It’s unclear how much knowledge (if any) the Pakistani government had of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. But the initial reports are troubling, to say the least. Not only was the terror leader living at a conspicuous compound in a fairly populated suburb of Pakistan’s capital, but he was also right next door to the Pakistan Military Academy, the New York Times reports:
[H]e was killed in Abbottabad, a city of about 500,000, in a large and highly secured compound that, a resident of the city said, sits virtually adjacent to the grounds of a military academy. In an ironic twist, the academy was visited just last month by the Pakistani military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, where he proclaimed that Pakistan had “cracked” the forces of terrorism, an assessment that was greeted with skepticism in Washington.
In addition to the military academy, the Times reports that numerous Pakistani forces and a unit of the Army Medical Corps are also based in the city.
At this point it is impossible to say whether the Pakistani military was shockingly clueless to the fact that the world’s most notorious terrorist was living in its midst, or whether there was something more sinister going. But we do know that the Obama administration, for whatever reason, declined to tell the Pakistani government about its raid on bin Laden’s compound until after the mission was accomplished.
“We shared our intelligence on this bin Laden compound with no other country, including Pakistan,” said a senior administration official during a briefing with reporters last night. “That was for one reason and one reason alone: We believed it was essential to the security of the operation and our personnel.”
The administration’s decision might be less of an issue if we hadn’t been giving Pakistan $1 billion a year since 9/11 for the specific purpose of helping us capture bin Laden. What exactly was the point of that if we couldn’t even trust the Pakistanis not to compromise the operation?
My take on last night appears this morning in the New York Post:
Bin Laden did not get away with it. That is what is most important — morally, politically, strategically.
His attacks on the United States have been answered over the course of the past 10 years with a war in Afghanistan, counterinsurgent attacks in Iraq, and counterterrorist sacrifices and hardships that have changed American daily life for the worse.
And now bin Laden has been made to answer for all that and for his murders.
Americans are united this morning by a sense that justice has finally been served. The killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan is not the end of America’s conflict with Islamist terrorism. But it proves that those who thought they could murder Americans with impunity they were wrong. Dead wrong. This was not the first time in our history that evildoers have made that mistake, but this long-awaited retribution illustrates that American resolve is alive and well. It is not just the idea that the man who plotted the 9/11 atrocities was hunted down yesterday that Americans are cheering. The chants of “USA! USA!” that are resounded at the White House and elsewhere—and repeated in homes throughout the country as the news spread—is a reaffirmation of our collective will to survive as a free nation. Those who hate that freedom did their worst and Americans not only survived, they triumphed.
Politics is the last thing on most people’s minds this morning and that is as it should be. Republicans who have blasted most everything President Obama has done in his time in office are cheering along with everyone else today. But, inevitably, the arguments over the budget and a host of other issues will resume and political life as we know it will return. Bin Laden’s death does not guarantee Obama a second term anymore than victory in the first Gulf War ensured the first George Bush’s reelection. The news cycle flows even more quickly today than it did 20 years ago, and the state of the economy will likely be more determinative of the results in November 2012 than any foreign policy victory or defeat.
But one thing that must be acknowledged on this day is the fact that bin Laden’s death changes Obama’s presidency. He and his team will have many opportunities to blunder in the next year and a half and likely will. Yet the fulfillment of his campaign vow to kill bin Laden adds to his stature as a leader in a way that few other events could have done. It is ironic that the man who rose to the presidency in large measure on the strength of his critique of George W. Bush’s war on terrorism will now be remembered as the one who presided over a great victory of that war. Some may begrudge him that honor—as he begruded President Bush any credit in his official statement last night—but it is belongs to him nonetheless. It was Barack Obama who gave the order to launch the assault on bin Laden’s compound, and the credit and glory that belongs to the brave Americans who carried out that command will always be attached to their commander-in-chief as well. As they should.
Even on a day when politics is suspended, it must be noted that the job of those working to stop Obama’s reelection just got a lot harder.
The killing of Osama bin Laden seemed to come out of nowhere, but officials have reportedly been on the terror leader’s trail for over four years—before President Obama “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,” that is. And according to the Washington Examiner, it was intelligence gleaned from a Guantanamo Bay detainee over four years ago that ended up leading to his whereabouts:
Some time after Sept. 11, detainees held by the U.S. told interrogators about a man believed to work as a courier for bin Laden, senior administration officials said. The man was described by detainees as a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and “one of the few Al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin laden.” Initially, intelligence officials only had the man’s nickname, but they discovered his real name four years ago. Two years ago, intelligence officials began to identify areas of Pakistan where the courier and his brother operated, and the great security precautions the two men took aroused U.S. suspicions.
If it wasn’t for Guantanamo Bay, it seems highly unlikely that the government would have been able to uncover this information. We can thank the counterterrorism policies put in place by the Bush administration—and President Obama’s savvy decision to continue them—for leading intelligence officials to bin Laden.
