Tag: bin laden

Newly Disclosed Memo Proves Ben Shapiro’s a Partisan Hack

The assassination of Osama bin Laden by US special forces certainly has created a political problem for the Republican party. They spent years demagoguing the war on terror, but now the symbol of that struggle is dead. The man who green-lighted the operation wasn’t George W. Bush or John McCain, but Barack Obama. And you can bet that the Democrats are going to beat that drum from now until November. For example (via):

My own view is kind of “meh.” The death of Osama bin Laden resulted from years of intelligence and military activities; the President’s approval of the operation marked a culmination of a great deal of work, no small measure of which was done under the prior administration. But this is the way American politics work — the President gets credit and blame for what happens under the President’s watch — and the video pretty much sums up the rationale for why Obama can claim a share of the spoils. 
Regardless, conservative opinion-leaders have plenty of options for minimizing or otherwise handling the political difficulties created by bin Laden’s death. But the one being peddled by Ben Shapiro at Breitbart is… well… read on.

It starts with a memo recently published in Time magazine:

Received phone call from Tom Donilon who stated that the President made a decision with regard to AC1 [Abbottabad Compound 1]. The decision is to proceed with the assault.

The timing, operational decision making and control are in Admiral McRaven’s hands. The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the President. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the President for his consideration. The direction is to go in and get bin Laden and if he is not there, to get out. Those instructions were conveyed to Admiral McRaven at approximately 10:45 am.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? The President approves the operation based on the “risk profile” he was presented. If new risks emerge, he wants to be made aware of them and given the opportunity to reconsider the operation. In other words, Obama didn’t take himself out of the decision loop. Sounds like the kind of thing that a hands-on-this-is-my-call-and-it-remains-my-call executive would do, right?

Well, thank goodness Shaprio is here to correct such an obvious misreading. What the memo really shows is that Obama is a weasely weasel who most certainly can’t claim a smidgen of credit for authorizing a high-risk operation.

Only the memo doesn’t show a gutsy call. It doesn’t show a president willing to take the blame for a mission gone wrong. It shows a CYA maneuver by the White House. 

The memo puts all control in the hands of Admiral McRaven – the “timing, operational decision making and control” are all up to McRaven. So the notion that Obama and his team were walking through every stage of the operation is incorrect. The hero here was McRaven, not Obama. And had the mission gone wrong, McRaven surely would have been thrown under the bus. 

The memo is crystal clear on that point. It says that the decision has been made based solely on the “risk profile presented to the President.” If any other risks – no matter how minute – arose, they were “to be brought back to the President for his consideration.” This is ludicrous. It is wiggle room. It was Obama’s way of carving out space for himself in case the mission went bad. If it did, he’d say that there were additional risks of which he hadn’t been informed; he’d been kept in the dark by his military leaders.

You see, if Obama were a real leader he would green-lighted McRaven and then retired to the White House den to watch a baseball game. Or better yet, he would not only have taken operational command of the mission, but been the first into the compound. Hell, he would have killed Obama himself. With his bare hands! That’s what George W. Bush would have done. Now that man was a real decider.


Anwar al-Awlaki and Targeted Killing: A quick, first, and uneasy reaction

*post written with comments from fellow duck Ben O’Loughlin

The world media is reporting that Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed in Yemen – although details are very sketchy at this point.

It is very clear to me that Awlaki was not a particularly nice person – he advocated some rather terrible things (even before 9/11 supposedly radicalised him). His followers have been certainly linked to terrorism, including the Fort Hood shooting.

However, I must admit that I am somewhat troubled by this turn of events. Earlier this year I suggested that the targeted killing of bin Laden was acceptable under international law. He’s been linked to the financing and organising of terrorist attacks around the world and this was well established before his death.

