Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Finding Bin Laden

Here are some responses to the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo:

Initial polls show a substantial bump for the president. But the glow will fade and whatever bump there is will almost certainly subside, at least in part. Neither of those points though really go to the heart of the matter. The Republican critique of the president has been that he's a hesitant and vacillating figure, one who fundamentally misunderstands the nature of power politics and the threats the country faces.

Obama's supporters now have a concrete, resonant and reasonably hard to dispute response to what was set to be the Republicans primary line of attack on foreign policy. And that's a big deal.

Andrew Sullivan on The Daily Beast:

The pre-eminent symbol of our multicultural, multiracial society of the future defeated the pre-eminent symbol of the darkest, bleakest throwback to medieval religious fanaticism. I'm not ashamed to use the following language: Good defeated evil. And hope rekindles again.

This sounds like a highly dangerous, immensely courageous act of daring, a military and intelligence coup that will be taught in high schools for as long as America exists. This wasn't just a lucky bomb or a drone attack; it was an elaborate, carefully planned and successfully completed operation - deep in an urban area in deepest Pakistan. This was one badass achievement.

Aside from Senator Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) gracious acknowledgement ("bold and right decision") the Republicans have been largely silent. The exception has been former Bushies "who are tying themselves in knots to claim that Bush's interrogation policies got the ball rolling on the bin Laden killing" according to Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo.

"I would assume that the enhanced interrogation program that we put in place produced some of the results that led to bin Laden's ultimate capture," said former Vice President Dick Cheney on Fox News. Here's Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, also on Fox: "We obtained that information through waterboarding. So for those who say that waterboarding doesn't work, who say it should be stopped and never used again, we got vital information which directly led us to bin Laden."

This is rank, partisan speculation at best and based on an AP story identifying Khalid Sheik Mohammed as a key source of intelligence enabling the operation. Mohammed was water-boarded 183 times in early 2003. An update to this AP story added the following clarifying paragraph that weakens this case considerably.

Mohammed did not reveal the names while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He identified them many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic.

Marshall nails the takeaway on this issue:

I'm pretty sure that for people who aren't committed partisans, this will seem like small print, sour grapes or simply special pleading.

--Ballard Burgher

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