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The Raid

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Latest account of the raid on Bin Laden is a good read.   Two thoughts:

  • While it’s best to view any account of a raid like this with skepticism, I grow weary of “they changed their story AGAIN” headlines.  There can be no single story of an event like the Bin Laden raid, because all of the actors have different perspectives and different interests.  These differences can make certain factual claims seem plausible and others not so much.  Indeed, I’d be more concerned about veracity if the administration had put forth one coherent story from the beginning and then stuck to it.  Operators and decision-makers will undoubtedly be arguing about the details for the next thirty years…
  • Those of us who remember Eagle Claw (and I do, believe it or not), can appreciate how wrong this raid could have gone.  If the helicopter had gone down badly, a dozen SEALs might have been killed.  Bin Laden might not have been present at the compound, civilians might have been killed in the process, Pakistan might have intervened, etc. The raid was extremely dangerous in both an operational and a political sense. It is entirely reasonable to praise both the expertise, capability, and courage of the SEALs, and the willingness of the administration to take a huge diplomatic and political risk.
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  • rea

    “The history of a battle, is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance.”–Wellington

  • Indeed, I’d be more concerned about veracity if the administration had put forth one coherent story from the beginning and then stuck to it.

    Indeed, indeed. The contradictory stories that came out one on top of another in the first few days, as everyone and his brother rushed to the cameras, is most certainly not what a standard military/White House snow job looks like. This was exactly the opposite of people getting their story straight and putting out an official storyline.

  • What really disappoints me about Carter is not naming Operation Eagle Claw after a Native American. After all, equating Native Americans with terrorism is something that a tough Democrat like Obama clearly has no problem with!

    • rea

      Well, Geronimo really was a terrorist, although most of his victims were on the Mexican side of the border.

      • ajay

        “Geronimo” wasn’t bin Laden’s codename. Nor was it the codename for the entire operation. It was the seventh (G is the seventh letter in the alphabet) in a list of codewords used to indicate that various phases of the operation had been reached; so (speculating here) “Albatross” might mean “all aircraft airborne and heading for target”, “Buffalo” might mean “target one mile away”, “Charisma” might mean “first troops on the ground” and so on. “Geronimo” meant “bin Laden has been killed or captured”.

      • DrDick

        I think that the Apache would argue that it was the US and Mexican military which engaged in terrorism and that they were merely defending their rightful territories. That said, it is my understanding that he was not all that popular among the Apache at the time.

  • Barry Freed

    Good article but this bit was a bunch of back-pedalling BS:

    Back at the White House Situation Room, word was relayed that bin Laden had been found, signaled by the code word “Geronimo.” That was not bin Laden’s code name, but rather a representation of the letter “G.” Each step of the mission was labeled alphabetically, and “Geronimo” meant that the raiders had reached step “G,” the killing or capture of bin Laden, two officials said.

    No phonetic alphabet used by the US has used “Geronimo” for “G”. It’s been “Golf” since the mid-50’s when they settled on a NATO standard. Before that it was “George” (which like Geronimo isn’t very phonetic for “G”).

  • Barry Freed

    Good article but this bit was some back-pedaling BS:
    Back at the White House Situation Room, word was relayed that bin Laden had been found, signaled by the code word “Geronimo.” That was not bin Laden’s code name, but rather a representation of the letter “G.” Each step of the mission was labeled alphabetically, and “Geronimo” meant that the raiders had reached step “G,” the killing or capture of bin Laden, two officials said.
    No phonetic alphabet in use in the US has ever used “Geronimo” for “G” to my knowledge. It’s been “Golf” since the mid 50’s when a NATO standard was adopted. Before that it was “George” (which like “Geronimo” isn’t very phonetic).

    • ajay

      You wouldn’t always use phonetics as prowords, Barry. Could be confusing. You use prowords that you won’t want to use in any other context.

      • bin Laden could have been wielding a golf club. Then what would the SEALs do?

        • ajay

          Fortuntately, US courts have decided that wielding a golf club is a summary execution offence.

      • Barry Freed

        Right, saw your 4:30pm post above, your explanation sounds more plausible.

  • Barry Freed

    Sorry for the double, I got back an error message saying the site was unavailable when I hit post.

  • The Tragically Flip

    I agree there were risks to the raid, but I think there were considerable risks in not doing a raid too:

    – A missile could miss and kill a bunch of high ranking Pakistani military members or their families (very bad outcome)

    – a missile could hit, but America would not be sure Osama had been there or had died

    – doing nothing runs the risk of becoming Obama’s “tora bora” moment of missing a chance to get Bin Laden, and this would come out if he didn’t do something with it

    I also think the risk of an Eagle Claw debacle were considerably less and the political outcome *of* such a debacle also less. It would hurt Obama to have a raid go badly, but I don’t think nearly as much as it hurt Carter.

  • Anderson

    “It would hurt Obama to have a raid go badly, but I don’t think nearly as much as it hurt Carter.”

    I don’t know why you think that. Obama’s approval rating has hovered below 50% for a while, unemployment is near 10%, and Obama is the target of a Republican propaganda machine the likes of which Carter never had to fear while in the White House. Plus, of course, Obama is a Kenyan jihadi socialist.

    • The Tragically Flip

      Mainly because America had been at peace for Carter’s presidency, and has been at war for all of Obama’s. Soldiers have been regularly dying for 10 years. It’s hard to imagine a few special forces dying in a chance to get a very special and desirable target would make all that much difference to Obama’s approval.

      Or maybe it would, counterfactuals is hard, but I think the comparison to Carter needs to be a lot deeper than just “raid goes badly-> therefore horrific political downfall”

  • Pingback: Harold Koh: “Killing OBL Was Legal Because We Said Drone Warfare Was Legal Last Year, Though We Didn’t Use Drones… Oh, and You Only Have to Accept Surrender if You Feel Like It.” : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

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