Home / General / Is Barack Osama taking too much credit for the assassination of Obama bin Laden?

Is Barack Osama taking too much credit for the assassination of Obama bin Laden?

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That is the difficult question with which former Attorney General Michael Mukasey grapples in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. Surprisingly, he concludes that the answer is “yes.”

His evidence for this proposition is a bit scanty. For example, he makes the extremely implausible claim that “the operation contained a responsibility-escape clause:”

A recently disclosed memorandum from then-CIA Director Leon Panetta shows that the president’s celebrated derring-do in authorizing the operation included a responsibility-escape clause: “The timing, operational decision making and control are in Admiral McRaven’s hands. The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the President. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the President for his consideration. The direction is to go in and get bin Laden and if he is not there, to get out.”

Which is to say, if the mission went wrong, the fault would be Adm. McRaven’s, not the president’s.

This seems like a willful misreading of the purpose of such a clause. Surely Mukasey is not so naive is to believe that a clause of this sort would have the slightest political value (quite the contrary) if the president were to cite it after the fact in an attempt to mitigate his own responsibility in the wake of a failed mission? Indeed even imagining such a thing seems like some sort of right-wing fever dream regarding the supposed tendency of “the left” (sic) to engage in preposterous legalistic arguments for political purposes. How could anyone bad enough at politics to try something like that get elected president in the first place anyway? (Besides through the devious workings of the liberal media conspiracy and the Illuminati of course).

Mukasey then goes on to cite the example of Dwight Eisenhower, who composed a famous letter in anticipation of the potential failure of the D-Day operation:

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Harve area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.

One is tempted — indeed I am tempted — to point out that in June 1944, Eisenhower was not the politician who ordered the attack, but rather the military commander who had been put directly in charge of the operation whose failure prudence required him to anticipate.

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  • ploeg

    Indeed, who is to say that Barack Obama didn’t think long and hard about what he was to say if the mission was a failure? Does Mukasey seriously think that the Navy Seals were part of an Impossible Missions Force that the Secretary would disavow if they were caught or killed?

    If there were any amount of risk in conducting such an operation, it would be very easy for a POTUS to hold back and trust that the essential secrecy and uncertainty that underlies these types of operations would prevent any substantial political fallout. Certainly the Tora Bora decision was questioned from all quarters, but Bush didn’t suffer from making the decision that he did.

    • efgoldman

      Certainly the Tora Bora decision was questioned from all quarters, but Bush didn’t suffer from making the decision that he did.

      I sincerely believe he never made a decision. Of course, in the classic business phrase, the Decider not deciding is also a decision.

  • Hogan

    So Obama shouldn’t talk about the bin Laden assassination a year later, during his reelection campaign, because Lincoln didn’t talk about Lee’s surrender when he ran for reelection in 1868. Got it.

    • Spud

      So Obama shouldn’t talk about the bin Laden assassination a year later, during his reelection campaign, because Lincoln didn’t talk about Lee’s surrender when he ran for reelection in 1868. Got it.

      LOL!

  • swearyanthony

    We all know, of course, how General James Vaught had to take all the blame for the failure of the Iranian hostage mission.

    (Yes, I had to look his name up on wikipedia)

    • mark f

      That just proves that even History’s Greatest Monster Jimmy Carter didn’t sink as low as Barack Obama.

      • swearyanthony

        OH MY GOD.

        That explains why Obama is out there encouraging the Guinea worm. That bastard.

  • rea

    It’s an odd sort of responsibility-escape clause, which makes it clear that all decisions regarding the risk of the operation were to be made by the President.

    • swearyanthony

      There was a special footnote written in magic muslim kenyan writing. I was only able to read the last bit, it said “no backsies”.

  • Scott Lemieux

    I don’t understand the implication that Mukasey is a greasy Republican hack — does that mean that Ben Wittes was wrong?

    • swearyanthony

      *applause* Do you actually have a little file of index cards of this stuff beside your desk in your mountain top lair?

      Or did the career guidance people lie to me about the life of a blogger?

  • david mizner

    Paul, I don’t think you’re supposed to say they assassinated OBL. The proper Orwellian phrase is the “delivered justice” to him. It sounds almost pleasant. Of course Obama deserves “credit” for the killing; whether credit is deserved is another matter.

    Mukasey was one of the people who, a couple days after the killing, was saying torture had led the U.S. to OBL. In one of his better moments in the last decade, McCain basically called him a liar.

    • swearyanthony

      Pretty sure the term isn’t torture. It’s “freedom tickling”.

      • bexley

        French tickling?

  • This meme has been floating around the right-wing echo chamber for a bit more than a week. I’m surprised it took so long to reach a major print outlet. Of course, the memo means precisely the opposite of what Mukasey claims.

    http://duckofminerva.blogspot.com/2012/04/osama-bin-laden-by-us-special-forces.html

    • swearyanthony

      There are times when you think man, TBogg was kinda harsh there. And then there’s Shapiro, where you instead go “no, no, that was fair. smack him again”.

