Squandering Our Victory
Just like everybody else, the news that Navy SEALs had infiltrated Pakistan and shot Usama bin Laden in the face really brightened my evening. I decided to celebrate with a Patel Brothers cigar and two fingers of Jack Daniels. Of course my heart was especially bursting with pride at the news that my brothers on the East Coast got the call and executed their mission flawlessly despite crashing a helointo the compound. If you have to be in a helo crash, you are far better off being in one piloted by a Nightstalker of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) because frankly nobody on the planet even comes close to how good those guys are. This is an operation that I have dreamed of being a part of for nearly 10 years, and I have fantasized about rolling up on a target to find UBL in my sights. I am fairly certain that I know somebody on that assault force, and I look forward to the East Coast UDT/SEAL Reunion this summer and sharing a cold one with some of the boys.
By now, May 3, 2011, the stories about how this successful operation is going to ensure a Barack Obama victory in 2012 are legion. I even got an email to that effect on the night of the 1st when we were all basking in the afterglow of UBL’s demise. I’ll admit the thought had crossed my mind, but I dismissed it immediately secure in the knowledge that if any POTUS could fuck this up, he was sure to be The One. Right on schedule, the Administration has already put out several conflicting versions of actions on the objective, and I have yet to see somebody from the military nay the SEAL community on a podium at the Pentagon laying out the operation and answering (or not answering) questions. The Bush Administration was very good at this, and when some major military operation took place, the White House would direct the media to the Pentagon where some General or Admiral held a press conference often with video clips and some Powerpoint slides showing some the mission highlights. The Bush White House was happy to let the experts handle things and show a unified front.
Meanwhile, between NSC staffers, the WH Press Secretary, Homeland Security, CIA and a multitude of “Senior Administration Officials” on background, the story has morphed into various versions of events. While the political side of me sees this correctly as another manifestation of the incompetence of this Administration, this vacillation is causing real harm to the significance of our victory here and to the reputation of the SEAL Teams. Let me assure you right now that there is no such thing as a “Kill only “ mission. If that SEAL operator came through the door to find UBL with his hands up, compliant, and unarmed (including no evidence of a suicide vest) he would have taken a muzzle strike to the face, but not any rounds. He would have swallowed some teeth, been flex cuffed, and dragged roughly out to a marshalling area and then onto the helo. To start out with the story that UBL had used his wife as a shield while shooting at the assaulters and to devolve that into to a woman was wounded and UBL was unarmed and shot in the face is quite a large spectrum of “truth”. Add to that the false notion of the “Kill only” mission, and now you have the entire SEAL community being thrown under the bus as wonton killers of women and unarmed civilians.
Are Navy SEALs eager to kill terrorists and UBL most of all? Hells Yeah! But we would not be tasked with a mission profile that excludes the capture of the single greatest intelligence bonanza in the history of the conflict. Certainly we will exploit the intel collected on the target and soon, but if you simply want to kill somebody no matter what you do not send Navy SEALs across a sovereign border to do it. That is what Hellfire missilesand JDAMs are designed to do.
This is also curious from the standpoint of Islamic sensitivity, which is clearly foremost in the mind of this White House. Only Obama could go out of his way to emphasize the respect for the Islamic burial process only to tee up perfectly the conditions under which conspiracy theories are born. The primitive peoples of the middle eastare perhaps the most gullible ethnic group on the planet. When I was in Iraq, there was a widely held belief thatVBIEDs were manufactured on our US military base inRamadi, and that the guys with beards (like me) were actually Israeli agents driving in HMMVs with the Star of David on the door. I shit you not. The point is that coming out with a well laid out media plan that is executed from the Pentagon by experts is critical if your goal is to provide a clear and undivided narrative of the event. Of course, this White House has never been very good at sharing credit and it is that infantile demand for attention that is causing this victory to become muddled in conflicting accounts and naked political point scoring.
Frankly, I am content to watch Obama shoot himself in the foot while still having presided over a tremendous effort by our intelligence community and the SEAL Teams, but I’ll be damned if he is going to be allowed to implicate my brothers out of his own incompetence or political expediency. More importantly, the killing of UBL is undoubtedly a very significant event in the War on Terror and the momentum that we have gained should not be lost by grandstanding, partisan jackassery, and rank incompetence. Get your shit together Mr. President!