One year after the killing of Osama Bin Laden by US Special Forces, the President is eager to take credit for what many consider the high point of his first term. But many questions about the mission still remain.
In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal last week, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey revealed several embarrassing details about the executive operations of the mission:
A recently disclosed memorandum from then-CIA Director Leon Panetta shows that the president’s celebrated derring-do in authorizing the operation included a responsibility-escape clause: “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.”
Which is to say, if the mission went wrong, the fault would be Adm. McRaven’s, not the president’s. Moreover, the president does not seem to have addressed at all the possibility of seizing material with intelligence value—which may explain his disclosure immediately following the event not only that bin Laden was killed, but also that a valuable trove of intelligence had been seized, including even the location of al Qaeda safe-houses. That disclosure infuriated the intelligence community because it squandered the opportunity to exploit the intelligence that was the subject of the boast.
And in an exclusive Fox News interview, Mukasey elaborated further: “That was a highly lawyered memo … I think there’s going to be more that comes tumbling out about that escapade, but so far that memo is enough.”
Fox News presented yet another stunning revelation last week when retired Gen. Jack Keane , the former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, told Fox host Mike Huckabee that intelligence sources had pinpointed the location of Osama’s safe house nearly a year before the raid. The White House refused to authorize any military action until there was undeniable proof (specifically photographs) showing that Bin Laden was living in the compound. Gen. Keane explained that many of the officials in the small upper echelon of military and government leaders who knew about the Abbottabad safe house became very agitated over the delay, because “the longer you spend on something like that, the greater the likelihood is that the target will be compromised, because of your surveillance, and then the target will flee.”
On a matter of such importance it is difficult to criticize the decision to err on the side of caution. But now we know that the official White House version of events, which portrayed President Obama acting quickly and decisively, is, to say the least, highly embellished. And we also know that the President, despite his grandiose description of his own contribution to the effort to take out Osama Bin Laden, had his staff ensure that there would be someone else to throw under the bus if the raid failed. Ah, Chicago-style politics at its finest.
A few days ago, George Will had this to say about the President:
“Look, self-absorption is part of the occupational hazard of politics, and it’s also part of the job description of being president. All that said, try to imagine Dwight Eisenhower talking about D-Day saying, ‘I did this. I decided this. I did this and then I did that.’ It’s inconceivable … If you struck from Barack Obama’s vocabulary the first-person singular pronoun, he would fall silent, which would be a mercy to us and a service to him, actually.”
A lesson that I doubt the President will ever learn.