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How It Went Down

Well, as more time passes, we are learning more and more details about the death of Osama Bin Laden. Here's where things stand right now:

  • The Navy SEALs on the raid had orders to kill or capture him and to not worry about taking him alive.
  • Bin Laden was and was not armed in the final shootout.
  • A woman who was or was not one of his wives was used as a human shield and threw herself between him and the SEALS and rushed at the SEALS, and was killed and wounded by the SEALS.
  • Five and twenty-two people were killed in the attack.
  • The Pakistanis were and were not involved in the attack.
  • Bin Laden's body was thoroughly examined by US forces and transported to a US aircraft carrier for burial at sea within five hours.

Now, these kinds of contradictions are typical when first reports of events of momentous import occur. In fact, one blogger who used to be worth noting had what he called the "48-hour rule:" don't put too much credence in any details on these kinds of stories for the first 48 hours, as they are almost guaranteed to be wrong or incomplete until there's been time for the truth to shake itself out. And it's a damned good rule.

But in this case, it must be remembered that the people reporting to us on the raid monitored the whole thing as it happened, even to the point of watching much of it in real-time video, and the whole thing was captured on video by the SEALs' helmet-mounted video cameras. They literally have no excuse for getting the details wrong -- it would be like asking a bride about her wedding day, and she getting the color of the bridesmaids' dresses wrong.

Naturally, I have my own theory on why the initial reports were so out of whack with later "clarifications."

According to the first reports, the SEALs invaded Bin Laden's compound. They took out the guards, then cornered him in his bedroom. They demanded his surrender, but instead he grabbed a gun, used his wife as a shield, and opened fire. The SEALS shoot back, far more effectively, and kill him.

If that sounds familiar, it's because it's the climax of so many action movies: the bad guy is trapped and has no chance to escape. The heroes give him a chance to surrender and live, but instead he fights back and the heroes have no choice but to kill him. Just to name two, it's the ending of the first Tim Burton Batman movie and the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie.

However, the updates have "clarified" a few things: the SEALS weren't explicitly ordered to not take him alive, but it was strongly implied. Bin Laden was not armed, but did "resist" in some vague, undefined way. The woman in his bedroom may or may not have been one of his wives, but was shot and wounded in the legs -- as a commenter on another site noted, this is highly unusual for the SEALS, who are trained to shoot to kill; a leg shot seems to be a SEAL's way of telling someone "sit down and stay out of our way."

This "clarification" is far more consistent with the SEALs having orders of "go there, kill Bin Laden and anyone else who gets in the way, and bring back the body and any other stuff that might yield useful intelligence."

For the record, I think that's perfectly acceptable. I have absolutely no problems with those orders, and think that they are entirely appropriate.

But they don't "sound good." They aren't the actions of the heroes, the good guys, as Hollywood has defined them. The good guys always give the bad guy a chance to surrender, always try to take him alive, and only kill as the absolute last resort. And it's the bad guy who makes the decision to not be taken alive. The good guys don't go in with the clear intent of killing the bad guy, even if he tries to surrender. The only ones we kill indiscriminately are the cannon fodder and unnamed extras who try to protect the bad guy, usually most ineffectively.

So the Obama administration tries to cast the raid in the mold of this Hollywood myth. They want to have Americans be proud of this action and this administration, so they instinctively shade the truth and tell us how it all unfolded in just the way we're used to seeing such things unfold (even to the tension and drama of a helicopter failing and crash-landing in the beginning of the raid). But then, someone has an "oh, shit" moment and realizes that there is not only video of nearly every detail of the raid, but photos -- released photos -- of all the key players watching said video in real-time. Even Obama's spokesman is there in the picture. They literally have no excuse for getting the details wrong, and should the video ever get out (and in the age of Wikileaks, it's virtually guaranteed to get out -- after several fakes, video-game recreations, and half a dozen Rickrolls) there would be proof that they had seriously fictionalized the details. So they immediately started walking back the particulars, slowly "evolving" the official story to more closely match the reality.

