“Geronimo EKIA”

“Geronimo EKIA” were the  words radioed by the leader of SEAL Team Six just after boarding the Blackhawk helicopter in the Bin Laden complex in Abbattobad, Pakistan last Sunday.  Geronimo, aka Osama Bin Laden, Enemy Killed in Action.

24 heroic Navy SEALS  had rendered “justice”, however you define it, on an enemy of America and the civilized world.

It was a huge success, a critical moment for Western security, and one that could very well change the course of the war on terror (or, as President Obama calls it, the fight against “man caused disasters”).  Who deserves the credit?  Every one of these people, in this order:  SEAL Team Six, our military, our civilian military leadership, President Obama, and President George W. Bush.

Let me comment on these last two.  No matter what anyone says, President Obama made a bold and brave set of decisions here.  You know complimenting Obama does not come easily to me, but I must in this case.  It may seem that what was right was obvious, but make no mistake the President had to make a series of critical decisions, and he made the right ones.  Do we bomb the complex safely from a B-2 bomber?  Do we notify the Pakistanis before we take any action?  Do we send in special forces?  What orders do we give the soldiers on their mission, whichever path we choose?

Bombing from above risked no American lives, but it presented downsides of potential inability to verify success (would the Pakistanis find the body, and if they did would they say so?), offered no opportunity to potentially capture him alive, and there could be collateral damage (as it turned out, there were as many as 23 children in the complex).

In not notifying the Pakistanis, the President risked the relationship with a complex yet critically important ally.  This would be an unauthorized manned incursion into their territory and would likely result in the death of other Pakistanis beyond Bin Laden.  But notifying them risked a leak, and an escape, and the evaporation of years of intelligence work.  The ramifications of not having notified them are yet to be felt, but they will likely be acceptable.

Sending in SEALS risked disaster in multiple forms.  There were many points of potential failure:  a shootdown of the Blackhawks before reaching their destination or after they left.  The risk of lives of the SEAL’s during the operation.  Bin Laden not being present or unfindable in a reasonable period of time.  Death of multiple civilians.

But the President faced another type of disaster, and that was a political one.  If this mission had failed in any of the ways above, he would suddenly become Jimmy Carter (remembering our failure in Iran).  Surely he put his Presidency and re-election prospects on the line.  Of course there was an upside too– success, which we achieved, would bring a wave of positive support– and so it has.

He also had to decide what we would do with the body, and he properly decided to follow Muslim practices as closely as we could pragmatically do.  Washing the body, burying it at sea following a ceremony traditional to Muslims was the right thing to do.  This decision was full of risk as well because there are many who would understandably say that he should be afforded no such treatment.  In fact, one friend commented to me that Bin Laden killed 4 of his best friends in Tower 2, one of whom jumped out of his window right after telling his wife he loved her and their kids just after he hung up his cell phone.

In the end the decision on the body was the right and most balanced one, as difficult for some as it is (Some Muslims think it was not dignified enough, and many Americans think it was too much so).

And now for George W. Bush.  As much as the Obama Administration is trying to downplay it, it is a fact that the name of the courier who we traced to the complex was revealed by Khalid Sheik Mohamed during his “enhanced interrogation”.   Attorney General Eric Holder would only say the complete set of intelligence came from “a mosaic of sources”, but clearly many of the tiles in this mosaic were a result of the Bush policies that, once criticized by Obama vehemently, Obama continued. Guantanamo, rendition, enhanced interrogation, military tribunals, wiretapping, and other gifts from President Bush to President Obama were surely critical success factors.  Another aspect relates to President Obama’s announcement on Sunday night that we had eliminated Osama Bin Laden was the way in which he announced it.  He generally kept the right balance between joy and somberness, but he shamefully failed to name President Bush.  This was a time to put aside partisan and political interests and to share with the nation that the quest of his predecessor and himself to capture or kill Bin Laden was complete.  President Bush was in office when 9/11 occurred, he invested heavily in the search for Bin Laden, he had laid much of the groundwork for success which I previously mentioned, and he should have been named in this speech.  In fact, this was another situation where we saw how egocentric our President is.  In his speech he used his favorite two words, “me” and “I”, 10 times more than anyone else would have.  In fact, if you want to have some fun,  get a Youtube file of the President’s announcement of Osama’s death, break out a bottle of tequila, and play a drinking game.  Every time he says “I” or “me”, do a shot of tequila.  Just don’t plan to drive home afterwards!  President Obama did (rightly) invite President Bush to the wreath laying ceremony today, but President Bush (wrongly in my view) said no.  I believe he said no either because he didn’t want to crowd Obama out during his moment, or perhaps he is so disappointed in Obama for the unprecedented slamming of his administration by Obama that he couldn’t bring himself to stand next to this man who has been so undignified in his treatment of the former president.
A few other comments.  While I tend to agree with the President about not releasing the photo of a dead Bin Laden, the rationale that has been offered is dishonest and condescending.  The President says he sees no need to “spike the football”, or to display the photos as a “trophy”.  “It is not who we are”, he says.  But surely most rational people don’t want the photo released for that reason.  The photo exists, it presents a certain “fact” that Bin Laden is dead.  The true fear is that the photo may inspire radical Muslims and may be used as a recruiting tool.  This fear is rational, and a good reason not to release the photo.  To say that we aren’t releasing it because it would be “spiking the football” is an insult to America and our values.

