Home / Robert Farley / On the Value of Getting bin Laden

On the Value of Getting bin Laden


I don’t have too much to add to Greg Sargent’s take on the “Jimmy Carter would have given the order” Romney claim, but just to summarize:

1. The mission that killed bin Laden was risky in operational terms, in international political terms, and probably in domestic political terms. It’s not quite right to say that the failure of Eagle Claw cost Carter the 1980 election, but it surely didn’t help. Moreover, Obama could opted for the less risky, more destructive, less certain bombing attack.
2. There is no guarantee whatsoever that Republicans would have given Obama a pass on the failure of the mission to net bin Laden, or if it had resulted in substantial U.S. casualties. 2011 ain’t 1980; indeed, I’d have been extremely surprised if the failure of a bin Laden mission didn’t become central to alterna-Romney’s national security pitch.
3. Romney accepted this risk in 2007 when he implied that getting bin Laden wasn’t a priority. Romney may have even been right (although killing or capturing bin Laden was clearly worth some risk), but in saying so he clearly put himself in foreseeable political jeopardy. As it turned out, the mission could be accomplished at substantially less cost than Romney suggested, which is also a problem.
4. This is what it looks like when Democrats go for the jugular. It’s hardly barbaric for the campaign to trumpet the President’s role in killing a man suspected of the mass murder of Americans.

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  • “It’s hardly barbaric for the campaign to trumpet the President’s role in killing a man suspected of the mass murder of Americans.”

    At what point would the celebration become barbaric?

    • hrsn

      putting his head on a pike and parading around with it.

      • Warren Terra

        Or issuing detailed instructions for the transportation of his head to the Oval Office on dry ice. Or putting his gold-plated pistol on the mantelpiece, and pointing it out to visitors.

        • firefall

          not to mention the traditional gilding the skull and retaining it as a drinking vessel

          • Spud

            Stalin used to keep Hitler’s skull on his desk as a paperweight.

            I always thought that was kinda cool.

        • rea

          putting his gold-plated pistol on the mantelpiece

    • patrick II

      Walking around a flight deck i a codpiece.

  • Dr. Omed

    It is hardly barbaric, the assassination of an enemy of empire is much more Romanish.

    • “…an enemy of empire…”


      • Margarita

        Technically, empires. Plural. Good point.

        • chris

          We didn’t assassinate him for his opposition to our empire(s); we assassinated him for his mass murder of our civilians.

          Proof: we haven’t done the same thing to Noam Chomsky, even though we’ve known for much longer where to find him.

          • Hogan

            Also it’s not smart to fuck with MIT.

    • Ian

      No, the Roman way would have been to cut off his head and hands, bring them to Washington and nail them to the central rostrum in the Senate. Jill Biden could then drop by to pull out his tongue and publicly jab it with a hatpin. That’s exactly what the Romans did to Cicero after he was proscribed.

      Barbaric? Civilized empires have always been more thorough and systematic in their horrorshows.

      • rea

        That’s exactly what the Romans did to Cicero after he was proscribed.

        If you believe Cassius Dio, who is not the most reliable of sources.

      • jefft452

        “That’s exactly what the Romans did to Cicero after he was proscribed”

        Jill Biden is a lot older then she looks

  • mark f

    “Jimmy Carter would have given the order”

    Didn’t Republicans spend about 8 years blaming 9/11 on Bill Clinton because he gave no such order?

    • c u n d gulag

      Consistency shows a Liberal bias.

    • joe from Lowell

      Didn’t Republicans spend about 8 years blaming 9/11 on Bill Clinton because he gave no such order?

      Yes, but only after 3 years of blaming him for giving such an order, calling it Wag the Dog.

  • Bitter Scribe

    Even Jimmy Carter? EVEN??

