Saturday, December 17, 2011

Assassination and Bin Laden

While perusing I came across an editorial by Oliver North regarding President Clinton's exchange with Chris Wallace on FOX News. It seems LtCol North was a bit put off by President Clinton's proclamation:

“I worked hard to try to kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since.” -- William Jefferson Blythe Clinton, 24 September 2006

LtCol North seems to believe that President Clinton's outburst constitutes an admission of a crime - that of sanctioning the assassination of Usama Bin Laden. He points out the reaction to Rev. Pat Robertson's call for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, and asks why there was not a similar backlash against Pres. Clinton's statement.

The silence has been deafening from the barons of bombast and political potentates who went nuts last year when Rev. Pat Robertson suggested that Venezuela 's tin-horn dictator Hugo Chavez should be “eliminated.” Then, there were calls for an investigation of Dr. Robertson. Not so for Bill Clinton.

With all due respect, come off it. Where was the outrage when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a deliberately targeted operation? Was no one outraged because AMZ was an enemy combatant who targeted American troops and interests? What is the difference between that and a Presidential finding authorizing the CIA to kill Bin Laden? I'd be real interested to hear the difference between the targeted killing of AMZ and authorizing the CIA to kill UBL. On the other hand, while Hugo Chavez may not be the friendliest man when it comes to our interests in Latin America, you'd be hard pressed to justify calling him an enemy combatant. That's why Robertson's statement was immediately attacked, not necessarily because of partisanship, as LtCol North seems to want you to believe.

The tape of a former President, arrogantly proclaiming on international television that he personally authorized the killing of a foreign foe may be great stuff for the screenplay of “Rambo V” -- but it's specifically forbidden by U.S. and international law.

Personally, I believed both then and now that Usama Bin Laden should be hunted and killed by any means possible. I fully expect that the Bush Administration will sanction killing him if we locate him in the near future, and I will lose absolutely no sleep over it. I suspect that neither will LtCol North. Frankly, I think his article smacks of an attempt to attack President Clinton along partisan lines, rather than legal or ethical ones. And the reference to Rambo V? Come on, sir, isn't that a bit melodramatic?

Before you think that I am squarely behind President Clinton on this, let me elaborate on my views. I do not think that President Clinton tried as hard as he would like us to believe. Both the 9/11 Report and the excellent book Ghost Wars by Steve Coll indicate that President Clinton beat around the bush about killing Usama Bin Laden; leaving the CIA and many of his advisors unclear on what measures they were authorized to take. There seemed to be very much a sense that if the attempt did not go perfectly that the CIA would be left to take the blame. I don't know much, but one thing I've learned as a leader is that if you want to authorize your subordinates to take decisive action, you have to be prepared to accept responsibility if they fail.

The 9/11 Report makes it pretty clear that neither administration did enough about UBL before September 11th. So how about we dispense with the partisan bickering and focus on the business at hand?

Either way, your Marines and soldiers on the "bleeding edge" (note to Mr. Morris: hope you don't mind, but I really liked that phrase) will continue to suit up and do just that. But it would be nice if we heard a little more of that "bipartisan" spirit that used to be vogue, and a little less partisan bickering.

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