Osama bin Laden is not only irrelevant; he’s dead!

Frankly, it’s now easy to see how group-think American intelligence, and herd-like American media, misled us to believe that Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs. How else does one explain the CIA confirming, and media outlets reporting, that the dye-bearded Osama look-a-like who’s starring this week in al Qaeda’s annual 9/11 mockumentary is, in fact, a resurrected bin Laden…?

(9/11 Remembered, The iPINIONS Journal, September 11, 2007)

I was convinced that he was dead because I could think of no other rational explanation for the inability of the U.S. – with its unprecedented combination of military power, military intelligence, and political influence – to kill or capture him. But I was wrong. Well, I was right about him being irrelevant, but not about him being dead.

In any case, congratulations President Obama … great hit!

NOTE: Late reports are that DNA tests have proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the dead body U.S. forces took into custody is in fact bin Laden’s. I’m sure confirming images, perhaps even videos, will be released in due course. After all, we don’t want the spectacle of doubters demanding to see them the way birthers were demanding to see Obama’s birth certificate.

Also, it’s very smart of them to have buried him with dispatch, in accordance with Islamic practices, in an undisclosed location at sea. After all, the last thing we need is radical Muslims making pilgrimages to his burial site the way good Muslims make pilgrimages to Mecca.

ENDNOTE: I can think of no better way to snap the world back into reality – after escaping with last week’s royal wedding – than this “momentous” development in the war on terrorism.

Related commmentaries:
9/11 Remembered
When Will Obama Give Up the Bin Laden Ghost Hunt?

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