    Attention Mitt Romney: Jimmy Carter has devoted his life to serving his country and humanity, before, during and after his presidency. He’s worth three of you, you company-destroying, job-drowning, would-be-Detroit-bankrupting, pandering, flip-flopping, car-elevator-installing, mealymouthed entitled piece of shit.

    • NBarnes

      This, too.

    • mark f

      Mitt Romney is a patriot with a long record of service. For example, in 1966 he supported the war effort by making it clear that people who attempted to avoid being drafted by means other than missionary deferments were traitorous shirkers.

    • Anonymous

      I think it’s more telling that he thinks comparing Obama to Carter is a zinger. It was over 30 years ago, dude. No one cares.

      • Republicans can recall the Carter years clearly; it is the Bush Administration that they are hazy about.

    • Emma in Sydney

      James Fallows tore him a new one for this too.

      • bill

        Thanks, Democratic party, for sticking up for one of your own for all these years, such that tripe like this can dribble from the lips of an empty suit like Willard Romney and most Americans don’t even bat an eye. Where’s the circle of Hell for people who turn their backs on their friends and benefactors? I forget, but it’s way the fuck down there.

        • The fact that Carter and the liberal wing of the Congressional Democratic caucus didn’t really get along very well during his actual term is probably as much at fault for that as anything else.

        • John

          It’s not like Jimmy Carter ever stuck up for the Democratic Party. When you get elected president by running against your own party, don’t be surprised if your own party disowns you after your presidency is an embarrassing failure.

    • Ian

      I got what America Needs Right Here,” an editorial by Jimmy Carter.

      “Why ask old Jimmy anything? What the f— could he know about peace in the Middle East? It’s not like he f—ing won the Nobel Peace Prize for that s—. You myopic pricks…You got a global warming problem? Boo-f—ing-hoo! I was telling you morons to turn off your lights and unplug all your s— at night to conserve energy in 19-f—in’-75, for chrissake…I even got a degree in nuclear engineering or some s—. You know how easy I could swoop down right now like a guardian angel and solve all your f—ing problems? Snap. Bam. Do it in my f—ing sleep… You had your chance with Jimmy Carter, and you f—ing blew it.”

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      It’s worth noting that the outrageous b.s. coming from the Romney camp about this is a lot easier to evaluate than the actual assassination of bin Laden.

    • joe from Lowell

      Harrumph, harrumph! In a good way.

  • Gareth Wilson

    Jonah Goldberg, of all people, had the right response to this: Obama would have been criticised if the mission had failed, so he deserves praise since it succeeded. Goldberg was talking about a mission against Somali pirates, but the same applies here.

  • TT

    On this matter, the GOP’s been reduced to sports talk radio-level analysis, i.e. Obama’s the coach who won the Super Bowl/BCS Championship with George W. Bush’s players. Obama’s reminding the nation that he drafted and recruited a big chunk of the team, drew up the game plan, and called the plays. The only reason the GOP’s tender sensibilities are offended is because he’s doing exactly what they’d do if the shoe were on the other foot, only better, because this was an actual Mission Accomplished and it was done at his behest starting pretty much the day he became president.

    • c u n d gulag

      It’s not “Mission Accomplished” until you fly onto an aircraft carrier in a 2-seat jet and prance around on the deck in a flight-suit with an over-stuffed codpiece, change, and in a business suit, declare victory to the MSM in front of a banner, placed there by your political team, that says “Mission Accomplished!”
      Even if you’re nowhere NEAR victory, just starting to organize a very disorganized occupation, and you’re not even close to accomplishing your mission – whatever the feckin’ hell that was, besides invading and occupying a country that your Daddy was too smart to attempt, and your VP agreed with his assessment back then, before he had his 4,297th heart attack, and apparently lost his mind after losing his soul (if he ever really had one in the first place).

      And that, children, is how Conservatives determine it’s time to declare “Mission Accomplished!”

      Also to:
      If you’re a Democrat, especially a black one, and you do accomplish a mission, you must not take credit for it.
      You must show humility, lest you be perceived as showboating!

