It’s really quite amazing: Barack Obama is a near-total failure even when he finally manages to get something right.
Obama’s disasterous bungling of the aftermath of the killing of bin Laden makes me think about that proverbial idiot who managed to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.
From the UK Telegraph:
10 ways Barack Obama botched the aftermath of the masterful operation to kill Osama bin Laden
By Toby Harnden World Last updated: May 5th, 2011
The past few days have seemed like an extended amateur hour in the White House as unforced error after unforced error has been made in the handling of the US Government’s message about the killing of bin Laden.
We should not forget the bottom line in this: bin Laden was justifiably and legally killed by brave and skilled US Navy SEALs. The operation was audacious and meticulous in its planning and execution. President Barack Obama made the call to carry out the raid and his decision was vindicated in spades.
Having said that, the messiness since then has taken much of the sheen off this success, temporarily at least. Here’s a summary of what went wrong once the most difficult bit had been achieved:
1. It took nearly three days to decide not to release the photographs. I think there was a case for not releasing the pictures, though on balance I think disclosure would have been best. But whichever way Obama went on this, the decision should have been made quickly, on Monday. By letting the world and his dog debate the issue for so long and then say no made the administration look indecisive and appear that it had something to hide. It will fuel the conspiracy theories. And the pictures will surely be leaked anyway.
2. To say that bin Laden was armed and hiding behind a wife being used as a human shield was an unforgiveable embellishment. The way it was expressed by John Brennan was to mock bin Laden as being unmanly and cowardly. It turned out to be incorrect and gave fuel, again, to conspiracy theories as well as accusations of cover-ups and illegality. Of all the mistakes of the week, this was by far the biggest.
3. It was a kill mission and no one should have been afraid to admit that. Bin Laden was a dead man as soon as the SEAL Team landed. There’s nothing wrong with that but the Obama administration should have been honest about it rather than spinning tales about bin Laden having a gun, reaching for a gun (the latest) and resisting (without saying how he resisted).
4. Too much information was released, too quickly and a lot of it was wrong. When it made the administration look good, the information flowed freely. When the tide turned, Jay Carney, Obama’s spokesman, clammed up completely. I’m a journalist; I like it when people talk about things. But from the administration’s perspective, it would have been much better to have given a very sparse, accurate description of what happened without going into too much detail, especially about the intelligence that led to the compound (an account which is necessarily suspect).
5. Obama tried to claim too much credit. Don’t get me wrong, he was entitled to a lot of credit. but sometimes less is more and it’s better to let facts speak for themselves. We didn’t need official after official to say how “gutsy” Obama was. Far better to have heaped praise on the CIA and SEALs (which, to be fair, was done most of the time) and talked less about Obama’s decision-making. And a nod to President George W. Bush would have been classy – and good politics for Obama.
6. Proof of death was needed. The whole point of the SEAL operation, rather than a B2 bombing that levelled the compound, was to achieve certainty. The administration has DNA evidence, facial recognition evidence and photographic evidence. Some combination of that evidence should have been collated and released swiftly. It’s not enough to say, effectively, “Trust me, I’m Obama” – especially given all the misinformation that was put out.
7. The mission should have been a ‘capture’ one. Notwithstanding 3. above and the legitimacy of killing bin Laden, I think a capture of bin Laden was probably possible and, in the long term, would have been better – not least because of the intelligence that could have been gleaned from interrogating him and the couriers. My hunch is that Obama didn’t want him alive because there would have been uncomfortable issues to address like whether he should be tried, where he should be held (it would have been Guantanamo – obviously) and the techniques for questioning him.
8. Obama’s rhetoric lurched from jingoistic to moralistic. During the initial announcement, Obama said that by killing bin Laden “we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to”. If Bush had said that, he would have been mocked and laughed at, with some justification. But by today Obama was all preachy and holier than thou saying: “It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool. That’s not who we are. We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.”
9. Triggering a torture debate was an avoidable own goal. Following on from 3. by discussing the intelligence, the administration walked into the issue of whether enhanced interrogation techniques yielded important information. That was certainly something they could have done without. Politically, it gave something for Republicans to use against Obama.