It's entirely understandable. As I said, I have no problems with the raid as it apparently did happen, instead of the Hollywoodized version that first came out. Neither will most Americans. But there will some who will have ethical concerns with it, calling it "murder" and "an extralegal execution" and decrying that he should have been taken alive for trial -- and nearly all of them will be among Obama's base. While all of us like the Hollywood myth, they are the ones who really need it. Hell, they want even more -- they would swoon if the SEAL who pulled the trigger on Bin Laden appeared on TV, horribly upset that he had to kill him, saying that he really wanted to take him alive, but Bin Laden gave him no choice but to pull the trigger, and he'll be haunted for the rest of his life at having to take a life, even someone as evil as Bin Laden.

Which is, of course, a load of crap. There's an apocryphal story out of Afghanistan about a sniper (sometimes American, sometimes British) being asked "what do you feel when you pull the trigger and kill a terrorist?," and answering laconically "recoil." Men like this, if they do feel such anguish over carrying out their orders, do not show it in public.

But that's part of the myth. That's part of the fantasy. And that's the story the Obama administration wanted to sell to the American people at first. They didn't think we could handle being told "we found him, and we decided that no real purpose would be served by taking him alive, so we told the SEALs to not bother -- just kill him."

I think that calculation was just about dead-on (pardon the expression) for a significant portion of Obama's base -- the loudest part. But it woefully underestimates the majority of Americans, who -- like me -- understand that we're at war, Bin Laden was a leader of our self-declared enemy, and we understand that, as they say in Texas, "some folks just need killing."

On that list, Bin Laden was at the top. I'd also put on that list Muammar Ka-Daffy, Bashar Assad, the leadership of Hezbollah and Hamas, Whitey Bulger, and Charles Manson, just off the top of my head. And in an act of tremendous will and restraint, I would not put on the list "the executives at Fox who totally boned over Firefly."

We're grownups. We can handle the truth. We don't need the pablum and the polite fictions. Just give it to us straight -- we're not all as fragile and nutty as the far left nuts and wusses that make up a major portion of Obama's base.

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Comments (24)

even to the point of wat... (Below threshold)

even to the point of watching much of it in real-time video

Yes, the famous war room shot. Our morning news just put up that photo and reported that once the team went in they had no information from the scene until it was basically over. So, not sure when that shot was taken or what they were watching at the time, but apparently they were not actually watching the raid 'live'. For example, Reuters' story (and I don't know if this has changed over time) says: "So far the White House has released only photos of Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and other administration officials as they received live updates on the raid on bin Laden."

I prefer the "Dirty Harry" ... (Below threshold)
Stan:

I prefer the "Dirty Harry" method myself. That way the taxpayers are spared a few million on trying the SOB. Usama got what he richly deserved and no matter how the libs try to spin it, the good guys prevailed again.

I always wonder about these... (Below threshold)
hcddbz:

I always wonder about these real time video feeds.
I could see a raid where they might record actions and transmit when it is over. However Radio Silence is about not transmitting so that you do not give away your position. It would seem dangerous to keep sending encrypted burst transmissions, from troops on the ground.

SpecOps are not cops. They have multiple missions and capture or kill is one of them.

Many people want these guys to love small pets. They don't if comes in the way of the mission, Just like the old Hush Puppy a silenced 9mm used to kill guard Dogs.

I kinda doubt we ever know full operational details, because to do that will endanger other Operators.


The Presidents Speech should have been. The combined effort of US civilian and Military intelligence lead to the successful elimination of OBL last night. We owe a deep gratitude to those who carried out this mission. We had several avenue open to us and I choose the one with highest degree of conformability and surgical precision that was to use Joint special Operations Command.

We have recovered his body it was disposed at sea in keeping with religious customs just like any other rapist, murder or serial killer buried in potters field.

Further details will be fourth coming.