But I have yet to see any reports that suggest that Awlaki has been tied to any material support for terrorist attacks. I think this changes the legal game substantially. It essentially is suggesting that *we* (whoever that is) are now targeting people for their ideas rather than they are actually doing. Pushed to its logical extreme, a person might unintentionally inspire others to commit violent acts. Should they be eliminated?

I’m no fan of Awlaki and I will certainly not mourn his passing, (really – he seems like a total jerk) but this raises serious questions about the targeted killing program, who is being targeted and why. Presumably, in the case of targeted killing, its important there is evidence BEFORE the killing, rather than a scrabble now to piece together a case, after the fact.

I hope there is evidence that he actually materially supported terrorism.

Edit: Will McCants has linked to an article at Foreign Policy from November 2010 which argues the case for taking out Awlaki. I still have mixed feelings about this. I will feel better if there is a case/dossier of evidence that can be brought forward – and I still maintain that this case should have been made before striking out at him. 


Making me Mlad: Why you can’t compare the Mladic and Osama bin Laden raids

Charli has been writing about international justice, arguing against ‘myths’ – and comparing the efforts to bring Mladic to justice as opposed to the rush to shoot Osama bin Laden in the face. Others, such as John Feffner at Foriegn Policy in Focus have made similar arguments.

I agree and disagree with some of the points being made. However I am concerned that that many of these arguments seem to completely ignore or fail to appreciate the different context of the Mladic and OBL raids. I just don’t think we can pretend these are at all similar situations – even looking beyond “status” issues, (who was/is a combatant/civilian etc). Rather, I think the core issue here is time and context.

For lack of a better term, bin Laden was caught and killed “during” the War on Terror, a period of active hostilities between the US and al-Qaeda. Mladic was captured over a decade and half after the Dayton Accords. The situation in the Balkans is far from perfect, but it’s certainly calmer. People have been able to get on with their lives as they rebuilding their homes, villages – even if scars can never perfectly heal.
The ICTY was established in 1993 (- a great way for the West/UN/European countries to look like they were doing something about the ethnic slaughter when they really weren’t). Mladic was indicted in July 1995 and surely was eligible to be captured and extradited from that point on.

There’s no question that it’s been a painful and horrible wait, but I wonder if it is also one that has allowed cooler heads to prevail? There have been protests in Serbia, of course. But they have not been on a truly significant scale. Mladic has been caught, charged, extradited (despite appeals) in under a week. Would this have actually been possible in 1995? Possible without tearing apart a freshly signed peace treaty? Aggravating a tense situation? And an angry population?

I’m not saying that international justice does not work – but I do not think 1) it always needs to take the form of an international court 2) that it should be done immediately.

Although it’s been nearly a decade since 9/11, the fact that the War on Terror has been ongoing makes the OBL situation different. bin Laden was a leader of a terrorist group actively planning attacks against the United States and other targets. Mladic, clearly a jerk of international proportions, was guilty of crimes but had returned to civilian life – and so have many others. The Hague will not become the centre of terrorist attacks or even protests. I’m not sure the same could have been said for OBL. Does this mean a trial for both was impossible? No. Does this mean the circumstances were very, very different? Yes.

The bottom line – you can’t make a fair comparison between Mladic and bin Laden when it comes to international justice.

The other reason this consideration is important is that the UN has released a report saying that both sides have conducted war crimes in Libya. Is it the best idea to indict individuals now? Or wait until the conflict is over, the country has a chance to catch its breath and then begin to take a good hard look at what has happened on its territory? Time may or may not tell.


The bin Laden Killing and Assassination Explained in 4 Paragraphs Not By Me

At the risk of beating a dead terrorist horse, I want to cite W. Hays Parks (former Special Advisor to the Office of Legal Counsel on Law of War Issues at DoD, JAG and possible stand in for Clint Eastwood in that Grand Torino movie) on the Osama bin Laden assassination/murder/killing debate that has kind of been driving me nuts.

