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Posts Tagged ‘bin laden’

Is Obama taking credit for Leon Panetta’s courage?

Posted by Richard on May 1, 2012

If the Obama administration were a football team, its quarterback would have been penalized for excessive celebration. There’s that contemptible campaign ad in which Bill Clinton (who passed on numerous opportunities to get bin Laden) praised Obama’s courage and suggested that Romney wouldn’t have acted as decisively — an ad that even ultra-liberal Arianna Huffington declared “despicable.”

The President himself intimated that Romney would have failed to act (as Clinton repeatedly did). Charles Krauthammer and Brit Hume joined Huffington in disapproving, describing his remarks with the words “unseemly” and “Yuck.”

And then there was today’s victory lap around Afghanistan. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the President, whoever he is, visiting our troops and thanking them. But the timing — well, I’d say it’s unseemly, and yuck.

Michael Mukasey emphasized how unpresidential all this self-congratulation is (“It’s hard to imagine Lincoln or Eisenhower claiming such credit for the heroic actions of others”). He also pointed out that, according to a recently released memo, the President apparently approved the raid on condition of a “responsibility-escape clause” that basically said “It’s Admiral McRaven’s plan, so if it all goes south, he’s to blame.”

I agree that even if the President acted resolutely and decisively, this PR campaign is indeed unseemly and despicable. But I’d like to point out that that’s a big “if,” and I wish someone would remember the information I posted about on May 5, 2011, just days after the successful raid. Numerous sources at the time said bin Laden’s location had been known for some time, but the President had delayed making a decision. One anonymous White House source went further, providing a detailed (and believable) account of how the decision was finally made and who made it:

According to the source, Panetta, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, David Petraeus, and others had been pushing for weeks, maybe months, for an attack on the Abottabad compound. Valerie Jarrett was adamantly opposed. And the President couldn’t make up his mind. More than once, Obama seemed ready to agree and then, after Jarrett intervened, backed away.

With Clinton and Chief of Staff Bill Daley pledging their full support, Panetta went ahead with planning and preparation for the mission, and eventually gave the order for the SEALs to go in. The President was only informed (and rushed back to the White House) after the operation had begun.

So, is the President’s re-election campaign going to be centered around his taking credit for the courage of Leon Panetta?

Well, it can’t be centered around his domestic policy successes. He’s got nothing.

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Bogus photo arguments

Posted by Richard on May 5, 2011

There may be a good reason for not releasing the photos of bin Laden's corpse, but I haven't heard it. This nonsense about the photos representing a "national security risk" certainly isn't a convincing one. Bin Laden preached a gross perversion of Islam, right? And all the good Muslims are glad he's gone, right? So the "backlash" and anti-Americanism that the administration and its supporters are worried about would have to come from supporters of bin Laden and al Qaeda, right?

News flash: they already hated us and wanted to see the Great Satan destroyed. They already know we killed their leader. How much more anti-American can those pictures make them?

But here's what really galls me about these arguments: the people who are now so terribly concerned that these photos might inflame Muslim public opinion and incite violence against the US are the same people who insisted that every panty-on-the-head, jihadist-humiliating picture from Abu Ghraib had to be disseminated far and wide, regardless of the consequences. 

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Was it the courage of Leon Panetta?

Posted by Richard on May 5, 2011

The MSM have been waxing eloquent about the courage of President Obama in deciding to go ahead with the mission to get bin Laden, despite the risks. But was it Obama's courageous decision? An anonymous source inside the White House says it wasn't Obama, but CIA Director Leon Panetta who gave the go-ahead. And that the President wasn't even informed until the mission was already under way.

According to the source, Panetta, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, David Petraeus, and others had been pushing for weeks, maybe months, for an attack on the Abottabad compound. Valerie Jarrett was adamantly opposed. And the President couldn't make up his mind. More than once, Obama seemed ready to agree and then, after Jarrett intervened, backed away. 

With Clinton and Chief of Staff Bill Daley pledging their full support, Panetta went ahead with planning and preparation for the mission, and eventually gave the order for the SEALs to go in. The President was only informed (and rushed back to the White House) after the operation had begun. 

Is the anonymous account true? It's certainly fascinating reading and full of rich detail. The account of the events, the depiction of who did what, who said what — it all seems quite plausible.

Anonymous' account goes a long way toward explaining the otherwise inexplicable incompetence with which the messaging and PR after the event have been handled, including the days of uncertainty about whether to release photos of the corpse (with Panetta publicly saying yes; I bet Jarrett was instrumental in persuading the President to say no). 