In regards to the reaction in America to Bin Laden’s death, almost everything I saw was appropriate.  There were a few video clips I found to be discomforting and wouldn’t want broadcast on Al Jazeera because some may view the celebrations as blood-lust.  But Americans were happy, I was happy, that Osama had been found and killed.  A man who killed directly and indirectly thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of others (perhaps more than a million when all is said and done), was rendered mute.  And in the “treasure trove” of intelligence we learned, just by its existence in his compound, that he was still active on many levels and a key factor in Al Queda both operationally as well as from a leadership perspective.

And surely in this brutal world we live in, his death sends a message to other butchers.  Saddam Hussein, Zarqawi, Udi and Qusay Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, and many other terrorists have met their fate at the hands of our military.  While one can argue anything they want because its unprovable, this has surely given pause to many would-be terrorists.  The world and America is safer today than it was last week, probably by a lot in the long run.

There is much to imagine about this successful mission, including and especially what it was like on board those Blackhawks and inside that compound.  We don’t have any of the audio or video yet, but hopefully at some point portions of it will be released.  In the meantime, imagine for a moment you are in the White House Situation Room as President Obama, Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton, and others were, and you were watching the incursion live, listening to the audio, waiting anxiously for the results knowing the stakes.  It had to be a surreal moment, something even Jack Bauer could not recreate, 40 minutes of tension well beyond any these people had experienced in their lifetimes.  What must it have been like in that room, after all those minutes on the edge of your seat, when over the audio they heard:  “Geronimo EKIA”.   Wow.

See the photo below:

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5 Responses to “Geronimo EKIA”

  1. Teddy says:

    I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.

    In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/bin-ladens-death-and-the-debate-over-torture/2011/05/11/AFd1mdsG_print.html

    • vofreason says:

      John McCain is a loud and credible voice on this subject and it is always with trepidation that I debate against his points. However, I notice his words are very carefully chosen. While he says that the “identity” of the courier wasn’t revealed, certainly information that helped put together the puzzle and establish his identity and/or the hideout was. As we learn more and more about how bin Laden was found, we see that it was an aggregation of information from multiple sources, including KSM, about the people and process by which Al Queda uses to operate. The best description I’ve seen is that the conclusive answers were derived from a “mosaic” of information accumulated over the last 10 years, much and maybe most of it from the Bush administration. (Note: I find it absolutely astounding that President Obama avoids giving any meaningful credit to President Bush, he does only the minimum one must do in the form of acknowledgement. He is an egomaniacal partisan like none we have ever seen).

      And while Senator McCain says some– emphasis on “some”– information KSM provided was false or inaccurate, he doesn’t say “all”, or even “most”. This is because it is established fact that KSM sang like a canary and we learned huge volumes about how Al Queda operates from him– that the information he provided was invaluable, helped us kill or capture many very dangerous people, and prevented multiple potential attacks on Americans.

      I also find it to be the ultimate in naivete from the left when they say “torture just makes terrorists give us false information” (I’m not attributing this argument to you). Let’s get real. This people are not superman, they are humans. Most people, terrorists or not, when waterboarded or tortured provide accurate information (if they have the information…if they don’t, you get the falsehoods when they are just trying to get the interrogation to stop). And we are smart enough to sort out the inaccuracies. So if KSM gave some false and some real information, we take all of it realizing that some of it may not be accurate (either through error or intent), and we proceed accordingly and with care.