      And thank goodness Obama didn’t fly in on a helicopter onto an aircraft carrier and prance around on the deck in a flight-suit with an over-stuffed codpiece, change, and in a business suit, declare victory to the MSM in front of a banner, placed there by his political team, that says “Mission Accomplished! OBL Killed!!!”
      That wouldn’t be mere showboating.
      That would be GRANDSTANDING!!!

      And that, children, is how Conservatives celebrate.

      • That would be GRANDSTANDING!!!

        I can’t wait for someone at the National Review to write a lengthy screed that ties this together with how end-zone dances are ruining the NFL (because of the influence of “urban” players, of course.)

  • Ken

    [In 2007] Romney may have even been right […], but in saying so he clearly put himself in foreseeable political jeopardy.

    Once again you show that you don’t think like a CEO. They don’t ask “will this be good for my political career/company five years down the line,” they do whatever maximizes the benefit to themselves today.

    • Taj Mahalo

      This is true, and a really good reason to hope that Romney gets soundly beaten this November.

  • cpinva

    of course, that’s the rub:

    It’s hardly barbaric for the campaign to trumpet the President’s role in killing a man suspected of the mass murder of Americans.

    which is exactly the reason the taliban gov’t of afghanistan didn’t go get him in the first place: the bush administration could never produce the evidence required, under our extradition treaty with said gov’t. that was pretty much all the taliban asked for, and the bush administration either wouldn’t, or couldn’t come up with. instead, we got the first of two unnecessary wars. this is one of those minor, annoying details, that everyone, and i do mean everyone, chooses to conveniently ignore.

    it was at that point we stopped being a gov’t of laws, and started (and really haven’t stopped) being a gov’t of “might makes right”.

    • which is exactly the reason the taliban gov’t of afghanistan didn’t go get him in the first place: the bush administration could never produce the evidence required, under our extradition treaty with said gov’t. that was pretty much all the taliban asked for, and the bush administration either wouldn’t, or couldn’t come up with.

      Your suggestion that the Taliban government would have turned bin Laden over to the U.S. if it had only been presented evidence is laughable.

      it was at that point we stopped being a gov’t of laws, and started (and really haven’t stopped) being a gov’t of “might makes right”.

      Really? It was right then, and never before that? Really?

      • dave

        I believe it was actually some time around when the Yazoo Companies were allowed to overrun Indian lands, shortly after the Algonquians of the Ohio Valley had been stomped. Which would suggest that the notion of the USA as a ‘government of laws’ lasted about a year after the drafting of the Constitution, and possibly not even as long as its actual ratification.

    • I’m pretty sympathetic to some parts of this: E.g., I don’t think it was bonkers for the generally loathsome Taliban to demand some evidence and that treating that with the distain we had didn’t strengthen international law or even the international order in any useful way (whether the Taliban were sincere or merely conducting lawfare is immaterial, I think).

      Hmm. Maybe I’ve been too quick with that:

      However the Taliban ruled not to extradict Bin Laden on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence published in the indictments and that non-Muslim courts lacked standing to try Muslims…

      Despite the multiple indictments listed above and multiple requests, the Taliban refused to extradite Osama bin Laden. They did however offer to try him before an Islamic court if evidence of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the September 11 attacks was provided. It was not until eight days after the bombing of Afghanistan began in October 2001 that the Taliban finally did offer to turn over Osama bin Laden to a third-party country for trial in return for the United States ending the bombing. This offer was rejected by President Bush stating that this was no longer negotiable, with Bush responding “there’s no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he’s guilty.” In June 2006 FBI’s chief of investigative publicity, Rex Tomb, saw no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.

      Ok, the essence still seems right, though there are more complicated details. I don’t think it’s wildly unreasonable to wonder if someone like bin Laden could get a fair trial in the US. (Alas.) It seemed negotiable. (I’d be really interested in direct evidence that the Taliban were trying to play us purely and simply.)