This would have allowed them to avoid the fog of war.

My takeThe Navy... (Below threshold)
retired military:

My take

The Navy SEALs on the raid had orders to kill or capture him and to not worry about taking him alive.

Sounds about right. Kill or capture but if it appears he will resist then shoot to kill. A little personal initiative may have been in play here as well.

Bin Laden was and was not armed in the final shootout.

I dont think he was. I think this was stated to fully justify the killing.


A woman who was or was not one of his wives was used as a human shield and threw herself between him and the SEALS and rushed at the SEALS, and was killed and wounded by the SEALS.

OBL probably used a woman as a shield (wife or no) and this was changed so that Muslim men wouldnt be offended. PC is everything with the dems.

Five and twenty-two people were killed in the attack.
Probably 5 within the compound. More outside. Casualty figures may have been adjusted downward to keep it from looking like we werent trying to kill everyone there. Again PC.


The Pakistanis were and were not involved in the attack.

Maybe they were but it was probably for OBL side and not ours. The Pakis got caught with their pants down and have to either say that or go with an unpopular "We helped kill OBL". Not a good situation for them to be in.


Bin Laden's body was thoroughly examined by US forces and transported to a US aircraft carrier for burial at sea within five hours.

True
--------
Some inconsistencies I believe are people who saw the event and in retelling it omitted or exaggerated detaisl. Then the people they told it too either omitted or exaggerated details. After all when speaking to the press (even anonymously) folks who make thier living off appearing important want to have their own little juicy tidbit to add. If they say the same thing as the guy on TV just said than their information is pretty much worthless. If they add some juicy tidbit than they are an important source.

Also some of it I believe (as I stated above) is PC. IMO the confusing stories from the "official" personnel in front of TV cameras within the Obama admin shows amatuer hour on full display. The raid was 10 days ago. The Seals were debriefed fully within 24 hours of mission completion. They were probably debriefed two or 3 times more to corroborate details. The Obama admin should have had the full story and had time to flesh out the "official" version prior to the press conference on Sunday. Instead we have people going on TV offering 2 or 3 different versions. I guess the OBama ADMIN has never learned the value of speaking with one voice.

At least Panetta came out and finally admitted that Enhanced interrogation techniques were responsible for starting the ball rolling (Steve Crickmore and Chico take note).

Correction to my above stat... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Correction to my above statement. I said the raid was 10 days ago. FOr some reason I thought the raid had taken place like a week before the annoucement (still dont know how I came to that conclusion).

So scratch the amatuer hour paragraph above.

This statement remains in force

" I guess the OBama ADMIN has never learned the value of speaking with one voice"

I guess the Seals will now ... (Below threshold)
Gladius:

I guess the Seals will now be known as "Obama's Assins" instead of Cheny's.

Many years ago I was in a k... (Below threshold)
Mark L:

Many years ago I was in a knife fight. Sort of. He had a knife. I didn't.

I was attacked by another student in a high school lunch room at lunch time. He picked the fight, coming up to me and shoving me. I ignored him at first, because he was about half my size. (Back then, fighting someone smaller than you was viewed as unmanly.)

He kept shoving me, demanding we fight. I kept ignoring him, waiting for a teacher to come up and break up the situation. Finally, he began shoving hard, so I blocked his next shove.

By that time a big crowd of other students had formed a circle around us, shouting "Fight! Fight!" When I blocked his shove, he hauled out a knife and began swinging at me with it.

I don't know how long the fight lasted. (At the time it seemed like hours to me, but it probably lasted less than 2 minutes.) It ended with me having suffered multiple stab wounds, and him on the ground, disarmed, with my hands around his neck, pounding his head against the concrete floor.

None of the observers were aware that it was a knife fight until it was over. Everyone assumed it was a fistfight, until I was dragged off my attacker, and I stood up, the front of my shirt coated in blood. NO ONE saw the knife. There had obviously been one, since I had stab wounds, but no one had seen it during the fight.

