Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

I’m already tired of this

Seriously – this is just patent nonsense, offensive and a meme which needs to quickly die:

 

20110502_obl

 

Try applying a different scenario (at the risk of violating Godwin’s law) -  Those on the left are celebrating the death of 6 million Jews.  Those on the right are celebrating the death of their murderer.  If you can find those to be morally equivalent acts, then you’ll agree with the cartoon above.

~McQ

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Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood mourns bin Laden

Perhaps it is becoming clearer to even those in deep denial that that the Muslim Brotherhood is "moderate" only if the term is redefined into meaninglessness.  The death of Osama bin Laden provides another indication of the MB’s true character:

But in its first public statement on the killing of bin Laden, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood used the honorific term "sheikh" to refer to the al-Qaeda leader. It also accused Western governments of linking Islam and terrorism, and defended "resistance" against the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan as "legitimate."

The Muslim Brotherhood’s response to bin Laden’s death may finally end the mythology — espoused frequently in the U.S. — that the organization is moderate or, at the very least, could moderate once in power. This is, after all, precisely how Muslim Brothers describe their creed — "moderate," as opposed to al-Qaeda, which is radical. "Moderate Islam means not using violence, denouncing terrorism, and not working with jihadists," said Muslim Brotherhood youth activist Khaled Hamza, for whom the organization’s embrace of "moderate Islam" was the primary reason he joined.

Yet the Muslim Brotherhood’s promise that its "moderation" means rejecting violence includes a gaping exception: the organization endorses violence against military occupations, which its leaders have told me include Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, and Palestine — in other words, nearly every major conflict on the Eurasian continent.

It should end the mythology, but it won’t.  There are those on the left to invested in the belief that they are a moderate force that they won’t back down even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.  This is your “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood’s reaction to the death of bin Laden:

"The whole world, and especially the Muslims, have lived with a fierce media campaign to brand Islam as terrorism and describe the Muslims as violent by blaming the September 11th incident on al-Qaeda." It then notes that "Sheikh Osama bin Laden" was assassinated alongside "a woman and one of his sons and with a number of his companions," going on to issue a rejection of violence and assassinations. It goes on to ominously declare that the Muslim Brotherhood supports "legitimate resistance against foreign occupation for any country, which is the legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and international agreements," and demands that the U.S., the European Union, and NATO quickly "end the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people." It closes by demanding that the U.S. "stop its intelligence operations against those who differ with it, and cease its interference in the internal affairs of any Arab or Muslim country."

As Eric Trager says, the statement issued by the MB is “vintage bin Laden”:

[I]t’s Muslim lands, not America, that are under attack; it’s Muslims, not American civilians, who are the ultimate victims; and, despite two American presidents’ genuine, effusive promises to the contrary, Islam is the target. It’s an important indicator that despite its increased responsibility in post-Mubarak Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood may well remain deeply hostile toward even the one of the most basic and defensible of American interests in the Middle East — that of securing Americans from terrorism.

In Egypt, at least, this is the result of the “Arab Spring”.  As predicted, the best organized and most ruthless are winning out.  And the result will not advance the peace process in the region.  On the contrary, “moderate” has come to be defined by bin Laden, not by any recognizable dictionary.  The Muslim Brotherhood has fooled a lot of so-called “scholars” into believing them to be a benign force for good and interested in democratic reform.  Instead, they’ll most likely find out that they’re anything but benign and they are only interested in democracy if it advances their agenda.  And that agenda is anything but moderate.

~McQ

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Panetta, Clinton and Gates "worked around" Obama on the bin Laden mission?

If this is true, it is a bombshell and will kill the luster on Obama’s new found Commander-in-Chief bona fides.

It comes from a site names "Socyberty" and is posted by someone named Ulsterman. It is from an anonymous source (a "Washington DC insider"). So all of this is suspect – stipulated. But when you read it, it all reads pretty authoritatively.

So, take it for what its worth, but it is, at least, a very interesting rumor:

Q: You stated that President Obama was “overruled” by military/intelligence officials regarding the decision to send in military specialists into the Osama Bin Laden compound. Was that accurate?

A: I was told – in these exact terms, “we overruled him.” (Obama) I have since followed up and received further details on exactly what that meant, as well as the specifics of how Leon Panetta worked around the president’s “persistent hesitation to act.” There appears NOT to have been an outright overruling of any specific position by President Obama, simply because there was no specific position from the president to do so. President Obama was, in this case, as in all others, working as an absentee president.