      However, the grounds for killing him could be military rather than criminal. If there were militarily sufficient evidence that bin Laden retained sufficient operational control of al Quada (tattered though it be), then treating him as a combatant could be reasonable. (Of course, this is immensely complicated by all the non-combatant malarky Bush came up with.

      But then line drawing becomes harder. Teasing out an operationalizable difference between bin Laden and al-Awlaki seems really tough, and yet al-Awlaki seems to me much less prima facie justifiable.

      I think having some clear legal doctrine covering stateless combatant like people would really help. Given that al Quada members seem to lack either criminal nor POWesque protections, it’s hard to see what incentive they could have for surrendering or for third parties to see these actions as legitimate, even if they are justifiable (i.e., in the sense that one could make them legitimate pretty easily).

      • rea

        Teasing out an operationalizable difference between bin Laden and al-Awlaki seems really tough, and yet al-Awlaki seems to me much less prima facie justifiable.

        In other words, you a priori position that killing al-Awlaki was illegal has shaken your confidence in your previous reasoned conclusion that the killing of bin Laden was jusitified.

        • I don’t think that’s a correct paraphrase. I would say that my reasoning about whether there’s a military (vs. a standard) justification for taking out bin Laden makes me wonder if I’m wrong about al-Awlaki. It’s reasonable to wonder if the two cases stand or fall together and under what sorts of regimes they are (or are not) justifiable.

          But, of course, I test my moral reasoning by considering how it works with my moral intuitions in like cases. (Cf. Rawls; wide reflective equilibrium, etc. Sometimes the intuitions win; sometimes, the reasoning does; it depends on a lot of factors.)

          (And note the use of “prima facie”. It’s open that I’m wrong about both, or the difference is in my assessment of the evidence, not in the fundamental approach or…)

          And, of course, legality under some regime doesn’t commit me to accepting either.

      • Joe

        al-Awlaki is a U.S. citizen, so it is not really unreasonable (including in a legal sense) to require more evidence of a connection.

        Likewise, OBL is a clearer case of an operational leader, even if the organization was “tattered” (though to my knowledge, it wasn’t defunct or anything) at that time.

        Congress authorized force against such individuals and the proof necessary was in no way as high as that needed to convict in a trial, military or civil.

        al Quada members per Hamdan v. Rumsfeld do have basic Geneva Convention protections. It is actually a myth that there is some class of people who have NO protections in that respect, though POWs have MORE protections. If tried, they do have “criminal” protections.

        Other “third parties” have reaffirmed the point, as shown by rulings in places like UK and Canada.

        • I agree that it’s not unreasonable; I just don’t share it. I.e., I’m pretty skeptical about a principle that protects US citizens from assassination but not like situation non-US citizens. I don’t think being a US citizen is a morally relevant distinction there!

          I’m a bit hesitant to say that OBL was more clearly an operational leader at the time than al-Awlaki because, well, I just don’t know. Or rather, I’m not sure how operational they need to be to justify targeting them in this sort of military action. (E.g., Is the US President as CIC a legitimate military target under current international law?)

          (BTW, I totally admit that my knowledge isn’t firm on any of this! Some of this is me trying to work things out. Hence my talking about Bush muddling. I’d forgotten about Hamdan. It still seems tricky, at best, to justify killing Osama after capture. If he’s a POW, he obviously can’t be just killed, but if a criminal, well, that’s even harder.)

          I’m not clear that Congressional authorization is sufficient here. I mean, Congress presumably can’t authorize arbitrary force against arbitrary people.

          (But again, my understanding is pretty tentative at best!)

          • “I mean, Congress presumably can’t authorize arbitrary force against arbitrary people.”

            Under what authority? As far as their Constitutional war making powers go, there’s basically no formal limit in their desire to authorize hostilities against any non-domestic threat they see fit to.

            • 5th and 14th amendements?

