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At the risk of sounding like some kind of conspiracy nut, given the killing of Bin Laden, all that has happened around the killing and all that has been said about what has happened, I think it’s worth a stab at trying to connect the dots, acknowledging all the while that this is not a matter of some grand plan from the beginning but the kind of thing that happens once the action starts and new stories have to be told. So here goes.
(1) It was a “kill” order from the beginning. This is pretty much self-evident from the fact that the administration was considering a missile strike that would have vaporized the compound. “Vaporization” and “arrest” are pretty much mutually exclusive.
(2) Deciding against the missile strike was not a matter of preserving evidence that Bin Laden was indeed dead. That’s pretty much proven by Obama’s “now you see it, now you don’t” handling of the picture (I believe Bin Laden is dead and I honestly don’t care if I ever see the picture or not). Yes, this could be just typical Obama dithering, but it is equally likely that the “we wanted to prove the death” was a post-facto rationalization and Obama just didn’t think it through to realizing that if the SEAL incursion was done in order to (a) kill Bin Laden and (b) have irrefutable proof of his death, he would have to show the picture. (As is often the case, Obama is his own worst enemy in coming up with a rationalization for sending in the “kill” team and then backing away from it.)
(3) The incursion was intended to be covert all the way with no post-op huzzahs beyond the general announcement that Bin Laden was dead and (somehow) justice is served. This was one more reason not to go with the missile strike, since it would be obvious where it came from. In this scenario nobody could really assign actual blame although everyone would suspect a US op. Pakistan could say “who in their right mind would conduct a military raid into a town as militarized as Abbottabad?” The US could say “we could not do such a thing without the consent of the Pakistani government and we know they would never have consented”, so the US could keep the raid at arms’ length and Pakistan would have plausible deniability. This of course literally went up in smoke when the helicopter went down.
(4) Once the raid became undeniable the narrative had to make it look good, so the story was put out that Bin Laden put up armed resistance and hid behind a human (female) shield making killing him unavoidable. Those stories have evaporated, including with the revelation now that Bin Laden stuck his head out around a door and the SEALs shot at him and missed, so now we are left with the fact that it was always a “kill” order.
(5) (This is speculative but I’m afraid the only realistic outcome) The narrative is going to change once more. There has already been some blowback both at home and abroad, and there will be more. Obama cannot stand up to the world and say “we sent the SEALs in to kill”. He doesn’t really have the spine to take and hold that stance; it won’t play well either at home or with his Muslim friends abroad, and it would open too many legalistic doors for others (including Eric Holder?) to attack us and our role here. He might even have to give up his Nobel Peace Prize. So I think that sometime within the next few days we are going to get this: “We sent the SEALs in with a ‘capture or kill’ order, and something went terribly wrong.” The raid stays “good” because its aims were proper, the SEALs encountered an exigent situation and overreacted, no we’re not going to prosecute them because it’s “you know, fortunes and fog of war”. Pakistan can stay at arms’ length, and Obama can posture as a well-intentioned man undone by the exigencies of the moment, all the while being happy that the man is dead.
I hope Obama has whatever it takes to stand up before the world and say “We intended to kill him, we killed him, and we’re proud of it.” Somehow I doubt it. And if he can’t sustain that stance then he has to find a way to back off of responsibility while still finding a way to take credit. Yes, it would take some amount of forgetting today what he said yesterday, but if Obama knows nothing else he knows that the odds of the MSM backing his play are pretty good.
I hope I’m wrong about all of this. I’m afraid that I’m not.