And, of course, it gets worse:

Q: What changed the president’s position and enabled the attack against Osama Bin Laden to proceed?

A: Nothing changed with the president’s opinion – he continued to avoid having one. Every time military and intelligence officials appeared to make progress in forming a position, Jarrett would intervene and the stalling would begin again. Hillary started the ball really rolling as far as pressuring Obama began, but it was Panetta and Petraeus who ultimately pushed Obama to finally act – sort of. Panetta was receiving significant reports from both his direct CIA sources, as well as Petraeus-originating Intel. Petraeus was threatening to act on his own via a bombing attack. Panetta reported back to the president that a bombing of the compound would result in successful killing of Osama Bin Laden, and little risk to American lives. Initially, as he had done before, the president indicated a willingness to act. But once again, Jarrett intervened, convincing the president that innocent Pakistani lives could be lost in such a bombing attack, and Obama would be left attempting to explain Panetta’s failed policy. Again Obama hesitated – this time openly delaying further meetings to discuss the issue with Panetta. A brief meeting was held at this time with other officials, including Secretary Gates and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but Gates, like Panetta, was unable to push the president to act. It was at this time that Gates indicated to certain Pentagon officials that he may resign earlier than originally indicated – he was that frustrated. Both Panetta and Clinton convinced him to stay on and see the operation through.

So, according to this, all those “intense” meetings the White House said President Obama attended really were a lot of one side trying to get him to act and Valarie Jarrett convincing him not too.

How’d they eventually get a “go?”  That’s interesting as well (I’ve broken this into some paragraphs that aren’t in the original):

What happened from there is what was described by me as a “masterful manipulation” by Leon Panetta.  Panetta indicated to Obama that leaks regarding knowledge of Osama Bin Laden’s location were certain to get out sooner rather than later, and action must be taken by the administration or the public backlash to the president’s inaction would be “…significant to the point of political debilitation.”  It was at that time that Obama stated an on-ground campaign would be far more acceptable to him than a bombing raid.  This was intended as a stalling tactic, and it had originated from Jarrett.  Such a campaign would take both time, and present a far greater risk of failure.  The president had been instructed by Jarrett to inform Mr., Panetta that he would have sole discretion to act against the Osama Bin Laden compound. 

Jarrett believed this would further delay Panetta from acting, as the responsibility for failure would then fall almost entirely on him.  What Valerie Jarrett, and the president, did not know is that Leon Panetta had already initiated a program that reported to him –and only him, involving a covert on the ground attack against the compound.  Basically, the whole damn operation was already ready to go – including the specific team support Intel necessary to engage the enemy within hours of being given notice. 

Panetta then made plans to proceed with an on-ground assault. This information reached either Hillary Clinton or Robert Gates first (likely via military contacts directly associated with the impending mission) who then informed the other.  Those two then met with Panetta, who informed each of them he had been given the authority by the president to proceed with a mission if the opportunity presented itself.  Both Gates and Clinton warned Panetta of the implications of that authority – namely he was possibly being made into a scapegoat.  Panetta admitted that possibility, but felt the opportunity to get Bin Laden outweighed that risk.  During that meeting, Hillary Clinton was first to pledge her full support for Panetta, indicating she would defend him if necessary.  Similar support was then followed by Gates.  The following day, and with Panetta’s permission, Clinton met in private with Bill Daley and urged him to get the president’s full and open approval of the Panetta plan. 

Daley agreed such approval would be of great benefit to the action, and instructed Clinton to delay proceeding until he had secured that approval.  Daley contacted Clinton within hours of their meeting indicating Jarrett refused to allow the president to give that approval.  Daley then informed Clinton that he too would fully support Panetta in his actions, even if it meant disclosing the president’s indecision to the American public should that action fail to produce a successful conclusion.  Clinton took that message back to Panetta and the CIA director initiated the 48 hour engagement order.  At this point, the President of the United States was not informed of the engagement order – it did not originate from him, and for several hours after the order had been given and the special ops forces were preparing for action into Pakistan from their position in Afghanistan, Daley successfully kept Obama and Jarrett insulated from that order.

Again, I want to be clear – this is from a blog site I don’t know, written by someone using a handle and quoting an anonymous source.  But I also have to say that it hits me as very, very plausible.  It makes Gates, Panetta, Clinton and Daley look pretty good.  The president, on the other hand, doesn’t appear in a very good light and Jarrett comes off as a puppet master.  It also makes the not so subtle point that Obama seemed more concerned with the possible political effects of failure than actually taking the chance of getting OBL.