Even some mainstream reports have given Panetta the lead role in the affair and suggested that the President was reluctant or indecisive.

You never know with these anonymously sourced stories. But I'm inclined to believe this one could be true. And that's rather troubling in a number of ways.

(HT: David Aitken)

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Conflicting stories

Posted by Richard on May 3, 2011

Last night, I cheered the President. First, because he authorized the mission to get bin Laden and it was a success. Second, because he informed the nation in a speech that was commendably short, to the point, and non-professorial. He even graciously acknowledged the role of his predecessor. Granted, there were an inordinate number of references to "I," "me," "my," and "mine" — but I can forgive that. He's had a rough year, and wanting to crow about this success is understandable.

But today, we've been treated to conflicting stories about one of the important aspects of the mission and the President's authorization of it. First, there was this (emphasis added): 

May 2 (Reuters) – The U.S. special forces team that hunted down Osama bin Laden was under orders to kill the al Qaeda mastermind, not capture him, a U.S. national security official told Reuters.

"This was a kill operation," the official said, making clear there was no desire to try to capture bin Laden alive in Pakistan.

And that account was echoed in many places. India's NDTV had the timeline: 

On April 29, 2011, Obama signed the "Kill Osama bin Laden order." He gave the final go ahead for the secret operation at 8.20 am that day.

Slate's John Dickerson informed us that not only was it a kill operation (a.k.a. "targeted assassination"), but that critical information came from those infamous Gitmo interrogations (emphasis added): 

Detainees being held at Guantanamo provided some of the strongest information about those who were trusted by Bin Laden. They identified a courier and his brother who lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan, an affluent suburb where a lot of retired Pakistani military officers live.

Early Friday morning before departing to view tornado damage in Alabama, the president gave the order to initiate the operation to kill Bin Laden. On Sunday, he met throughout the day in the Situation Room, making final preparations and receiving updates.

HuffPo's Earl Ofari Hutchison crowed that this "shattered the myth" that Obama and the Democrats are soft on terrorism (emphasis added): 

… He refused to soften any of the provisions of the Patriot Act, promptly issued a shoot-to-kill order against the Somali pirates to free American hostages, stepped up the drone attacks on the Taliban in Pakistan, and approved the massive expansion of troops, bases, and spending on the Afghan War. But most importantly, he issued tough and secret orders to the CIA to continue to do everything to destroy and disrupt l Qaeda and to take out the one man that Americans most wanted dead, and that was bin Laden. Obama's order to the CIA and military counter-terror teams hunting bin Laden was clear; do not capture, but kill.

But at some point, administration officials had second thoughts about going with the "orders to kill" narrative. Time's Michael Scherer quoted an unnamed source as denying the Reuters account: 

“No U.S. forces go in and, if someone surrenders to them, will kill them,” the official says. “There was a presumption that it would likely end in a kill,” the official continued, citing the U.S. government’s expectation that Bin Laden would resist capture. “But to say that it was a kill mission is wrong.”

And he later updated with a named source (emphasis added):

As expected, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan confirmed that this was not a kill-only mission at the White House briefing. ” We certainly were planning for the possibility, which we thought was going to be remote,” Brennan said of capturing Bin Laden alive. ” If we had the opportunity to take him alive we would have done that.”

After that, things got even murkier, with multiple conflicting stories.

— Bin Laden was using a wife as a human shield. No, the woman was just caught in the crossfire. And it may have been a different woman in a different place.

— Bin Laden was shooting at the SEALs with an AK47. No, he was unarmed.

— He was given a chance to surrender, and shot when he didn't. Wait, is that narrative part of the "he was unarmed" story or part of the "he was resisting" story?

Maybe the chance to surrender was like on the cop shows, when they shout "Police, open up!" approximately 3/10ths of a second before smashing in the door. "Osama, surrender!" Bang! Bang! Bang!

The administration is apparently trying to walk a fine line. On the one hand, they want to portray the President as a strong, no-nonsense leader who's prepared to kill the bad guys and keep America safe (hey, there's an election in the offing).

On the other hand, they don't want him to appear to be a cowboy who ignored Reagan's 1981 executive order prohibiting assassinations and trampled on international law.

Personally, I've got no problem with the initial story. In any reasonably free and rational society, you could shoot bin Laden, claim the old Texas affirmative defense that "he needed killin'," and be confident that no jury would convict.

