Obama On OBL: The Full "60 Minutes" Interview
May 9, 2011 12:38 AM   Subscribe

Obama On OBL: The Full "60 Minutes" Interview (transcript)
posted by Blazecock Pileon (158 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Inside the Situation Room... (original)

I don't think I've seen anybody embody stoneface more perfectly.

posted by Rhaomi at 1:31 AM on May 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


He says "uhh" a lot.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:37 AM on May 9, 2011


His is left handed.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:41 AM on May 9, 2011


Still listening to the interview, he is praising the SEALs at the moment and talking about how much confidence he has in them. Has it been lost in all this that one of his earlier big foreign policy moments was having them shoot a bunch of pirates in the face?

Did that play in to the decision to have them be the people to handle this?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:51 AM on May 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Keep in mind that obviously when I was still campaigning for president I had said that if I ever get a shot at bin Laden we're gonna take it. And I was subject to some criticism at the time because I had said if it's in Pakistan and, you know, we don't have the ability to capture him in any other way, then we're gonna go ahead and take the shot.

WASHINGTON | Wed Aug 1, 2007 7:26pm EDT

"(Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said on Wednesday the United States must be willing to strike al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan, adopting a tough tone after a chief rival accused him of naivete in foreign policy."

Obama Says He Would Take Fight To Pakistan

"When I am president, we will wage the war that has to be won," he told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson Center in the District. He added, "The first step must be to get off the wrong battlefield in Iraq and take the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Obama's comments on Afghanistan draw sharp rebuke from Romney campaign

"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will, he vowed."

"Critics called this overly hawkish.."

Whatever one thinks of recent events in Pakistan, there can be no doubt that this was the well-advertised position of the Obama Administration from the first day.
posted by three blind mice at 2:10 AM on May 9, 2011 [38 favorites]


Obama: "It doesn't mean that al Qaeda hasn't metastasized to other parts of the world where we've gotta, you know, address operatives there."

This is surprisingly close to openly stating that an simple assassination policy is in effect. Nobody really even bothers to conceal it any more.
posted by jaduncan at 2:14 AM on May 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm not sure what I think of the actions taken by my country and my President to assassinate Bin Laden. It's terribly complicated and I'm not sure the mission is even legal (but look at what we're talking about). I'd like Bin Laden to have had a trial, however that would have happened. Lots of confused thoughts. I'm not alone, I'm sure, BUT:

It's always a relief to see a President that can be interviewed and sound intelligent. He sounds exhausted, but at least he is not using cowboy, hillbilly, good-ol'-boy slang.

That was a tough 8 years before Mr. Obama took office.
posted by alex_skazat at 2:16 AM on May 9, 2011 [15 favorites]


Say what you will, this was a supremely gutsy move on Obama's part. The slightest screw-up would have provided wingnuts with fodder for months. Now, they're the ones looking soft on defense.
posted by RavinDave at 2:24 AM on May 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is surprisingly close to openly stating that an simple assassination policy is in effect. Nobody really even bothers to conceal it any more.

I didn't know anyone was making any effort to conceal it before:

January 23, 2009, President Obama 'orders Pakistan drone attacks'

"Missiles fired from suspected US drones killed at least 15 people inside Pakistan today, the first such strikes since Barack Obama became president and a clear sign that the controversial military policy begun by George W Bush has not changed."

.... he is praising the SEALs at the moment and talking about how much confidence he has in them.

Because he must have been absolutely shitting himself when that helicopter crashed and he was thinking Desert One all over again.

In fact, that failed mission to rescue the hostages in Iran must have weighed most heavily of all on his mind. Any repeat of that and the dark shadows of Jimmy Carter would have been all over his 2012 campaign.

Obama took a very big political risk for which the upside was not nearly as large as the downside and he deserves some commander-in-chief props for that.
posted by three blind mice at 2:39 AM on May 9, 2011 [16 favorites]


If a rabbit tried to charge Obama's boat the SEALs would snap its neck before it was even close.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:51 AM on May 9, 2011 [12 favorites]


--This is surprisingly close to openly stating that an simple assassination policy is in effect.--

Jeez, you make a rather large jump from fairly benign language. So establishing contacts and intelligence exchanges and providing logistical support to places like Yemen and Indonesia don't suggest themselves as the more likely automatic interpretation? Drones are certainly an issue, but I think they've only been used in the Pak-Afghan border region so his statement in the interview does not really telegram wider application. Look, dude will kick doors in if the intelligence and targets warrant it, but I don't think this maps to an assassination policy. That's pretty tabloidesque and cynical.
posted by peacay at 2:56 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


but I think they've only been used in the Pak-Afghan border region

US drone attack in Yemen 'missed' al-Awlaki. Military relying more on drones, mostly in Iraq.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:59 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ah right. Well a new statement doesn't mean a widening of their application. Anyway, I took the metastasizing remark simply to mean that the offense against potential al qaeda and al qaeda-related targets to be an ongoing policy. In other words, I don't think it was chest thumping hubris or code for being more intentionally deadly in operations.
posted by peacay at 3:18 AM on May 9, 2011


9-11 : Pearl Harbor
Killing OBL : Hiroshema?

We didn't see all the consequences to the world that August day when we ushered in the age of nuclear weapons. What future comes from this act?
posted by humanfont at 3:20 AM on May 9, 2011


did the president have to make his hour long speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center? after all did'nt that president believe in building a high wall around the united states and none of our affairs should venture outside of his high wall!
posted by taxpayer at 3:32 AM on May 9, 2011


did'nt that president believe in building a high wall around the united states and none of our affairs should venture outside of his high wall

Wasn't that a Philip K. Dick novel?
posted by juiceCake at 3:37 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Keep in mind that obviously when I was still campaigning for President, I had said that if I ever get a shot at bin Laden we're gonna take it. And that was subject to some criticism at the time, because I had said if it's in Pakistan and, you know, we don't have the ability to capture 'em in any other way, then we're gonna go ahead and take the shot.

Oh what a bastard. You have to hate a president that actually keeps a campaign promise. What next? Passing a universal health care bill against all odds?
posted by Splunge at 3:38 AM on May 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Politifact's Obameter, showing the promises made, kept and broken..
(related: GOP-Pledge-ometer.)
posted by crunchland at 4:09 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


--This is surprisingly close to openly stating that an simple assassination policy is in effect.--

It's ok to kill people who are trying to kill you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:31 AM on May 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


9-11 : Pearl Harbor
Killing OBL : Hiroshima?


9/11 : Pearl Harbor :: killing ObL : killing Admiral Yamamoto,
also controversial in its day. And the law of unintended consequences holds for inaction as well as for action.
posted by Kinbote at 4:57 AM on May 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


Obama didin Laden.
posted by bwg at 5:19 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


9-11 : Pearl Harbor
Killing OBL : Hiroshema?


That second connection is quite possibly the most ridiculous analogy ever.

Hiroshima ended the war. This will not, nor was it intended to.
Hiroshima resulted in ~200,000 dead, mostly civilian. This was a soldier shooting a declared enemy leader in the face.
posted by unigolyn at 5:35 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have spent some time in the past week pondering about how we did this action inside Pakistan without their knowledge. I heard someplace, probably NPR, that by the time it was over and the SEALs were headed out, Pakistan was starting to scramble its military because they heard there was something going on?

It makes me wonder how much of a shitfit the US would be having if, say, Mexico were to launch a similar, unannounced operation to take down a drug kingpin in, say, Houston.
posted by hippybear at 5:52 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


if, say, Mexico were to launch a similar, unannounced operation to take down a drug kingpin in, say, Houston.

That would be a violation of our sovereignty. Also, do we harbor drug kingpins?
posted by jsavimbi at 5:54 AM on May 9, 2011


One part of the interview that struck me that hasn't gotten much attention is when he was asked about the dissention at the table over whether to order in the SEALs, and Obama praised the counsel of those who argued no as "invaluable," because it helped focus and inform him.
The previous president appeared to disdain all dissent and I believe, in the same position, would now be belittling any advisors who had argued for caution.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:56 AM on May 9, 2011 [23 favorites]


I have spent some time in the past week pondering about how we did this action inside Pakistan without their knowledge. I heard someplace, probably NPR, that by the time it was over and the SEALs were headed out, Pakistan was starting to scramble its military because they heard there was something going on?

The various stories I've heard are:

Pakistan knew, but won't admit it, less its populace get riled up and/or Al-Qaeda start targeting Pakistan's government more aggressively.

