I was proud of the way that our military and intelligence agencies came together to provide Osama bin Laden with the send off that he deserved. And I so wanted to be proud of President Obama for the first time in my life (hat tip to Michelle). But to be honest I am continuing to have trouble imagining Obama leading the way in an extrajudicial, unilateral, execution of a foreign national residing within the sovereign borders of a putative ally. I mean… that just sounds so un-Obama. As a candidate, Obama voiced his wish to bring bin Laden to justice:
What would be important would be for us to do it in a way that allows the entire world to understand the murderous acts that he’s engaged in and not to make him into a martyr, and to assure that the United States government is abiding by basic conventions that would strengthen our hand in the broader battle against terrorism
The U.N. is also concerned about the manner in which bin Laden met his death. On May 6th the U.N. released a statement indicating that the special rapporteurs who investigate extrajudicial executions and counter-terrorism are attempting to assemble the facts associated with bin Laden’s death to determine whether bin Laden’s execution violated his human rights. As they put it:
…the norm should be that terrorists be dealt with as criminals, through legal processes of arrest, trial and judicially decided punishment.
Personally I don’t think the U.S. should feel any need to cooperate with this investigation. However once again it seems out of character for Obama to tell the U.N. to get lost. But so far nothing has been reported to suggest that the Obama administration is cooperating with the U.N. What a strange post-bin-Laden world this is.
I have to admit that I was puzzled as to why Obama was in the periphery of the famous, situation room photo. The central people have the big, ergonomic chairs. They’ve been there long enough that apparently coffee is in order. They have laptops and supporting documents. However Obama’s peripheral position in the room is afterwards explained by saying that Obama came “late” into the room. Yet no one surrendered their seat or squeezed together to make room for him? Okay…
Perhaps the worst possible spin on this photo has been published by SocyBerty.com. A White House “Insider” attributed the president’s peripheral position in the photo to his peripheral role in the mission. According to this insider prior to the mission, Hilary Clinton, Leon Panetta, Robert Gates, David Petraeus, and Jim Clapper had been pushing the president to take action on intelligence indicating that bin Laden was present in the Abbottabad compound, but Obama wouldn’t commit to a course of action. Just when Obama would be at the tipping point of committing to to a military operation, Chicago crony Valerie Jarrett would whisk him away and convince him to further delay doing anything. She had been an instrumental figure to Obama’s rise in politics, and she feared that were the mission to go south, Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign would be doomed. Further she was concerned that any military action might inflame Muslim sensibilities.
According to SocyBerty’s insider, CIA Director Panetta applied further pressure on the president by stating there would be even worse political fallout if it were it to be leaked to the press that the U.S. had actionable intelligence on bin Laden’s location, yet the administration did nothing. Supposedly Jarrett had instructed the president to stall once again by telling Panetta that the president would only support a ground operation against bin Laden, and said operation would be under Panetta’s sole discretion. Presumably Jarrett thought that planning such an operation would take some time, and she also thought that having to shoulder the sole responsibility for the mission would further give Panetta pause. What Jarrett didn’t know is that Panetta had already secretly arranged for special ops to be briefed and trained for this very mission, so everything was in place to launch the mission. At this point there were communications among Panetta, Clinton, and Gates. Panetta then initiated the 48 hour engagement order for the mission assuming the full responsibility that president had entrusted in him without informing the president explicitly about the mission he had envisioned for fear of the president’s indecision getting the better of him. By the time the president became fully aware of the specific mission, the operation was in already in progress, and Gates, Clinton, Biden (debriefed by Clinton the day before), and other key members of the military and intelligence agencies were already in the situation room monitoring the mission events as they unfolded.
As I said, all of this is from an unnamed source as published by SocyBerty.com. All unnamed sources should be taken with a grain of salt. However if you follow the link there, you can see this whole story is quite fleshed out with many more details than have been summarized above.
Circumstantial evidence in support of this account of events is the fact that the mission itself was masterfully planned and rehearsed, yet all the post-bin-Laden disclosures from the White House appear ad hoc and contradictory as reported here. In addition it has only been recently released that the president took 16 hours to make up his mind about the bin Laden mission. Having read the SocyBerty account, I am wondering if this recent account of the president “sleeping on the mission” prior to giving his approval is cover for the fact that Panetta had initiated the “go” order 48 hours before the mission by himself and with the support of other members of the administration before the president was brought into the loop.
And finally let’s not forget the president’s choice of art work for the White House upon moving in included this telling piece by Californian artist Ed Ruscha as described by the Ed Morrissey :