#Obama v #OBL: “We finally got our man last week, it’s true”

On the front page of the Irish Times this morning Lara Marlow asks: “WHAT WAS Barack Obama thinking during that long moment of silence, after he laid the wreath at the foot of the Survivor Tree?”

This great piece of writing from Walter Kirn outlines his own complex thoughts:

It had to end somewhere, History’s Greatest Manhunt, but the fact that it climaxed in dull suburbistan next to a training base for the hunters’ allies proved less startling than the discovery that the hunt was still going on at all. Like the Monday morning shock of 9/11, the Sunday evening shock of Bin Laden’s death caught America flossing, concluding a tragedy that we’d stopped thinking about with a catharsis that we’d stopped hoping for.

It was a moment of spooky historical symmetry, especially as it played out on TV. Down a long hallway that symbolized the past strode a grim-faced first-term president whose skin color, which we still noticed despite ourselves, made him look like a figure from the future. Just as we had when Bush spoke way back when, we knew by the time Obama opened his mouth just about everything he had to say, which only heightened our need to hear him say it.

What followed was a patriotic head rush, the first thrilling chill of tribal unity that we’d enjoyed in a decade that felt like three. For an instant, I was ashamed of this euphoria — after all, a human being had died, and my taxes had paid for the bullets that blew his face off — but then I relaxed and let myself regress, perversely pleased that geek-era America hadn’t entirely lost the John Wayne ugly streak that separates us from the Belgians.

Like the pug-nosed New York City firefighters whose machismo I’d borrowed ten years earlier, the Navy Seals aroused a part of me that I’d kept hidden but never out of reach, much like the hunting knife stashed under my car seat. It appeared that Obama shared my instincts. As he uttered the pitiless words ‘at my direction’ in reference to the lethal raid, his educated features hardened slightly.

Indeed. The professor warrior. Kirn finishes:

We finally got our man last week, it’s true (although we may never know quite how we got him), but here was the trouble: history got him first, reducing him to fat-Elvis, late-Howard Hughes mode. Frustrating side note or devastating irony?

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  • pauluk

    (although we may never know quite how we got him)

    Rubbish! G W Bush has been vindicated. He ‘got’ Osama.

  • pippakin

    His usefulness as a leader was gone. He had become a prisoner of his compound and the Pakistanis. How could that make a difference though. He had to be found, a trial would have caused far more problems than it would solve, so he had to be executed.

    Sad thing is Bin Laden made terrorism unfashionable and for that everyone owes him a lot.

  • Rory Carr

    Rubbish! It is Julian Assange who has been vindicated.

    It was Wikileaks which ‘got’ the information upon which you (and the wonderfully impartial Hot Air, by way of the Daily Telegraph) make this assessment.

  • wee buns

    Despite Kirn’s beautifully written & thought provoking description of the seediness of this particular extrajudicial killing, surely that’s not the issue.
    It’s merely a variation on an ongoing method, a general practice.
    The discourse,to be of any use, would need to stay focused on the legitimacy of the general practice and Americka’s non ratifying and un-signing of the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court in 2002.

    Don’t think there is much danger of trouble for Obama with the fat-Elvis/OBL/history got him first, angle.

    Last week Obama was an ‘alien’ with a ‘dodgy’ birth cert. Now he’s been baptized in blood & a member of the tribe. Correction: he IS the tribe. An overnight transformation into a war president who has knocked the Republicans out of the park. Next whack, probably Gaddafi.

  • Framer

    Odd that the Americans identified the compound in August 2010 and it took them 10 months to have a look.

    Especially odd as he could have moved out in the interim.

    Something fishier here than the other changing stories and the shoot to kill glorification.

  • pauluk


    I notice you do not contest the contents of the report which vindicate Bush, you just don’t like the people who brought the facts to the fore.

    Hoover Institute historian Victor Davis Hanson examines the criteria for removing rogues and illustrates the current, blatant, left-wing hypocrisy when he said:

    targeted assassinations are better done under liberal presidents, who are more likely to be seen as humanitarians who only reluctantly order such killings. The Bush antiterrorism protocols — tribunals, renditions, preventative detentions, Predator assassination missions, Guantanamo Bay — were decried as illegal and immoral. Such furore vanished, however, when President Obama embraced or expanded them all…

    Read the whole thing.

  • AGlassOfHine

    The same,’pug nosed NY firefighter’,who used to send ther $’s to spinsor pira terrorism ?

    One good thing came out of 9/11,it finally taught the Yanks what terrorism REALLY is !!

  • Crubeen


    “Odd that the Americans identified the compound in August 2010 and it took them 10 months to have a look.”

    Nothing odd about that – surveillance had to be covert and not such as to excite suspicion that the compound was under active investigation and/or that the Americans had an idea as to who was there. So long as he didn’t realise the Americans knew where he was, bin Laden was unlikely to move and the surveillance had to be covert that he did not realise they had eyes on.

    The Mossad undertook months of surveillance to discover and positively identify Adolf Eichmann – when that was done it took some two months to plan the snatch and set up the required infrastructure.

    Bin Laden hid in the very sort of place you would not have expected him to be . Often that’s the best method of concealment. Mick Collins openly walked and cycled around Dublin even though the Brits knew he was in Dublin. He made a point of always wearing a smart business suit … because terrorists don’t wear smart business suits and of being friendly towards police or soldiers who stopped him at checkpoints.

  • Framer

    Eichmann was one man and the Israelis had to plan to get him out of Argentina discreetly, the US with all their impunity could send in a snatch squad as they eventually and whisk OBL away if he wasn’t out shopping..