              I’ve no idea how they interact with war declaration. But then is authorization of force and declaration of war the same thing here?

              (Hmm. Letters of marque and reprisal could probably do the job.)

              Of course, while (I suspect) constitutional, Congress can’t make the execution of POWs not a war crime.

          • Joe

            I don’t think ‘assassination’ occurred here and am not claiming that it is only disallowed for citizens. Whatever it is, it is illegal in general.

            U.S. citizens DO have more rights than non-citizens. For instance, non-citizens can be expelled. Also, the feds have a special obligation to actively protect citizens abroad. The feds don’t have an equal obligation to protect any person in the world from attack. Also, by statute, citizens have more protections, so Al Awalki would have certain additional protections in certain situations.

            Again, even non-citizens, even Al Qaida, has rights, including when tried as criminals. As to the operational status of OBL etc., clearly, we are speaking as outsiders here. As to killing OBL, the AUMF 2001 allows lethal force against such people. Once in custody, yes, we can’t just shoot him. But, he could have been prosecuted for some capital crime, including related to 9/11, if the evidence was available.

            • Re: whether assassination occurred: I just wanted an example where the citizenship status was reasonably immaterial, though I think it’s a reasonable possibility to describe each case. (Indeed, I’m not sure what else describes al-Awlaki’s case.)

              I agree that there are all sorts of differences between citizens and non-citizens, and perhaps those do explain the differences. But I don’t see that any of your examples are exactly relevant, are they? Hmm. Ok, expulsion functionally is similar to criminal punishment, but I think criminal and combatant protections are uniform across citizenship status, aren’t they? If so, I don’t see what the salient differences are.

              (Non-citizens, by and large, can’t commit treason…but that’s not a “greater protection” for non-citizens, is it?)

              I agree that we don’t know the full story of OBL’s operational activity at the time of his death (or, for that matter, everything about the evidence for his involvement in 9/11). I’m not sure where we disagree about the rest, either.

    • One of these days, people may stop substituting “illegal” for “I don’t like that.”


      • joe from Lowell

        People who use the word “illegal” to mean “something I don’t like” are violating my Constitutional rights, and quite possibly committing war crimes.

    • joe from Lowell

      What is it that makes people so gullible about Mullah Omar and his offer to turn over his biggest funder/son-in-law/old comrade-in-arms/head of his military’s training operation to the United States?

      It’s always the same people who feign such hard-nosed skepticism about any liberal political figure, who seem to think that the guy who had the Iranian embassy staff massacred can be taken at his word when he says that he would turn over, to the United States, a close advisor and family who killed civilians as part of a jihad.

      • Hmm. I don’t know. Do I feign such hard-nosed skepticism about any liberal political figure?

        I think there’s a defensible, if not ideal, position that hold that sticking to procedure even when several of the actors are not good faith actors is obligatory.

        I think that immediately after 9/11 that the possibility of a follow up attack was pretty low, so I think going a few more rounds and building up diplomatic pressure wouldn’t have been unreasonable and would have demonstrated a powerful commitment to law.

        I’d be interested in seeing the full array of evidence against bin Laden, including what was known when.

        • wengler

          There was a follow-up attack though. The anthrax attacks scared the shit out of anyone that could’ve been critical of the Bush administration.

          • How are the anthrax attacks follow ups (i.e., second wave al Qaeda attacks)?

        • joe from Lowell

          sticking to procedure

          Actually, declaring war and using military force is “sticking to procedure” for responding to an attack on your country by a foreign force. Giving bin Laden’s protectors a last chance to turn him over before the bombing begins is going above and beyond.

          • Why then ask for extradition in the first place? Oh, this is what you meant by going above and beyond. Yes, that’s not unreasonable. I’m not sure I agree, still, but that may be my pacifist strain.

            (And, almost certainly pointlessly, I’d preferred a more explicit and direct declaration. But ok.)

