It is incomprehensible how the White House has screwed the pooch in the aftermath of their most spectacular success; the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Incomprehensible because one would have to believe that they discussed the potential fallout from the attack, as well as how they might exploit any political advantage that came their way, before the attack took place.
It’s a good bet they talked about what to do in the event of catastrophe – failure to capture OBL, firefights with Pakistani troops, even a helicopter or two shot down by Pakistani air defenses.
It stands to reason that they should have examined issues that have come up in the wake of the raid for which it is painfully obvious the White House was shockingly unprepared to explain. The basic outline of what happened on the ground in Osama’s compound has changed three times by my count. The number of unfriendlies has risen and fallen depending on who is telling the story. Which son died has been changed twice. Which wife was used as a human shield – or not – or maybe yes – or maybe kinda, sorta – has now collapsed into total disbelievability.
They can’t get straight how bin Laden died. They can’t get straight the problem with the helicopter. They can’t agree on whether there was live fire coming from one person, or several, or none.
Agreed, this was a top secret mission, apparently using helicopters that no one has seen before, involving the nation’s most effective, most deadly, and most secret counterterror outfit, and based on intelligence using a combination of gee-whiz technology and brute human brain power. If they are deliberately trying to protect any of that by being obtuse, then they should get a pass.
The administration’s only believable spokesman is soon to be former CIA chief Leon Panetta. Ironically, the reason he’s got credibility is because it is Panetta who has been contradicting much of the administration version of events – not on deep background but in all his quotable glory. Panetta is telling tales out of school, even going so far as to advocate releasing the bin Laden death pictures over what appears to be the objections of a majority within the administration.
Why is Panetta off the reservation ? A purely speculative reason is that Panetta believes his spooks are getting short shrift from an administration constantly spinning the events to give reflected glory to their chief. The fact is, the SEALs wouldn’t have been needed without some incredible work by our spy agencies. Panetta might think that their story is being pushed into the background in favor of the “boom-boom” narrative of courageous (they were) SEALs busting in the door and with ruthless efficiency, working their way to the third floor to take down Osama.
The 4 years prior to those moments is pretty boring stuff comparatively speaking. The agonizingly slow process of tracking Osama’s courier across the entire expanse of Pakistan and then spending another year focusing on where he was living might not make quite the Hollywood movie as a SEAL assault would, but is an astonishing achievement in its own right. We haven’t heard much about that effort and Panetta could be a little pissed at that.
Regardless, the question arises; do we really need to know what happened during the assault? There is going to be a lot of information on how they carried out the mission that is classified – as well it should be. But if the White House spokes people can get up in front of reporters and give a falsified or confused blow by blow account of what they say happened in Abbottobad, then the American people have a right to know the truth. And given the absolute dearth of credibility of the administration on this subject, someone has to step up and tell the story in a credible way.
That pretty much leaves it up to an independent commission or at least, a formal, bi-partisan select committee of congress. I don’t think it matters as long as national security is protected and as much of the story that can be told is released – not to squelch any cockamamie conspiracy theories but to present to the American people a plausible account of how this vitally important moment in history occurred.
The administration believed that the American people were owed this account, else they would have kept their mouths shut. If they were trying to show Obama in the most positive light and shaped the story to fit a preconceived narrative – in other words, telling little white lies to buttress the image of their boss – the American people have a right to know this. If confusion and incompetence led to the competing, false, and changing story of what happened, we need to know that too. But most of all, we deserve to know the facts because, like other seminal moments in history, Americans need to catalog and store this event in our national memory.
And the least the government can do is make sure that Osama’s death goes into our national storybook detailing the truth and nothing but the truth.
Cross-posted at Right Wing Nuthouse