Obama's race to gloat
For a week people have been asking, "Why won't the president release Osama bin Laden's photo?" That's the wrong question. We should be asking, "Why was Barack Obama in such a hurry to tell us bin Laden was dead?"
The White House says the information in bin Laden's compound is the equivalent of a "small college library," potentially containing incalculably valuable and unique data on al-Qaeda operations, personnel and methods.
"It's going to be great even if only 10 percent of it is actionable," a government official told Politico's Mike Allen.
I'm no expert on such matters -- though I've talked to several about this -- but even a casual World War II buff can understand that the shelf life of actionable intelligence would be extended if we hadn't told the whole world, and al-Qaeda in particular, that we had it.
It's a bit like racing to the microphones to announce you've stolen the other team's playbook even before you've had a chance to use the information in the big game.
But that's exactly what President Obama did. He raced to spill the beans. The man couldn't even wait until morning. At just after 9:45 p.m., the White House communications director, Dan Pfeiffer, informed the media: "POTUS to address the nation tonight at 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time."
The announcement came less than three hours after Obama had been informed that there was a "high probability" bin Laden was dead and that the Navy SEAL helicopters had returned to Afghanistan.
In other words, it seems that the White House planned to crow as soon as possible. Why? Nobody I've talked to can think of a reason that doesn't have to do with politics or hubris.
Yes, killing Osama bin Laden is a big secret that would be hard to keep for long. Certainly Pakistan would grow agitated if we simply said nothing about the incursion, though sweating the Janus-faced Pakistanis with silence for a couple of days might yield its own intelligence rewards. In other words, even waiting 24 hours might generate some interesting "chatter." The Pakistanis working with al-Qaeda certainly would have been the first to spread the news that bin Laden was dead or captured.
But the real treasure trove is that "college library" of intelligence.
And while reports are pouring out from a gloating White House that's leaking like the Titanic in its final hours, one can only assume our analysts have barely begun to exploit the data.
Couldn't they have at least tried to give the CIA a week, a day, even a few more hours to look at it all before letting Ayman al-Zawahiri and the rest of al-Qaeda know about it? Why give him the slightest head start to go even further underground?
How Leftism Poisoned a Psychiatrist's Mind
If your sister were among the nearly 3,000 people murdered in the World Trade Center on 9/11, how would you react to Osama Bin Laden's death? More specifically, if you were to write an opinion piece on the subject for a major newspaper, what would you most want to communicate?
One would think that anyone who had lost a loved one on 9/11 would write about bin Laden's guilt, about evil and about experiencing some degree of moral and emotional satisfaction that the loved one's murderer had been killed by American forces. But not Robert Klitzman, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. He had other, more pressing, things to say.
Two days after bin Laden was killed, Klitzman wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times reflecting on his sister Karen's death on 9/11. While acknowledging that bin Laden "more than anyone else had caused my sister's death" and noting that he is "glad" that bin Laden "was now at the bottom of the sea," Klitzman directed his rage and blame elsewhere.
The main focus of his passion was to blame the United States for arousing the hatred of Muslims (including those who murdered his sister) and for arousing the hatred of "the rest of the world" as well. Klitzman writes: "When the members of Al Qaeda attacked on 9/11, Americans wondered, 'Why do they hate us so much?' Many here believe they dislike us for our 'freedom,' but I think otherwise.
"There are lessons we have not yet learned. I feel Karen would share my concerns that underlying forces of greed and hate persevere. American imperialism, corporate avarice, abuses of our power abroad and our historical support of corrupt dictators like Hosni Mubarak have created an abhorrence of us that, unfortunately, persists. We need to recognize how the rest of the world sees us, and figure out how to change that. Until we do that, more Osama bin Ladens will arise, and more innocent people like my sister will die."
In the course of my lifetime, I have read surely many thousands of columns. And as I read those with which I differ as often as I do those with which I agree, many have annoyed, some even angered me.
But I do not recall reading a column that I considered as reprehensible as Klitzman's. What other word can describe a brother using the killing of his sister's murderer to badmouth America and hold it ultimately responsible for her death?
