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According to Reuters, the mission was to kill Bin Laden and not capture him. Given that Bin Laden is responsible for the deaths of several thousand U.S. citizens and our involvement in two costly and destructive wars, his summary demise will not cause anyone to lose much sleep. However, Saddam Hussein was captured alive by U.S. Special Forces and met his ultimate reward. KSM, also captured alive by U.S. Special Forces, is soon to follow. The question becomes, why did President Obama chose to order Bin Laden's death as opposed to his capture and would our national security have been enhanced by his live capture?
Given President Obama’s insistence that terrorists be afforded the same protections as common criminals, it seems an odd choice to order the summary execution of the world’s #1 terrorist. However, given the President’s inability to gain Congressional approval for such trials and his distaste for military tribunals, it makes sense President Obama would want to avoid that complication. Further, President Obama has insisted the military prison at Guantanamo Bay be closed and has not ordered any NEW terrorists be detained there.
Finally, remember that President Obama signed an Executive Order immediately upon taking office restricting interrogation techniques to the Army field manual. Given that Bin Laden would likely be a tough nut to crack, interrogation under those circumstances or if he were read his Miranda warnings as the Attorney General has done repeatedly with other captured terrorists would limit the effectiveness of any potential interrogation.
Why interrogate? Given that Al Qaeda is responsible for leveling TWO US embassies, attacking the Pentagon and US Navy ships, presumably ordered an attack on the White House or the US Capitol building, attacking the World Trade Center TWICE killing thousands, and lord knows what else, we might have some interest in asking a question or two to Al Qaeda’s leader. Further, given that Al Qaeda is presumed to be a splinter group where the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, one would think it might be useful to ask a question or two to the guy at the top, even if we had to waterboard him to elicit an answer.
Even if Bin Laden has not been involved in tactical decisions since he went into hiding after 9/11, a fact that is the basis of pure conjecture, one might want to know who has been aiding Bin Laden in Pakistan (both inside and outside the military and government), who went through his training camps (it is unlikely we have identified all the terrorists), where Mullah Omar and Ayman al-Zawahiri are hiding, how he communicates with the outside and who is aiding and funding him, how al Qaeda coordinates with other terrorist groups throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, and any information he may have about future operations. Answers to these questions among others that would undoubtedly have saved MANY American lives. Unfortunately, they will never be answered.
As a native New Yorker who remembers 9/11 vividly, I wish Bin Laden an eternity in hell. At this point however, I would have much preferred the opportunity to learn the answers to these questions and more and consider it a sin that we threw away a gold mine of unknown riches of potential intelligence. My suspicion is that President Obama is uninterested in learning the answers to these questions. He does not believe we are fighting a war against Jihadism and would like to sweep the ‘war on terror’ under the rug and wind down our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a sordid chapter in our nations history in his view. His preacher of twenty years told us that 9/11 represented “America’s chickens coming home to roost.” Unfortunately, our enemies do not share our President’s view and will not cease their war against us.
While I celebrate Bin Laden’s death, it would have been much sweeter had our President given our intelligence services the opportunity to extract information that might have saved American lives first.