It could be argued that Osama bin Laden is roasting in hell right now largely despite, not because of, Barack Obama. Had Obama gotten his way, the world would likely have watched a far different spectacle play out in lower Manhattan on Thursday: the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, rather than an Obama photo-op, 'spiking the football' at the death of Osama bin Laden.
Perhaps more than any other person, Obama was responsible for efforts to hinder policies which led to bin Laden's assassination. Or, in words that won't offend our liberal friends, bin Laden's sudden cessation of life-related activities.
The Obamamedia is already busy scrubbing history of Bush administration efforts which started the search that eventually found bin Laden. They are also ignoring efforts by Obama which would have short-circuited those efforts. Obama wasn't unique among Democrats in his criticism of Bush anti-terrorism policies -- including enhanced interrogation techniques that even his hand-picked CIA Director, Leon Panetta, admitted were partially responsible for finding bin Laden. Nor was Obama's the lone voice wailing over detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay. But Obama was singular in the lengths to which he went to try to force an end to those policies.
A core effort of Democrats opposed to George W. Bush's War On Terror was to extend habeas corpus to enemy combatants at Gitmo, a move that would have freed at least some detainees and impeded or halted the flow of information to U.S. interrogators, including information which reports say was vital to finding bin Laden.
Obama, though, took the rare step of making his U.S. Senate office a satellite office for activists trying to ram through a bill extending habeas corpus to Gitmo detainees. According to a group of those activists who endorsed Obama's presidential campaign:
"Senator Obama helped lead the fight in the Senate against the administration's efforts in the Fall of 2006 to strip the courts of jurisdiction, and when we were walking the halls of the Capitol trying to win over enough Senators to beat back the administration's bill, Senator Obama made his key staffers and even his offices available to help us. Senator Obama worked with us to count the votes, and he personally lobbied colleagues who worried about the political ramifications."
Just months after Obama's failed effort, in 2007, ABC News reports, "U.S. officials who were interrogating Guantanamo detainees finally learned the real name of a former Khalid Sheikh Muhammad protégé who had become an important confidante of Abu Faraj al Libi."
The protégé turned out to be the courier who eventually led Navy SEALS to go knocking on bin Laden's door.
If Obama's efforts to extend rights to Gitmo detainees had succeeded, it's entirely possible, maybe even likely, that the detainees who provided the information might not have still been in custody.
One bite of the apple wasn't enough for Obama. At about the same time that interrogators at Gitmo were prying the identity of bin Laden's courier from enemy combatants, Obama was back at it, this time he was the co-sponsor of legislation which would have forced the Bush administration to extend Gitmo detainees habeas corpus rights. Obama's opposition to Bush's WOT weren't limited to habeas corpus efforts. He also supported legislation in 2006 that would have forced the CIA to provide "detailed quarterly reports describing all CIA detention facilities; the name of each detainee; their suspected activities; & each interrogation technique authorized for use and guidelines on the use of each such technique." Such reports would have, as opponents pointed out at the time, inevitably leaked, and such leaks would have provided al Qaeda a follow-the-dots blueprint of how to defeat interrogation techniques.
After surfing a wave of nearly 800 million dollars into the White House, Obama infamously moved to close Guantanamo, something even his fellow Democrats in the Congress couldn't stomach. And, if Obama had gotten his way, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed --the self-proclaimed mastermind behind 9/11--would be on trial around about now, not far from where Obama laid a wreath at Ground Zero Thursday. In such a trial, details of what Mohammed has told interrogators, possibly even the interrogators' interest in a certain courier for bin Laden, could have been revealed, warning bin Laden to get out of Dodge -- or Abbottabad -- ASAP.
In claiming credit for the bin Laden raid, Obama pointed out that he ordered the CIA to intensify its efforts to find bin Laden. Yet, even the Bush-adverse Washington Post reported in 2006 that the Bush administration had already intensified such efforts:
"(I)n the last three months (September, 2006), following a request from President Bush to 'flood the zone,' the CIA has sharply increased the number of intelligence officers and assets devoted to the pursuit of bin Laden. The intelligence officers will team with the military's secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and with more resources from the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies."
To hear Obama administration officials tell it, however, Obama was so responsible for the death of bin Laden that it's a wonder he made it back in time to make the announcement, after making the kill shot himself.
(That could explain, though, Obama's curious positioning in this famous photo. Forget supposed photos of a dead bin Laden, maybe someone should explore whether that picture was Photoshopped.)
Obama is due credit. He made the decision, albeit after 'sleeping on it' for sixteen hours, to go ahead with the bin Laden hit.
Yet, it's difficult to believe that any U.S. President wouldn't green-light such a mission. Can you imagine such a scenario?
DCI [Director of Central Intelligence] to POTUS: We believe we've finally found the mass murderer of 3,000 Americans and world's most wanted criminal. Can we take him out?
POTUS: Nah. Not today. I've got to practice my comedy routine for the White House Correspondents' dinner.
So give Obama credit for letting the U.S. military and intelligence community do their job. Give those folks even more credit for doing their jobs so bravely and well.
But, Obama got Osama?
Good rhyme. Bad logic.
William Tate is an award-winning journalist and author