May 1, 2011

Usamah Bin Ladin (1957 – 2011)

In 2001, President George W. Bush said, "No matter how long it takes, whether we bring you to justice, or we bring justice to you, justice will be done."

After almost ten years, American forces brought justice to Usamah bin Ladin, leader of the terrorist group tanzim al-qa'idah (the base organization). Media reports are claiming that U.S. Navy SEALs operating half way around the world in the dark of night have finally avenged the murder of 3,000 of their countrymen on September 11, 2001. Personally, I hope the last image that connected in the synapses of bin Ladin's brain was the weapon of a young American serviceman about to deliver American justice. I hope he could read the "US NAVY" on the uniform. I worked with the SEALs in Bosnia; they were the muscle of our operations to arrest five war criminals. They are impressive young men.

Kudos to the Obama Administration for making the decision to mount such an operation. The was not without risk. Pakistan is a theoretical ally of the United States in the war on terrorism, but there are elements inside the Pakistani military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate who are not. Virtually anything that is told to the Pakistanis finds it way to if not al-Qa'idah and the Taliban at least to their sympathizers. Maintaining operational security in this environment is challenging to say the least. I suspect the Pakistanis were kept in the dark until the last possible moment. Had we told them the operational details, there is almost no doubt that someone in the Pakistani service would have tipped Bin Ladin.

As more information about the operation comes to light, it raises many questions. Probably the most important is how does someone of the profile of Usmah bin Ladin live in a guarded, secured and protected compound just 60 miles from the capital of Islamabad? From media reports, which may or may not be accurate, the compound stood out in the neighborhood with its seven-feet high walls and concertina wire barriers. Any intelligence or security service worth its name would have investigated such an anomalous residence. The thought that no one in the Pakistani military or ISI did not know bin Ladin was there is ludicrous.

The drivel spouted by President Obama about the Pakistanis is just that - drivel. Of course, he had to say it to give the Pakistanis plausible cover that they are not the two-faced slime most of us believe them to be, but that is a two-edged sword. The tenor of the Pakistani media reporting on the event is accusatory against the government for helping the Americans kill a fellow Muslim, someone revered among many in Pakistan. Helping the United States is not a popular thing. There is a lot of resentment among the population against the government in Islamabad for allowing the CIA to conduct drone-launched missile strikes in the country. The Pakistani government may have to deal with popular discontent for allowing this operation.

That said, this operation is exactly the way to deal with these people - no lengthy, expensive trials in federal court that would turn into a platform for terrorist rantings; no long prison sentences to either Guantanamo or another detention facility at great expense affording these vermin treatment not given to our troops; or no sham rehabilitation programs in Saudi Arabia or Yemen that see at least 25 percent return to the fight. You cannot reason with these people, for they are the true believers. It goes against our sense of justice, but the only way to deal with these people is to hunt them down and kill them.

Thankfully, they killed bin Ladin. Bin Ladin as a prisoner would be a nightmare; Attorney General Eric Holder would want to try him in federal court. Given Holder's track record with terrorist suspects, a conviction would not be a sure thing.

A chapter in the war against al-Qa'idah is over, but the war will go on. Hopefully this operation will send the message that America's memory is long and its reach unlimited. I want every al-Qa'idah commander tonight to be sleepless with the fear that some young American special forces operator is coming for him.