What ‘Gutsy Call’? Obama Didn’t Make ‘Operational Decision’ to Kill Osama bin Laden

Donald Douglas by Donald Douglas on April 28th, 2012

This is article 278 of 791 in the topic Terrorism

The Obama campaign is out with this new ad below attacking Mitt Romney, claiming that the presumptive GOP nominee wouldn’t have been “gutsy” enough to make the call on killing bin Laden.

But perhaps Obama’s “decision” to get bin Laden wasn’t so “gutsy” after all.

See Ben Shapiro, at Big Peace, “What ‘Gutsy Call’?: CIA Memo Reveals Admiral Controlled bin Laden Mission” (via Memeorandum). Read it all at the link. In question is the language of the CIA memo obtained by Time Magazine. See, “The Last Days of Osama bin Laden“:

MEMO FOR THE RECORD Apr. 29, 2011, 10:35 a.m.

Received phone call from Tom Donilon who stated that the President made a decision with regard to AC1 [Abbottabad Compound 1]. The decision is to proceed with the assault. 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. Those instructions were conveyed to Admiral McRaven at approximately 10:45 am.

Here’s Shapiro’s take:

…the memo doesn’t show a gutsy call. It doesn’t show a president willing to take the blame for a mission gone wrong. It shows a CYA maneuver by the White House.

The memo puts all control in the hands of Admiral McRaven – the “timing, operational decision making and control” are all up to McRaven. So the notion that Obama and his team were walking through every stage of the operation is incorrect. The hero here was McRaven, not Obama. And had the mission gone wrong, McRaven surely would have been thrown under the bus.

The memo is crystal clear on that point. It says that the decision has been made based solely on the “risk profile presented to the President.” If any other risks – no matter how minute – arose, they were “to be brought back to the President for his consideration.” This is ludicrous. It is wiggle room. It was Obama’s way of carving out space for himself in case the mission went bad. If it did, he’d say that there were additional risks of which he hadn’t been informed; he’d been kept in the dark by his military leaders.

Finally, the memo is unclear on just what the mission is. Was it to capture Bin Laden or to kill him? The White House itself was unable to decide what the mission was in the hours after the Bin Laden kill, and actually switched its language. The memo shows why: McRaven was instructed to “get” Bin Laden, whatever that meant.

President Obama made the right call to give the green light to the mission. But he did it in a way that he could shift the blame if things went wrong. Typical Obama. And typical of him to claim full credit for it, when he didn’t do anything but give a vague nod, while putting his top military officials at risk of taking the hit in case of a bad turn.

And note something else here: Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post is apparently a grade school friend of Admiral McRaven, and she basically made the same argument last year shortly after the Abottabad raid: “Adm. William McRaven: The terrorist hunter on whose shoulders Osama bin Laden raid rested:”

As leader of the military’s highly secretive Joint Special Operations Command, McRaven has overseen a rapid escalation of manhunts for Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda figures around the world. Although he’s a three-star admiral, the muscular 55-year-old still sometimes accompanies his teams on snatch-and-grab missions.

On Friday, McRaven received the green light from Panetta to launch the raid at the earliest opportunity. Later that day, he met with a six-member congressional delegation that was coincidentally visiting Afghanistan. He gave the lawmakers a tour of the Bagram operations center that — unbeknownst to them — was gearing up for the critical mission.

Little did we know he had already given the order to take out Osama bin Laden,” said Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who led the delegation.

So, indeed it was Admiral McRaven who ultimately made the “gutsy call” to kill bin Laden —  and if anything went wrong it would have been McRaven’s head on a block, not the un-gutsy members of this epic clusterf-k Democrat administration.

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