Killing Bin Laden: Like so many others, the final decision to pull the trigger on the world’s most-wanted man was delegated to an admiral who undoubtedly would have been thrown under the bus had the mission failed.
It’s been almost a year since President Obama’s leadership and foreign policy bona fides were allegedly established by the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. A campaign film narrated by Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks tells of the president’s alleged solitary, agonizing decision.
With apologies to Vice President Biden, maybe President Obama doesn’t carry quite as big a stick as Joe would lead us to believe.
As reported by Big Peace, Time magazine has obtained a memo written by Leon Panetta, then-director of the Central Intelligence Agency and now-Secretary of Defense, that says “operational decision-making and control” was really in the hands of William McRaven, a three-star admiral and former Navy SEAL. (Crossed check)
“The timing, operational decision-making and control are in Adm. McRaven’s hands,” the memo says. “The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the president. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the president for his consideration. The direction is to go in and get bin Laden and, if he is not there, to get out.”
In other words, it was McRaven’s call to pull the trigger or not on the raid.
Some would say that this is a distinction without a difference, sort of like a head coach in football drawing up the game plan and letting his offensive coordinator actually call the plays. Then, technically, President George W. Bush gets the credit, since it was on his watch our war on terror was declared, Navy SEALs and Special Forces funding was increased and the hunt for Osama bin Laden began.
The Panetta memo, rather than presenting a profile in courage, says “approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the president.” This left enough wiggle room to blame the operation planners and controllers if the raid had gone as wrong as President Jimmy Carter’s famous failure to rescue American hostages held by Iran. This memo left room for the blame for another “Blackhawk Down” snafu to be blamed on anyone and everyone but President Obama.
Luckily, operational control was in McRaven’s hands, and the planning, execution and decision-making were virtually flawless. There was no repeat of the incident years before of Sandy Berger, last seen stuffing classified documents in his pants, telling a CIA and Northern Alliance team in Afghanistan, on that occasion literally a matter of feet away from bin Laden, that if they want to grab him, they’ll have to do it on their own. So they didn’t.
This time, we had an admiral and former Navy SEAL making the decision.
It was McRaven, heading the Joint Special Operations Command, who, on Jan. 29, 2011, began to plan “finish options” for bin Laden alongside his counterparts in a 7th-floor CIA conference room. It was McRaven who commanded the helicopter assault against the al-Qaida leader’s redoubt in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
On that fateful night it was McRaven, linked by secure video from Jalalabad to the White House, who briefed the president, sitting in the corner of the “war room,” in real time as the operation progressed.
Finally, it was the courageous and well-trained Navy SEALs who put their lives on the line and got a small measure of revenge for Sept. 11, 2001. It is President Obama who is falsely taking all the credit.