Amid all the uproar over the Obama administration's missteps following the successful raid on Osama bin Laden's Abbotabad hideout, one question has been overlooked: did the administration deliberately delay the raid to yield the greatest benefit for Obama?
The operation was five years in progress at the time of the raid. This is fine -- anyone with even superficial knowledge of the intelligence trade is aware that these things take a lot more time in real life than they do on the tube. But the fact that the Abbotabad compound hid a major terrorist target was known to a high order of probability (it was OBL's courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, who led them there) in August 2010. The raid itself didn't occur until April 2011. My trusty calculator that comes with my PC tells me that amounts to eight months. (Actually, closer to nine once every spare week is figured in.)
Eight months between the possible identification of the most wanted man alive and the raid that took him down? How does this make sense?
It's not a question of preparation. The SEALs would happily head out on a mission with five minutes' notice if necessary, and bring it off in style more likely than not. While it's true that such a critical operation called for detailed preparation, this involves a matter of weeks, not months. Building a full-scale mockup of the compound takes a week or two (were talking 4x4s and plywood, not brick and mortar). Training for every possible contingency is, for professionals like the SEALs, a matter of another few weeks. Recall that the American Special Forces community in 2001 planned, prepared, and carried out a full war-sized effort to bring down the Taliban in less than a month. (September 12 - October 7) The Abbottabad raid was far smaller and less complex; that it required over eight times as many months to carry out strains the imagination.
Ask yourself this: if you had reason to believe that the man responsible for the destruction of much of lower Manhattan, along with attacks on Washington, London, Madrid, Bali, and many more, was hiding out at a particular location, what would hold you back?
Convoluted motives are a characteristic of the Obama administration. It's is not a matter of wheels within wheels -- it is wheel factories within wheel warehouses within wheel dealerships. Obama is the most furtive of all modern presidents, far outdoing Richard Nixon, his closest rival. His political apprenticeship with the Cook County Machine taught him never to miss a trick or overlook a stratagem. The possible elimination of Osama Bin Laden was, in the words of a former colleague "a valuable f*ckin' thing," to be wrung for every possible advantage. So the question naturally arises: was the raid deliberately delayed for political reasons?
Taking a look at the surrounding circumstances, we find that the spring of 2011 was a bleak stretch for Barack Obama. His positives were hovering in the low 40s, and had been for over a year. He had been firmly bounced in the midterms, and was for the first it in his life facing an organized and determined opposition. The recovery was suffering hiccups, very much due to the administration's endless interference, and the public was well aware of it. His Libyan adventure had not turned out as planned. To top it off, he had been made to look like eight kinds of jackass by reality-show clown Donald Trump, who had succeeded in goading him into releasing his original birth certificate, a trick that he very likely wanted to save until the 2012 election.
Timing in politics is part of the game. We all know that. Releasing bad news on a Friday afternoon or in the midst of a big unrelated news event to is common practice. But when we talk about "timing," we're talking about delaying things for a day or two, maybe a week or two tops. Anything longer than that is stretching things.
Because there are dangers in playing the timing game. At least two previous raids of a similar nature to the Abbotabad operation failed because of delays.
In May 1970, a POW camp containing at least 70 American prisoners was discovered at Son Tay, North Vietnam, a little over twenty miles from Hanoi. A rescue operation was put into motion, but could not be carried out in the midst of the summer monsoon season. When the raid at last took place on November 21, 1970, the camp was empty of POWs. They had been evacuated the previous July after a nearby river overflowed its banks, threatening to flood the camp. The Eagle Claw rescue mission, carried out to rescue fifty-two American hostages held by Iranian "students" (read "revolutionaries") in Tehran, was put off repeatedly due to Jimmy Carter's timidity. It was at last authorized for April 1980. But delaying until spring meant that it was occurring in the midst of the haboob season, when huge sandstorms sweep the Persian Gulf. One of the Marine RH-53 helicopters flying the mission was caught in a haboob on the way to the rendezvous and had to turn back. Three others suffered mechanical breakdowns, leaving too few to complete the mission. (The ensuing collision between a C-130 and a helicopter which destroyed several aircraft actually had nothing to do with the mission's cancellation.)
As for Abbotsabad, anything could have gone wrong in those eight months. A CIA surveillance team was operating in the neighborhood. Suppose they had been discovered? Suppose that OBL had an entire chain of safe houses available to him, and one day a drone zipped overhead to discover an empty compound? Suppose one of our industrious reporters -- patriots all, of course -- ferreted out the story and blasted it worldwide over cable and Net?
With this administration, anything is possible. There may in fact be an innocent explanation for the long gap between discovery and action. But if there is, we need to hear it. This is not simply Obama's customary procrastination (though we got that too, in the form of his sixteen-hour snooze). Somebody was playing a potentially disastrous game here -- a game risking good men's lives, the reputation of the United States, and above all, the security and safety of the nation he had sworn to defend. We need an explanation as to why. J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker, and author of Death by Liberalism.