In a response letter in the Washington Post, Parks writes:

The May 2 lead story by Scott Wilson and Craig Whitlock on the death of Osama bin Laden was well written and reported. But on the continuation, the story referred to the deadly attack as an “assassination.” It was not.
Executive Order 12333 prohibits but does not define assassination. In 1988, as a civilian attorney in the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Army, I researched the issue to define assassination. I coordinated my draft opinion with the judge advocates general of the Navy and Air Force; the general counsel of the Defense Department; the general counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency; and the legal adviser of the State Department. In 1989, the Army’s judge advocate general signed an unclassified memorandum defining assassination to provide clarity to the prohibition. It was provided to the House and Senate intelligence oversight committees and was published in the State Department’s volume of significant international law documents.
Assassination is murder committed for political purposes. The killing of enemy military personnel in time of armed conflict is not assassination.
Nor is it assassination to attack the leadership of armed non-state actors such as Osama bin Laden who have been and remain engaged in planning and executing armed attacks against a sovereign state. Because bin Laden was a lawful target, the attack was neither murder nor assassination.

I think this pretty much sums it up for me. Well that and this line from Roger Cohen:

If there is greater fatuity than second-guessing the split-second decisions of commandos confronted by gunfire, knowing the compound may be wired to explode, and hunting a serial mass murderer unwilling to surrender, then I am unaware of it. Let post-modern, pacifist Germans agonize, and whoever else wishes to writhe on a pin. The rest of us can be satisfied.

Me, and my fake-lawyer self could not care any less about this issue, unless it somehow involved the Royal Wedding.


Thoughts on Bin Laden, #47

I’ll make it quick.

1. He’s dead. But that won’t stop the vast, academic industry around this war. We academics really have done very well out of the war on terror for the most part. We have a strong professional interest in not facing up to the raw strategic reality, that Al Qaeda has become largely a third-order nuisance, dangerous but mainly in terms of baiting us to do stupid things, and a diversion from much more difficult and serious stuff, like the vast imbalance between our power, resources and commitments, the near collapse of our financial system (September 2008, as well as 2001, is a critical date), the overloading of the planet with people competing for dwindling resources, the fact we still have hair-trigger nuclear weapons systems and false alarms and close calls, and that not so long ago, Boris Yeltsin had the nuclear briefcase before him as he decided whether to launch a nuclear attack in response to a Norwegian weather rocket mistaken for an incoming attack. No, an endless war on terror and a ‘global counterinsurgency’ lets us opine about such ticklish subjects as sectarian hatred, multiculturalism, alienated young men, globalisation, nationbuilding, etc etc and a whole network of institutions and careers built on it.

2. For just a small example, I remember arguing with a member of an ‘insurgency’ study group in a prominent university. When I made the blunt point that AQ attacks against us of any significance have been so rare and mainly incompetent that most of us are in more danger of falling of a ladder, he had the wit to reply that there was a broader ‘insurgency’ underway. It was manifest not only in violent militancy (silly me), but in the eccentric opinions of teenagers in chat-rooms getting excited about a Caliphate, and even in the demands of some folk for Sharia Law. He had expanded insurgency to encompass the holding of any subversive idea. A touch authoritarian, perhaps. When I asked him whether the Archbishop of Canterbury was an insurgent because of his mild belief in some kind of legal pluralism in the UK, the verdict was that he was a ‘useful idiot.’ A professional expert on insurgency finding insurgencies everywhere? Follow the money.

3.  On the death celebrations: I can’t agree with some folk here that the celebrations mark some kind of fundamental and scary brutalising of American civic life, like torture did, for example. Most folk haven’t taken to the streets to join in the party. Bin Laden declared war on the US and killed thousands of Americans, and if it is unappetising or unsavoury that some people have celebrated a little loudly, that is surely forgivable. Revenge and reprisal is part of our human condition, no matter how much we sublimate it into concepts like ‘justice’, even if we should work harder to civilise that urge. That terrorism against us is partly caused by the longing for vengeance because of ‘legitimate grievances’ is something academics argue for and sometimes sympathise with. Surely the fact that we might respond emotionally and vulgarly because of our legitimate grievances too deserves some sympathy?  In most societies across space and time, the news that a murderous enemy of the state has been killed is an occasion to be glad, even to rejoice. To condemn Americans, or Britons, or Westerners for failing to be exceptional and infinitely merciful and dignified is to apply a fictitious and narcissistic standard. Men and women are not angels.