With the exception of whack-jobs like Cindy Sheehan and her ilk, I don't think the court of American public opinion has any problems with an order to take out this enemy of mankind. Like me, most people heartily agree with the President: "The world is safer: it is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden."

International public opinion is another matter.

But then, President Obama has always seemed more concerned about the latter than the former.

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bin Laden dead

Posted by Richard on May 2, 2011

Something happened tonight that hasn't happened in a long time: the President spoke, and I cheered.

Osama bin Laden, hunted as the mastermind behind the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, has been killed, President Obama announced tonight.

The president called the killing of bin Laden the "most significant achievement to date" in the effort to defeat al Qaeda.

Bin Laden was located at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, which was monitored and when the time was determined to be right, the president said, he authorized a "targeted operation."

"A small team of Americans carried out the operation," Obama said. "After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body."

DNA testing confirmed that it was bin Laden, sources told ABC News.

Hurrah, hurrah! Now where's that SOB Zawahiri?

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Celebrating the death of a murderer

Posted by Richard on July 25, 2009

At our breakfast gathering this morning, I told my compatriots about a joke Jimmy Fallon told regarding the probable killing of one of Osama bin Laden's sons. One person in the audience cheered, and a couple of people applauded. The rest sat in stony silence. A friend suggested that maybe they thought it wasn't appropriate to joke about the death of anyone.

I consider that explanation unlikely. I suspect that a significant percentage of the typical Jimmy Fallon audience considers slasher movies and Grand Theft Auto to be high entertainment. But it got me thinking. 

It's a common belief among Christians that all human life is sacred/valuable (many other religions/cultures share that belief, and some extend it to other creatures as well), and that therefore the death of even the vilest murderer or brutal tyrant should be mourned — or at least not celebrated.

I completely disagree. That belief shows a callous disregard for the murderer's future victims. When an al Qaeda leader is killed, how many people will not be blown up or shot, how many women and children will not be brutalized and subjugated, how many men will not be beheaded as a consequence of his death?

If you've studied free-market economics, you may be familiar with Frédéric Bastiat's essay, “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen.” In it, he argued that we tend to focus on the immediate, intended consequences of an action (what is seen) and fail to recognize the later, unintended consequences (what is not seen). For instance, when the government allocates a few hundred billion dollars for "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects, we see the jobs created (they put up big signs at the project sites to make sure we do). But we don't see the goods that would have been purchased, the investments that would have been made, and the jobs that would have been created if the government had left that money in private hands instead of taxing or borrowing it away. 

I contend that the death of a murderer represents a moral issue analogous to Bastiat's principle of economics. You can see the lifeless body of a terrorist or serial killer (or at least the news reports) and recognize that a human life has been taken. But too often, you fail to see the lives that have been spared in the future as a consequence of his death.

Not me. I celebrate the deaths of barbarians like Saad bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — because I'm gladdened by the thought of the innocent victims, the honest and peaceful people, who will be spared because of their demise. And I unashamedly value the lives of the latter more than the lives of the former. Ridding the world of such evil men and preventing their future acts of violence is the noble, decent, civilized thing to do. It is virtuous and it is just.

If you still insist that all killing is always wrong, here's a thought experiment. You see a man with his knife raised, about to stab the chest of a helpless, bound woman. There is a gun at hand. What would you do? Would you shoot him, trading his life for hers?

Would you do nothing, because taking any life is wrong? Then she dies, and he can move on to the next victim.

If all human life is equally valuable, and pain and suffering are bad, maybe you should shoot her! Either way, someone dies, and (since you don't care who) you can at least spare her a more painful death. 

I would shoot him without hesitation, and if I succeeded, I'd be relieved and happy for her and for his future victims. The lives of honest, peaceful, innocent people are infinitely more valuable than the lives of murderous predators.

Likewise, I hope that Predator drone did take out Saad bin Laden, and I'm gladdened by the thought of the lives that will be spared as a result of his death. Making a joke or two at the scumbag's expense is not out of order.

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Terror and the Arab “street”

Posted by Richard on September 19, 2007

A prominent Saudi cleric who in the past praised Osama bin Laden and whose teachings are said to have inspired terrorist attacks has now condemned al Qaeda for all the killing of "innocent Muslims and others." Iowahawk posed an interesting question about al Qaeda's recent tactics and proposed an interesting answer:

The question, of course, is why has al Qaeda turned to killing "innocent Muslims"? As Glenn and everybody else notices, Arab clerics did not bother to denounce terrorism when Americans were the prominent targets, but regard terrorism much differently when it produces Arab and Muslim victims. Al Qaeda turned to a policy that seemed calculated to alienate the Arab "street." Why?

