Monday, May 2, 2011

Lessons from Osama bin Laden’s Death

President Obama announcing bin Laden's death, May 1, 2011

The announcement on Sunday night that an American special forces team (Navy SEALS) conducted an operation in which they killed Osama bin Laden is surely welcome news to many Americans. But what can we learn from the whole, nearly decade-long affair?

Lesson #1. The Pakistani government is full of liars who collaborate with Islamist extremists.

For years, the Pakistan government has been claiming that bin Laden was beyond its grasp, either dead or in the mountainous border regions of Afghanistan. Now we learn that, possibly for many years, bin Laden was in hiding, not just anywhere in Pakistan, but in a million-dollar mansion located in an upper-middle-class suburb full of retired military, just down the road from the Pakistani equivalent of West Point, all a mere 35 miles from Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. Sound suspicious to you? Sure does to me—and to hundreds of millions of other Americans, as well.
This mess should inform all future White House and Pentagon relationships with the Pakistani government. Frankly, if the Pakistani government shows itself reticent about cooperating with American operations in the future—drone attacks, military intervention near the Pakistani border—the White House should not hesitate to hold the Pakistanis’ feet to the fire on this issue.
Bottom Line: The White House should hold the Pakistani government responsible for sheltering bin Laden, wittingly or not.
Lesson #2. Some Muslim clergy simply don’t get it.

One item in the news today is the reaction of some Muslim scholars and clergy to President Obama’s statement that bin Laden’s body was dispatched with respect for Muslim custom. A number of Muslim scholars and clergy have stated that burial at sea is only permitted under Muslim law under extreme circumstances, and that bin Laden should have been buried somewhere with a headstone. 

My, what a grand idea: build a nice little memorial that would become the focus of Islamist extremists for centuries. No, I don’t think so.

Here’s news for these Muslim scholars and clergy: the real thing to focus on here was the devilish nature of the 9/11 attacks, which focused mostly on innocent noncombatants. For Muslim scholars and clergy to complain about the treatment of bin Laden’s body gives creedence to the perception that Islam as a whole is all right with the murder of thousands of civilians on 9/11. Frankly, for the good of Islam itself, Islamic scholars and clergy need to be much more concerned with distancing themselves from Islamist extremism. Why have we not had a massive organization of Muslim scholars and clergy condemn the 9/11 attacks, and Islamist extremism in general?
Bottom Line: Muslim scholars and clergy should focus on condemning the 9/11 attacks and Islamist extremism as a whole in a united fashion. 
Lesson #3. President Obama’s approach got the job done the right way.

Ostensibly, American forces have been trying to find bin Laden for almost ten years. However, the reality is that for six years of that time—basically, from even before the start of the war in Iraq in March 2003 through the inauguration of President Obama in January 2009—the United States was much more focused upon a completely irrelevant and unnecessary war in Iraq.

Whether you believe that President Bush was misled by faulty intelligence, or that he or members of his government deliberately misrepresented that intelligence to provide a justification to invade Iraq, it is absolutely clear that there was not the slightest real justification for the Iraqi War. There simply were none of the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that the Bush Administration had claimed there were. In its focus on the Iraq War, the Bush Administration dropped the ball on finding the actual force behind the 9/11 attacks, and so let bin Laden slip away.

President Obama, on the other hand, adopted a straightforward approach: 
  • He made the finding of bin Laden a top priority for the CIA. 
  • Having identified a likely location, he performed the difficult homework of substantiating whether bin Laden was actually there. 
  • He sent in an American special ops team with surgical precision, and got the job done with no innocent casualties.
Bottom Line: Everyone should put first things first.
Lesson #4. By focusing on the unimportant and inessential, the Republican Party are the big losers here.
Whether out of desperation or simple lack of ideas, the Republican Party has given increasing time and attention since the 2008 election to the “birther” movement, which claims—against all the voluminous evidence to the contrary—that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Yet it was one of their own, George W. Bush, whose team let bin Laden get away (again, by losing focus on what should have been his prime objective). The Republican Party is in danger of being perceived as the lightweights of American politics, focusing on protecting the wealthy and arguing about idiocy, while President Obama is doing the hard work of protecting America and its interests. Frankly, there is a lot of substance to that perception.

Bottom Line: Republicans had better focus on matters of substance and logic if they wish to avoid being declared a party of irrelevance.
President Obama’s getting the job done is most definitely On The Mark.

[The photo of President Barack Obama announcing the killing of Osama bin Laden was obtained from the website of CNN.]

(Copyright 2011 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)


  1. Although the stated reasons for going to Iraq were phony, the world without Sadaam Hussein is a better one -- and is better yet without the corrupt soul of Osama Bin Laden. The GOP & Tea Party are treading on thin ice at the moment, and had better remember that the founding fathers - whether they were Masons or not - subscribed to the Masonic ideas of toleration and charity to improve the community in which they lived.

    Bill V

  2. Hi, Bill, and I thank you for your comment. The fact that the world is better off without Sadaam Hussein is not justification for going to war and losing so many American lives. Your comments on the Founding Fathers are right on target.


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