4. I do hope the Obama Administration ends up revealing a photo of some kind. Rumours over the next ten years that Osama is somewhere in a retirement home playing backgammon with Elvis could be too much to take.


Was “Justice” Served?

In the wake of the jubilant response to bin Laden’s killing, it is heartening to see such a quick discussion erupt over its legality. The State Department has released its legal rationale for the operation here. The Atlantic Wire summarizes various arguments. Ken Anderson considers what the debate itself tells us about international law development.

My views on extrajudicial execution are well known, but I’m not sure I agree with Paul Campos that this event counts as such – whether or not this is understood as a law enforcement operation vs. a military engagement.

In the former, officers are permitted to use lethal force in self-defense, so if we accept the US’ claim that its Seal team was under fire then firing back was legal even if we assume human rights law rather than the law of armed conflict applies. This would be true, again assuming a firefight, even if bin Laden himself wasn’t armed (though his death ought to then have been treated as regrettable rather than celebrated as the Obama administration has done).

But if we cede the Administration‘s (and al-Qaida’s) claim that a state of armed conflict exists between the US and AQ, then the ICRC’s concept of ‘continuous combat function‘ would probably have applied to bin Laden (unlike Anwar al-Awlaki) due to his operational role in planning attacks. And even if you don’t buy this argument (many don’t since bin Laden’s operational importance is disputed and the concept of CCF is at any rate not enshrined in treaty law) the fact that this was a ground operation where bin Laden’s men were in a position to engage US troops, rather than a drone attack that hit him as he slept means that he was probably a legitimate target at the time he died even if he’s technically a civilian. Either bin Laden himself or those around him would have been directly participating in hostilities at the time, which means he was either a civilian who had momentarily lost his immunity (if armed), or a civilian caught in the crossfire of nearby civilians (the couriers) who had given up theirs. By using ground troops instead of an aerial attack, it is also clear that the US fulfilled the rules on proportionality and minimization of civilian harm, although whether they chose a ground mission for those reasons is debatable at best.

So in my mind – again assuming we can believe that US personnel were under fire at the time – it’s not the legality of killing rather than capturing bin Laden that is questionable; it is the wisdom of doing so. The claim that “justice” has been served here is particularly murky. That is because “justice” can mean a number of things.

To Obama and much of the American public it apparently means an eye for an eye.

To human rights lawyers, it involves following procedural rules in meting out punishment, which explains the focus on the legality of the killings.

But to advocates and scholars of post-conflict justice, “justice” has a broader, sociological and empirically measurable meaning: the phenomenon of holding perpetrators accountable for crimes in the eyes of their victims. This concept has a normative package of ideas associated with it as well: accountability should be exercised not only consistent with the rule of law, but in a manner that promotes a human rights culture, minimizes or deters future atrocities, and promotes reconciliation and inter-group understanding.

Killing rather than capturing bin Laden is an absolute fail on the first account. Warriors get killed in combat and criminal suspects get killed in confrontations with law enforcement all the time (as do civilian bystanders). But such incidents do not transform a warrior into a war criminal, or a criminal suspect into a convict. Such acts do not in themselves constitute justice in the sense of accountability before the law. They in face preclude it.

In so doing, the psychological benefits of international justice have been precluded as well. As Geoffrey Robertson argues in the Independent:

Bin Laden could not have been tried for 9/11 at the International Criminal Court – its jurisdiction only came into existence nine months later. But the Security Council could have set up an ad hoc tribunal in The Hague, with international judges (including Muslim jurists), to provide a fair trial and a reasoned verdict.