I think the main reason for that was that no one was expecting to see a knife. Kind of like that You-Tube clip where a gorilla walks through a crowd passing a basketball back and forth.

Ever since then, I have distrusted eye-witness accounts of combat unless those accounts are backed up with physical evidence. The confusion in the bin Laden attack surprises me not at all.

But in this case, it mus... (Below threshold)
Tina S:

But in this case, it must be remembered that the people reporting to us on the raid monitored the whole thing as it happened, even to the point of watching much of it in real-time video, and the whole thing was captured on video by the SEALs' helmet-mounted video cameras.

Actually Jay, most of the people taking questions from reporters did not watch it go down and most likely did not have any access to the videos.

Seems to me the operation h... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Seems to me the operation had paranoia written all over it, paranoia that Obama had a huge arsenal, paranoia that he wouldn´t be killed outright, paranoia to dispose of the body so quickly, without a trace, paraonia not to release photos of Osama, paranoia about the operation details and paranoia to give him a trial. Osama certainly didnt have to carry any cyanide pills, with him, like the Nazi leaders.

Nearly all of the Arab and Muslim world and street, with a exceptions like parts of Pakistan and maybe a few Pakistani military officials, would have loved to wring Osama´s neck, now they won´t have that chance. I think we lost a opportunity to humilate Osama by not capturing him and trying him as we did Saddam or someone like Noriega.

Now Osama will be shrouded in myth, instead of spending his time in a cell thinking about an impending noose around his neck, listening to rap music day and night.

I think that killing him an... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

I think that killing him and deep sixing his body was the way to go. No trial, no circus, no formal public burial rites, etc. I think it is very important that this successful operation happened so quickly and efficiently. If Obama gave the final approval to go ahead this way, I approve without reservation.

That is what the Bolivian a... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

That is what the Bolivian army thought was the best way was to rid themselves of Che Guevera as well, and look at the myth that enshrouded him, after he died. I could give several other examples in history but won´t bore you.

Steve,Remember the... (Below threshold)
hcddbz:

Steve,

Remember the Faux outrage on how Saddam was treated at the trail and how is body was treated. As for the mission, we do not know what we do not know. So in that case, you deploy overwhelming force to destroy the enemy. Just remember just because your paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you.

The best thing for the SEALS was to not take him alive. You know that if he had a paper cut on him they would be facing NJP or GMC, like the one who complained the SEALS hit him in the stomach and he got a fat lip.
The Base has an entire manual on how to screw over the US legal system.

Tina, please. Stop being so... (Below threshold)

Tina, please. Stop being so stupid.

In the infamous photo, one of the attendees was John Brennan, head of Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, who gave one of the key briefings. So "most of the people taking questions from reporters did not watch it go down and most likely did not have any access to the videos" doesn't matter; if they don't know, they should STFU and not make up stuff, but let Brennan -- who DID "take questions" -- and the rest do the talking.

J.

I am coming to believe the ... (Below threshold)
Gladius:

I am coming to believe the only way we are going to win this war is to do it the Patton Way. Muslims don't need any reason to become hysterical and giving OBL a trial would have given some of them one real big one. Steve, you must understand terrorists / muslims do what they do b/c they like it...period. All of us have to realize that. How anyone can kill randomly anybody is so evil it must be destroyed or it gets worse. Giving OBL a trial ranks up there with KSM going to trial in NYC. Innocent people would suffer or he would be tried in Gitmo and that would be another can of worms.
Remember the Bastards dancing in the streets? I remember seeing OBL laughing it up...no remorse for killing almost 3,000 of our people including children.

Jay TeaI see you a... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Jay Tea

I see you are on a short fuze this week. Sometimes that is a good thing. :)

I doubt Obama's base of hyp... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

I doubt Obama's base of hypocrites will be calling him a 'war criminal' any time soon. Or criticizing him for violating the sovereignty of a nuclear-armed nation.