Asking what America did to elicit the hatred of Muslim terrorists is morally equivalent to asking what Jews did to arouse Nazi hatred, what blacks did to cause whites to lynch them, what Ukrainians did to arouse Stalin's hatred or what Tibetans did to incite China's hateful treatment of them.
We would dismiss such questions out of hand. Why, then, do we not similarly regard "What did America do to arouse Islamist mass-murdering hatred leading to 9/11?"
The answer is Leftist ideology. I suspect that Klitzman is a morally better man than his thesis suggests. But at some point, perhaps in college, he assimilated the leftist worldview with the dogmatic but meaningless phrases that appeared in his column: "underlying forces of greed and hate," "American imperialism," "corporate avarice" and "abuses of our power abroad."
Most people who hold left-wing views when they are young abandon those views as they get older and wiser. But for those who never abandon leftism, the dogma is so powerful, it functions as a fundamentalist -- secular -- religion. Just as the Orthodox Jew, the evangelical Christian and the traditionalist Catholic views the world through his respective religion's eyes, so the leftist views the world and everything in it through leftist eyes.
That is how a man whose profession is dedicated to the elimination of psychological pain through the study of the infinitely complex human mind and psyche can have such a simplistic and morally convoluted view of America that he uses his sister's murder as an occasion to reflect on the evil -- of America. One more example of how leftism makes decent people do indecent things.
Bin Laden killing echoes Israeli style
President Barack Obama delivers a statement in the East Room of the White House on the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Israel may have been forged 63 years ago this week in a crucible of conventional war, but it has faced a slew of enemies in the decades since who have tried to weaken, destroy or demoralize it by unconventional means. Hijackings, suicide bombers—before they played in Iraq or Europe , they opened in Israel.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that American killing of Osama bin Laden feels so… Israeli?
Think of the similarities: A daring commando raid on a terrorist stronghold (Entebbe 1976). An incursion in self-defense on foreign soil (Osirak 1986). A targeted killing, aka assasination, of a threatening militant leader (Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, 2004). Post-operational international condemnation (Gaza Flotilla, 2010; Jenin “Massacre,” et al). Long overdue payback for a national tragedy (see the movie “Munich”). The bold, daring and risky American operation had all the hallmarks of bold, daring Israeli operations—I half-expected President Obama to go on TV to announce its success in Hebrew.
The similarities are not a coincidence. After years of fighting conventional wars against conventional armies, the United States has adapted to the kind of enemies Israelis have long grown accustomed to: non-state actors driven by fanatical rage to kill as many innocents as possible.
In a word, terrorists. So the lessons Israel has learned in its struggle are the lessons Obama applied last week:
You don’t fight terrorists with armies: You don’t even fight them, as Obama wisely realized, with big, big bombs. You go in and take them down, one by one. You do this because the terrorists would prefer you use bombs and artillery against innocent populations to weed them out—the collateral damage only helps their cause. Bin Laden, like the leaders of Hamas, hid in the midst of a civilian population, effectively using women and children as human shields. By choosing a commando raid over a bombing run, Obama denied bin Laden a final act of terrorism.
You fight terrorists where they live, not where you live: Immediately after 9/11, the late Wlliam Safire wrote that the United States’ duty, at that dark hour, was to take the battle to them. Israel, a small country, long ago made that tactic a centerpiece of its defense strategy. Sometimes the tactic fails, as when Israel botched the assassination of a Hamas terrorist leader in Jordan and caused a diplomatic firestorm. And sometimes even success has a cost—remember the scandal that erupted after Israeli operatives forged foreign passports in order to snuff out Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his Dubai hotel room in January 2010. But the scandal faded, and al-Mabhouh is still dead. Obama can take heart from the Israelis that despite the post-action outrage, it’s worth it.
