In less than one week since the announcement by President Barack Obama that American Special Forces had found and eliminated Osama bin Laden, the American right has done everything possible to spin the accomplishment as something less than what it truly is: an historic achievement by this administration.
Of course there are statesmen and women and, dare I say, patriots on the right who have behaved exactly as they would have if this event had taken place six years ago. However there have been far too many of the chicken hHawks and right wingers who have constructed some type of rationale to criticize and diminish the president’s handling of this affair. Their reaction begs the question: Can this president do anything to please the 15 – 20% of Americans who just cannot stand the fact that Obama is our president?
Many on the right have claimed the majority of the credit for nailing bin Laden should go to the Bush Administration. I say balderdash! Let’s review the facts. By the spring of 2002, the Bush Administration had begun a four year campaign to downgrade the importance of neutralizing bin Laden. And of course, in 2003 the president decided it was prudent to divert our armed forces away from Afghanistan to invade Iraq after lying about that country’s complicity in the 2001 attacks.
But let’s start at the beginning. In the opening days of America’s fight in Afghanistan our civilian commanders had, in essence, allowed the terrorist leader to escape to the mountains that border Afghanistan and Pakistan in an area called, Tora Bora. During the initial invasion of Afghanistan bin Laden was cornered in the caves of the mountainous region but escaped. It would be the first of a series of missteps which would become the rule in Bush’s hunt for the terrorist. In an April, 2002 page one story The New York Times published the following report: “The Bush administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al Qaeda, according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge… the intelligence community is persuaded that bin Laden slipped away in the first 10 days of December.”
That next spring Bush, who had declared on September 17, 2001 (one day after Vice President Dick Cheney proclaimed he would accept bin Laden’s “head on a platter”) that he wanted Osama bin Laden, “dead or alive” inexplicitly downgraded the country’s mission. On March 13, 2002 merely six months after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the American homeland, Bush said at a White House press conference that,
I truly am not that concerned about him [bin Laden]. We haven’t heard much from him. And I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don’t know where he is…I’ll repeat what I said, I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him when he had taken over a country…I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban. But once we set out the policy and started executing the plan, he became — we shoved him out more and more on the margins. He has no place to train his Al Qaeda killers anymore.
Less than four years later, Bush closed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) unit known as Alec Station, which had been established in 1996, during the Clinton administration. That unit hunted bin Laden for a decade. Michael Scheuer, a former senior CIA official who was the first head of the unit, told The New York Times the closure in 2005 that was made public the following year would, “clearly denigrate our operations against Al Qaeda.” These facts are undeniable. The comments are in official transcripts and on video.
In two years President Obama accomplished what the Bushies could or would not do during seven years in office.
We have witnessed the rewriting of history over and over again during the past 30 years. It’s as if there are people out there who truly believe the American people are idiots. For example, after 50 years of the Cold War in which every president beginning with Harry Truman kept America and our European allies strong in the face of the Soviet threat that war finally came to an end with the collapse of the Soviet bear. Consequently Ronald Reagan received sole responsibility for that victory by the right because he was the Commander in Chief during that time. Why does Reagan get credit for ending a nuclear standoff that lasted half a century but Obama’s political opposition wants somehow to tell us that he is getting too much credit for planning the assault and giving the order to terminate bin Laden? Once again, the double standard and hypocrisy is nauseating.
In an effort to show unity, the president offered to share the spotlight with his immediate predecessor but Bush declined the invitation to travel to New York. Some say he was pouting because he wasn’t getting enough credit in the bin Laden affair. However, maybe Bush just reconciled himself to this truth: History tells us that if Bush truly receives the credit he truly deserves for his work to get bin Laden it will only serve as yet another stain on his already checkered term as our president.