  • Nunoftheabove


    Re. your satisfaction at the murder of thousands of civilians.

    Duly noted.

  • RepublicanStones

    Eichmann was one man and the Israelis had to plan to get him out of Argentina discreetly, the US with all their impunity could send in a snatch squad as they eventually and whisk OBL away if he wasn’t out shopping..

    Indeed. A nuance missed by Crubeen.
    But of course, another issue, is that whether or not you choose to believe the stories circulating about how long the US knew the location was connected to a HVT.

  • Alias

    “The same,’pug nosed NY firefighter’,who used to send ther $’s to spinsor pira terrorism ?”

    That’s a myth. Besides, a British agent, Denis Donaldson, was in charge of the Shinners’ American operations, and was the leader of the Shinners who sent that British agent to the US.

    PIRA was financed mainly through diesel laundering operations, and the British state turning a blind eye to same. Extortion rackets, kidnapping, armed robbery, counterfeiting, smuggling, property speculation, pubs, taxies, etc, also raised considerable sums. Not that PIRA needed any of that since the plebs were paid £10 a week, and Libya donated the arms free-of-charge (under the watchful eye of MI5) and also donated 10 million in cash.

    Now, who funded the unionist murder squads? They were every bit as well-armed as PIRA. Was it pug-nosed NY firefighters or the rest of the UK?

  • joeCanuck

    I am baffled by suggestions of some, including Mary Robinson, that Bin Laden was murdered. The primary objective of any military or law keeping person should be to arrive home uninjured at the end of the day. Could the USA Seals know that Bin Laden didn’t have an emergency button to blow up his compound? Obviously not. That man was both a mass murderer and a serial murderer. The Seals acted totally correctly in shooting him dead on sight. They should be applauded for removing this monster from our midst.

  • pippakin

    The idea of a trial is actually nonsense. No doubt finding the defence team would be easy enough, lawyers were probably salivating at the thought of a long trial, but where in America were impartial jurors to be found?

    Bin Laden knew he was sentenced to death, he bragged about it often enough.

  • wee buns

    A trial might’ve included difficult stuff like.. evidence.

    A former chief prosecutor at the Nurnberg trials has said the extrajudical killing of OBL was ‘moraly wrong’.


    If trial was good enough for the SS, why not for the Taliban?

  • joeCanuck

    wee buns,

    Don’t you recognize the difference between fighting a uniformed army and an insurgent force. Besides, the evidence was clear in the German forces case; they were such meticulous record keepers and why not when you are going to rule the world?

  • wee buns

    I can see the difficulty with collecting hard evidence, but should the principle of judicial trial be abandoned because of that difficulty?

    What is the ‘price’ of non judicial killings in terms of the civil liberties of all?

    From the First Post article:

    ‘’Secret non-judicial decisions based on political or military considerations undermine democracy.”

    ”In the case of Osama bin Laden, he felt the world was still not sure of the facts. A fair trial was the only corrective.’’

    ‘’Do we want to live in the kind of society, he asked, where we kill the perpetrator of a crime and all his children, without knowing the full facts?’’

  • pippakin

    Surely the point is terrorists operate outside the rules they insist either don’t exist or don’t apply to them. Bin Laden took responsibility for 9/11 and other atrocities, that’s a confession. His arrest, detention and trial would have given his accomplices months, possibly years of free advertising. The Americans did it their way.

  • joeCanuck

    wee buns,

    I agree with pippakin. The man openly gloated about his role in committing thousands of murders; in other words, he admitted his guilt. He was an ugly monster and I have no problem with him being shot on sight.

  • wee buns

    OBL’s confession = surely an even stronger reason for his trial to happen….so the world can hear it?

    On the principle of transparency I agree with Ferencz.

    Otherwise the rule that applies = Might is Right.

  • joeCanuck

    That public “confession” would not be admissible in a US Court.
    He would have used a trial for propaganda to rouse hatred.
    Yes, that’s not sufficient to justify him being shot on sight but there was no way for the Seal raiders to know whether or not he had the place booby trapped. He could have killed many of them. I’m a law abiding person but I shed no tears for Bin Laden’s death. Some people, and he was most definitely one of them, are just too dangerous to take chances. The Seals primary objective was, I hope, to return to base uninjured.

  • wee buns

    The problem with ‘security ‘concerns being above transparency concerns, is that ‘security ‘is too easily/readily abused.

    With regard to civil liberties (I don’t especially refer to those of OBL’s) & to whole nations being held on ‘high alert’; elderly people’s shoes being searched at airports etc

    This execution is a much needed propaganda boost to B Obama.

    It also serves to deflect any debate as to the legitimacy of the war (lots ‘n lots of non judicial killing) in Afghanistan.

    It would have been preferable if they had nailed down the necessary evidence to put OBL on trial, ending with a death sentence if that’s in accordance with the outcome/laws etc

    However it obviously didn’t serve US agenda to do so.

  • pippakin

    Obama got in promising to shut Guantanamo in one year. He had to change his mind. He tried to put the known 9/11 bombers on trial in the US but the outcry was such that he had to back down. Bin Laden had ‘confessed’ several times. His capture alive was not an option, most Americans would never accept that the rules of domestic law should apply to him.

    I’m unsure how long Bin Ladens where abouts were known. I recall reading he was in Pakistan years ago and the idea that it would take years to confirm his location stretches the imagination, and, cynically, it is the start of Obamas reelection campaign. If Obama had authorised the capture of Bin Laden and seen him comfortably in prison with full legal rights, that would have been political suicide.

    I understand why the US did it and even though some of the thinking behind it may have been cynical expediency, there was no doubt of his guilt and it was what the Americans wanted.