At some point during the raid, Obama called the Pakistani President and told him what was up and asked him to jets.

The SEAL team used every trick in the book, including previously mapped blind spots, flying low and a stealth like helicopter to avoid radar.

It makes me wonder how much of a shitfit the US would be having if, say, Mexico were to launch a similar, unannounced operation to take down a drug kingpin in, say, Houston.

We'd be having a huge shitfit and it's understandable that Pakistan is having one. Doesn't mean America shouldn't have done what it did, just that we have to deal with the consequences of our actions.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:03 AM on May 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


That would be a violation of our sovereignty.

And.... our actions which resulted in the death of bin Laden weren't a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty?
posted by hippybear at 6:06 AM on May 9, 2011


And.... our actions which resulted in the death of bin Laden weren't a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty?

I'd rather see the US violating a nation's sovereignty to take out a singe high-value target than launch two freaking wars in the general vicinity of the wanted target. Targeted killings such as this would send a valuable message to higher ups in these "organizations" that promote terrorism. Wars get more young men signing up to fight and become martyrs.
posted by Brodiggitty at 6:13 AM on May 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


The previous president appeared to disdain all dissent and I believe, in the same position, would now be belittling any advisors who had argued for caution. --- I hate to be the one defending George W. Bush, but your impression is pretty unfair and unnuanced. I was easily able to find a couple of examples where Bush was in the minority in his own White House.

Book Tells Of Dissent In Bush's Inner Circle : "During a private dinner at the White House to discuss how to buoy Bush's presidency, seven advisers voted to dump Rumsfeld, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, incoming chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten, the outgoing chief, Andrew H. Card Jr., and Ed Gillespie, then an outside adviser and now White House counselor. Bush raised his hand along with three others who wanted Rumsfeld to stay, including Rove and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley. Rumsfeld was ousted after the November elections."

Bush: 'I Was A Dissenting Voice' On Iraq War : Former President George W. Bush says he was a "dissenting voice" on the decision to invade Iraq because he "didn't want to use force" but ran out of options. "I was a dissenting voice. I didn't want to use force," Bush told NBC's Matt Lauer in his first interview promoting his new memoir, "Decision Points."
posted by crunchland at 6:14 AM on May 9, 2011


During a private dinner at the White House to discuss how to buoy Bush's presidency, seven advisers voted to dump Rumsfeld, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, incoming chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten, the outgoing chief, Andrew H. Card Jr., and Ed Gillespie, then an outside adviser and now White House counselor. Bush raised his hand along with three others who wanted Rumsfeld to stay
Huh. And here I thought he was supposed to be the Decider.
posted by Flunkie at 6:17 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'll grant you the first example, but laugh with ill-concealed derision at the second, which is just self-serving claptrap.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:17 AM on May 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


Brodiggity: Yes, I'm not questioning that the action was taken. I've just been wondering a bit in the past week about the general wisdom, internationally, about launching actions such as this. The US has been seen as the world's biggest bully since the days of Reagan if not before, and while the outcome of this action may be beneficial in some ways, I'm certain it hasn't done anything to change our image.
posted by hippybear at 6:22 AM on May 9, 2011


Frankly I'm all for shooting pirates in the face and assassinating the leaders of a terrorist organisation explicitly dedicated to our destruction. As a bonus such activities also annoy Noam Chomsky, so it's an all round win.
posted by joannemullen at 6:24 AM on May 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


Former President George W. Bush says he was a "dissenting voice" on the decision to invade Iraq because he "didn't want to use force" but ran out of options.

Oh, BULLSHIT.

Show of hands: who remembers what was in the news in the weeks leading up to the Iraq War? I do: it was an escalating furor over some documents that Dick Cheney was claiming were confidential due to executive privilege, and the rest of the country was saying, "no, not really..." The FOIA suit had just decided against Cheney. And then all of a sudden the Bush administration started talking about Iraq and WMAs and Saddam and saying "hey, look over there instead" and Cheney's mysterious issue got dropped.

The Bush administration absolutely intended to go to war in Iraq, because they set it up as a Wag the Dog situation to protect Cheney and as an Oedipal salve for Bush's daddy issues.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:24 AM on May 9, 2011 [13 favorites]


And.... our actions which resulted in the death of bin Laden weren't a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty?

Of course they were a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty (assuming that, in fact, the high levels of the military and/or political leadership really didn't know about the attack). But of all the moral dilemmas brought up in this event, violating sovereignty is not a major one.
posted by Forktine at 6:25 AM on May 9, 2011


But of all the moral dilemmas brought up in this event, violating sovereignty is not a major one.

I'd argue the opposite, and say that it may have done more to degrade world opinion of the US than anything since the days when we were trying to install SDI in European countries that didn't want it.
posted by hippybear at 6:27 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


But of all the moral dilemmas brought up in this event, violating sovereignty is not a major one.

No doubt the Pakistani's feel differently about that.

I'd argue the opposite, and say that it may have done more to degrade world opinion of the US...

No, I'd wager that a surgical strike like that is regarded more favorably than the drone attacks which cause so much other damage.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:31 AM on May 9, 2011


Frankly I'm all for shooting pirates in the face and assassinating the leaders of a terrorist organisation explicitly dedicated to our destruction.

It won't stop there.

Remember the days when Republicans only defended torture in the case of a ticking time bomb? Funny how now the debate on the right has moved - so quickly and without any evidence - to defending torture as a permanent policy to find small nuggets of information that could help in developing leads in anti-terrorism work.
posted by Trurl at 6:33 AM on May 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


hippybear: I agree the US brand isn't well liked worldwide, but as a Canadian, I'm glad the only world superpower is a democracy that lives next door. I don't agree with everything America does. It has its flaws. But this was a smart move on Obama's part. It's action and core values over image for me.
posted by Brodiggitty at 6:36 AM on May 9, 2011


No, I'd wager that a surgical strike like that is regarded more favorably than the drone attacks which cause so much other damage.

True, but both of them are examples of lack of regard by the US for the borders of other countries, and show a willingness for us to simply do whatever the fuck we want whereever as long as it serves OUR interests. It's a bully mentality, and I'm suggesting that perhaps neither of them should be happening with any frequency, and should be eschewed altogether if possible.
posted by hippybear at 6:37 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Obama praised the counsel of those who argued no as "invaluable," because it helped focus and inform him.

That struck me, too. We over the last decade saw military/political strategy often relies on cheerleading and the echo chamber to strengthen decisions, to ill effect. It's impressive to hear from the top that oppositional arguments rather than wagging a giant foam #1 finger is a source of strength.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:38 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


But of all the moral dilemmas brought up in this event, violating sovereignty is not a major one.

"Obviously, we're going into the sovereign territory of another country and landing helicopters and conducting a military operation. And so if it turns out that it's a wealthy, you know, prince from Dubai who's in this compound -- and, you know, we've sent Special Forces in -- we've got problems."
From TFA
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:38 AM on May 9, 2011


True, but both of them are examples of lack of regard by the US for the borders of other countries, and show a willingness for us to simply do whatever the fuck we want whereever as long as it serves OUR interests.

I'm ok with people not liking the US for doing a surgical strike to kill Bin Laden.

The drone attacks are more problematic and I would like to see less of those or a better solution.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:40 AM on May 9, 2011


Has it been lost in all this that one of his earlier big foreign policy moments was having them shoot a bunch of pirates in the face?

Did that play in to the decision to have them be the people to handle this?


Said that exact thing yesterday.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:50 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think stating this is a result of an "assassination policy" is second guessing the SEALs who were actually on the mission. What I understand from the reports is that Bin Laden was sighted in the hallway outside the bedroom before he then went into the bedroom. Given his past statements about killing Americans at every opportunity, the SEALs didn't know if he was retreating to arm himself or blow the whole building up. The fact they didn't shoot everyone dead in the building and Bin Laden in the hallway indicates to me that they weren't on an assassination mission.

If Bin Laden had surrendered by kneeling with his arms behind his head or prostrating on the floor, I suspect that he would be alive and in custody today. He didn't do that. He retreated for reasons that will never be known, but I'd wager he wasn't going in to get his day bag before surrender.
posted by pashdown at 6:57 AM on May 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


The interview signals no major policy changes, but rather more of the same gradualist approach.

The talk of al Qaeda continuing "metastasizing" in other areas is also the same as saying this is not the beginning of the end of the war on terror, though Obama has discontinued the use of that term.