Anyway, this link takes you too the continuation of this information from the anonymous source from the anonymous blogger on a site I never heard of – but still, given his history, it sure seems believable, doesn’t it?

~McQ

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What is the “value” of bin Laden’s death?

Someone ask me that and it set me to thinking.  I’ve concluded that there is (and was) more value in his death than if we’d taken him alive.

Let me expand on that. 

As we all know, he’d been holed up in that fortress cum “mansion” for 6 years with no land line or internet connection – so he was dependent on trusted couriers for news of the organization he’d founded and had little ability to influence the day to day operations of al Qaeda.  Obviously he would have still been a valuable intelligence asset, but not quite as valuable as one might think.   I get the impression that bin Laden’s real value was that of figurehead – that as long as he lived, his existence continued to demonstrate to his followers how powerless the “great Satan” really was.   Every day he drew breath, he rubbed in the fact that he could take 3,000 lives in a single day and the US couldn’t even take his.

With each video or audio clip he had smuggled out of his lair and posted among jihadi sites, he tweaked the nose of the US and inspired his jihadist followers.  His stature grew with each tweak.  His survival helped him sell the “righteousness” of his cause because he could claim the protection of his god as the reason he was still untouched.

Bin Laden, given his experiences prior to 9/11, honestly believed that the US was too decadent and cowardly to ever take real action against he and his followers.  He’d tried to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993, did bomb Kohbar Towers and two African embassies as well as attacking the USS Cole.  In all case the reaction was pitifully inadequate. He also believed we didn’t have the fortitude or courage to take casualties and stick it out for the long run.  His planning got more ambitious.  He, like many throughout history, badly underestimated his foe.  

His first indication of his future fate came with the capture of Saddam Hussein.  Hussein shared bin Laden’s beliefs about the US and found himself to be horribly wrong.  Not only did we destroy his regime, we were relentless in his pursuit, finally capturing him months after the culmination of combat operations in Iraq.  He went to the gallows a thoroughly defeated man.

Bin Laden didn’t expect to have to live as he’s had too these past 6 years.  He believed at some point soon after we invaded Afghanistan we’d tire of the combat deaths and the commitment and leave.  He felt his beliefs about the US would be vindicated.   But not only did we stay in Afghanistan, we invaded Iraq and stayed there as well.  And when it was clear we were going to be successful there, the first realization that he was dead wrong about the US had to dawn on him.  To quote Admiral Yamamato, he had awakened a sleeping giant with his 9/11 attacks, and that giant wasn’t going to roll over this time and go back to sleep.

The Sunday operation that led to his death was the culmination of years upon years of effort to find the man.  It was a relentless pursuit.  It cost us lives.  It took a lot of money.  It took a lot of time.  But when that Navy SEAL pumped two rounds into bin Laden’s head, he not only killed bin Laden, but he killed forever the narrative bin Laden had built up among his followers for years. 

No longer could his followers take comfort in the belief that the US was a decadent, cowardly paper tiger.  Iraq and 10 years in Afghanistan had blown that myth away.  No longer could his followers believe that his survival demonstrated the righteousness of their cause.  He was now fish food.

More important was the message his death sent to the entire jihadist community – something his capture couldn’t do – it may take years, lives and money to find you, but we will find you.  And when we find you, we will kill you.

That’s an incredibly powerful and important message to send.  Bin Laden’s death was the very best way to send it.  It will reverberate throughout the jihadist community and the hopeful result is a further lessening of al Qaeda’s influence and a peeling away of the less committed among that community.  It is clear that his death was a greater “value” for the US that was his capture.

Hats off to all those who made it happen.  As someone said, “5.1.11 is the day we got even”.  And the jihadist community will remember it, and hopefully its lesson,  just as we remember 9/11.

~McQ

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Interview with former SecDef Rumsfeld

This past weekend was the 6th Annual Milblog Conference.  I attended and it was the best one yet.  Our headliner was former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld and since I’d met him previously, I was asked to introduce him and facilitate the Q&A, which I was honored to do.

It was a fun 45 minutes as you’ll probably see if you’ve the time or desire to watch the whole thing.  I start the questioning with the shakeup in the national security arena where Petraeus is going to CIA and Panetta going to SecDef.  Secretary Rumsfeld reminded me that Ryan Crocker is also included in that as the new ambassador to Afghanistan.

