August 4, 2011
The president turns fifty today. Hes a bit grayer now than he was when he ran for the office. Hes not treated quite so much as a rock star. But he did have one really great hit: He got Osama bin Laden. And just in time for a presidential birthday salute, the New Yorker magazine has provided an absorbing account of the May Day raid on bin Ladens compound inAbbottabad,Pakistan.
Reporter-at-large Nicholas Schmidles 11-page article, Getting Bin Laden, gives us the minute-by-minute story of SEAL Team Sixs brave and brilliant raid on the Al Qaeda leaders three-story compound. Many of the details of the raid have appeared in newpaper, TV, and online accounts before. We knew, for instance, that Helo One hard landed inside the compound in a heart-stopping moment.
Would this raid end in humiliating failure? Would it end like Jimmy Carters abortive attempt in 1980 to rescue the American hostages inIran? Eight American soldiers lost their lives at Desert One, Jimmy Carter may have lost his presidency there, too.
Previously, we didnt know that former Defense Sec. Robert Gates had opposed the operation, reminding the presidents advisers he had been in the room when Carters attempt had failed. But Gates objections were politely overruled.
And this time there would be no failure. The SEALs in the downed helicopter piled out safely and ready for action. It was powered descent, and other helos landed outside the compound, ready to join the assault.
From Schmidle we learn that the raiders had with them a Pashto speaker, who was able to chase off local Pakistanis who approached too near the operation. They also had an Arabic speaker, who translated for bin Ladens children and his surviving wives.
What heroism! One of the SEALsall of whom remain nameless for security reasonsrushed in and hugged two of bin Ladens wives, pulling them out of the way to give his brothers in arms a clear shot of the 64 mass murderer. That hugging SEAL knew that those women could well have been wearing suicide vests. He was prepared to lay down his own life to absorb the blast, to save his brothersand the mission. It was Gen. Eisenhower who, after meeting some of the young heroes who would storm Hitlers Fortress Europe on D-Day asked in wonder: Where do we get such men? We may thank God we still get them.
President Obama was prepared to deal with a dead bin Laden. The terrorist leader would have had to throw up his arms and jump naked into the arms of his captors to avoid being shot dead.
Some conservatives have criticized giving bin Laden Muslim rites as his body was heaved into the ocean from the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson.
I dont. There is a wonderful irony in this. Obama watchers will recall that the new president pitched the bust of Winston Churchill out into the snow in his first week in the White House. But Winston Churchill knew something about battling Muslim fanatics.
He shot several Dervishes at point-blank range during the Battle of Omdurman (1898), the last cavalry charge the British Army staged. It was here that Churchill faced death from followers of the dead Mahdi (Expected One), the Muslim leader. Nothing is as exhilarating as to be shot at without result, the ebullient Churchill reported.
Young Winston sharply criticized his commander, Lord Kitchener, for killing the Muslim wounded afterOmdurman, and for allowing the grave of the Mahdi to be desecrated. (Generations of English schoolboys were taught that Lord Kitchener kept the Mahdis skull on his desk as a paperweight.)
Churchill would strongly have approved of President Obamas killing bin Laden, as well as his taking care not to desecrate the body. So who am I to criticize? We have many Chinook helos and many aircraft carriers. And we have plenty of ocean in which to deposit the bodies of jihadists.
Schmidles article speaks candidly of our allies, the Pakistanis. Candidate Obama took heat from his opponents in 2008 for saying he would go intoPakistanand kill Osama if we had reliable evidence he was there. We obtained that evidence and President Obama kept his vow. One of Mr. Obamas advisers was quoted saying we had a real lack of confidence that the Pakistanis could keep this secret for more than a nanosecond. Right.
As if to prove all our doubts about their loyalty, the Pakistani army responded to our raid by arresting whom? Those who had either harbored bin Laden or at least looked the other way? No, our good friends arrested all those who had helped finger bin Laden for our SEAL raid. What other evidence do we need of betrayal?
So today, with his approval ratings headed south, with liberals denouncing his debt ceiling deal as a Satan sandwich, and with his having to sign the blasted thing in the dark, and with no one wanting to claim a signing pen, Im glad the New Yorker has published this excellent article just in time for the presidents fiftieth birthday.
Im also glad to read that President Obama bade farewell to the SEALs as they went in harms way. He told them Godspeed! They responded, once they had taken out bin Laden in that darkened third floor bedroom, Geronimo! For God and Country!
Vice President Biden had been praying the Rosary throughout the raid. He said to Adm. Mullen maybe they should go off toMass.Its sure nice to see our bravest warriors and their civilian commanderswhen the going gets toughclinging to their guns and their religion. Bravo Zulu! On this one, well done, Mr. President!