I have a feeling that there may be a linkage between the attempted closure of Guantanamo, federal trials, etc. and the rest of the posture on terrorism. In other words, Obama will not unilaterally change the policy, but instead will continue to provide guidance without fighting Congress. As I stated earlier, the decision not to make a capture the first priority was likely influenced by the legal and political struggle that would have resulted.

On a slightly different topic, Organizing for America has now changed to Obama for America: they are now in full 2012 re-election mode.
posted by warbaby at 6:58 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


That was a tough 8 years before Mr. Obama took office.

Yea, because things like warrentless wiretapping are all fixed up now. Same with protection for whistleblowers - safer than ever.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:58 AM on May 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


As a bonus such activities also annoy Noam Chomsky, so it's an all round win.

Ressentiment. It's what's for dinner.

both of them are examples of lack of regard by the US for the borders of other countries, and show a willingness for us to simply do whatever the fuck we want where ever as long as it serves OUR interests.

Obviously, I don't want to defend every instance of the US's lack of regard for foreign sovereignty here (or which there have been many), but in this particular instance, the Bin Laden instance, well, he violated our sovereignty first. Another leader, in another age, or administration, might have just rolled in to a country harboring someone like Bin Laden and started leveling the place. In contrast to something like that, Obama's action was an entirely proportionate reponse.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:06 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hiroshima ended the war. This will not, nor was it intended to.

Not really. First we had to go bomb Nagasaki, then the Russians had to clearly state they were joining the war. Then the Imperial leadership had to have a number of internal meetings with various factions fighting it out and there was that near coup that almost delayed the surrender, and then Japan unconditionally surrendered. So it wasn't nearly as cut and dried.

We have demonstrated a very unique capability here. Our previously undisclosed stealth helicopters can apparently penetrate right through a foreign countries air defenses and drop highly trained commandos right on someones house. Then we can go in shoot you and leave. Perhaps you are jaded by Hollywood / TV and Tom Clancy books and video games to realize that this is really in the realm of fiction and fantasy until this event.

This will have a major effect on the way wars are fought going forward.
posted by humanfont at 7:13 AM on May 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


If Bin Laden had surrendered by kneeling with his arms behind his head or prostrating on the floor, I suspect that he would be alive and in custody today.

Malone: You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I'm saying is, what are you prepared to do?

Ness: Anything within the law.

Malone: And *then* what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way. Because they're not gonna give up the fight, until one of you is dead.

Ness: I want to get Capone! I don't know how to do it.

Malone: You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That's* the *Chicago* way! And that's how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? I'm offering you a deal. Do you want this deal?

Ness: I have sworn to capture this man with all legal powers at my disposal and I will do so.

Malone: Well, the Lord hates a coward.


I don't think there was ever a plan to capture Osama bin Laden. Capture him? "And *then* what are you prepared to do?" There would have been a prolonged debate over torture, trial, etc. And then some knucklehead would take some American hostages and demand a exchange. No. There was nothing good that was gonna come out of capturing bin Laden. Obama was not gonna open that can of worms. The only pragmatic decision was a mob hit - send in the guys with guns to shoot him on the spot and quickly dispose of the body.
posted by three blind mice at 7:20 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think the worst thing for our image abroad, more than the surgical attack on foreign soil and the attack on another country's sovereignty, were the images that played around the world of those dumb-fuck 20-something goons chanting "USA USA USA" in the darkness on the night it happened. Assassinating OBL was one thing. Gloating about it is something else.
posted by crunchland at 7:21 AM on May 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


I will agree with you on that, crunchland. That just felt embarrassing to me.
posted by hippybear at 7:25 AM on May 9, 2011


crunchland: I think the worst thing for our image abroad, more than the surgical attack on foreign soil and the attack on another country's sovereignty, were the images that played around the world of those dumb-fuck 20-something goons chanting "USA USA USA" in the darkness on the night it happened. Assassinating OBL was one thing. Gloating about it is something else.

No, you cringed at it. I understand, but don't share, the lefty handwringing over crass celebration over the death of an enemy. But it's just that: lefty handwringing. No one in Egypt is going "I was okay killing the guy, but chanting USA is too much". Don't take your liberal critique of American society and universalize it; no one outside the West cares.

That guy in Egypt is probably just happy that we didn't used a drone strike that took out 30 civilians along with OBL.
posted by spaltavian at 7:28 AM on May 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think there was ever a plan to capture Osama bin Laden.

It's ok to target and kill people who are doing the same to you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:29 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


You speak with great authority about how people in Egypt feel about this, spaltavian. I'm curious about how you come by this information.
posted by hippybear at 7:33 AM on May 9, 2011


I understand, but don't share, the lefty handwringing over crass celebration over the death of an enemy.

I understand, but don't share, the right-wing handwringing over the crass celebration after 9/11.

No one outside of the United States cared.
posted by three blind mice at 7:41 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what your point is, three blind mice. I'm not a right winger, the Right was outraged, not handwringing, it wasn't confined to just the Right, I don't particularly care about who celebrated the attackes and the 9/11 attacks and the 9/11 attacks and the assassination of bin Laden aren't comparable events.

hippybear: You speak with great authority about how people in Egypt feel about this

The use of the word "probably" indicated I did not, in fact, speak with any claimed authority and the fact that I was responding to someone else's assertion about how the rest of the world feels about the event probably should have given you pause to write this needlessly snarky response. Notice the word "probably" again indicated that I cannot divine if you should have paused on an objective, emprical level.
posted by spaltavian at 7:51 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


There have only been two times in my life when I've seen giddy New Yorkers cheering in the streets and high fiving strangers: last Sunday, and the night Obama won in 2008.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:52 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't haveva point, just noting.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:54 AM on May 9, 2011


No one in Egypt is going "I was okay killing the guy, but chanting USA is too much".

Eh, whatever. You're still projecting your own views on the Egyptians just as much as crunchland.
posted by hippybear at 7:55 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


There have only been two times in my life when I've seen giddy New Yorkers cheering in the streets and high fiving strangers: last Sunday, and the night Obama won in 2008.

Imagine what would have happened if Obama shot Bin Laden himself.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:55 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, I'm noting how the idea of American perceptions abroad being determined by people holding the positions of "okay with the assassination of bin Laden" and "not okay with being happy about the assassination of bin Laden" is tenous at best. The main factor is going to be whether you are okay with taking out bin Laden, because, that's the one that actually is important.
posted by spaltavian at 8:01 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Those dumb-fuck 20-something goons chanting "USA USA USA" in the darkness" reminded me of football players who do overdone touchdown dances in the endzone. Hubris is what it is, and it's pretty unbecoming. If they had access to them, they would undoubtedly have been waving pictures of Bin Laden's dead mutilated face. There's something to be said for composure.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:13 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Those dumb-fuck 20-something goons chanting "USA USA USA" in the darkness"

Allow me to jump in here for a minute. I rode my bike over to the White House (Lafayette Square) a few minutes after Obama made his announcement.

Yes. There were a number of dumb fucks shouting USA USA USA in the darkness, and there was a dude on stilts wearing an american flag bodysuit. (I should add that virtually all of these people were GW students)

And, yes. There were camera crews from every news agency filming these folks and beaming it back to their viewers in real-time (Services like LiveU make this trivially easy for even the smallest news agency to do, and this is probably the first major world event where it was put to the test on such a large scale).

However, they only made up a very tiny fraction of the crowd. Many of us were standing on the sidelines contemplating the significance of the event, wondering whether or not it was appropriate to be celebrating. Personally, I thought the celebration kind of crass. However, I think that the mass gathering was totally appropriate, as it's hard to argue against the symbolic significance of the event. Similarly, the satisfied/relieved look on the faces of many of the veterans I saw in the crowd was well-earned and also, in my mind, appropriate on some level.

Crowds standing in thoughtful contemplation do not make for good television, especially when there's a drunk guy on stilts wearing an American flag bodysuit standing 50 feet away.

Please do not let those drunk GW freshmen speak for my country, or even for the people who flocked to the White House upon news of OBL's death. The narrative being told by the media is misleading and dangerous.
posted by schmod at 8:27 AM on May 9, 2011 [15 favorites]


If Bin Laden had surrendered

Osama Bin Laden’s daughter claimed her father was captured alive by US forces and then later executed in front of her.

But remember - alternatives to the official version are not welcome.