10. The muddle over Pakistan. Everyone I talk to with knowledge of these things tells me that Pakistan had to have given the green light for the raid in some form. But the Pakistanis, for good reasons, would not want this made public. Rather than say it would not comment on whether Pakistan had harboured bin Laden or was playing a double game, the White House poured petrol on the flames by encouraging criticism of Pakistan. That might have been deserved, but in terms of managing the region it was impolitic. The Pakistanis are clearly riled and the contradictions between the US and Pakistani accounts, again, fuel the conspiracy theories.
All this has meant that this week’s media story has become one about Obama and the White House more than one about the SEALs, the CIA and what killing bin Laden means. That’s exactly the wrong way round.
It’s not enough to say that Obama arrogantly and falsely took too much credit, or even that Obama didn’t give Bush and the programs Bush developed enough credit: Obama personally demonized programs that were essential to finally getting Osama bin Laden, and even launched a vendetta to destroy the professionals who gave us the vital information via his attorney general.
Waterboarding and “enhanced interrogation” were absolutely vital to nailing bin Laden. Even the career Democrat who was Barack Obama’s handpicked man to run the CIA openly acknowledged that:
Asked by NBC-TV’s Brian Williams about the information obtained from detainees that led to the bin Laden takedown, Panetta replied: ‘We had multiple series of sources that provided information with regards to this situation. … Clearly some of it came from detainees [and] they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of those detainees.”
When Williams asked whether “waterboarding” was one of those techniques, Panetta replied: “That’s correct.”
General Michael Hayden, the career intelligence professional who had directed the CIA prior to Leon Panetta, speaking about the CIA program Obama terminated on his second day as president, had this to say:
Michael Hayden said there is no question the CIA program including waterboarding laid the foundation for bin Laden’s capture.
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FMR CIA DIRECTOR ON FOX NEWS RADIO (via telephone): That database was kind of like the home depot of intelligence analysis. You know, it was incredibly detailed stuff.
HERRIDGE: As for its role in identifying this compound in Pakistan –
HAYDEN: It would be very difficult for me to conceive of an operation like the one that took place on Sunday that did not include in its preparation information that came out of the CIA detention program.
It is a well-documented fact, confirmed by both the Republican- and Democrat-appointed Directors of Central Intelligence, that waterboarding led to the breakthrough that finally resulted in nailing Osama bin Laden.
Barack Obama wants to demonize the people and procedures that led to Osama bin Laden’s killing even as he takes credit for what could not possibly have happened without the people and procedures that he demonized. It is a disgrace.
And Obama is STILL continuing to persecute the CIA professionals who got us the intelligence that got bin Laden via his attorney general attack dog. He won’t even so much as talk to Holder about his rabid attack dog’s rabid determination to criminalize the professionals whose work led to the result Obama is taking credit for. And that makes Obama a disgrace.
Then there’s the fact that so many of the events surrounding Barack Obama were staged propaganda.
Of the famous photo supposedly showing Obama and his national security team monitoring and directing the SEAL Team that got Osama bin Laden, we now know that:
Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, revealed there was a 25 minute blackout during which the live feed from cameras mounted on the helmets of the US special forces was cut off.
A photograph released by the White House appeared to show the President and his aides in the situation room watching the action as it unfolded. In fact they had little knowledge of what was happening in the compound.
In an interview with PBS, Mr Panetta said: “Once those teams went into the compound I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes where we really didn’t know just exactly what was going on. And there were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information.
“We had some observation of the approach there, but we did not have direct flow of information as to the actual conduct of the operation itself as they were going through the compound.”
Which is to say that much of the hubub of Obama as commanding figure was simply staged. It wasn’t real.
Nor were the photos of Obama’s speech announcing that Osama bin Laden had been killed.
And while a liberal might argue that what Obama did has been done before, my response is that there are times when you’ve got to be real and not propaganda, and this was clearly one of those times.
In light of what George Bush did to create programs, build special operations capabilities capable of performing the Pakistan mission that got bin Laden, and even what Barack Obama said during his campaign for president, the decision to capture or kill Osama bin Laden was a no-brainer.
I mean, just imagine the fecal matter that would have struck the rotary oscillator had it emerged that Barack Obama had known for at least six months where Osama bin Laden was – and refused to get him????
That said, the man acted brainless before the decision to get Osama bin Laden, and he’s clearly returned to his brainless form since.