Osama bin Laden's death: Clarifying the Obama administration's cnofsuoin and missteaks
It's taken a couple of days to sort out the confusions and conflicting versions of Osama bin Laden's welcome demise early Monday at the hands of a gutsy president crouching on the floor and a couple dozen unidentified helpers with rapid-fire weapons, night-vision goggles and nerves of steel a half-world away; you know how it is in the chaos of battle and Chicago campaign politics.
Back in 2005, when rookie Sen. Barack Obama was just beginning to plan his $745-million 2007-08 presidential campaign, U.S. intelligence became aware of a $1-million housing compound under construction in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a city of 1 million about 60 miles outside the capital.
Using certain interrogation techniques on involuntary wartime guests, the CIA acquired the name of a high-level al Qaeda courier, who was eventually tracked toing and froing from said elaborate compound, which his invisible income would seem to put beyond his financial reach.
Last August, as Obama vainly campaigned to preserve his Democratic Party's....
The good news is such attacks reduce everything to dust and goo. The bad news is such attacks reduce everything to dust and goo.
Without a body, how could President Obama prove that he was The One who brought Osama sudden justice without the burden of time-consuming civil trials involving Eric Holder's former law partners as high-paid public defenders?
So, although it meant only nine holes of weekend golf instead of 18, Obama OKd a May commando raid, as long as he could still attend the White House Correspondents Assn. dinner to mock that jerk Donald Trump. So on Sunday Washington time, Obama and aides entered the basement Situation Room to watch the Osama execution reality show live from Pakistan on SEALcam.
A dramatic presidential address was scheduled for late that evening. And because the president wanted to get all of his detailed ducks in a row, his major announcement actually came an hour late.
Still, it triggered seemingly spontaneous celebrations over the mass murderer's murder in the streets of Washington and, of course, New York, as well as a satisfying sense of closure for millions of Americans who remember that awful 9/11 day and the bombings of the USS Cole and embassies in East Africa.
Here, gleaned since Sunday from a variety of sources, including Obama press secretary Jay Carney, is what we now know certainly might have maybe happened over in Pakistan:
Over the years Pakistan officials have been so helpful and trusted about the hunt for Osama that not one of them knew in advance of the U.S. raid on the compound, which is close to a military academy. The U.S. assault team flew from Afghanistan into Pakistan using holes in that country's radar system.
Acting at President Obama's very own direction, a "small team" of Americans consisting of 24, no 40, SEALs in four helicopters surprised the compound.
Still, a "significant firefight" erupted that was so significant not one American was injured. One helicopter crashed, no, made a hard landing; it was a mechanical failure.
One compound resident pointed out Osama. Three compound residents died in the firefight. One man used a woman as a human shield. She was an Osama wife. They both died. She was only shot in the leg running toward a SEAL. She didn't die. Another woman did on another floor. There was no human shield. The Osama son initially identified as shot and killed may have been the other one.
The goal was to capture Osama or kill him if necessary. The plan was to kill Osama all along. He was encountered in a bedroom. He was given a brief opportunity to surrender. He didn't. Blam! He died instantly from gunshots to the chest and head, including a large one in the forehead over the eye. He was unarmed. But he resisted. You don't need a gun to resist.
Osama's body was removed. The disabled chopper was detonated. Large fire ensued, attracting the attention of Pakistani authorities. Osama's DNA was collected by intelligence officials. They may or may not have actual Osama DNA from before to compare.
If not, they can at least prove whether the dead compound body was related to Osama's 53 siblings produced by his father's 22 wives. (What a peaceful, nurturing childhood that must have been.)
Because it was so important to have photos of a dead Osama to head off evergreen Elvis-lives conspiracies, the gruesome big-hole-in-the-forehead photo has not been released -- and might never be.
This is because a ghastly dead OBL photo could offend the "sensitivities" of Osama's insane supporters who have been trying to kill Americans for 15 years anyway, still are, will be but didn't seem to mind photos of thousands of people dying 10 years ago inside burning, crumbling skyscrapers or leaping from them.
(UPDATE: On Wednesday, President Obama said he had decided to seal the Bin Laden death photos. Story and commentary here.)
Trust the administration, however, the death photos do exist. Someone is discussing their release. No timeline. Meanwhile, deather conspiracies thrive online suggesting, you guessed it, that wasn't really Osama with the damaged forehead. What if he left a pile of videos to come out, one by one, in the event of his death? He could be spotted on every grassy knoll from here to Yemen.
Because it was important enough to have a dead al Qaeda founder's body to show to the world that dozens of American lives were put at risk to make him dead and retrieve the infamous corpse, Osama's shrouded, weighted body was quickly dumped into the North Arabian Sea from a U.S. aircraft carrier after only a very few hours and Muslim religious rites. The Navy had til sundown by Muslim custom; why the morning rush?
Don't worry. They might show us the video of a shrouded body-shaped object being buried at sea someday. Somebody is discussing that too somewhere. Trust them for now.
So, finally, after a 10-year manhunt and thanks to Obama's "gutsiness" and crack communications team, Americans have many of the conflicting details now and should just accept, praise and move on.
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-- Andrew Malcolm
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Photo: Pete Souza / White House (Obama and staff watch live video of the deadly Osama bin Laden raid Sunday afternoon in the White House. Editor's Note: Before release, the White House digitally obscured a secret document in front of Clinton); Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press (Carney).