    • Warren Terra

      Yeah, one of our trolls trotted out the notion that by having a Navy Admiral arrange the carrying out of his order by Navy Seals, Obama was evading responsibility somehow, was doing something wrong.

      I understand that when Saddam was caught Dubya briefed the team that went in personally.

      • swearyanthony

        Pretty sure Dubya parachuted in there and kung-fu chopped Saddam to the ground. Or he would have, but he had to go to Alabama to work on a campaign for a friend of his Dad’s.

        • brautigan

          Swearyanthony, FTW.

          • swearyanthony

            so long as no-one checks the fonts, I think I’ll get away with it.

      • Some Guy
      • FYI

        McRaven was not in operational command because he is a Navy Admiral but because he runs SOCOM and oversees the special operations of all the branches.

  • mds

    Well, I for one am inclined to give this Mukasey person the benefit of the doubt. This is obviously nothing more than his lack of familiarity with how the chain of command works. He should have talked to someone with a military background, who could have set him straight on such matters.

    • Bill Murray

      c’mon Musaky was a General

      • mds

        Your nom de plume is “Bill Murray,” and you can’t recognize sarcasm?

        • Hogan

          Apparently no more than you can recognize an “attorney general” joke.

          • Warren Terra

            I think that should be:

            rather more than you can recognize an “Attorney General” joke.

            • Hogan

              Yes. Yes it should.

              • mds

                Ahem. Not only did George W. Mukasey, Jr. serve as Army Chief of Staff, but his father was also a general.

                … What?

    • Manju

      Agreed. He should’ve spoken with Joycelyn Elders. She would’ve told him what he should do.

      • Warren Terra

        What is your problem with Elders? And when has she meddled in politics with a political motive, as opposed to opining on public health on the basis of her expertise? Heck, she was fired from her job as Surgeon General for being impolitic: she said things that were simply not uttered in Victorian drawing rooms but were simple common sense regarding public health. The whole business was in no way convenient for or desired by the Clinton Administration. You don’t have to like her, but in what way is she a partisan?

        • Malaclypse

          I think Manju was making a joke along the lines of Mukasey being a wanker.

          • rea

            Or a general.

            • or a general wanker.

            • dangermaus

              or a general wanker

  • Jim Lynch

    As if it would have been remotely possible for Obama to escape censure if things went bad. Nor would this president attempt to evade responsibility. That was a specialty of Mukasey’s old boss, and probably explains his incoherence.

    • Spud

      Frankly, a video of Obama using OBL’s skull as an ashtray would still be a little too understated a reaction for my tastes.

    • Heron

      They’re just pissed that they spent so much time calling his “Carter born again” only for to succeed precisely where Carter failed the most.

      And I’ve yet to see anyone who takes their whining seriously on it. We all know that if Shrub had killed bin Laden, Cheney probably would have saved the skull and had it made into a bronze spittoon.

      • Warren Terra

        Leaving all hyperbole and fantasizing (on our parts) aside, isn’t it a matter of record that the Bush White House had carefully worked out protocols for the delivery to Dubya’s office of Osama’s head preserved on dry ice?

        • Malaclypse

          I’m just surprised they did not specify the heart as well, given Cheney’s condition.

          • Warren Terra

            I am in a spirit of bipartisan generosity willing to stipulate that Osama was no less of a heartless monster than Cheney.

            • swearyanthony

              I thought Obama had a kidney problem, not a heart problem?

            • swearyanthony

              Oh god damnit, I meant Osama. This is central to my point. Or something.

              • RhZ

                Ha classic!

  • Hogan

    Is Barack Osama taking too much credit for the assassination of Obama bin Laden?

    I see what you did there.

    • Worried that I’m being captain obvious

      Damn you, Hogan! I took one minute too long to think about all the possibilities!

  • Worried that I’m being captain obvious

    I really want to believe the typo in the header is a meta-comment that everyone’s just appreciating unspokenly, and that I’m the only one to break that fourth wall and ruin the joke, but just in case I’m not…um.

  • TT

    “This seems like a willful misreading of….”

    And that, in a nutshell, is the WSJ Editorial Page’s preferred M.O.

  • Spud

    I still love how this can be part of a campaign slogan.

    Thanks to the president, Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.

  • Anderson

    Of COURSE in the alternative D-Day-failed universe, FDR hung Ike out to dry – that’s what Democrat presidents do! In ALL universes!

  • Heron

    The ingratitude of these Shrubites astounds me. If Obama had been the leftists they paint him to be, or even just an ethical patrician like FDR, he could have pursued criminal charges against these idiots pertaining to Bush II’s various illegalities and he’d have had them dead to right. Instead, he willfully obstructs any attempt to wring even a margin of justice out of their crimes and all he gets for it is a smirk and wet shoes. Why even throw aside principles for the sake of power when this is what passes for gratitude among the USian “elite”?