      Lastly, when I see the furor on the left that we waterboarded– torture or not– 3 people– 3 people, I wonder how the left can justify the amount of time and attention dedicated to these actions– and in it’s most extreme form, to actually advocate putting the interrogators on trial. I might feel a little better if I ever saw the people who harp on and on about this spend at least 10% of their words talking about how terrible the acts of KSM are, and how awful the consequences were of KSM’s actions, but it seems they are far more in touch and empathetic with KSM than the 2,00 people who died in the rubble at Ground Zero. This is why I find many elements of liberalism in America to be often a psychological syndrome rather than political discourse! : )

    • vofreason says:

      Just saw this today in the Washington Post (excerpts):

      McCain’s fellow POWs support waterboarding
      By Marc A. Thiessen

      In his speech on the Senate floor last week dismissing the role of enhanced interrogations in the operation that got Osama bin Laden, Sen. John McCain declared that waterboarding is “indisputably torture.” His claim has indeed been disputed — by several of McCain’s fellow prisoners of war. McCain served our nation with courage and honor in Vietnam. But some of those who served beside him, and experienced horrific torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese, vehemently disagree with his assertion that waterboarding, as practiced by the CIA, even remotely constitutes torture.

      When I was researching my book, “Courting Disaster,” I interviewed many of them, including Col. Bud Day, who received our nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic escape from a North Vietnamese prison camp. When Day was returned to the prison, his right arm was broken in three places and he had been shot in the hand and thigh during his capture. But he continued to resist interrogation and provide false information — suffering such excruciating torture that he became totally physically debilitated and unable to perform even the simplest task for himself. In short, Day is an expert on the subject of torture. Here is what he says about CIA waterboarding:

      “I am a supporter of waterboarding. It is not torture. Torture is really hurting someone. Waterboarding is just scaring someone, with no long-term injurious effects. It is a scare tactic that works.”

      I asked Day in an e-mail what he would say to the CIA officer who waterboarded Khalid Sheik Mohammed, if he had the chance to speak with him. Day replied immediately: “YOU DID THE RIGHT THING.”

      Like Day, Col. Leo Thorsness was awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism during the Vietnam War. He experienced excruciating torture during his captivity — his back broken, his body wrenched apart. He says what the CIA did to al-Qaeda terrorists in its custody was not torture:

      “To me, waterboarding is intensive interrogation. It is not torture. Torture involves extreme, brutal pain — breaking bones, passing out from pain, beatings so severe that blood spatters the walls . . . when you pop shoulders out of joints.. . . In my mind, there’s a difference, and in most POWs’ minds there’s a difference.. . . I would not hesitate a second to use ‘enhanced interrogation,’ including waterboarding, if it would save the lives of innocent people.”

      Another torture victim who supports waterboarding is Adm. Jeremiah Denton — the POW who famously winked the word “T-O-R-T-U-R-E” in Morse code during a North Vietnamese propaganda interview. It was the first message to the outside world that American prisoners were being tortured. Denton later received the Navy Cross for this courageous and costly act of defiance, for which he paid dearly when his captors figured out what he had done. I asked Denton if he thought waterboarding was torture. He told me:

      “No, I think it’s persuasive.. . . The big, monstrous difference here is that the gentlemen we are waterboarding are people who swore to kill Americans. They will wreak any kind of torture just for the hell of it on anybody. When they are captured by the U.S., and we know or have reason to believe that they know of a subsequent event after 9/11, if you don’t interrogate them, more misery will take place.. . . Waterboarding is not an evil. Some of the things they did to us were torture. I passed out a dozen times from torture. We’re not exerting that kind of excruciation.”

      John McCain is a hero, and he certainly has the moral authority to speak his mind on this topic. But he cannot claim that this position is “indisputable.” Many of his fellow POWs — including many who suffered horrifying torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese — believe that waterboarding is not torture. They believe that the CIA officers who interrogated our enemies deserve our thanks, not the calumnies that are hurled against them. These men know more about torture than all of the CIA’s critics combined — and they say unequivocally that what the CIA did was not torture.

  2. Velsetta says:

    Not really sure what to say in response to the above, I think you make a lot of great points.. but

    I thought you should reread the following text :
    In regards to the reaction in America to Bin Laden’s death, almost everything I saw was appropriate. There were a few video clips I found to be discomforting and wouldn’t want broadcast on Al Jazeera because some may view the celebrations as blood-lust. But Americans were happy, I was happy, that Obama had been found and killed. A man who killed directly and indirectly thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of others (perhaps more than a million when all is said and done), was rendered mute. And in the “treasure trove” of intelligence we learned, just by its existence in his compound, that he was still active on many levels and a key factor in Al Queda both operationally as well as from a leadership perspective.

    In your third line you say that “that Obama had been found and killed,” whoops

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