You fight terrorists in ways they least expect: After they learned that Gaza-based terrorists shooting rockets into Southern Israel were hiding behind booby-trapped doors, the Israelis developed an urban warfare technique that involved entering rooms by blasting through adjoining walls. Surprise! After six years in his villa, Osama probably began to feel that the 10-foot walls and windowless rooms of his compound were impregnable, and the fact that he lived under the umbrella of Pakistani airspace made him untouchable. The last thing he expected to see was an American soldier in his bedroom. As it turns out, that was the last thing he saw.
You don’t capture terrorist leaders, you kill them: Israel started this policy in earnest following the Second Intifada in 2000, when Israel faced terror from non-state actors on an unprecedented scale. Terrorists groups don’t use conventional targets, but they do have leaders who provide either inspiration or operational knowhow, or both.
“Those who say that these operations don’t have an impact are mistaken,” Major General Yoav Galant, the former head of the IDF’s Southern Command, told The Jerusalem Post. “The liquidation of terror leaders prevents terror attacks and influences the organizations.”
While Israel’s human rights groups have raised some objections, ancient Jewish sources provide some common-sense justification: “He who comes to kill you, arise earlier and kill him,” the Talmud teaches. America doesn’t need to apologize for shooting an unarmed Osama. He shot first.
It’s not surprising, then, that two countries engaged in a fight against religious fanatics would use the same methods with the same justifications. In the final analysis, the greatest struggles humanity faces are not among nations, peoples or religions, but between the fanatic and the tolerant. Those two types cross all borders and religions.
The struggle to contain and thwart fanaticism must be a shared burden, as victory against it benefits not just one country, but all mankind. For 63 years, Israel has been at the front lines of that battle.
Gingrich gears up for pointless campaign: "With strong name recognition from his stint as Speaker of the House in the ‘90s, news organizations tend to group Gingrich among the leading contenders. But polls consistently show him trailing other top-tier candidates (Donald Trump averages more than twice Gingrich’s support) and only outperforms newcomers like Michele Bachmann or Mitch Daniels by a few percentage points. Voters may recognize Gingrich's face, but they generally don't like what they see."
American Flight 1561: Man shouted “Allah Akbar” as he rammed cockpit door: "A Yemeni man arrested on a San Francisco-bound plane repeatedly shouted 'Allah Akbar' as he tried to break into the cockpit, a court heard yesterday, as he made an initial appearance. Rageh Ahmed Mohammed Al-Murisi appeared sullen as a federal judge told the California resident he was charged with interfering with a flight crew, a felony that can carry up to 20 years in prison."
Baby receives pat-down at Kansas City airport: "A photo posted on Twitter of a baby receiving a pat-down at Kansas City International Airport is the latest in a number of recent highly publicized incidents of airport security screenings involving young children. The photo taken by Kansas City pastor Jacob Jester on Saturday and posted on Twitter has been viewed nearly 300,000 times."
US population center shifts southwesterly: "The Census Bureau announced yesterday that, based on the 2010 Census, the mean center of population for the country is 2.9 miles east [of] Plato, Mo., an Ozarks village with a population of 109. The center of population is determined as the place where an imaginary, flat and weightless map of the United States would balance perfectly if all 308,745,538 counted residents were of identical weight. Since 1790, the center has moved west, with a more pronounced southerly pattern in the past few decades."
FBI vehicle tracker gets teardown treatment: "Hardware teardown site iFixit recently got its hands on an FBI vehicle location tracker and managed to break it into pieces before the G-Men turned up to take it back. The iFixit teardown, published Monday in conjunction with Wired's Threat Level blog, reveals a simple GPS and transponder signaling unit that the U.S. government is now legally [sic] allowed to use to track citizens — without a warrant."
Wasting time on oil company taxes: "The precise point at which a tax deduction becomes a 'loophole’ or a tax incentive becomes a 'subsidy for special interests’ is one of the great mysteries of politics. Perhaps it is best defined in terms Justice Potter Stewart reserved for pornography, 'I know it when I see it.' Judging by some of the rhetoric, any provision related to the oil industry crossed the line long, long ago. The only problem is that on careful inspection, some of these 'special interest' tax breaks just don’t look very special."
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