He’s definitely right to point that out and it plays even more into the theory that we’re going to fight the war differently than we have.  Petraeus and Crocker had a very tight relationship in Iraq and there’s no doubt in my mind that the relationship will be reestablished with Petraeus at CIA.  It again emphasizes the probability of a more covert, SOF, “secret ninja” type of war in the future, vs. the way we’re waging it now. 

And, with the demise of bin Laden, many are now going to call on us to pack up and leave claiming our mission is complete and encouraging us to turn Afghanistan over to the Afghanis to sort out.  I see the pressure to do that building over the coming months (remember July is the month of the scheduled withdrawal from A’stan).   About all that might dampen those cries is if al Qaeda strikes somewhere in retaliation for the bin Laden death (and I fully expect they will, however they may not mount any sort of reprisal in the next few months).

~McQ

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Was bin Laden in an ISI safehouse?

Lots of bits and pieces coming out about the raid.

This was a targeted kill mission, not just a raid. They didn’t go in to capture bin Laden, they went in to kill him. And they did. It is reported he got the classic "double tap" to the left side of the head. Now he’s fish food. Appropriate. But … it also kills this "justice" nonsense in the legal sense. Legally, that’s not how we dispense justice. So, as some have said, and I agree, this removes the actions he was killed for from the "criminal" realm.

The mission was carried out by the legendary SEAL Team 6. They were the right guys for this type of mission and they apparently carried it out magnificently, even with one of their aircraft going down with mechanical failure. Or said another way, this wasn’t remotely a "Desert One". It was a well planned, well executed job for which everyone in the chain of command, from the President on down, deserve a pat on the back.

The compound bin Laden was in was built in 2005.  At the time it was pretty isolated – well, other than being 1,000 yards from the Pakistani equivalent of West Point.  Since then some other structures were built near it.

That said, there are a lot of interesting rumors flying around not the least of which are claims in the Indian media that the fortress/house/mansion was an ISI “safe house”.  ISI is the Pakistani intelligence services which has always been suspect in its loyalty and frequently cited as having given aid to al Qaeda and the Taliban. MEMRI has the story.   From “India Today”:

"A senior Pakistan military official has told India Today that it was impossible for the army to have not known that Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was in Abbottabad. This has further fuelled speculation that Osama was killed in an ISI safehouse.

Another Indian website reported the following:

"Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] is bound to be cornered in the days to come following the killing of dreaded terrorist Osama bin Laden.

"A source in the intelligence agency says that Osama’s death will no doubt put the ISI in a very uncomfortable position among the Al-Qaeda, Haqqani Network, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, who now feel betrayed by the agency.

[…]

"Nothing in the Af-Pak region goes unnoticed by the ISI, and if bin Laden managed to play hide-and-seek with the world all this while, it was only thanks to ISI’s patronage. Although the U.S. has claimed that Pakistan was not in the know of this operation, terror groups would not believe so.

"They are aware that nothing is possible unless there has been a certain degree of support from the establishment. Moreover, Osama was living in a place close to the army headquarters in Abbottabad, about 70 kilometers northeast of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. This is not a fact that would have gone unnoticed by the ISI.

The Times of India also claims the ISI was involved in sheltering bin Laden:

"The finger of suspicion is now pointing squarely at the Pakistani military and intelligence for sheltering and protecting Osama bin Laden before U.S. forces hunted him down and put a bullet in his head in the wee hours of Sunday. The coordinates of the action and sequence of events indicate that the Al-Qaeda fugitive may have been killed in an ISI safehouse.

There’s some ground truth in there – the ISI has a fearful reputation in the region and little if anything is unknown to them.  They’ve been constantly accused of playing both sides of the fence in this conflict.  Few if any in the region, among terror organizations, are going to believe this all happened without the ISI’s knowledge and compliance.  And that puts them in a very tough spot as the report indicates.

So bin Laden death may end up being one of the best things to happen in some time if it casts enough suspicion to break up this unholy alliance between the Pakistani state intelligence agency and the terrorists.  Trust me, it will take a loooooong time (if it ever happens) for those two entities to ever have close ties again.

And that, my friends, is a good thing.

~McQ

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Osama Bin Laden killed in Pakistan by US forces

I actually enjoyed writing that headline.   It’s about time.  I’ll also admit I was wrong when I continued to contend that he’d been killed early on in Tora Bora.  Events, or lack of them perhaps, had led me to that conclusion.