  • joe from Lowell

    This is purely defensive, an attempt to muddy the waters and take the luster off the issue. Not even Mukasey believes this nonsense; it’s just an attempt to get people to think about the “controversy” instead of the actual policy and outcome.

    Treating these claims as something worth arguing about only aids Mukasey’s purpose. A column like this warrants two responses: an insult, and a reiteration of the actual, meaningful point: Obama ordered the mission, and that decision showed a lot of intestinal fortitude.

  • ploeg

    Well, this is an interesting analogy:

    Ohio State auditor Dave Yost, one of the local politicians warming up the crowd for Romney before his event Monday, said Obama claiming credit for the Bin Laden raid was like “giving Ronald McDonald credit for the Big Mac you ate for lunch.” Yost continued on to say “the guy at the griddle deserved credit.”

    The appropriate sarcastic follow-up questions are left as an exercise for the reader.

    • Hogan

      Next week, Yost will tell us how Reagan won the Cold War.

    • joe from Lowell

      Ohio State auditor Dave Yost, one of the local politicians warming up the crowd for Romney before his event Monday, said Obama claiming credit for the Bin Laden raid was like “giving Ronald McDonald credit for the Big Mac you ate for lunch.” Yost continued on to say “the guy at the griddle deserved credit.”

      What a rousing message for the electorate. Vote for Romney, he knows the decisions a President makes don’t matter very much.

      • Malaclypse

        Obama claiming credit for the Bin Laden raid was like “giving Ronald McDonald credit for the Big Mac you ate for lunch.” Yost continued on to say “the guy at the griddle deserved credit.”

        Wait, has Yost forgotten that Ronald McDonald is a job creator?

        • jefft452

          “the guy at the griddle deserved credit.”

          but not any of the profits

    • Warren Terra

      Isn’t the whole point of McDonalds that its operations have been incredibly carefully designed and studied and optimized, such that they can use interchangeable low-wage workers with minimal training and get exactly the same result each time with maximal efficiency? In other words, that you owe the utter delight of your Big Mac to a whole team of labcoated specialists and years of optimization, and not to the person on the thin end of the spatula?

      • Anonymous Coward

        Much like Ohio State?

        • joe from Lowell

          Sir, you know I’ve been working at my father’s farm, and I’ll be coming into it someday. I don’t drink no ‘shine, I go to church on Sundays, and I done good when I was in school.

          And so, er, sir, I would like to ask for your comment’s hand in marriage. I’ll take real good care of it.

      • Malaclypse

        I’m just floored that his example of a good meal was a Big Mac.

    • mark f

      I saw this analogy via a wingnut cow-orker on Facebook the other day. It looks like the Yostest with the Mostest mangled the punchline. “You thank the guy who cooked the burger, not the clown.” Obama is a clown! Lol!

    • mark f

      P.S. Does anyone remember John Kerry’s “botched joke” whereby the decorated vet supposedly called everyone in the military stupid? He had to apologize for it several times.

      When do you think non-vet Dave Yost or Silver Spoon Cipher Mitt Romney will be asked to apologize for comparing Navy SEALS to the type of minimum wage employees most likely to be the “you-want-fries-with-that?” punchline of Mark Steyn’s best attempts at jokes?

    • H-Bob

      Then why does McDonald’s CEO get the bonus ?

  • creature

    Yost was just fluffing the McDonald’s workers who are undecided as to who to vote for, who ‘really cares’ about them.

    Mukasey, and all the other subhumans from the Duya Era of Endarkenment, should crawl off and shut up, at the very least. At most, they should speak in glowing, respectful tones regarding the man who held their lives in his hands, and didn’t squeeze REAL HARD!

    • joe from Lowell

      Do-do-do-do-doo…Im-poverished.

  • J R

    I have to confess that my biggest disappointment with Mr. Obama is his refusal to try the war criminals of the Bush administration.

    Perhaps his unspoken rationale is that if he climbed the chain of command of torturers with true dispassionate objectivity he would be forced to accuse G W Bush of being a war criminal in a court of law. This would be an earth-shattering blow to the body politic and would make anyone pause for deep thought.

    But while we all know that “following orders” is no excuse for committing a war crime, and the only person in the Bush administration who wouldn’t- couldn’t – have cried “I was just following orders!” was the shrub. Part of me wanted to see shrub in the dock with all my might.

    The rest of me has finally seen that it would have been a political firestorm. Perhaps in his second term President Obama will take out the lower tiers of torture, not allowing the accused to even discuss who gave them orders in public. In a more perfect world, anyway.

    In any case, President Obama made the critical decision to go for bin Laden and the men at the sharp point of the spear carried the mission out with great skill and aplomb – I’m proud of them and the President for carrying out the mission successfully.

    The R’s are a continuing clown show, I hope they don’t realize that their leaders are bigger clowns that Ronald Mc and stop the show.

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