04 May 2011

Fallout From the Jihad Geronimo Heave Ho

Candidate Barack Obama campaigned against the way that President George W. Bush conducted his foreign policy.  The critiques included inveighing against the War in Iraq. Obama made hay about respecting other nation’s sovereign rights.  To echo what Senator John Kerry (D-MA) would call “the International Test”, America’s exertions of power were to receive prior international approbation.  Most significantly, the Obama ‘08 campaign harshly condemned use of harsh interrogation techniques.  In insure that things like waterboarding would not occur in the future, Obama vowed to close the US facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba where War on Terror suspects picked up on the battlefield were held.

Despite making the Gitmo closure the first thing that President Obama did in his Administration, Gitmo remains open for the foreseeable future, especially after the debacles of seeking to try Khalid Shek Mohammad in lower Manhattan and Congressional resistence to building a facility to hold terrorists in western Illinois.

As details emerge from the mission to get Usama bin Laden (code named Geromino), the Obama Administration’s rhetoric did not sync with reality. Intense interrogation techniques applied on Khalid Sheihk Mohammed at Gitmo may have helped elicit the nom de guerre of al Qaeda courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, which was vital in tracking down bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan seven years later. The Obama Administration is vehemently denying that the tip came from the 183 times KSM was waterboarded but he certainly was more cooperative after he decided that enough was enough and volunteered the information using conventional interrogation.

Another piece of the intelligence puzzle came from an al Qaeda operative Hassan Guel who was captured in Iraq in 2004.  Guel confirmed that Abu Ahmed was a trusted UBL courier who was close to al Qaeda’s 3rd in command Faraj al-Libi.  So much for belittling connections between the alleged just war against Afghanistan and the discretionary “wrong war” in Iraq.  Guel was not housed at Gitmo but by other allies, which also was criticized by Obama for being black sites that do not follow US standards on the treatment of prisoners.  Oops.

Much to his credit, President Obama lived up to his campaign boast that he would invade Pakistan in the hunt for al-Qaeda. Of course, that cowboy bravado would be condemned if it were his predecessor.  And there are consequences in the real world of diplomacy when actuating tough talk from the campaign hustings.  The US relationship with Pakistan is complicated. We can not afford to totally alienate them but our interests do not coincide with Islamabad and we need to be cognization that the ISA, the Pakistani Military and Civilian leadership may have different objectives.

When the intelligence about al Qaeda’s leader finally gelled in March 2011 after years, there are reports that the Pentagon wanted to organize an operation that utilized a couple of B-2s firing 2,000 pound JDAM missiles at the ‘Waziristan Mansion”.  President Obama supposedly thought better of that tactic, since there would be no remains of UBL left after the bombing.  So President Obama made a gutsy call that only had a 50% chance of success by sending Special Forces in for a capture or kill raid.  Despite the hitch of the one helicopter malfunction, the 40 minute raid went remarkably well.  But despite all of that risk required for sending in Navy Seal Team Six (which had been previously criticized as “Cheney’s Hit Squad” under Republican rule), the Obama Administration has dithered about releasing photographic proof that UBL is dead.

Allegedly, the photo of UBL’s corpse is too gruesome because of the head shot through the left eye.  Even though the enemy’s body was cleaned up for the burial at sea, there may be a reluctance to release that photo as it could be used as a martyr propaganda piece for years to come.

The burial at sea for UBL has become controversial.  Americans who were outraged at how the killer of 3,000 innocent citizens on September 11, 2001 wonder why UBL was given such a dignified disposal of his mortal coils. Bin Laden killed many Muslims in practicing his terrorism. That goes against Islamic principles of not killing your brethren. Yet the United States kept stressing that we gave UBL a proper Muslim burial.  And of course some Imams condemned the burial at sea for not being proper.

There were indications from the Obama Administration that multiple methods were used to identify UBL, including facial recognition and DNA testing.  The DNA material came from UBL’s half sister who died from brain cancer in the United States.  While I am sure that the Pentagon has some incredible resources at its disposal for a High Value Target like UBL, there was less than eight hours between the conclusion of the operation and President Obama definitely announcing UBL’s demise.  I have no doubts that UBL is dead but that is very quick lab work.  If we are being so cautious about a photo, was this being cavalier about C.S.I.?

In the fog of war, first reports can be sketchy and unreliable.  In fact, initial reports of the Jihad Geranimo raid was that it happened a week ago when it turns out that the raid finished only about eight hours before President Obama’s White House address.  But it is surprising how much of the facts of the operation had to be walked back from the later briefing to reporters.

National Security Advisor John Brennen gave a briefing where he indicated that UBL had a weapon and may have fired it at the US Special Forces team.  But the White House later backed away from that account and indicated that UBL was unarmed but still “resisted”.  A Pentagon briefer intimated that UBL used one of his wives as a human shield. Since UBL was said to fire from her back.  That is a neat trick for an unarmed man.  Now the information is that one of bin Laden’s daughters charged on the Special Forces and she was shot in the leg before UBL was riddled with bullets.

Such contradictory information is almost understandable if it did not come from an eyewitness to the events.  But the White House released a photo of the National Security team watching the raid in real time.  Some partisans have snipped that the President looks like an observer in his golf attire and windbreaker than a participant in the National Security meeting.  Others have focused on the real emotion of shock that Secretary of State displays in the picture.  But Michelle Malkin points out that National Security Advisor John Brennen is right there watching the live video feed from the UBL raid.  How could he make such a mistake in his briefing like UBL was an armed combatant or that he took a young woman as a human shield?

There is sagacious speculation that Brennan said more than he ought to have and the White House was walking it back to obscure the admission in CYA mode.  Some critics claim that the UBL elimination was violation of President Ford’s Executive Order against assassinating foreign leaders.  That holds no credence as al Qaeda was a non-state actor, so he was not technically a foreign “leader”.  Although American Special Forces are not trained to do “hits”, the video might look bad for propaganda if it ever got out.  Now international human rights agitators are demanding release of all material about the raid to ensure that there were no violations of the Geneva Accords or other human rights violations.  When you taut the “International Test” ala John Kerry, it does burden US when acting unilaterally.

One other troubling piece of fallout from the UBL raid is a self inflicted wound.  American government officials are bragging about the jackpot of information they recovered during the UBL raid.  Firefights rarely take longer than three minutes and this operation went on for forty minutes, so it is a reasonable inference that there was some sleuthing and intelligence gathering. But why broadcast it?  Especially since many are bracing for retaliatory counter measures from jihadists.  Loose lips sink ships.

President Obama should be commended for approving a risky maneuver to send in Special Forces to get UBL.  But this victory was premised on a foundation of years of material which he had condemned before becoming Commander-In-Chief.  President Obama wanted to have proof for the world of UBL’s demise.  He had better release it quickly before “deathers” conclude that UBL is hanging out with Elvis in seclusion.  May Obama not treat this as the end of “Kinetic Military Operations” against jihadist terrorism  nor should he expect that this achievement will ensure his re-election.  The handling the fallout from the UBL operation may be just as nigglesome as was the near decade long search for the mastermind of 9/11.

H/T: Michelle Malkin
H/T: HotAir.com

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