I have been meaning to write about this subject for a few weeks now. The subject at hand is the death of Osama Bin Laden. I am hoping that the delay in writing has given me some time for at least a little insight and reflection.
First things first, though. To the SEALs who carried out the mission, I have one thing to say: Well done, gentlemen. Well done, indeed. I wish I could tell each and every one of you this in person. Because of security concerns, I know that it is highly unlikely that I will ever be able to do so, but rest assured, the planet Earth is a far better place now that Bin Laden is no longer among the living.
One thing I did notice was the number of people talking about the “gutsy call” or the “gutsy decision” that Barack Obama made when he authorized the strike on Bin Laden’s compound.
Osama Bin Laden was an enemy of the United States, indeed an enemy of the free world. He was the one who not only claimed responsibility for the attacks of September 11, 2001, he boasted of his evil accomplishment. He wanted to impose his own narrow view of Islam on the rest of the world. He had nothing but contempt and hatred for our values, and I do not think I exaggerate if I say that it was his desire to destroy our way of life.
Given that, how is the decision to go forth with a mission to kill him such a “gutsy move”? How is it anything but the right decision to make?
I would like to draw a parallel with World War II. In 1943, US Naval intelligence in the Pacific intercepted and decrypted a memo that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (the commander of the attack on Pearl Harbor) would be making an inspection tour throughout the South Pacific. This tour would bring him close to the Solomon Islands.
When presented with the information, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the mission to “Get Yamamoto.” From what I read about this mission in David Kahn’s book The Codebreakers, the primary concern in whether or not to carry out the attack was that the US did not want Japan to suspect that the US had broken their codes. (A cover story that was given when the news of Yamamoto’s death was later announced was that coastwatchers had spotted a high-ranking Japanese officer boarding a plane at Rabaul.)
Note that FDR did not hesitate in ordering this attack. He knew that there were risks involved in the operation, and he judged the successful outcome worth any of the risks. If FDR were around today, and he heard about how Obama dithered over whether or not to go ahead with the operation to kill Bin Laden, I strongly suspect that his comments would be less than complimentary. I know that President Harry Truman, never one to mince words, would have been more than a little derisive in his commentary. And I would say that his decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki qualify as far more gutsy than anything that Barack Obama could ever make.
I also find myself somewhat bewildered, and perhaps even annoyed, at the barrage of information released after Bin Laden was killed. Announce that he was killed, fine. Giving a vague — and I mean a very vague — description of the operation, no problem. But I see no need for the detailed history of the operation that was reported following the death. We do not need to be telling Al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization how we carried out this attack. I would think that we might want to use those same tactics again some day.
I think I am particularly angered over the disclosure of the intelligence windfall obtained in the raid — the computers, flash drives, files, and so forth. There is no need for the American people to know this, at least not at this time. To draw another parallel with World War II, the details of how the Allies broke Germany’s Enigma Code were not made public until the 1970s — at least 25 years after the war ended. By contrast, I almost suspect that people in the Obama administration were talking about the intelligence windfall before it was even delivered to the analysts at the CIA, NSA, and other intelligence agencies.
The disposition of Bin Laden’s body — the burial at sea — was a good move. His followers do not have a martyr’s grave to use as a shrine. But in my opinion, the corpse was treated with far more reverence than it deserved. I think it should have simply been thrown over the railing of the <EM>USS Carl Vinson</EM>. Better yet, I think that the body should have been fed into a wood chipper, and the remains shot out into the ocean — and that a video should have been made.
I know that there have been some complaints about the disposition of the body. That it wasn’t given the proper treatment according to Muslim traditions. That it was not treated with the proper respect. Big deal. The war criminals executed after the Nuremburg Trials were cremated after their deaths, and the ashes scattered, so that their graves could not become memorials. (I have not done too much research on the subject, but I think it is safe to say that the wishes of their next of kin were not taken into consideration.) As I said in the previous paragraph, Bin Laden did not deserve a fraction of the respect he was given.
As for the decision not to release any photos of Bin Laden after he was killed because they were allegedly “too gory” or “too gruesome” — I believe the appropriate line here would be, “Give me a break!” I suspect that most Americans want to see proof that Bin Laden is dead, irrespective of how gruesome or gory they might be. Indeed, I suspect that there are some who would think that the gorier the photo, the better.
As a matter of fact, I rather doubt that the photos are as gory as some might have you believe. Fangoria magazine recently published its 300th issue; I believe that the current issue is either #303 or #304. I would be willing to wager that you could pick up any one of those 300-plus issues, and you would find photos that would be far more gory, gruesome, shocking, and disturbing than what the administration would have you think the Bin Laden death photos are.
Eliminating Osama Bin Laden was a good thing. Earth is a far better place with his absence. I just wish that his elimination did not leave me with the feeling that Barack Obama used this mission more as an opportunity to make him look good, rather than getting rid of one of the world’s most wanted terrorists.