            I’m still unclear what would have been so wrong in, say, putting together an indictment before the ICC or even a US court. I mean, again, what harm would there have been in such gyrations?

            And, well, again, responding to an attack covers a lot more than self-defence, and not all responses are legitimate. I think it’s hard to argue that bombing Afghanistan was any sort of immediate self-defence. Given that bin Laden is the actual perpetuator (is there any evidence that the Taliban were active collaborators?) and the proximate goal, it seems that the dispute between the governments could have been resolved peacefully. In principle, at least.

            I think one can hold this position without thinking all that well of Mullah Omar.

            Since the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan exceed, afaict, the number of civilian deaths in 9/11, I think proportionality is at least prima facie an issue as well. Civilian deaths seem, overall, rather low for the scale of the conflict (and tiny compared to the Soviet invasion), but the harm seems quite high.

    • John

      We did not have an extradition treaty with the Taliban, a government we didn’t even have diplomatic relations with, and which was not recognized by the UN. I suspect that the evidence presented would have been sufficient for extradition in pretty much every country we did have an extradition treaty with.

      • Fair enough.

      • Though, what’s the legitimate response to a country that refuses to extradite a criminal? Surely not invasion!

        Or, say an enemy commander flees a battlefield and ends up in a neutral country. What’s legitimate if the neutral country harbors teh commander?

        (I would guess it makes a difference if the commander is active from the neutral country or not.)

  • Murc

    It’s hardly barbaric for the campaign to trumpet the President’s role in killing a man suspected of the mass murder of Americans.

    … my understanding is that, while in strictly legal terms, Bin Laden was just that (a suspect) on account of how his guilt had never been proven in a law court, to say he was merely “suspected” of mass murder is to render the word almost unusable as a practical matter.

    And secondly, it WOULD be barbaric for the President to have put out a hit on someone who was merely suspected of something. I’m leery of President’s deploying military force against criminals to begin with, but if we’re going to do it at all it had better be against guys whose guilt is slam-dunk, and you don’t get much more of a slam-dunk than Osama bin friggin’ Laden.

    • Joe

      Happily, the U.S. didn’t merely kill OBL because he was a “suspect” but because he was a lawful combatant pursuant to rules of domestic and international law as has been repeatedly been explained by people who in no way support everything Obama does to target Al Qaida etc.

  • rea

    The man issued press releases taking credit, and some are still worried about the sufficiency of the evidence . . .

    • I suppose that doesn’t actually prove anything in a very technical sense…but yeah, it does make it seem as though it’s not really worth any wringing of hands over his death.

    • Rarely Posts

      Yes, confessions are fairly compelling evidence, particularly when they are made via press release, are not rescinded over many years, and are made by a person who is not in custody.

      If only we could have such strong evidence in most criminal prosecutions!

      • Well, yes and no.

        Groups and people take credit for atrocities they didn’t commit.

        bin Laden denied in 2001 and then claimed credit in 2004. Clearly, he lied in one of those cases. There’s a coherent narrative for each scenario.

        • I do wonder why he denied it at first. Surely it wasn’t not shame. Sorta bizarre.

  • david mizner

    I thought this post was going to be about the value of getting Bin Laden.

  • Joe

    On the other hand, some have the Glenn Greenwald approach that feels people are so damn bloodthirsty for celebrating the death of this guy and I went back and forth on someone who kept on saying one of his wives was shot in the leg in the process.

    TPM had an ad (yes; successes are used in campaign ads … shocker that) where Clinton explains the risk Obama took here & how it shows he has what it takes to be a decider (sly reference to Bush). This is just one incident during his presidency where he shows in spades why he deserves re-election.

    • Tony

      Wow, I couldn’t disagree more about Clinton’s invocation of “decider-in-Chief” in that ad. Obama’s running against Romney, not Bush, and if he wants to tie Romney to Bush, using Bush’s vernacular, even with tongue planted firmly in cheek, is not a winning strategery. Even if you just focus on the minority of voters who will get the LOLBUSH subtext, it’s kind of a throwaway cheap shot that I’d expect out of the mouth of Robert Gibbs in a press gaggle, not the Big Dog in a scripted campaign ad.

