It’s been almost a week now since the Obama administration surprised all of us by directing a military operation which led to kicked-in doors and bled-out terrorists halfway across the globe. Osama bin Laden is dead, and while the world may not have changed in a tangible way, the president who rightfully deserves credit for ordering the hit that ended bin Laden’s reign of terror should be basking in the afterglow of American triumph.
Instead, the Obama administration finds itself facing a segment of the population that is skeptical of the official account of what happened in Abbottabad, Pakistan last weekend. It finds itself trying desperately to appease those abroad who neither can nor wish to be appeased, all the while ignoring those who need closure here on our own shores. It finds itself struggling to keep the Chinese from gleaning technological advances from a previously publicly unknown chopper downed by malfunction during the operation. Instead, the Obama administration finds itself defensive in response to merely going on the offensive, snatching defeat one week later from the jaws of victory.
And this isn’t necessarily an Obama administration thing — it’s a government thing. We saw the stories change in the aftermath of Pat Tillman’s friendly fire death, and in the weeks following the rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch. When it comes to dealing with the American people, the American government is averse to the truth.
In the case of Osama bin Laden and his fresh facial reconstruction by Dr. SEAL, the Obama administration could have avoided similar pitfalls by being more upfront from the beginning. Here’s exactly what happened. Here is how the decision came about. Here are photographs of the body. Even the way in which bin Laden was buried could have been handled better from the beginning. Here are the customs through which we buried him. Here are photos of the washed body. Here is video of the burial. We know that the decision to bury him in this manner is controversial, but here is why we did it, and we’re sticking to our decision.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney should never have had the opportunity to become “flustered” and “confused.” The events of Sunday, May 1, 2011 weren’t a piece of legislation up for debate or a constitutional provision up for interpretation — decisions were made, and a scourge on this world was dispatched. The White House should have disseminated facts and confirmation, and allowed the chips to fall where they may.
I happen to take the word of our Navy SEALs as Gospel. These are men with honor, and to doubt that they bagged Osama Bin Laden on Sunday is to besmirch that honor. The problem, however, is that the White House didn’t do the SEALs any favors by failing to better control the narrative. Because of that failure, inconsistencies have permeated the news landscape.
- Al Arabiya News is reported that one slain woman “offered to sacrifice her life” for Bin Laden and, according to their source, “shielded Bin Laden during the operation and was killed by American commandos.” Other sources, however, have since said that a woman rushed the American SEALs and was shot in the leg for her trouble.
- Reports originally stated that Osama Bin Laden himself was armed and participated in the firefight. Then, reports noted that Bin Laden was spotted reaching for a weapon and was killed for doing so. Then, it was “resistance does not require a weapon.” Finally, we learned that he was in fact unarmed, and the orders were to kill and not capture him.
- The Wall Street Journal originally stated that the operation was carried out using two helicopters. I heard “Blackhawk.” I heard “Chinook.” I heard “Little Bird.” Finally, Time Magazine reported that four helicopters went in, and three came out.
- Time Magazine reported (and shared some pretty cool photos) that the president and his team were present in the Situation Room when it happened and very much engaged, staign. Several times now, I’ve heard that they could see feeds from the helmet cameras, and that the environment was much more explicit than the satellite imagery we saw in movies like Patriot Games. On the other hand, however, PBS is now reporting that, according to Leon Panetta, the president could not see such feeds at all.
- At first, Osama bin Laden was said to have been dispatched with a double tap to the head, with entry wounds just over the left eye. Then, the story changed to once in the gut and once in the head.
I understand the nature of this sort of thing. I understand that the folks down in D.C. are still in the process of looking through intelligence. I understand that, as the SEALs are debriefed and as all accounts are weighed together, details will sharpen and perspectives will change. I understand that, on the media front, the desire to be first and to break news can lead to inaccuracy. I understand that. However, with regard to something so important and so likely to produce conspiracy theories, the White House could have and should have disseminated information only after said information was locked down. Even when the White House does have all of the information on one given aspect of the story, it has proven with the controversy over the release of photos of bin Laden’s corpse that being proactive and getting out in front of controversy is well beyond this particular chief executive’s skill set.
Releasing the photographs should have been a no-brainer. And, while I understand that folks on the right like Herman Cain and Mitt Romney are taking sides with the White House on this matter, I cannot. The photographs of bin Laden may be “bloody and gruesome” by some standards, for sure, but to an American populace that has grown accustomed to images showing the twisted metal of the U.S.S. Cole and the bodies of jumpers falling from the World Trade Center, bloody and gruesome are relative. Furthermore, the photographs may incite and inspire violence in some on the Arab Street, but these radical Islamic jihadists were angry with and hateful toward the United States of America while bin Laden was walking among them, and they will continue to be regardless of what the White House releases.
Over the past ten years, as we have become more and more outwardly apologetic for securing our country and avenging the deaths of our countrymen, I have grown tired of American interests being subjugated by the perceived need to appease the Arab Street. In the context of the debate over whether or not to release the bin Laden corpse photographs, the so-called sensitivities of the Muslim world are taking priority over the ability of American families affected by 9/11 to have closure. In the context of the debate over whether or not to release the photos, the ability to show prospective terrorists across the world that there are consequences to killing Americans, we are instead kowtowing at the great altar of political correctness.
Killing Osama bin Laden was a tremendous victory for America–even if, on a practical level, it did not change much–and President Barack Obama has proven worthy of praise for having the political courage to stand up to the base of his party and order the operation to commence. However, just as the left had the right to criticize the Bush administration for not “winning the peace” after we deposed Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the right has the right to criticize the Obama administration for not better managing the aftermath of last Sunday’s operation.