Jim Kouri
Obama: Bin Laden's death will aid victory against al-Qaeda
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By Jim Kouri
May 11, 2011

"The Obama personal narrative razzle-dazzle continued as the president appeared on 60 Minutes Sunday night to tell the nation how nerve-racking it was to make a decision. It was tense! His advisors gave him divided counsel! He had to sleep on it! Someone call a wambulance!" — Laura Ingraham, talk host and attorney

The killing of al-Qaeda's notorious leader Osama bin Laden as well as the collection of his abundant intelligence material by U.S. commandos during their raid that killed the world's most wanted terrorist will help the United States deal a serious blow to al-Qaeda, President Barack Obama announced in a "60 Minutes" interview broadcast on CBS Sunday night.

"We now have the opportunity ... to finally defeat at least al-Qaida in that border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan," Obama told interviewer Steve Kroft.

"That doesn't mean that we will defeat terrorism. It doesn't mean that al-Qaeda hasn't metastasized to other parts of the world," he added. "But it does mean we've got a chance to deliver a fatal blow to this organization if we follow through aggressively in the months to come."

"Using his usual pattern of uttering well-crafted sentences without saying anything substantial, Obama fielded the softball questions like a pro — a professional community activist," said a former intelligence officer now a police commander.

"The President loves '60 Minutes' and '60 Minutes' loves the President," he added.

Describing last week as one of the most satisfying for the nation since he's been president, Obama called bin Laden "a symbol of terrorism and a mass murderer" who has long eluded justice.

"For us to be able to definitively say, 'We got the man who caused thousands of deaths here in the United States and who had been the rallying point for a violent extremist jihad around the world' was something that I think all of us were profoundly grateful to be a part of," he told Kroft.

The president said shortly after he took office he spoke privately with CIA Director Leon E. Panetta about putting more resources, focus and urgency into efforts to find bin Laden. The CIA had been working steadily on the problem since 2001, Obama said, but "a range of threads were out there that hadn't quite been pulled all together."

Over many months, CIA and military experts worked closely to identify bin Laden's compound and gather evidence, and beginning last August, to shape the action plan that ultimately nabbed the al-Qaeda leader.

"This was a very difficult decision, in part because the evidence we had was not absolutely conclusive," he said.

However, the president failed to back away from Attorney General Eric Holder's continued investigation of intelligence operatives who conducted the aggressive interrogations that Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta and other intelligence officials claim helped in locating bin laden and aided in planning the special forces operation.

The plan entailed enormous risk to the men who carried out the mission, the president said. "I thought it was important, though, for us to be able to say that we'd definitely got the guy," he added.

Also, the president said, the opportunity to exploit information that might be found in the compound factored into his decision to authorize the raid.

Obama said he and his team were not surprised to find bin Laden hiding in plain sight, but they were surprised to learn that the compound had been there for so long without information leaking out about it.

"I think the image that bin Laden had tried to promote was that he was an ascetic, living in a cave," Obama said. "This guy was living in a million-dollar compound in a residential neighborhood." Bin Laden had been in the compound for at least five years, he added.

The president said his biggest concern in planning and executing the operation was ensuring the U.S. team could get out, regardless of how the mission turned out.

"As outstanding a job as our intelligence teams did, ... at the end of the day, this was still a 55/45 situation," he said. "We could not say definitively that bin Laden was there. Had he not been there, then there would have been significant consequences."

The mission was worth the risk, Obama said, because the nation has "devoted enormous blood and treasure in fighting back against al-Qaida since 2001" and before that, with the embassy bombing in Kenya.

"I said to myself that if we have a good chance of not completely defeating, but badly disabling, al-Qaeda, then it was worth both the political risks as well as the risks to our men," Obama stated.

The successful mission prompted him also to think about the families of those who died at the hands of bin Laden in 2001, he said.

© Jim Kouri

 

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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)

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