As for the Navy Seals killing an 'unarmed' man. Is this the same Navy that's prosecuting several Navy Seals for striking a resisting prisoner?

David D and heddez, yes i... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

David D and heddez, yes it was a military decision, maybe the right military one and Obama has been very repectful of the military, but I don't lke the optics. Obama´s job is to forsee what this means for the overall national interes. ,this is why he turned down a drone attack on the compound,thankfully, which the military wanted first. There would have been too many children killed.

Everyone is congratulating themselves on getting bin Laden, after an intelligence budget of 50 billion a year and torturing hundreds, but for six years. Along with about twenty five people he was holed up in huge walled compound, with little security but bullet proof cars coming and going, next door to a garrison fort where, the most presigious military academy in Pakistan.

After finding him, getting him presented no real military problem, after all US has been training openingly the Pakistanis, a few blocks way, but the optics are troubling. for me, plus it is always nice to bring a monster like, Goebbels or Eichmann, or it would have been to bring Hitler or Osama bin Laden to justice, to Baghdad, Gitmo, Fort Leavenworth, Tel Aviv or the Hague? I doubt if the Israelis would have been afraid to try him, If Osama was too much of a theat to America´s justice system.?

Bottom line: Put a grownup ... (Below threshold)
glenn:

Bottom line: Put a grownup in charge (Leon Panetta)give him the tools he needs, get out of the way and let him do his job. And don't EVER second guess or undermine him in the after action stuff.

Graand'As for the ... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Graand

'As for the Navy Seals killing an 'unarmed' man. Is this the same Navy that's prosecuting several Navy Seals for striking a resisting prisoner'

Name one military person that would convict them for shooting an unarmed Bin laden. Besides who said the camera didnt malfunction at the critical moment. Not too mention the political fall out of putting the guy on trial. Obama wouldnt get elected dogcatcher if he put the guy on trial.


Crickmore:<blockquote... (Below threshold)
Stan:

Crickmore:

…Obama has been very repectful of the military, but I don't lke the optics.

Who's hooka have you been smoking, Crickmore? That statement bounds to the realm of absurdity. Obama respectful of the military? That is like the whole lib establishment saying George W. Bush was a great President. Ain't gonna happen. If anything, Barry and his gang would like to see the Pentagon buried in the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay, along with the people that work there.

Steve,Billions on ... (Below threshold)
hcddbz:

Steve,

Billions on Intelligence it one of the problems today. We have many forms of intelligence but and we spend on technology when we need more human intelligence. Boots on the ground and making deals with really bad people is how you get close to really bad people.

Sometimes doing whats correct and justice trumps optics.

Steve"a year and t... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Steve

"a year and torturing hundreds'

What HUNDREDES??? 3 people were waterboarded - NOT tortured.

Geez come on guy. Do you even believe the stuff you write?

In the infamous photo, o... (Below threshold)
Tina S:

In the infamous photo, one of the attendees was John Brennan, head of Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, who gave one of the key briefings. So "most of the people taking questions from reporters did not watch it go down and most likely did not have any access to the videos" doesn't matter; if they don't know, they should STFU and not make up stuff, but let Brennan -- who DID "take questions" -- and the rest do the talking.

If you had answered the basic 4 w's that every 5th grader is taught to answer when writing about current events, I would not have had to ask you in the first place. So don't call me stupid when a 5th grade teacher would have given you a failing grade on your blog.

I shouldn't have to explain... (Below threshold)

I shouldn't have to explain this to you, Tina -- you've been around long enough.

First up, it's the 5 W's -- who, what, when, where, and why. Next, those are for journalists, and I ain't one. Then, the photo was tangential to the article. Finally, I expect my readers to bring some intelligence and knowledge to the table and not need/expect me to spoon-feed them everything.

Which is what you're asking of me.

Sorry, I don't cater to the lowest common denominator. I ask a bit. If you can't keep up, that ain't my problem or my concern.

J.




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