This would have been the best way of de-mystifying this man, debunking his cause and de-brainwashing his followers. In the dock he would have been reduced in stature – never more remembered as the tall, soulful figure on the mountain, but as a hateful and hate-filled old man, screaming from the dock or lying from the witness box. Killing instead of capturing Osama Bin Laden was a missed opportunity to prove to the world that this charismatic leader was in fact a vicious criminal, who deserved to die of old age in prison, and not as a martyr to his inhuman cause.

That won’t be possible now. Whether the world will be better or worse or neither as a result is anyone’s guess. But what is certain is that justice, by this standard, has been stayed, not served.

[cross-posted at Lawyers, Guns and Money]


Tere bin Laden

“You Americans, you think when something dies, it goes away.”

– Robin Williams in the play “Tiger”

In Urdu/Hindi the phrase “Tere bin Laden,” which was also the title of last year’s hit Bollywood comedy about the American War on Terror, is a play on words which can be read as “Your bin Laden” or “Without you, Laden.”  The phrase succinctly captures the current reality in which bin Laden is both absent and polysemic.

As Faisal Devji has argued, Americans and Arabs have tended to forcibly fit this Saudi man — who swore allegiance to a reclusive Afghan mullah: who lived and fought in Africa and South Asia; and who led a global network — into an exclusively Middle Eastern milieu and Arab ethnicity. The Internet is now dotted with pundits who are telling us that the Arab Spring had already rendered bin Laden and his organization “irrelevant” before his assassination. “Bin Laden died in Tunisia before he died in Pakistan,” they say. This is nonsense. Bin Laden’s de-territorializing movement which foreshadows the emergence of a truly global politics cannot be negated through the actions of those in one country or region. The utopian global project of creating a modern Caliphate/Khilafat that has inspired generations of militants and activists is now almost a century old — and it is a project with its deepest roots in South Asia not the Middle East. The project unearths a long buried cartography in order to reject all of the states that emerged in the wake of the end of the Ottoman empire — in other words there is a reason that Al Qaeda affiliates use words like Mesopotamia, Maghreb, Khurasan, Hind, and Jazeerat al-Arab. The aim is not a return, but a rejection of the Western desire to treat Muslim lands like a palimpsest. The failure to see this cartography (in part due to crude translations and Orwellian acronyms, e.g. “AQAP”) and think outside the network of post-war Euro-American regional territorial constructs occludes a longer history of anti-imperialism and anti-westernism, of which bin Laden was only the latest avatar.

Even the nefarious Taliban which emerged in 1994 (or during the anti-Soviet jihad if Mullah Zaeef is to be believed) have a Deobandi ideological lineage that traces back to the mid-19th century and the defeat of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857/ Great Rebellion.  Moreover, Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas in which some of the fiercest militant organizations have emerged or gathered is still governed by the legacy of British despotism: the Political Agent and the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). The North West Frontier Province / Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which is now drenched in blood, was once the site of a major non-violent struggle against colonial domination. An understanding of colonial history and its legacies is therefore imperative if one seeks to address the perennial sources of militancy and resistance in South Asia.

We in New World however often lack a curiosity about the complex history and culture of others, particularly as one moves away from the Ivory Tower. Hence, our politicians and soldiers cannot help but imagine the badlands at the foothills of the Hindu-Kush as a return to the unconquered American Southwest, peopled as it is by “tribes” (as if this were an uncomplicated and homogeneous concept). President Bush famously referenced a standard Wild West image of the outlaw when he said Bin Laden was “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” Our military even went so far as to call the operation to kill Bin Laden “Geronimo,” unwittingly conflating Goyakhla’s violent resistance against Mexican and American territorial encroachment with Bin Laden’s muderous post-territorial struggle. America’s Bin Laden is thus transformed into either a Hollywood caricature of either an Arab terrorist or a Native American outlaw.