The best answer, or at least the answer that will best withstand the scrutiny of history, is that the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, wittingly or not, put al Qaeda in an almost impossible position.

Naturally, you need to read the whole thing

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Osama bin rotting?

Posted by Richard on September 14, 2007

I've had doubts about bin Laden being alive for some time now, and the two recent videos just reinforced them. This CNET News Blog post pointed out some fascinating analyses of the videos by Dr. Neal Krawetz at Secure Computing. In As Alive as Elvis, Dr. Krawetz reported his findings regarding the Sept. 7 video, which included:

The video shows Bin Laden in his white hat, white shirt, and yellow sweater. This is the same clothing he wore in the 2004-10-29 video. In 2004 he had it unzipped, but in 2007 he zipped up the bottom half. Besides the clothing, it appears to be the same background, same lighting, and same desk. Even the camera angle is almost identical.

… If you overlay the 2007 video with the 2004 video, his face has not changed in three years — only his beard is darker and the contrast on the picture has been adjusted.

What are the chances of nothing changing (except his beard) in three years? Virtually zero. The clips appear to have been recorded three years ago.

The audio does make reference to relatively current events (people and places). However, these references are ONLY made during the frozen-frame portions and only after splices in the audio track. The animated portions make no references to current events.

The big question is: is the audio from Bin Laden? I'm not an audio expert (yet) and since I don't know Arabic, I cannot tell if there is an accent or if the accent changes. I do know that the room echo and background sounds change during different audio clips. And there are so many splices that I cannot help but wonder if someone spliced words and phrases together.

In a follow-up, Bin Laden Video Image Analysis, Krawetz reported (ellipsis in original):

With regards to Bin Laden's beard… It cannot be detected with any of my tools as being digitally modified. However:

  • The whole inner frame of Bin Laden was resaved at least twice. The number of reseaves does not appear to be enough to distort significant modifications.

  • The colorful border was also saved twice. However…

  • Even though the Bin Laden frame and border were both saved twice each, they were not saved at the same time. I know this because the Jpeg artifacts (8×8 squares) are on the 8×8 grid for the Bin Laden frame, but are shifted over on the border — the border's 8×8 artifacts do not lie on the Jpeg 8×8 grid.

  • The whole video frame (border + Bin Laden) was combined from many parts. Here's the order, starting with the last thing added:
    1. As-Sahab logo, English subtitles, and text below Bin Laden (alternates between English and Arabic) was added last.
    2. "The Solution" and Arabic in the top right corner was the penultimate addition.
    3. The Bin Laden frame and border were combined.
    4. In the Bin Laden frame, there is no indication of manipulation and no indication of a chromakey replacement. In the border, the spinning globe was modified along with the strobing colors.

  • Both saturation and PCA shows fine horizontal stripes on Bin Laden and the background. These came from interlaced video sources. In contrast, the text elements and As-Sahab logo appear to be from non-interlaced sources.

FWIW, interlaced suggests (but only suggests) older video and non-interlaced suggests newer. 

If I had to bet, I'd bet bin Laden is dead, and Zawahiri, the brains behind al Qaeda, is keeping the charismatic figurehead "alive" for his PR value. 

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It has to be Rove

Posted by Richard on September 9, 2007

Frank J. provided the definitive Osama tape analysis — short, to the point, and spot on:

We all know Rove is behind the newest Osama video, right? I mean there's no way Osama released a video on his own imitating every single left-wing talking point; that's just too perfect for us. He did everything but end his tirade with, "In conclusion, murderous terrorists and liberals are pretty much ideologically the same. Once again, if you take anything away from my speech, it should be that terrorists and liberals are almost exactly the same thing."

This is just too perfect for us; it has to be Rove.

BTW, I think it's funny how the liberals are acting like all we right wing bloggers conspired together to use the talking point that Osama sounds like a left-wing blogger. Did they ever consider that the reasons we all said he sounds exactly like a left-wing blogger is because he sounds exactly like a left-wing blogger? If in his video he had said, "Hey! Hey! Hey!" in a deep voice, we'd all be saying he sounded like Fat Albert. Instead, he said, "Democrats need to get America our of Iraq now and you need to read Chomsky and worry about global warming," so we're all saying he sounds like a liberal blogger. Occam's razor.

All I can add is I really like Occam's razor. 

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