Monday, May 02, 2011


The news that U.S. special forces carried out a precise commando-style operation deep in Pakistani territory and killed the most hunted terrorist in history came as no surprise to this observer. To those who thought this day would never come, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “this is America.” She was being charitable in not taking a victory lap for what was undoubtedly the best day of this Democratic administration.

Consider this: It took President Obama, U.S. intelligence, and our military services less than two and one-half years into his administration to get the job done. To hear some Republicans and their right wing acolytes say it, the President gets no credit whatsoever. It was all on the military and the brave special forces who carried out the operation, as if they’re an independent paramilitary force and not an elite unit of the U.S. military acting on direct orders from the President of the United States.

Not surprisingly, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who is well aware the current administration is sitting on a lot of information regarding his possible criminal conduct in office, was quick to give President Obama and his national security team due “credit” for finding and killing Bin Laden. Among the few Republicans who had the courtesy of congratulating the President is Rep. Peter King of New York, the state hardest hit by the 9/11 terror attack. Most of his colleagues have either lavished praise on our military, or even raised the specter of former President George W. Bush for unwarranted credit.

Look for keepers of the Bush flame (Karl Rove et al) to claim this was a laborious process culminating in ten years of a focused manhunt for Bin Laden which only happened to land on Obama's watch. Nothing could be further from the truth. That is standard CYA revisionist history, and a lie. Intelligence officers like Valerie Plame worked diligently to find the 9/11 mastermind. But their efforts were constantly being politicized with false intelligence on WMD in the run-up to the Iraq war. In one of the darkest moments of the Bush regime, Plame was outed by Karl Rove because her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, had the temerity to criticize the trumped-up intelligence pushed by Bush, Cheney, and top Bush officials to justify the invasion of Iraq. Bush had Bin Laden cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora before he turned his attention to neighboring Iraq, which had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, with tragic consequences in American blood and treasure.

Strangely, Bush was incapable of capturing or killing Osama Bin Laden, but he didn’t mind using the master terrorist as a propaganda tool to gin up a perpetual state of terrorist alert to justify eviscerating our civl liberties in the name of national security, and to magnify the power of the executive branch. Late into the 2004 election, when Kerry was surging, Bin Laden gave Bush a critical assist with a taped message, which stopped Kerry’s momentum and led to yet another questionable election result in Ohio. And yet, in eight years in office, the warmongering “bring it on” hardliners George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were incapable of finding and capturing or killing Osama Bin Laden.

This is a time for quiet reflection, not gloating. The jubilant celebrations are understandable, given how intensely the 9/11 terror attacks were seared into the memory of an entire generation. It’s this 9/11 generation that celebrates most exuberantly. But the war on terror is far from over. The iconic symbol of international terror has been hunted down and killed by the United States. International terrorism has taken a huge, but not mortal, blow. The task now is to drive a permanent wedge between peaceful Islam and Islamic terrorism; to encourage the former and isolate, then eliminate, the latter. This is precisely how this operation was conducted. It was human intelligence, from identified Bin Laden couriers that eventually led us to Bin Laden. Ultimately, this is the template for winning the war against terrorism. And to do this we cannot demonize Muslims or the religion of Islam.

The Obama adminstration is conscious of this. Bin Laden was buried at sea according to Islamic law, which calls for immediate burial of the dead, so that Muslims would not feel their religion was insulted. At the same time, the administration was shrewd enough not to bury the terrorist on land, lest a martyr’s shrine be created at the site. As for the rest of us, xenophobic demonization of Muslims and Islam, such as the reprehensible and inflammatory burning of Korans, will only lead to an upward spiral of terror and violence.

This day after is an opportunity — if we are wise enough to grasp it — to turn the page on the war on terror in a positive direction which will last longer than spontaneous, feel-good patriotic celebrations.  After the raucous celebrations of V-E Day and V-J Day the United States turned to the arduous task of rebuilding Germany and Japan. Today, they are among our staunchest allies. During the military occupation of a defeated Japan, the provisional military ruler, General Douglas MacArthur, displayed remarkable respect for the Emperor and sensitivity to Japanese culture in enacting democratic reforms that transformed a former enemy into an enduring ally.

To win the war on terror we must follow MacArtthur’s example and also win the peace.

This morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “you cannot wait us out. You cannot defeat us.” President Obama said simply but eloquently, “Justice has been done.” Every president of these United States brings something of themselves that is a unique contribution to the Office. For this, our first African American President, the words of the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King bear a special meaning, that resonates in the heart and soul. This is one of President Obama's favorite quotes from Dr. King: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

For the Obama haters who cannot contemplate the President of the United States as one of us, a citizen who hunted down and meted out justice to the terrorist who murdered more than 3,000 innocent Americans — what’s your Plan B?

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