Of course unlike Goyakhla and so many other natives who resisted, Bin Laden’s ghost will continue to haunt America by the militants he inspires — he will not be tamed into a mascot or a battle cry through sentimental affection and nostalgia with the passage of time. As few of the underlying sources of militancy have been address or eliminated (in fact, quite the contrary has happened), there will be more militancy particularly amongst Muslims within South Asia. A (rather un-Islamic) burial at sea to prevent the emergence of a shrine will hardly matter. After all, the Muwahhidun who did not stop themselves from desecrating and effacing the grave of the Prophet’s mother, his family, and companions were hardly likely to build or permit a shrine to someone like Bin Laden — and the same could be said of the Taliban who destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan. In fact it is probably fitting that a man who organized a deterritorialized network and struggled for a moral ideal (i.e. the caliphate) on behalf of a global community would be buried at sea.


Osama Dead: Are We There Yet?

My reaction to the news was essentially that of a five year old after a long car ride — can we be done now? I am very tired of the war on terror, on multiple levels.

First, the obvious irritations. The airport security with two children, whose liquids must be regarded a priori as toxic substances. The shoes and the belts. Can’t I at least keep my coat on? Don’t we have scanners that can pick out an explosive device from my inside pocket? This from the country that put a man on the moon? Yes, I would feel differently if there were another attack tomorrow using fake breast milk as a combustible substance. So this isn’t really rational. But still.

Second, I find the war on terror really boring. This is a really terrible thing to say to those who lost loved ones on 9/11. But intellectually I do not get much satisfaction out of this. We never really have an idea what is going on. We can’t interview the participants, unless we are Indiana Jones. There will never be Al Qaeda archives to go through, so I don’t think we will ever really understand this era in history. And I think that compared to our last great challenge– the Cold War — or the ones that face us now — global financial catastrophe — there is just not much to chew on here. I know that many find this all fascinating, and I am glad they do. If my department hires next year, I will push them to find someone who works on these topics. But I really think it is overblown.

Third, it really brings out the worst in us. I think that during the Cold War Americans would have been shocked to hear allegations that we directly tortured say, East German spies. But after 9/11, this really doesn’t bother quite a few people. I don’t really recognize this country and I’d like it to return to normal. Maybe this is just a structural value shift that has nothing to do with terrorism, but if so, I think it was latent and only revealed by the war on terror. I feel this as I watch people celebrate outside the White House. What would John Wayne do (WWJWD)? I think he would have killed Osama but not crowed about it. He’d have put his gun back in the holster and hung his head. It is one thing to celebrate Hitler’s death in the streets because that meant the end of the fighting and a terrible regime. But this probably doesn’t mean that. So the celebration is just vengeance. And that is unappetizing.

Fourth, we will never really know when it is over, which is irritating. And there is always this nagging sense that it could be over if we just decided it were over. Obviously we will always be involved in disrupting Al Qaeda. But it feels like we are the ones who put the capital letters in the War on Terror.

So I guess I am waiting for the President to tell us, as I tell my kids — just ten more minutes. But I know he won’t. And if he did, he would be, like me, lying.


First Reactions to the Big News, Steve’s turn

There will be a lot of time to think about Bin Laden’s death, but I thought I would add a few quick thoughts while I catch up on the coverage online.  There are a bunch of surprises and non-surprises.

First, in retrospect, the non-surprises are:

  • Seal Team 6 (the super-special operations forces) did the job, not a drone.  This is not a surprise, because the US always wanted to have complete proof that it was Bin Laden and that he was dead.  A drone cannot do that…. yet.
  • That the US took the shot.  Yes, there are tradeoffs involved, especially backlash against the US and within Pakistan, but this is one campaign promise that Obama had to fulfill if he had the chance.  More importantly, the whole “US is a superpower but cannot find one guy” impotency tale had to end if possible.  Done.
  • That Pakistan* played a mixed role in this, perhaps helping at the end, but very clearly providing some support (by individual government officials certainly, by the government itself who knows) to Bin Laden during his years of hiding. 