"We are going to do everything we can to make sure that nobody has any basis to try to deny that we got Osama bin Laden," - John Brennan,


It's ok to target and kill people who are doing the same to you.

Normally, under "rule of law" there is supposed to be something like a trial or articles of War drawn up.

But hey, with such a low bar of "It's ok to target and kill people who are doing the same to you." I'm sure you have some other reason why Pakistanies could not apply the same logic when parties get drone-bombed.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:32 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


--chanting "USA USA USA"--

And some of us watching from abroad -- who may be apt to cringe at the sound of that chant ay any time outside of sporting events -- probably decided that it was catharsis more than celebratory crassness. And that's not to say that it wasn't run as nationalistic gloating on the tv news, it kind of was, but most people would take it all, it seems to me, as a moment of relief.
posted by peacay at 8:43 AM on May 9, 2011


Osama Bin Laden’s daughter claimed her father was captured alive by US forces and then later executed in front of her.

But remember - alternatives to the official version are not welcome.


Well, if you're using such an unbiassed source...

Normally, under "rule of law" there is supposed to be something like a trial or articles of War drawn up.

Dude was at war with us, so I see no problem with killing him without a trial.

This is not some major moral failing or a sign of the end-times of America. Lots of people would like to think so and Bin Laden probably would like for people to think so, but it's BS imo. A state of war existed between Bin Laden and his group and the US. One killing the other doesn't need a trial.

I'm sure you have some other reason why Pakistanies could not apply the same logic when parties get drone-bombed.

I mentioned in a previous comment that drone strikes aren't a great action.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:49 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Normally, under "rule of law" there is supposed to be something like a trial or articles of War drawn up.

Cite? I think you'll find the authorities surprisingly mixed on this issue.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:50 AM on May 9, 2011


Osama Bin Laden’s daughter claimed her father was captured alive by US forces and then later executed in front of her.

Read your link. A senior Pakistani intelligence official claims that. You believe them? Even Glenn Greenwald thinks that claim should be treated with lots of skepticism.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:51 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was an interesting segment at the beginning of this week's This American Life where they interviewed some of the people who celebrated in the streets on news of OBL's death, and they claim it was mostly limited to the 20-something crowd, and pretty much said that these kids were literally kids for 9/11 and how its almost as if they never knew a time without the cloud of OBL and terrorism hanging over their heads. I have a hard time buying it, but I can say that this 40-something-pushing-50-something, when he heard the news about OBL being killed promptly fell asleep on the couch, waiting for the President to finally appear, and the thought of going out onto the street to chant, or peacefully contemplate, never would have occurred to me.
posted by crunchland at 8:53 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Brodiggity: Yes, I'm not questioning that the action was taken. I've just been wondering a bit in the past week about the general wisdom, internationally, about launching actions such as this. The US has been seen as the world's biggest bully since the days of Reagan if not before, and while the outcome of this action may be beneficial in some ways, I'm certain it hasn't done anything to change our image.

I think letting him continue had some downsides too, both in our "image" and more importantly, in his ability to continue to plot terrorist attacks.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:55 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Osama Bin Laden’s daughter claimed her father was captured alive by US forces and then later executed in front of her.

But remember - alternatives to the official version are not welcome.



Are alternatives to the version you like best welcome? Because the wife was quoted in Dawn saying they were in bed and he was shot before he could even reach for his gun.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:55 AM on May 9, 2011


If Pakistan accedes to our request to let us interrogate interview the surviving bin Laden relatives, we have ways to get the truth out of them.
posted by Trurl at 8:57 AM on May 9, 2011


I think letting him continue had some downsides too

I've never said that I think it shouldn't have happened. I've just been wondering about the ramifications of the action, is all. That the US is a bully who does anything it wants in the world isn't news. That we launch covert military operations inside countries with whom we are not at war without notifying the sitting sovereign government also isn't news. That we then go on television and announce that we've done so... THAT is something new.
posted by hippybear at 8:58 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


As we know, things are getting a bit tense WRT US and Pakistani relations ...
Pakistan Media Out Alleged Name Of CIA Station Chief.
posted by ericb at 9:02 AM on May 9, 2011


A state of war existed between Bin Laden and his group and the US.

Wars are between nations. And, under the "Rule of Law" in the US of A - a war is declared by drafting articles of War in the Congress.

I do not believe Mr. Bin Laden was a nation-state. And I don't remember the actual drafting of articles of war by the Congress. But perhaps I was a sleeping Sheeple and will you do me the favor of pointing out the drafted and approved articles of War?

drone strikes aren't a great action.

And a comment of "It's ok to target and kill people who are doing the same to you." is not support for the rule of law, now is it?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:03 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yea, because things like warrentless wiretapping are all fixed up now. Same with protection for whistleblowers - safer than ever.

@rough ashlar: Not saying that all our problems are magically solved - my initial comment will show how on the fence I am on this one single move, but at least I'm not hearing about, Smoking 'em out and watching some bullshit carrier landing about some mission accomplished on a war that was fought over a lie and culminate - but didn't end, in another assassination that was much more messy, costly and killed more Americans than a few hours, a few choppers and a few Navy Seals.

Do we have a ways to go? Is it a slippery slope? Are we still slipping down it?

Yeah. Maybe just with a little less acceleration?

Me? I'm seeing signs in improvements, for example: when my current President doesn't look to an adviser off camera to figure out the next word.
posted by alex_skazat at 9:05 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are alternatives to the version you like best welcome?

And what version would that be?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:05 AM on May 9, 2011


It makes me wonder how much of a shitfit the US would be having if, say, Mexico were to launch a similar, unannounced operation to take down a drug kingpin in, say, Houston.

Gee, those are totally similar circumstances and this completely takes into account the levels of power of each involved country.
posted by odinsdream at 9:10 AM on May 9, 2011


Wars are between nations.

I don't think that's true anymore and to insist that the US stick to that idea leaves it vulnerable to attack and getting bogged down in details.

And a comment of "It's ok to target and kill people who are doing the same to you." is not support for the rule of law, now is it?

The rule of law in war is to kill other people, but hopefully in a way that isn't too inhumane. Everything else is justification, usually decided upon after the war.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:13 AM on May 9, 2011


Yeah. Maybe just with a little less acceleration?

Depends on what metrics in a political field one wants to try to map to a second derivative of position in physics.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:16 AM on May 9, 2011


Gee, those are totally similar circumstances and this completely takes into account the levels of power of each involved country.

So, as long as it's the US doing things to little tiny unpowerful countries, it's okay to just do whatever we want within their borders?
posted by hippybear at 9:17 AM on May 9, 2011


No one in Egypt is going "I was okay killing the guy, but chanting USA is too much".

spaltavian, you are very, very wrong about that. don't only read the articles, read the comments too.
posted by liza at 9:21 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, as long as it's the US doing things to little tiny unpowerful countries, it's okay to just do whatever we want within their borders?

What do you mean by "okay" exactly? Morally? Legally?
posted by odinsdream at 9:21 AM on May 9, 2011


What do you mean by "okay" exactly? Morally? Legally?

I don't know. What did you mean by your statement in response to my off-the-cuff example about Mexico launching an operation in Houston when you said "this completely takes into account the levels of power of each country involved"?
posted by hippybear at 9:24 AM on May 9, 2011


> Another leader, in another age, or administration, might have just rolled in to a country harboring someone like Bin Laden and started leveling the place.

George Herbert Walker Bush leveled Panama City (civilian casualties: 1000-4000) just to get the US's pink-slipped henchman, Noriega. (And, remarkably, the US has succeeded in keeping him completely incommunicado for twenty years... which does not precisely dispel the rumors of Noriega having been the US's drug-guy.)
posted by darth_tedious at 9:27 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean that in the real world humans live in groups that have varying levels of power. This power extends to the ability to create rules that the other groups follow, either by choice or, more typically, because they have to.

Attempting to paint this as a black and white "definitely illegal" or "definitely immoral" has a place, but that place is in theory, not reality.

In reality, Mexico and the U.S. have vastly different levels of power in the world. Mexico could not take any action in the U.S. without serious consequences, regardless of the morality or legality of the situation. The opposite is true.

Drug kingpins and their actions cannot be sufficiently linked to Osama to make any sort of comparison involving them.
posted by odinsdream at 9:30 AM on May 9, 2011


Bin Laden killing in legal gray zone
posted by homunculus at 9:32 AM on May 9, 2011


That we launch covert military operations inside countries with whom we are not at war without notifying the sitting sovereign government also isn't news. That we then go on television and announce that we've done so... THAT is something new.


