Monday, May 2, 2011

The Man Who Shot Bin Laden

I'm just old enough to have seen The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance in a theatre when it came out. One of the last of the great John Ford westerns, it starred Jimmy Stewart as a lawyer on the frontier who made his reputation by taking down a notorious outlaw, played by Lee Marvin, in a gunfight. This action propelled him to become a Senator when the territory became a state. Of course, the Jimmy Stewart character knew that the real hero of the gunfight was the character played by John Wayne, who actually killed Liberty Valance from the shadows. Jimmy Stewart missed, but it didn't matter. The legend had become more important than the facts by the time he revealed the truth.

Today Barack Obama is both Jimmy Stewart AND John Wayne. He is both the smart lawyer and the sharpshooter. He is the master poker player and the master chess player. We will not be hearing many of his critics making Jimmy Carter comparisons any more. His odds of getting re-elected just went up about 10 points today.


  1. Sometimes we need people like Tom Doniphon. And we need leaders courageous enough to do the right thing over time (Bush and Obama). I know Obama understands the value intel Bush provided. Plenty of mutaul respect there.

    The bump in polls won't last but I think it is a well deserved temporary bump. Hell yeah, turn it up, right on!

  2. There is a lot of talk about the "decision" that Obama made, but what other choice was there really? There really was no choice as far as I'm concerned. I think we shouldn't forget to give credit to Panetta and the great job he's doing along with all the people that gathered the intelligence. Also let's not overlook that the information that led to finding ultimately came from Guantanamo Bay (a place that Obama's decision was to destroy). I think that is an irony no one should overlook. I see no relevance to the Man who shot Liberty Valance whatsoever. Let's hear it for the man who really pulled the trigger, and the men and women who found Bin Laden and made that possible.

  3. Anonymous, did you even see the movie I am talking about? If you want to give credit to others, and give less credit to Obama, then the movie becomes even more relevant. Because in the movie, the Jimmy Stewart character is actually such a poor shot he never could have killed Liberty Valance but ends up getting credit for it anyway.

    My point is simply that, however much Obama deserves the credit, and I happen to think he deserves a lot of credit, he is going to be known forever as the man who finally got Osama Bin Laden. And that is going to make him enormously powerful politically.

  4. Appropriately, in his broadcast to the nation, Obama "emphasized the continuity of effort against al Qaeda over the past decade". I don't think he expects the accolades that so many of his supporters seem to think will be lasting.

    He mentioned Bush by name when referring to one of George W. Bush’s most important statements: "As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not — and never will be — at war with Islam".

    Obama understands what went on before him, what credit belongs to the prior administration and how much intel from GITMO (that began over four years ago) resulted in the success of the mission. If he clings to this missions success as his own he may have some explaining to do to the left.

  5. Kevin, I appreciate your comments, but my point is that I don't think that it matters much how much credit goes to Obama and how much to others, although I'm sure a lot of people will argue about that. What you might be missing is that by authorizing the mission to take out Bin Laden especially in the way it was done (commandos vs. bombing, going into Pakistan without their knowledge), Obama has destroyed any hope that his opponents might have had of painting him as soft on terrorism, or as some kind of Muslim terrorist sympathizer.

    Obama also did in two years what Bush couldn't do in 7 years, and even though that might be an unfair comparison, and even though Obama benefited from some of the work done during the Bush administration, it still shows that Obama stayed focused on the main mission while Bush was arguably distracted by Iraq, arguably let Bin Laden slip from our grasp, and was even quoted once as saying that he didn't give Bin Laden much thought. And even if there are further terrorist actions in the next year (hopefully not), politically that would not harm Obama much now. He is still the guy who finally got Bin Laden, and that matters a lot, and will continue to matter a lot.

  6. Who really cares who got Osama. We got him. At what cost?

    To your comments:

    Candidates on the right are not making hay by attacking Obama as weak on terrorism. How could they, he has continued Bush policy from day one. Most are happy with him on this front.

    Obama understands what Bush meant to the success of the mission and visa versa. That is why we saw the two so act so graciously to one another.

    Obama did not do what Bush couldn’t do. He used the methods Bush used to complete the mission; and this is where he may get into trouble with some progressives (I understand not here):

    1) he has supported the fighting industry against Islam – some on the left think this is born out of exaggeration and is a fear related industry.

    2) he has been part of us turning on ourselves by continuing to destroying civil liberties

    3) we cannot bring Sheikh Mohammed to trial in civilian court

    4) we have come up with a third type of prisoner in between civilian and military justice

    This is a legacy Obama has yet to deal with. The money, the cost, the lives and the treasure lost. Osama’s death will hasten the call to get out of the Afghan war. How does he justify an illegal kill mission in the heart of another country.

  7. As to your question on international law, I can't give a full answer but there are some precedents for what we did. The kidnapping of Adolf Eichmann to bring him to trial in Israel. Nixon's incursion and bombing of Cambodia. And other examples. These examples are themselves controversial, but there are at least grounds to argue that attacking Bin Laden in Pakistan without their permission was legal.

    The real reason that Pakistan is probably not going to protest too loudly, however, is that it now appears that the government of Pakistan has been lying to us for years, and playing us for suckers. They took billions from us supposedly to help us fight terrorists, while at the same time appear to have been sheltering Bin Laden. How could this guy have been hiding out in the biggest house in town behind giant walls and barbed wire less than a mile away from the country's main military academy without the knowledge of the top brass? Doesn't seem possible.

    And what Obama did that was different from Bush and from all the other presidential candidates in 2008 was that he said we would not hesitate to go into Pakistan unilaterally if we had the intelligence to justify it. And then he did it.

  8. Tough questions for sure. On why Pakistan will not protest too loudly -- you may be correct. But the entire relationship between the US and Pakistan is so murky it's hard to tell.

    Recent events make it look like America has been puncked. That doesn't bode well for Bush or Obama (Bush has less to lose).

    But I am not sure it is as it seems. This is a screwy relationship. Both countries want help from the other but neither is a partner.

    Wild cards:

    (1) since there will be a renewed push for us to leave the area, Pakistan might be concerned with who will fill the vacuum.

    (2) We want influence there and so does China. If we exit, China may assume influence.

    (3) how would us leaving the region impact Pakistan's security

    (3) what if Pakistan knew Osama was there and was keeping him there

    (4) there are nukes -- maybe being punked is a strategy -- and a good trade off

    We don't know. Just as Senator Obama didn't know. What a job. Presidents have a tough road. Damn!

  9. I would be interested in talking to a land use attorney in Pakistan to find out more about the process there for buying and selling property and making home improvements. If I wanted to build a 15 foot wall around my house laced with barbed wire, I think I would have to deal with some difficult questions from the planning commission, not to mention my neighbors. I'm sure the process is different in Pakistan, but still, you would think that a bunch of local officials would know things like the identity of the owner of the property, and the process for permitting construction on the property. One would also think that the local military academy, supposedly the most prestigious in the nation, would be a tiny bit curious about the existence of what is basically a fort only a mile from their gates. The idea that nobody knew anything about who lived there just seems ridiculous. What seems much more likely is that this location was chosen precisely because it is under the protection of the Pakistani military.

  10. The idea that nobody knew anything about who lived there just seems ridiculous."


    "What seems much more likely is that this location was chosen precisely because it is under the protection of the Pakistani military."


  11. I say Obama doesn't deserve the credit for killing bin laden, the taskforce n men who found and killed him should diserve the credit, so far, obama hasn't even been a halve decent president