*  This might alter the results of my amateur survey of who is America’s worst ally.  It also puts into perspective the recent visit of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, who was very critical of the Pakistanis.

  • That the speech was delayed an hour.  Sure, they had months and months to plan the op, so they could have spent months planning the speech, but the secret was tightly held (see below), plus word-smithing is a DC disease.  My minor memos got vetted to death and those were small stakes.  I can only imagine how many people were looking over the shoulders of the speechwriters–who did a nice job.
  • Osama was with his youngest wife.  Well, duh.
  • Burial at sea.  What other choice was there?  Take him to the US?  Afghanistan?  Create a location for folks to use as a rallying point?  Quick burial according to Islamic (and Jewish) tradition meant that they could not spend lots of timing figuring this out.  Will, of course, raise questions about whether he is dead, whether he was assassinated, etc, but smarter people than me spent months thinking about this, and it was probably the least bad choice. [Update: US apparently asked Saudis, they said “no thanks”]
  • That the mission ended with Osama dead.  He had sworn he would fight to his death.  I also would not be surprised if the troops were ordered to kill on sight, given that a captured Osama would have been far more complicated.

Second, the surprises:

  • That Bin Laden was hiding in a pretty fancy place (not a mansion but an Mc-Mansion perhaps) in the suburbs of a major city.  This is not entirely surprising since it is easier to hide in a crowd than by oneself. But it seems that the elaborate hiding place gave him away.  Indeed, more proof for the “Normal Accidents” approach–the multiplicity of tactics to hide Bin Laden (big walls, no internet, etc) ended up undermining the effort. 
  • That the US government kept the secret for so very long.  No leaks at all.  Nice to see that the US can work together when the stakes are super-high.  Still, this is very striking.  There is even a great pic of Obama laughing while Seth Meyers was joking about finding Bin Laden–when the choppers must have been on the way or just about to be.  Obama definitely was very busy in the public eye in the days leading up to this–the WH correspondent’s dinner, going to Alabama to see the tornado damage, going to the Shuttle launch (which was delayed)–doing a very good job of not tipping his hand.

What does this mean?  For the US?  For Pakistan?  For Afghanistan?  For the Arab Spring?  No one knows.  Lots of wild speculation to come (and not just from me–Charli got here first!).

There will be some complaints about the Americans cheering a death, but that is pretty lame given how much Bin Laden and his pals did of this cheering for much less precise attacks on far less guilty folks.  The man declared himself to be a mortal enemy of the US.  Of course, he proved he was exactly that yesterday–mortal.  I liked that Obama pointed out that Bin Laden was a murder of Muslims.  Indeed, combining the totals of the folks killed in AQ attacks over the years with OBL’s indirect responsibility* for those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001, that is a lot of blood.  Not Hitler-esque, but still awful no matter how you count it.

*  By all accounts, Bin Laden wanted the 9/11 attack to trigger an American war in Afghanistan.  It is also pretty clear that attack made it far easier for the Bush Administration to launch the Iraq invasion–note, no real planning of that war until after 9/11.

These are just the first few thoughts I have.  I am sure that we will all be thinking about this for a while.  Your thoughts are most welcome.


White House: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead.

POTUS speaking to the nation this evening:

11:40: “They took care to avoid civilian casualties.” Hmm. No word as to whether they succeeded.

11:41: “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims.” That was good.

11:43: “Today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of the American people.” I see. Killing this individual is on par with walking on the moon. We can all be very proud. The “war” will continue.

My immediate take: they’ve done a masterful job at playing the media and making a huge story and enormous nationalistic success out of a single operation in a vast and endless war, that apparently will have no impact on our foreign policy.


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