The Instruments of Bin Laden's Death


Catherine Herridge of Fox News reports that “Years of intelligence gathering, including details gleaned from controversial interrogations of Al Qaeda members during the Bush administration, ultimately led the Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden to his compound in Pakistan.”  U.S. intelligence first learned of the “trusted courier” who led us to bin Laden in 2003.  Guantanamo Bay inmates provided key information under the influence of both regular and “enhanced” interrogation. 

One of those inmates was the Left’s favorite al-Qaeda commander, Saint Khalid of the Wet Towel.  Until last month, the Obama Administration wanted to extend the full panoply of American civil rights to this creature, and give him a civilian trial in New York.  That would have prevented any meaningful form of “interrogation” at all.  Criminal defendants can be questioned, but that’s very different from even the milder forms of CIA interrogation. 

I have never heard anyone who supported the Obama Administration’s position on this matter say they thought six years of Guantanamo interrogation was fine, but Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other Gitmo inmates should have immediately become civilian criminal defendants in January 2009.  In other words, the information that led to bin Laden’s death was developed in direct contradiction to the way liberals think terrorist detainees should have been treated all along. 

Keep in mind that Obama didn’t just bring a halt to enhanced interrogations.  His Attorney General, Eric Holder, was seriously considering indicting the people who authorized and conducted them.  By definition, this means the Obama Administration strongly believed those interrogations were always wrong, not merely a mistaken policy to be corrected by the enlightened new President.

Would Presidents Al Gore or John Kerry have allowed the interrogations that produced this evidence?  Would Gore have authorized the military actions that captured these terrorists in the first place?  Perhaps a reporter should ask them.

Bin Laden was ended by SEAL Team Six, which is part of the Joint Special Operations Command.  The hard Left hates the JSOC.  New York Times journalist Seymour Hersh said they were “very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state, without any legal authority for it.”  He alleged “they do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office… it’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on.  Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving.”

This is, of course, exactly what SEAL Team Six just did in Pakistan.  Hersh was not trying to advertise their virtues.  He wanted to shut them down, and a very large portion of the Left whole-heartedly agreed.  The New York Times, America’s paper of record, clearly supported Hersh in this, or they would not have published his work.  Seymour Hersh wasn’t just a fringe whacko scribbling in the dark corners of the Daily Kos.  As Jim Treacher of The Daily Caller reminds us, Hersh’s work was presented and promoted on Stephen Colbert’s popular Comedy Central program.

 If Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Seymour Hersh, and Stephen Colbert had gotten their way over the last ten years, Osama bin Laden would still be alive.  The intelligence leading to his location would not have been fully developed.  The commando team that took him down would not have existed.

Did these liberals hold their views entirely out of political expediency, slamming and indicting Bush and Cheney for programs and policies they would have quietly tolerated from Gore or Kerry?  What difference does it make?  They were dead wrong, and it doesn’t matter why.  They’ll be dead wrong again under the next Republican president.

President Obama deserves high praise for authorizing the operation that killed bin Laden.  It was a bold move, and the Commander in Chief who allows such a move is not a passive innocent bystander.  However, it is important to understand that war requires both action and preparation.  The peaceful years leading up to a conflict play a large role in determining its outcome, because those years produce the troops who take the field, and the weapons they employ. 

Fighting machines and highly trained commando units don’t just appear in a matter of moments when America’s hour of need descends upon her.  Vital intelligence is not developed in a single high-pressure interrogation, by stressed-out super-agents, while cougars are chasing their daughters through the woods.  The instruments of Osama bin Laden’s death were forged over the course of years.  Barack Obama did the right thing last weekend, using tools that were available in spite of what he claims to believe about the War On Terror.  What he said in 2008 matters as much as what he did in 2011.  That’s one way the laws of war are very different from the laws of politics.

Update: More food for thought… the UK Telegraph reports that a WikiLeaks document “suggests that the [Bin Laden] courier’s identity was provided to the US by another key source, the al-Qaida facilitator Hassan Ghul, who was captured in Iraq in 2004 and interrogated by the CIA.  Ghul was never sent to Guantanamo but was believed to have been taken to a prison in Pakistan.”  It is now the nearly universal opinion of the Left that we never should have been in Iraq, and therefore would not have obtained this intelligence.

This “courier,” incidentally, was apparently a world-class dirtbag in his own right, and had a role in training the 9/11 hijackers.