Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Military details of the bin Laden raid

Now we have the story from what can be described as a 'usually reliable source' (and there are those of you who know what that means).  There are people within the military who are frustrated by the way in which this story has been handled and they've finally leaked a report that makes sense.

Obama and his administration declared early on after the raid that they would not 'spike the football', but that's all that they've been doing since.  Despite the fact that the NSC and others watched the raid unfold in real time, we've been abused by a string of changing variations of what happened during the raid (leading Rush Limbaugh to quip "Bin Laden is dead and we get the 72 versions"), and always from political spokesmen, not military.  Other than an insipid 'intelligence brief' at the Pentagon on 7 May for a large group of reporters from the MSM (the lead story of which was the release of footage of bin Laden watching himself on TV), there has been nothing of real substance allowed from the military.  I lamented this trend and predicted as much as early as 3 May.  It's no wonder that the military is as fed up, yet again, with the political grandstanding going on.

Now we know (for example) that there were five helicopters involved, as opposed to the four first reported, then corrected to two by Jay Carney.  It didn't take a lot of thought to dismiss the two-helo version, particularly knowing that there was an alternate plan in case one was lost, as actually happened.  Relying on only one other helo to transport out the entire team and the other helo crew, along with bin Laden's body, the intel booty and whatever else, strains to the breaking point the cliché of putting all your eggs in one basket.  Having two MH-60K Blackhawks (or a likely upgraded version) backed up by three MH-47 heavy-lift Chinooks makes far more sense.  I'm certain that there were more assets in the air and in support as well.  And speaking of helicopters, while we salute the superb job of Navy SEAL Team 6, let's not forget the vital contribution of the Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), as well as other elements that must have been involved.

The story includes other examples of the risk involved in the decision, but nothing dissuades me from my original assessment on 5 May that the only real risk invloved in making the "gutsy" decision was political.

And please, let's end this parochial taunting from liberal pundits (Newsweek among them) about how Obama "accomplished in two years what George W. Bush was unable to accomplish in eight".  Excuse me?  Did Obama throw out everything developed during the previous administration & start from scratch?  Newsweek includes the claim that Bush had a shot at Zawahiri in Pakistan but it was scrubbed by Rumsfeld in order to placate the Pakistanis (neither true nor accurate, & I expect that Newsweek knows that).  Telling though, is the quote from Richard Clarke, Bush's "counterterrorism chief" during the 11 September attack, who advised Obama during the early campaign in 2007 concerning the likelihood of another terrorist attack in the US: “We told him quite explicitly to get on the record putting the blame on the past administration.  We wanted him to show causality between what the Bush administration did and the continuing terrorism threat.”  This shows Clarke to be the feather-bedding, grandstanding political hack that he is.  Nevertheless, it's even more clear that the rule is: "If it's good, take credit.  If it's bad, blame Bush."

Update:  Concerning the question of the role of Pakistan in the decision-making process, some have alluded to a coming Cold War between them and the US, but it is accurate to say that the Pakistanis already have their own Cold Civil War within, and I question whether there was some complicity on the part of some locals on the scene.  The great Donald Sensing has already speculated about what may have caused the reported power outage in the area during the raid (Occam tells me that someone threw the switch).  I question the fact that, during an airmobile assault, complete with a crashed helicopter and others in close attendance, with gunfire in a compound within a thousand yards of the Pakistan Military Academy, and in close proximity to military units, as well as the residences of active and retired high-ranking Pakistani officers, it took over forty minutes to see any kind of response from the police or military from nearby.

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