Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stop the Nit Picking

When we picked up this morning’s newspaper we expected to find front page news about the amazing military operation that took down Osama bin Laden.  We expected more information about how bin laden was found and more details about the mission.  Instead we found ideological debates about the use of torture, hand wringing over whether or not bin laden was armed when he was shot, and deep concern over the potential release of photographs of bin laden’s body.  We were naïve to expect anything less.
In this world where the 15 minute news cycle and bi-partisan politics coexist it is difficult to find any event that doesn’t turn into a political debate within seconds of its taking place.  We thought that for just once an event as important as the “bin laden story” would rise above all of that.  We were wrong.
Today’s papers report that the ideologues on both sides of the aisle are arguing over whether or not enhanced interrogation techniques were instrumental in bringing down bin Laden.  Proponents argue that many important details that led us to bin Laden were obtained through the use of interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration.   Detractors disagree; pointing out that the information came from other sources where the techniques were not used.
 First of all we find the use of the term “enhanced interrogation techniques” insulting.  These techniques constitute torture.  When we agreed to the terms of the Geneva Accords we said that we would not torture prisoners.  We agreed that the International Red Cross would determine what constituted torture; and they have determined that the tactics authorized by former President Bush and Vice President  Dick Cheney do in fact constitute torture.  So let’s just call it what it is and stop the posturing.
The point is whether or not these “techniques” provided valuable information for this mission is irrelevant.  Anyone who understands how these operations work knows that it is never one piece of information but thousands of bits of information coming together to form a conclusion.  In this case information gathered over seven years led to the take down of bin Laden.  Thousands of people working day and night pulled this together.  To mine this story for political points is insulting.
Then there are those whose sensibilities are offended by the fact that bin Laden was not armed when he was shot.  They want to know if he was given the opportunity to surrender or mercilessly executed in cold blood.
It is easy for people like this to sit in their recliners and play Monday morning quarterback. They forget that we are at war.  A group of very brave Navy Seals flies into a foreign country and under cover of darkness repels into a huge compound.  One of their choppers is damaged upon landing.  Before going in they do not know if they can get out.  Undaunted they continue the mission.  They enter the three story building where they are met with intense automatic weapon fire.  Confusion and heart pounding terror ensues as they go room to room not knowing what lay beyond each closed door.  They meet resistance and they eliminate their attackers.  On the third floor they find bin Laden.  They are rushed by a woman and they subdue her.  Bin Laden makes a move and is killed.  They remove the body and a treasure trove of enemy intelligence.
This was an incredibly successful military operation in a war that we have been fighting for ten years.  The head of the opposing forces was killed and information that may save US lives was retrieved.  To question the actions of the Seals under the circumstances in which they were operating is both disrespectful of their courage and shows a complete lack of understanding of the world in which we live.  This was a mission to get bin Laden dead or alive. It was in fact a death order.  Bin Laden was not armed.    Neither were the three thousand people who died at his hands on September 11.
And last but not least is the concern expressed by those who feel that photos of bin Laden may be too gruesome to show the public.  Whether or not those photos are released should not be about offending sensibilities but rather whether or not their release will help or harm our efforts in this war.  Will these photos serve as a warning for future terrorists?  Will they send the message that no matter how long it takes this will be your end?  Or will they serve as a rallying point to embolden our enemies to seek revenge? 
This is a war.  It is ugly and it is very, very real.  People die and are injured each and every day.  Unfortunately only 1% of America is invested in this war.  We are content to live our lives lost in texting, tweeting and friending while others do the heavy lifting. Most of us don’t give a damn.  Yet we are quick to criticize the actions of those who willingly place their lives on the line on our behalf.   
America needs to wake up.  The country is at war and we have just realized a major victory.  The man who started it all is dead.  The reason that we have lost so much in blood and treasure has been eliminated in one of the most professionally executed military operations in our history.  Let’s leave the nit picking for another time and focus on the fact that finally after ten years we have accomplished what we set out to do.  We have brought justice to those that attacked us on 9/11.
Mission Accomplished!  Now let’s bring the troops home and focus on improving the lives of the American people.                    

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