Also, that the administration acknowledged these quandaries and at least gave a rational train of thought about why the decision was made to go in acknowledging the possible political ramifications of doing so was, if not new, at least refreshing in its candidness, and actually much more reassuring than a gung-ho cowboy attitude announcement.

The fact that a complex problems are actually presented by the head of the US government to the citizens as complex and multifaceted, and not ramped up and contrasted to a black and white "with us or against us," "we pwned them" strut, is at least a hopeful sign.
posted by chambers at 9:33 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


i want to commend hippybear, for being the voice of reason in this thread. he must be about my age and must remember a time when "rule of INTERNATIONAL law" was something the United States feigned to uphold. Obama has crossed a threshold with his taking out of Osama Bin Laden and it is of much more political significance than the killing itself.

when a really horrible president, even worse than the hydra that was BushCheney, abuses Obama's precedence, we will be revisiting this conversation. because the fact of the matter is, abuse of power, even if it is for "good" is still abuse of power.

this Chicago-gangland policy that Obama has instituted (and yes, am being deliberate with my Chicago reference), is truly perverse and will come back to haunt not the elite of this country with their own paramilitary security forces but random americans the world over.

the Osama rub-out is not one of those things to either laud, celebrate or for that matter dismiss; but to take deeply seriously as the people who vote these presidents into power and as the people who could become individual targets of retribution for our political cheerleading.
posted by liza at 9:34 AM on May 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


It makes me wonder how much of a shitfit the US would be having if, say, Mexico were to launch a similar, unannounced operation to take down a drug kingpin in, say, Houston.

The circumstances aren't even close to similar. If the drug kingpin was the biggest drug kingpin in the world and at least part of the U.S. Government was suspected of providing him with support and Mexico had reason to believe that the U.S. was incapable of dealing with the situation and that notifying any part of the U.S. Government would compromise mission security and put soldiers at risk in what is already a high-risk operation?

If that were the case, I imagine that we wouldn't be pleased but would probably be embarrassed and worried about our relationship with a supposed ally.

Normally, under "rule of law" there is supposed to be something like a trial or articles of War drawn up.

If we send a SWAT team in to arrest some guy who has holed up in a veritable fortress and they have reason to believe that the place is wired with explosives, I think you would have seen about the same outcome.

I think that their orders were to capture him if at all possible but I don't think anyone thought that outcome was very likely.
posted by VTX at 9:35 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I understand, but don't share, the lefty handwringing over crass celebration over the death of an enemy. But it's just that: lefty handwringing.

Well, somebody has to do it. The world would be a lot better off if more people took some time out of the day for a good handwring every now and then.
posted by brundlefly at 9:38 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, as long as it's the US doing things to little tiny unpowerful countries, it's okay to just do whatever we want within their borders?

So, as long as tiny unpowerful countries harbor terrorist leaders within their borders, we should not consider this an act of war against the United States?

Because those are the choices.

If you want to raise the flag of sovereignty, you are talking about raising a legal shield over Osama bin Laden in the name of the people of Pakistan.
posted by dhartung at 9:39 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a bonus such activities also annoy Noam Chomsky, so it's an all round win.

Indeed. Here's Chomsky's reaction, from Guernica.
posted by Dragonness at 9:40 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, the example with Mexico isn't a perfect one, but is there a parallel that can be offered which would not be picked apart as somehow not being parallel?

Anyway, the reason for the incursion isn't the point of the example. The point of the example is, we have done something in a sovereign country without even notifying the leadership of that country we were going to do it, and then scurried back out again before that country could even react to the news that something was happening.

I mean, it's really a shitty way to act.

You can try to nitpick away the counter example, but it's a terrible precedent to have established, and overall isn't likely to improve the way the US is viewed around the world.
posted by hippybear at 9:40 AM on May 9, 2011


So, as long as tiny unpowerful countries harbor terrorist leaders within their borders, we should not consider this an act of war against the United States?

There is, as yet, no real evidence that the Pakistanis knew Bin Laden was there in any official way. I'd prefer to save my accusations of war for actual events and not conjecture.
posted by hippybear at 9:42 AM on May 9, 2011


Wars are between nations.

Are you arguing that the US should have declared war on Pakistan first? Because, please be clear if that's what you mean.

In point of historical fact, though, wars are not necessarily always between two belligerents both formally constituted as nations. At least half a dozen conflicts in the 20th century alone fail to meet that definition and the nation-state itself is only a few centuries old. So, no, this isn't the first conflict between a state and non-state belligerents, nor will it be the last, I imagine.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:47 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chomsky's reaction

Still holding out against American Exceptionalism, apparently.

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.
posted by Trurl at 9:49 AM on May 9, 2011


Are you arguing that the US should have declared war on Pakistan first?

No.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:53 AM on May 9, 2011


this Chicago-gangland policy that Obama has instituted (and yes, am being deliberate with my Chicago reference),

This is kind of incoherent (to put it politely: those are heavy racialized tropes the GOP trotted out to blackify Obama in 2008 and beyond, for starters) and actually distracts from what I take to be your larger point here, liza.

If you want to criticize the strike on bin Laden as running afoul of international law, then make that case. Attacking the President by linking him with the tired Chicago-gangsta trope is uncalled for.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:01 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


You can try to nitpick away the counter example, but it's a terrible precedent to have established, and overall isn't likely to improve the way the US is viewed around the world.

If it only happens when we're going after a mass murder who is planning and coordinating more mass murders against the U.S. in a country that either can't or won't get him themselves then I'm pretty much okay with that.

The circumstances surrounding the next instance of the U.S. so blatantly violating another country's sovereignty (if there ever is one) will tell us what this means as a precedent.
posted by VTX at 10:01 AM on May 9, 2011


we have done something in a sovereign country without even notifying the leadership of that country we were going to do it, and then scurried back out again before that country could even react to the news that something was happening.
...
I'd prefer to save my accusations of war for actual events and not conjecture.

You might want to tone down the rhetoric in your accusations, then. I don't believe that Pakistan officially knew that OBL was in that particular house, but it was widely believed that he was in the country -- a notion that Pakistan spent a lot of time categorically denying -- so it's not as though their credibility is unimpeachable. I think there is also good reason to believe that they did know about/approve the raid and chose to deny it to maintain domestic tranquility.

I'm not saying these things definitely did or did not happen, just that there are good reasons to suspect they could have. I think your high moral dudgeon is quite out of proportion to the thin set of established facts here.
posted by bjrubble at 10:03 AM on May 9, 2011


I think you're reading far too much into my words. These are just questions I've had running through my mind as a result of this action. I'm not taking any moral high ground. If my tone appears as such, it's because the fact that I'm even asking this question seems to have gotten some people's ire up and I've been forced to clarify the questions I have running in my head.

Anyway, it's not exactly impossible to find online references to Pakistan having scrambled jets in the wake of the raid thinking it was an attack from India. I'm certainly not making that up, and it speaks pretty directly to Pakistan not knowing about the raid ahead of time. Either that or... what? They scrambled their jets as cover and to provide plausibility to their denial of knowing about it?

It's a very strange situation all around, and one which in my mind has broader implications beyond "we killed that guy we all wanted dead". I'm just wondering out loud about these things, and seem to have to continue to clarify and restate my wondering because others here find it difficult or dismiss it outright.
posted by hippybear at 10:11 AM on May 9, 2011


There is, as yet, no real evidence that the Pakistanis knew Bin Laden was there in any official way. I'd prefer to save my accusations of war for actual events and not conjecture.

But you are positing a completely one-sided definition and application of sovereignty, and offering blanket deniability to the government of Pakistan.

There is a Thoreau quotation here which seems applicable: Some things are suspicious, such as a trout in the milk. Osama bin Laden, unless you're nickyskye, was in Pakistan, despite years -- years -- of protestations otherwise. Either they're incompetent, or they're complicit, but either way you are suggesting that the sovereignty applicable to protecting the people of Pakistan also applied here. Yet you seem unwilling to deal with the implications of Pakistani sovereignty being applied to a mass murderer. Sorry, it isn't as hypothetical as you would like, especially with the extent to which you're being a hard-ass about the one-sided application of sovereignty to constrain US actions, and your willy-nilly concern trolling about what this means for the US "image".