This is going to make a fascinating book by someone because it sounds like one of those intel coups a long time in the making (Reuters says the trail was picked up about 4 years ago) and finally culminating in a successful raid in which bin Laden was killed.

He apparently was living in what one described as a “mansion” (a large 3 story structure) at the end of a narrow dirt road in a town in NE Pakistan (Abottobad) which is almost due east from Kabul.  Not the tribal lands to the SE, but in an area well under control of the Pakistani government and very near the Pakistani military academy.

"For some time there will be a lot of tension between Washington and Islamabad because bin Laden seems to have been living here close to Islamabad," said Imtiaz Gul, a Pakistani security analyst.

Indeed.  Apparently the compound had an 18 foot high security wall, with other interior fencing, two entrances and no phone or internet connection.

The operation included CIA and Special Ops folks in 4 helicopters (one of which crashed due to mechanical problems). 

What got us on the trail? 

"Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden. They indicated he might be living with or protected by bin Laden," a senior administration official said in a briefing for reporters in Washington.

That’s right, interrogation of detainees.  They identified a particular man as a very highly placed and trusted courier of bin Laden’s and security services attempted and successfully did follow him to the compound in Pakistan.  Initially the assessment only stated that the compound probably housed high-value targets but eventually the operatives concluded that there was a very good possibility it also housed Osama bin Laden.

Apparently when the raid began, OBL resisted and paid the price.  Reports say he was shot in the head.  Note the odd phrasing on this Obama quote announcing the death:

"A small team of Americans carried out the operation," Obama said. "After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body."

“After” the firefight they killed OBL?  I’m assuming he meant “during” a firefight, but hey, you never know.  One thing that is obvious is a dead bin Laden is preferable to a live one.  In fact, they’re doing DNA testing and running his image through face recognition software for a positive ID and then dumping, er ,burying his body at sea (the thinking  being his grave cannot become a martyr’s shrine).  It is also reported that a son and two other, plus a women one of those brave guys used as a shield were also killed.

The operation took 40 minutes.

Congrats to the intel and SOF folks who carried this off.  Heck of a job.

~McQ

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National security shakeup – what does it mean?

The recently announced moves that will see Gen. David Petraeus taking the helm of the CIA, while CIA director Leon Panetta moves to the Secretary of Defense post (replacing retiring SecDef Robert Gates), may have some interesting reasons behind them.

Petraeus is our most successful general in a generation and credited by many for turning the Iraq war around at a time when it seemed to be spiraling out of control.  His ability to command troops in the field coupled with his ability to deftly handle the diplomatic side of his duties made him the most popular general our military has seen for some time.  So popular, in fact, that he was eventually put in command in Afghanistan to replace President Obama’s hand-picked general there.

Petraeus will resign from the Army to take the CIA post.  But many are asking, why CIA?  Why not Petraeus as the SecDef?

Perhaps the reason is that, with the big drawdown scheduled in July for Afghanistan, this signals how we plan on fighting that war from then on: more emphasis on CIA and Special Operations Force activities and less on conventional forces.  Or, the “Biden plan,” if you will.  Many more covert operations and drone strikes than now.   Less emphasis on coalition operations; more emphasis on training Afghan forces to take the security job over.   Petraeus would have be the best man to make that transition a reality.

So what does the move of Panetta mean for the Department of Defense?  Apparently, Panetta wasn’t particularly enthused about taking the job, but finally said “yes” this past Monday.  Something obviously changed to have him accept the post.  Most think the administration agreed to make it a relatively short-term appointment for the 73 year old Director of the CIA.  Secretary of Defense is a post with a grueling operations tempo, with three wars going and budget battles in the offing.  It’s a tough slog for anyone holding the post.

That means that Panetta will most likely be a “caretaker” SecDef, and as the president’s man, much more open to the budget cuts Obama wants from DoD than Gates.  Gates did his best to protect DoD as much as he could from thoughtless or deep cuts to the defense budget.  He also tried to get out ahead of the curve and nominate cuts of his own in order to avoid those that might be forced on the department by lawmakers.

With Panetta, it is more likely that he will be less of an advocate for DoD and more of a hatchet man for the administration.  He’ll most likely be gone, one way or the other, when January 2013 arrives.  So he has no reason not to do what he and the president agree on concerning cuts to defense.  The only bulwark against administration cuts now will be the Republican House.

Keep an eye on these two appointments and the events that surround them.  Both could signal profound changes in the two agencies effected.

~McQ

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