      • Tony

        Uh, I mean, Jay Carney, of course, not Robert Gibbs.

      • Joe

        The killing of OBL is not really what many liberals think about when wanting to re-elect Obama. This sort of thing is more likely to appeal to others, including swing voters who are not turned off by a tough line on Al Qaeda. It is not meant in that context to be a “cheap shot” but a sign that on foreign policy, there really isn’t a left v. right mentality, but a lot of overlap.

        Obama is in effect running on Romney’s right here, strange as that might seem, taking the Republican “playing from their strength” strategy.

        • Politically, it’s something of a killer defensive line, more than anything. Basically, Obama has taken terrorism out of the GOP playbook for the time being, as anytime Romney or anyone else even thinks about trying to play the “Democrats want to coddle terrorists” card, Obama gets to pull the “who killed Osama again?” ace.

  • Dave

    I’m sure there are limits to the tastefulness of campaigning on killing OBL. The Obama campaign hasn’t come close, but right wing reactions to Obama’s taking credit certainly are innovatively repulsive.

    Second, I will never understand the people who have taken the occasion of bin laden’s death to participate in an imaginary ethical conundrum. There should be a portlandia skit featuring Fred Armisen recalling where he was when obl’s death was announced, in front of a mirror, brushing his teeth, wondering, “Do I really want bin laden dead?”

    • Yes! Maybe this could be combined with he and his wife deliberating over whether or not to buy an American flag. And of course, as Portlandia goes, there would be a significant chance that the skit would go on about 5 minutes beyond the point when it’s no longer funny (my only gripe with that show, which I otherwise love.)

      • Tony

        To be fair, if the same skit were on SNL, it would have gone on 10 minutes beyond the point when it was just barely funny to begin with. Portlandia FTW.

  • joe from Lowell

    Of course Jimmy Carter would have given the order to hunt down and eliminate bin Laden. That’s not even up for discussion.

    The question is, would Mitt Romney have done so?

    “it’s not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”

    • Thomas Jefferson

      Which was, of course, the Bush administration policy.

      So I don’t know where he is. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you. I truly am not that concerned about him.

      • Hogan


        • mark f

          I know how you feel; I had this great list of self-evident truths all typed up for a blog comment, and lo and behold someone else beat me to it.

  • Jonathan

    You’ll probably never read this low in the comments, but why the hell did you write “suspected”? That’s like saying Zimmerman is accused of shooting Trayvon Martin; he’s admitted to the shooting so that’s not in question. In the same way, bin Laden has widely trumpeted his role in the plot; his involvement isn’t in question.

    • There are lots of circumstances where admission of guilt is not particularly good evidence of guilt or at least conclusive evidence of guilt. In Zimmerman’s case, the proximity to the event and (presumably) the physical evidence provide a huge corroboration to his being the shooter. But it’s not like we take the rest of his description of the event at face value.

      Similarly, bin Laden first denied involvement (for several years!) then started using it. One weird aspect of that is why would he have ever denied it? His later trumpeting of it shows that, at least in principle, he has no trouble associating himself with it. Was there any strategic benefit in denying it earlier? What shifted in 2004?

      Now, I do think we’re well beyond a preponderance of evidence level on the public evidence alone (if only for the lack of alternatives; I suppose the most likely alternative story would be that OBL didn’t have anything more than an inspirational role in 9/11 per se and may be have been ignorant of the fact of the plot, at least in its being a reality; i.e., it could have been more of a skunkworks effort than a top down effort; this might explain the delay in admission because he wasn’t confident enough that it wouldn’t turn out to be some other group and didn’t want to be seen making that mistake when it came out; not the super most plausible story, but not mad).

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