Well, fuck that. If we get slagged for getting ObL, so be it. I'm the last person to deny that there are things we deserve slagging for, even if you limit it to just that region of the world or just, say, Pakistan. But nations do have the right of self-defense. And our alternatives here were not numerous. One of them was -- and I'm certain this was part of the White House discussion -- finding ourselves waging war against a nuclear power.
posted by dhartung at 10:14 AM on May 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Either that or... what? They scrambled their jets as cover and to provide plausibility to their denial of knowing about it?

Yes? Exactly that.
posted by odinsdream at 10:14 AM on May 9, 2011


Well, this is tipping over into unprovable conspiracy theory territory now.

I guess I should keep my wonderings to myself.
posted by hippybear at 10:20 AM on May 9, 2011


So, as long as it's the US doing things to little tiny unpowerful countries, it's okay to just do whatever we want within their borders?

I wouldn't call Pakistan a tiny unpowerful country. They might not be a superpower, but at the very least, they've got nukes.
posted by schmod at 10:28 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


No one has suggested that HB. "wonderings" are fine but put some ethics into your argument. Moral high ground can be hard to hold.

If this report of "burning" The CIA SC is true, sounds like little hornets was kicked.
posted by clavdivs at 10:29 AM on May 9, 2011


liza, you missed the context of the conversation. The point isn't that no one would have a problem with the celebration, the point is that the idea that the celebration, by itself, is the element that ruins American image abroad. The celebration isn't going to determine whether they think killing bin Laden was justified or unacceptable American imperialism. Notice I'm actually make a statement about the logic of the such a claim, not a sweeping statement about how a poll of the Middle East would turn out, as hippybear claimed. Anecdotdal information from comments on a website aren't a response to what I actually said.
posted by spaltavian at 10:44 AM on May 9, 2011


Wars are between nations.

I don't think that's true anymore and to insist that the US stick to that idea leaves it vulnerable to attack and getting bogged down in details.


I think this is what a lot of the debate over the last week boils down to. The targeted assassination of bin Laden was a continuation of the Bush doctrine that we're fighting a War on Terror.

Back when Bush was President, many liberals had concerns about the policies and language Bush used to push this war. The administration claimed it was a war, but none of the protections of war were extended to combatants.

Now that Obama is President, a lot of that concern seems to have faded. Look at the conversations on here. Most Democrats aren't even debating whether we're at war anymore. It's just a given. We truly have had a huge cultural shift. Those last holdouts on here arguing against targeted assassinations are among the few left who are still concerned about what it means to be at "war" with a noun, not a state.

If we're going to say we're at war with terror, and these are actions of war against a non-nation state, we need a new set of laws and protections for combatants drawn up. Leaving it in a murky gray state means that we can continue to detain people without any promise of future trial or legal conclusion.
posted by formless at 10:45 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


the extent to which you're being a hard-ass about the one-sided application of sovereignty to constrain US actions, and your willy-nilly concern trolling about what this means for the US "image".

I haven't made any assertions about anything being one-sided. I feel any country should be equally constrained from such actions due to sovereignty. If anything, I feel the US tends to act, or is seen to tend to act, as though such basic things don't apply to it. That's not a good way to be seen.

And it's not trolling. At all. The US has a pretty difficult image abroad, even with our closest allies, when it comes to the general population of other countries. And has for decades. To state that isn't trolling, neither is wondering about how that image may be affected by US actions in the world.

Anyway, it's an interesting topic all around, and one where the full facts likely won't be known for some time. I look forward to watching how it all plays out from here.
posted by hippybear at 10:49 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are practical concerns about this "war" too. When will it end? Can it ever end?

All of the celebrations about the death of OBL remind me of the Israel vs. Palestine debate. Regardless of how you feel about it, most people I've talked to think that to have a true peace, both sides need to back down and realize that continually retaliating is only leading to further violence.

I'm sure both sides in that issue believe they're doing the right thing. It's only payback for the thing the other side did.

It shouldn't be up to the victims to decide the punishment. And that's what all of America was after 9/11, the victim. It may not feel comfortable to say that, but it's true. And in our justice system, we have an impartial jury and judge to decide the fate of the accused, not a grieving accuser.
posted by formless at 10:50 AM on May 9, 2011


Wars have been waged by, on and between pirates, rebels, insurgents, tribes stateless ethnic groups and so on. "Wars are between nations" is, by far, the silliest comment in this thread.

And Congress did declare war on bin Laden's group; an authorization for the use of force is the same thing.

formless Back when Bush was President, many liberals had concerns about the policies and language Bush used to push this war. The administration claimed it was a war, but none of the protections of war were extended to combatants.

My problems were always that this wasn't taken seriously as a war. "War on Terror" was a meaningless phrase; we should have directly delcared war on al-Qaeda, enforced the Geneva conventions, not passed drastic tax cuts, and focused on winning the thing, rather than invading Iraq.

Of course we are war. I'm just glad the President is taking it seriously, rather than figuring out how to get sweet photo ops and letting Rusfeld ride his favorite hobby horse.
posted by spaltavian at 10:52 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


And in our justice system, we have an impartial jury and judge to decide the fate of the accused, not a grieving accuser.

Let's say OBL was captured and brought to trial. Who on earth - literally, on earth - would be impartial enough to judge him?
posted by desjardins at 11:04 AM on May 9, 2011


the way the US is viewed around the world
Considering that (for instance) nearly a quarter of Germans think the US did 9/11, I doubt there is any possible way the US could have dealt with OBL and made everyone, or even most people happy.
posted by generalist at 11:05 AM on May 9, 2011


As the Arab Spring proves, Bin Laden had already lost

Arab Spring, not Osama bin Laden's fall, will determine Middle East's fate
posted by homunculus at 11:07 AM on May 9, 2011


Let's say OBL was captured and brought to trial. Who on earth - literally, on earth - would be impartial enough to judge him?

Out of six billion people, I'm reasonably sure they could find 12 or so. It would be difficult adn time consuming, but it could be done.

As the Arab Spring proves, Bin Laden had already lost

But he was still alive, dammit!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:08 AM on May 9, 2011


In Bahrain, a reformer who needs our help: "While the world was gripped by last weekend’s revelation that U.S. forces had secretly taken down Osama bin Laden, another covert operation was being carried out by armed security personnel — in the service of a key Middle Eastern ally of the United States..."
posted by homunculus at 11:08 AM on May 9, 2011


The administration claimed it was a war, but none of the protections of war were extended to combatants.

And per the US traditions post 1945 - no actual Declaration of War was drawn up per the Constitution.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:16 AM on May 9, 2011


Spoof Obama addresses the mission to get Bin Laden, and addresses the Pakistan issue.

by alphacat, who has come a long way since his chocolate rain spoof.
posted by cashman at 11:24 AM on May 9, 2011


Are you arguing that the US should have declared war on Pakistan first?

I believe the legal tradition of the Sovereignty of Nations has acts of aggression inside ones boarders is a traditional 'act of war'.

The same way as a Naval Blockade. (See discussion that pop up about doing such to Iran)

The same way as, oh say, bombs dropping on the Chinese Embassy 'by accident' back during the Balkans kerfuffle.

If that is what you'd like to explore further - go ahead. I was placing this in context of the lack of Nation-State status for OBL.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:25 AM on May 9, 2011


rough ashlar And per the US traditions post 1945 - no actual Declaration of War was drawn up per the Constitution.

You keep repeating this, you are still wrong everytime Congress authorized the military to attack those responsible for the 9/11 attacks on September 18, 2001. And no, there is no difference between an Authorization for the use of military force and a declaration or war. The Constituion never specifies exactly what a declaration must look like.

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Wednesday, the third day of January, two thousand and one,

Joint Resolution

To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.

Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens; and
Whereas, such acts render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad; and
Whereas, in light of the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence; and
Whereas, such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States; and
Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


Congress authorized the war against those who committed the 9/11 attacks. Period.
posted by spaltavian at 11:26 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Guardian: Secret deal struck 10 years ago between US and Pakistan - US forces were given permission to conduct unilateral raid inside Pakistan if they knew where Bin Laden was hiding.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:28 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


No.

Just to be clear, BB, maybe I was quoting your words, but I raised that question in the context of the proposition that since war is between nations, the US cannot be at war with Al Qaeda or Bin Laden. I wasn't asking you directly.

among the few left who are still concerned about what it means to be at "war" with a noun, not a state.