President Obama is right to feel triumph at the death of bin Laden, and the American military and intelligence should feel pride at a job well done. But let’s hope that the White House and the diplomats also learn another lesson: Unilateralism works. The Pakistanis were only informed after the fact because, let’s face it, Pakistan is more adversary than ally. We didn’t run our plans by Moscow or Beijing, let alone Brazil, Gabon, Germany, or Nigeria, or other members of the Security Council. Multilateralism might bring some artificial sense of legitimacy and might give diplomats something to do, but there’s no multilateral substitute for a mission accomplished.
We’ve heard for years that America’s youth are opposed to the war on terror, so the thousands of cheering, American flag-draped young people who packed the streets outside White House last night was a bit of a surprise. Absent from the impromptu party was any sign of the anti-war movement, which was once a trademark on college campuses. Nobody called for troop withdrawal, nobody condemned the administration’s counterterrorism policies, nobody denounced targeted killings.
Just the opposite. The crowd chanted “USA! USA!” or “Kiss Him Goodbye,” and applauded the military. A Bush-Cheney sign was even spotted bobbing along in the throng of thousands celebrating the death of the world’s most notorious terrorist.
“The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done,” former President George W. Bush said last night, in response to the news of Osama bin Laden’s death.
That idea is likely to strike cord with college students, many of whom were barely out of elementary school when bin Laden orchestrated the deadliest terrorist attack of all time on American soil. The search for the terror leader went on for nearly half their lives. And on the streets outside the White House last night there was a palpable sense of relief that justice had finally been carried out.
Among the gallows-humor consolations floating around on the eve of Obama’s inauguration, there was the hope that Democratic politicians, media sycophants, and liberal experts would now find it in their hearts to support American victories abroad. Rather than twisting themselves into argumentative pretzels to explain—inter alia—why the surge failed or why Libya’s nuclear disarmament was inevitable or why Bush’s coalition of the willing was unilateralism or why killing terrorists generated disproportionate blowback, they would at least feign patriotism. Good enough, the theory went.
And wouldn’t you know it, it worked! Even before Obama was sworn in, the media narrative about Bin Laden had already flipped. During the Bush years, Bin Laden’s anti-American videos had been framed as sophisticated hearts-and-minds gambits read “calmly into the camera” by a man who looked “older but relatively healthy,” aimed at a President notorious for reading My Pet Goat (seriously, CNN dropped that tidbit into a story about a Bin Laden videotape). But when Bin Laden published nearly identical criticisms of Obama, the AP decided that the rantings were evidence that the Al Qaeda leader was “worried” about the strength of Obama’s foreign policy (seriously, that was the AP headline).
Fast forward to last night, and it worked again! Instead of denying that a victory had been won, the left was satisfied with sniping at conservatives. Rep. Gary Ackerman went on CNN to say that “this is the ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment President Bush only fantasized about.” “Mission Accomplished,” mocking President Bush, actually became a trending topic on Twitter. The Huffington Post ran with Obama: The Man Who Got the Job Done. Anderson Cooper channeled the melodrama of the chattering classes by asking if anyone found spontaneous renditions of the national anthem moving, saying self-importantly, “I do.”
Now imagine how last night would have played out, and how today would be playing out, if a Republican president in today’s political environment had dispatched the special forces that ended Bin Laden.
The American team that killed Bin Laden should be congratulated. They have served justice and reminded terrorists that even in an age of national security dementia, they may run, they may hide, but that they won’t be forgotten. Americans are right to celebrate the demise of this mass murderer who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans and others.
Much is made in the Middle East of double standards. It doesn’t matter whether the terrorist is Al Qaeda targeting Americans, Europeans, and moderate Arabs, PKK targeting Turks, or Mujahedin al-Khalq targeting Iranians. No terrorist deserves diplomatic immunity or legitimacy’s embrace. All terrorists deserve death. Perhaps it is time for Americans, Europeans, and their media elite to reexamine their most glaring double standards: If Americans can kill a master terrorist targeting civilians then Israel too should be able to target Hamas leaders in Gaza, Damascus, Oslo, or Dubai, wherever they may be.
Osama Bin Laden was killed at “a mansion” in Pakistan almost 10 years after 9/11. That’s one mansion, one terror state, and 10 years more than any of the victims of the attack knew.
There was always a sense of inevitability about Bin Laden’s capture but somehow it never happened. It was inconceivable that the U.S. would fail to kill or nab him. Yet we spent a decade courting the inconceivable. So tonight’s rejoicing is about much-needed affirmation. From the spontaneous revelers at the White House to the celebrants in Times Square, what the country is enjoying now is a sense of faith having delivered the goods. This stands in dramatic contrast to all the pessimism about the U.S.’s supposedly inevitable decline — and it’s as American as it gets.
It is not in the American DNA to waver, to give up, or to shirk its responsibilities. The U.S. meets its challenges.
Charles Wolf, a New York City businessman whose wife Katherine died in the North Tower, just spoke to George Stephanopoulos on ABC, and said simply of Bin Laden that “God is going to throw his soul into the depths of Hell.”
President George W. Bush has issued a public statement on the U.S. military strike that killed Osama bin Laden:
Earlier this evening, President Obama called to inform me that American forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda network that attacked America on September 11, 2001. I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission. They have our everlasting gratitude. This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.