Second, Obama deserves credit for keeping the operation secret from the Pakistanis. Obama’s Pakistani policy has been schizophrenic at best – he funds the government to the tune of billions each year (he raised Pakistani foreign aid by 36 percent his first year in office), but routinely utilizes drone strikes to go after targets the Pakistani military won’t. Even in his Bin Laden speech, Obama clung to the bizarre notion that the Pakistani government had been helpful — “our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden” – although by all indicators, the government knew exactly where Bin Laden was for years. Still, Obama should be feted for authorizing a U.S. military mission inside Pakistan without clearing it with that corrupt government.
Third, Obama deserves credit for his handling of the Bin Laden corpse. Dumping Bin Laden’s body in the ocean is a beautiful way of preventing enshrinement (although it would have been nice if Obama had avoided any talk of corpse treatment in the first place, since the Muslim community has, predictably enough, protested anyway).
There are also certain events for which Obama does not deserve credit. It was Bush-era intelligence that led to Bin Laden’s death, gathered via methods Obama ripped time and time again, and which led to threats of prosecution for those who gathered it; it was Bush-era institutions like Guantanamo Bay, which Obama attempted to shut down, that allowed such intelligence to be gathered. It was the U.S. military that planned and operated this operation, not the White House. It was Bush who initiated drone strikes in Pakistan; Obama wisely followed course and upped the ante. Yet Obama mentioned Bush only once in speech, and there it was merely to cite him in support of the proposition that America is not at war with Islam.
When the military found Saddam Hussein hiding in a spider hole in Iraq in 2005, President George W. Bush announced that “United States military forces captured Saddam Hussein alive.” He announced that the success of the mission was “a tribute to our men and women now serving in Iraq.” When he used “we,” he specifically lumped himself in with Americans. There was no personal triumphalism, nor was there any minute-by-minute rundown of his authorization of any specific actions. Bush was expected to take actions in the best interest of the United States. He did, and Saddam was captured, tried, and executed.
The same holds true of Obama. Any reflexive horn-tooting on the part of Obama or his supporters reinforces the soft bigotry of low expectations for liberal presidents. Any president of the United States should be expected to do his utmost to root out enemies of the United States and authorize their killing or capture. That the killing of Bin Laden was accomplished under Obama’s Administration should surely redound to his benefit – but any exclusive credit-taking on his part or on the part of his backers blemishes what should be a joyous day for all Americans, especially all of those who deserve credit for this tremendous achievement.
Ben Shapiro is an attorney and writer and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, and author of the upcoming book “Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV” from Broadside Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.
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