The decision to invent a "war on terror" was always stupid and was one of many decisions that has probably impeded US efforts to eliminate Al Qaeda far more than it ever helped. (Right up there with starting another war in Iraq.) But you can recognize the impracticality of making war against a noun, without rejecting the right to make war against an organization of foreign non-state belligerents who wish to make war on you.

And per the US traditions post 1945 - no actual Declaration of War was drawn up per the Constitution.

Don't stop there, there wasn't a formal declaration of war against the Barbary pirates, either.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:30 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Begun and held at the City of Washington on Wednesday, the third day of January, two thousand and one,

Is this a typo? Because that's BEFORE the attacks.
posted by desjardins at 11:31 AM on May 9, 2011


I believe they put the date the session of Congress started on there; though I may be wrong about that. Either way, it was passed on the 14th of September and enacted on the 18th.
posted by spaltavian at 11:34 AM on May 9, 2011


Just to be clear, BB, maybe I was quoting your words, but I raised that question in the context of the proposition that since war is between nations, the US cannot be at war with Al Qaeda or Bin Laden. I wasn't asking you directly.

It's not all about me?!

But you can recognize the impracticality of making war against a noun...

Should have been against the @ symbol

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:35 AM on May 9, 2011


And no, there is no difference between an Authorization for the use of military force and a declaration or war

Huh. Lets see.

an Authorization for the use of military force - 7 words

a declaration or war - 4 words

Nope, sure seems to be a difference. Different words even.

In fact, if your position was correct, why the discussion about the targets of "an Authorization for the use of military force" not having the rights afforded people under things like the Geneva Convention Prisoners of War then?

Alas, unless I get access to the Time Machine where things are different with President Gore in charge, I can't prove that the process of drafting an actual Declaration of War would have resulted in due consideration be given to the action and thusly change the outcome. I've asked for access but for some reason it seems the experiment doesn't seem to be runnable.

And, with the idea of standing in the way, who is actually qualified to bring a lawsuit to have it legally decided if your position is correct, mine is correct or there is some 3rd path?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:36 AM on May 9, 2011


In fact, if your position was correct, why the discussion about the targets of "an Authorization for the use of military force" not having the rights afforded people under things like the Geneva Convention Prisoners of War then?

Because the previous regime was populated with criminals. There is no difference between an authorization for the use of military force and a declaration or war.

Who is actually qualified to bring a lawsuit to have it legally decided if your position is correct, mine is correct or there is some 3rd path?

What lawsuit could you possibly bring? To determine if water is wet? There is no distinction between the two.

Here are parts of the Enumerated Powers relevant to war:

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;—And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.


A declaration of war does have to be titled "Declaration of War Against x". If you want to try to save face and claim that it was actually a letter of Marque or Reprisal, fine, but you can't possibly explain the difference between the two because there isn't one. This is a distinction that exists in your mind alone.
posted by spaltavian at 11:45 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, notice how it says "To declare War", not "wars can be declared with a specific instrument called "Declaration of War".
posted by spaltavian at 11:47 AM on May 9, 2011


The issue of whether or not this is a war against Al Qaeda is irrelevant. Even if he had alway been considered a criminal and the term "War on Terror" had never been invented, we still would have had to use the same resources to find and the same seal team to try and extract him and he would have resisted that arrest in the same way and been killed in the process.

OBL was a very dangerous man with access to substantial resources and had an ideology that encouraged and glorified martyrdom. There is no reason to think that he would have allowed himself to be captured alive and every reason to believe that he would have blown the place sky high rather than let himself be captured.

Whether we're at war with Al Qaeda or pursued a criminal for arrest, the outcome would have been the same.
posted by VTX at 11:54 AM on May 9, 2011


This is a distinction that exists in your mind alone.

And yet, there were arguments in court that there was a difference.

Now you try to hand wave it away with:

Because the previous regime was populated with criminals.

How nice. Care to now explain how the new boss has changed each of the 'criminal' actions of the old boss? How he got rid of all of that 'population of criminals'?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:59 AM on May 9, 2011


NBC poll: 80% said it was the right decision to kill bin Laden.
posted by ericb at 12:00 PM on May 9, 2011


Pakistan: We're not 'in cahoots' with al-Qaida -- "Prime minister warns Washington that future unilateral strikes could be met with 'full force.'"
posted by ericb at 12:01 PM on May 9, 2011


Are alternatives to the version you like best welcome? Because the wife was quoted in Dawn saying they were in bed and he was shot before he could even reach for his gun.

Quoted? Got a link for the interview with her? Because I'm pretty sure the family is all in ISI custody right now and it is the ISI making these claims.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:10 PM on May 9, 2011


And no, there is no difference between an Authorization for the use of military force and a
declaration or war.


This has a precedent in the First Barbary war. War was declared on us, (From Wikipedia:Yusuf Karamanli, the Pasha of Tripoli...declared war on the U.S., not through any formal written documents but in the customary Barbary manner of cutting down the flagstaff in front of the U.S. Consulate. Algiers and Tunis did not follow their ally in Tripoli.) but the verbiage from congress was such that it would not make us directly at war with the entire Ottoman empire, (an outside chance, but a definite concern, as the Barbary States were under the governance of the Ottoman Empire), which was trouble we didn't need.

Although Congress never voted on a formal declaration of war, they did authorize the President to instruct the commanders of armed American vessels to seize all vessels and goods of the Pasha of Tripoli "and also to cause to be done all such other acts of precaution or hostility as the state of war will justify."

The First Barbary War is not a pure justification for the procedure currently in progress, but it was a heavily pondered matter whose argument for and against have some parallels with the current situation.
posted by chambers at 12:11 PM on May 9, 2011


an Authorization for the use of military force - 7 words

a declaration or war - 4 words


Oh, FFS.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:18 PM on May 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


And yet, there were arguments in court that there was a difference

In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the majority of the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the AUMF overrode Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, writing that there was nothing "even hinting" that this was Congress' intent.[1]

The only one doing any hand waving is you.
posted by spaltavian at 12:28 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


They call it an Authorization to Use Military Force because that is the language in the War Powers Resolution (which passed without presidential signature, but whose basis has never been constitutionally challenged by the White House). Under that law, the President may respond immediately to threats, but must submit a report to Congress within 60 days, after which permission for unilateral action expires, "unless the Congress (1) has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces" (and further). Barring litigation in the Supreme Court, this language is thus equivalent to a Declaration of War.
posted by dhartung at 1:01 PM on May 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


If congress doesn't like it they can refuse to fund it, or impeach the President if they felt the action violated his powers of office. That is how the system works. The judicial branch usually stays out of stuff like this.
posted by humanfont at 1:18 PM on May 9, 2011


Not unpredictably, the Bush II people are now emerging.

The Guardian is running a piece explaining the equally predictable pro-forma nature of the Pakistan government's Strong Protests-- and more to the point, claiming that Musharraf and the Bush White House worked out a deal okaying a unilateral, just-do-it-and-then-we'll-complain-later incursion, should OBL's location be determined.

I'm curious as to whether the US will tilt pronouncedly toward India-- Pakistan and China already seem to be putting out feelers toward one another.
posted by darth_tedious at 1:26 PM on May 9, 2011


I'm curious as to whether the US will tilt pronouncedly toward India-- Pakistan and China already seem to be putting out feelers toward one another.

You lost me. I need you to spell it out for me (either you're very subtle, I'm dumb, or both). What are you alluding to here?
posted by VTX at 1:35 PM on May 9, 2011


Osama bin Laden, Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places, August 1996

Back when Bush was President, many liberals had concerns about the policies and language Bush used to push this war.

I did, and still do. In the mega-bin Laden thread I pointed out how this operation vindicates John Kerry's position during the 2004 election that the War on Terror is "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world." This operation was intelligence-gathering followed by a super-sized SWAT team. And even if you think of this as a SWAT-type operation rather than a military raid, they still did the right thing to kill bin Laden. The only way to avoid getting killed in a situation like that is to surrender as blatantly and unambiguously as possible. He didn't.

Bush: 'I Was A Dissenting Voice' On Iraq War

"Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out." -- George W. Bush, March 2002

Obama praised the counsel of those who argued no as 'invaluable,' because it helped focus and inform him.

Which isn't surprising coming from a guy who models himself after Lincoln and has read Team of Rivals.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:47 PM on May 9, 2011


Let's look at the issues.

The question is this, at what point does an organized group acting against the interests of a nation allow for a military, not criminal approach to the matter. It should not be just accepted as decided that there is no point short of a nation state's actions where that has been the case.

