President Barack Obama, who led the effort to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, did his nation favorable service, accomplished an important threshold in the war on terror and will secure for himself in history the signature act to date in that war.
And he couldn’t have done any of it without changing his views on important positions that he campaigned against, stood in opposition to and publicly opposed – policies of his predecessor, President George W. Bush.
Here’s how it all tracks down: Sheikh Abu Ahmed turned out to be the single most important name to secure in the attempt to track and kill Osama bin Laden. Sheikh Abu Ahmed had been previously known as Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. (Abu Ahmed is actually of Kuwaiti descent.) Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti became known to U.S. officials through enhanced interrogations, CIA secret prisons – as well as Gitmo – and detainees captured in that “illegitimate” war in Iraq.
Beginning in early 2002 (under President Bush) multiple detainees in the secret prisons told interrogators of Abu Ahmed. None other than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (al-Qaida No. 3 and “architect” of the 9/11 attack) also confirmed knowing Abu Ahmed.
Then in 2004, Hassan Ghul was captured battling anti-terror forces in Iraq. Ghul told the CIA that Abu Ahmed was crucial to al-Qaida. Ghul implicated Abu Ahmed as close to Faraj al-Libi (who had replaced Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as al-Qaida’s active No. 3). Ghul was referred to by an Obama administration official as the “linchpin” in connecting the dots to identify Osama’s courier, Abu Ahmed.
In 2005, al-Libi was promoted to replace Mohammed, and he received word through the courier named Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti – but when al-Libi was captured and interrogated through enhanced techniques, he revealed to authorities all they needed to know: that the courier for bin Ladin was the man that would lead them to him.
Connecting the dots was crucial and painstakingly took years. Doing so was also made difficult because then-Sen. Barack Obama opposed and worked publicly against phone taps of terrorists and eventually helped blow the story of our phone taps onto the pages of the New York Times. Oddly enough, Osama bin Laden suddenly stopped using phones. His almost exclusive use of very old-school couriers became the only way bin Laden communicated with his lieutenants.
President Obama campaigned against the use of phone taps of terrorists; he campaigned for the shutdown of the very secret prisons that coughed up the name of the courier; and he went so far after being elected to imply that his attorney general, Eric Holder, was ready to go arrest the CIA operatives and military special forces personnel that had conducted enhanced interrogations.
Yet this single most important piece of information that led to the capture and execution of our worst enemy was obtained exclusively through those very mechanisms and means President Obama demeaned, mocked and ordered shut down.
There is no doubt Obama made the right call to send in the Navy SEALs to extricate the corpse of Osama bin Laden. His decision to do so with a surgically precise strike showed special wisdom in that members of his own national security team opposed him in meetings running up to making the decision. He was right in calling on the SEALs because they are unlike any other special forces in all of military history. And he was right in reducing the collateral damage or the risk of any by not using predator drones and bombs.
History will reward him with the label of the one who captured and killed the worst terrorist of the past 20 years.
But he did so standing on the shoulders of a president who took political backlash, foul media coverage and a toxically poisoned electorate (poisoned largely by the efforts of Obama directly) to do what was right, to press forward in obtaining the critical pieces of data to set up the eventual capture and killing of Bin Laden.
President Obama owes his rightful success to a man he directly undermined nearly the entire time he was setting the pieces in place for Obama’s biggest national-security achievement.
President Obama owes an apology to President Bush.
He also owes a huge debt of thanks to the men and women of the CIA and special forces who interrogated with enhanced techniques, and to the men and women who fought and died in Iraq to bring him the information needed.
And how ’bout you?
Have you hugged a waterboarder today?