Take for example, the US Navy engaging pirates on the high seas. A naval ship may open fire on a pirate ship, no due process, no nothing. Don't believe me? Ask Thomas Fucking Jefferson, who engaged in several undeclared wars, one against pirates. He WAS a founder. And the Congress authorized military force, but never declared war. So if in 1802, a mere decade after the passing of the Constitution, the men who signed it authorized military action in non-declared hostilities, then you can bet it is 100% constitutional.

Second, it is likely this action has already been authorized by Congress. bin Laden was providing assistance to the Taliban when this started. His fighters then--and now--acted as auxiliaries to the Armed Forces of the state of Afghanistan, a state which we were engaging in undeclared warfare. We continue to battle those fighters, fighters that he nominally controls. The House and Senate authorized the use of military force against bin Laden's al Qaeda, and as commander of said force, bin Laden was a legitimate military target of US forces.

The best argument against the action is the violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan. But that doesn't make the operation against bin Laden illegal, just the entry into the airspace of Pakistan. In other words, there is no cause of action for bin Laden because Pakistan's airspace was violated--its for Pakistan to bring its cause against the US.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:52 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm curious as to whether the US will tilt pronouncedly toward India-- Pakistan and China already seem to be putting out feelers toward one another.

You lost me. I need you to spell it out for me (either you're very subtle, I'm dumb, or both). What are you alluding to here?


Excellent question. I doubt it. China can't provide spare parts for its US Fighters, although it operates 180 Chinese Chengdu J-7s, that plane is based on the obsolete MiG-21 and not a first line aircraft. China is supposed to jointly build a new aircraft, the JF-17 Thunder, with Pakistan. Only 30 are in service, with 150 expected by 2017, a long time off.

But they also have 63 F-16s which are the heart of Pakistani fighter defense. They won't get spare parts if the break is great enough. So I expect some squabbling for a bit and then the relationship will continue.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:01 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only way to avoid getting killed in a situation like that is to surrender as blatantly and unambiguously as possible. He didn't.

Wearing clothes = offering resistance.

US commandos were told to assume Osama bin Laden was wearing a suicide vest, and must be killed, unless he was naked when they found him, it has emerged.

The assault team sent into his hideout would only have accepted surrender if they could be sure he had nothing hidden under his clothing, meaning his fate was sealed as soon as he was found in his bedclothes.

The admission by John Brennan, the chief US counter-terrorism adviser, will add to the growing belief that the planners of Operation Geronimo had no real intention of taking the al-Qaeda leader alive.

posted by Trurl at 2:07 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


David Remnick | The New Yorker: How Osama Bin Laden Changed America.
posted by ericb at 2:10 PM on May 9, 2011


Pakistan Media Out Alleged Name Of CIA Station Chief.

Leak shows depth of rift between CIA, Pakistan --"By leaking the name of the CIA's station chief in Islamabad to the news media, Pakistan authorities were deliberately attempting to complicate the U.S. spy agency's work, The New York Times reported."
posted by ericb at 2:26 PM on May 9, 2011


... Pakistan and China already seem to be putting out feelers toward one another. ...
Pakistan Cozies Up To China.

China’s New Pakistan Strategy.

Pakistan Switches Sides, Expanding Arms Allegiance With China and Leaving U.S. Behind.

Will Pakistan give the downed Navy SEALs helicopter to China?
posted by ericb at 2:40 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Take for example, the US Navy engaging pirates on the high seas. A naval ship may open fire on a pirate ship, no due process, no nothing. Don't believe me? Ask Thomas Fucking Jefferson, who engaged in several undeclared wars, one against pirates. He WAS a founder. And the Congress authorized military force, but never declared war. So if in 1802, a mere decade after the passing of the Constitution, the men who signed it authorized military action in non-declared hostilities, then you can bet it is 100% constitutional.
I basically agree with the conclusion, but the argument seems problematic, unless you want to say that, for example, the Alien and Sedition Acts were 100% constitutional.

If anything, the argument backs them up better than it does authorized military action in non-declared hostilities, as the Alien and Sedition Acts were even closer (in time) to the passing of the Constitution.
posted by Flunkie at 5:45 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dear China,

In lieu of payment on those t-bills. Please accept this gift of Pakistan and Afghanistan. We hear there may he trillions of dollars in natural resources which should more than cover those silly bonds. If not you can always sell heroine to the Russians.

Sincerely,
The USA

PS: We left the keys under the mat by Xingiang
posted by humanfont at 5:59 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The West Wing called this one, ages ago:

BARLETT: "You know what Truman Capote said was the bad part about living outside the law? You no longer have the protection of it. What's to stop me? Two hundred CIA operatives, black ops, two hundred guys with no wives, no kids, no parents...I send two hundred operatives down there and Monday morning I read in the paper Juan Aguilar is dead. What's to stop me?"

Guess Mr Obama saw that episode, and asked himself the same question.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:05 PM on May 9, 2011


The movie pitch: Kurt Anderson on the Arc of Osama bin Laden.
posted by lalex at 6:34 PM on May 9, 2011


Guess Mr Obama saw that episode, and asked himself the same question.

This aint TV. This is real life. The West Wing pretends to be this shit.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:20 PM on May 9, 2011


I'm curious as to whether the US will tilt pronouncedly toward India-- Pakistan and China already seem to be putting out feelers toward one another.

Do you mean recently, or just the last 30 years?

Seriously. Although you'd expect India to be a great friend of the US for a variety of reasons, now that they have a less socialist tilt to their economy and the non-aligned nations movement has sort of tumbleweeded away, but it's not just historical inertia that keeps us bound to Pakistan. For one thing, us being close to Pakistan is about the best security guarantee India could ever have. But also Pakistan and China are in similarly uncomfortable relationship, because India, China, and Pakistan are a very unstable triangle, playing each other off each other. We'll never be more than diffident non-allies non-enemies with China, so we have to use entities like Pakistan to keep an eye on them -- and Russia is still up there with its eyes on the central Asian republics -- and Iran is out of the question for probably a generation. So we're kind of stuck with each other, as much as we "personally" dislike each other and as much a danger as it all is to us. I don't see this strategic calculus altered much by some temporary perfidy in the name of blackmailing us for some more $billions (if that's what it all was).
posted by dhartung at 10:36 PM on May 9, 2011


Couple observations, the first perhaps trivial:

It's always a relief to see a President that can be interviewed and sound intelligent. He sounds exhausted, but at least he is not using cowboy, hillbilly, good-ol'-boy slang.

Maybe, but is it normal for a transcript to show every dropped g? I found all the shootin's and goin's totally distracting, and wondered if 60 Minutes did the same kind of thing with GWB interviews?

From the interview:
Obviously, we're going into the sovereign territory of another country and landing helicopters and conducting a military operation. And so if it turns out that it's a wealthy, you know, prince from Dubai who's in this compound and, you know, we've sent Special Forces in, we've got problems.

Geez. I wonder if the SEALs knew, for example, bin Laden's son on sight. Because they didn't know OBL was there until they got to the top floor. By that time they'd already taken out, what, four people? (the first of whom was admittedly shooting at them; but then, they were armed men invading the compound in the middle of the night.) But what if it HAD been some "prince from Dubai" on the top floor? I wonder at what point they had complete confidence they were on the right track?
posted by torticat at 5:54 AM on May 10, 2011


> We'll never be more than diffident non-allies non-enemies with China

Unfortunately, I wouldn't be surprised to see China's bizarrely lopsided male:female ratio ultimately produce a hitherto unknown undercurrent of aggression in its culture... such that the China twenty years from now might be very different from the economically-focused, repressed, and, as you say, diffident China we've seen for the last twenty years.

>so we have to use entities like Pakistan to keep an eye on them

Pakistan has nukes that we want to keep controlled; a very active intelligence/covert action/terror apparatus with direct links to the Islamist militants; and proximity to the minerals and hypothetical future oil pipelines of Afghanistan. It's unlikely that we would trade these hard benefits for the soft benefits of India's population and economic strength... but if the Islamists don't pose a genuinely mortal threat, then creating closer ties to India, and using it as an economic counterweight to China, might make the smarter long-term bet.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:35 AM on May 10, 2011


Jon Stewart Derides Bush Administration For Taking Credit For Killing Osama Bin Laden (video).
posted by ericb at 9:00 AM on May 11, 2011


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