Streetwise Professor

May 3, 2011

The Gang That Could Shoot Straight, and the Gang That Couldn’t

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 8:06 pm

The SEALs of DevGru shoot very straight, of course.  In the aftermath of the Osama raid, the administration is busy shooting itself in its collective foot.  First, Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan spins an elaborate tale of an armed Osama resisting while cowering behind his wife.  Today, Press Secretary Carney reads a statement that says, uhm, it didn’t go down like that at all: yes, a woman was shot, but Osama wasn’t hiding behind her and he wasn’t armed.  Brennan also released the incorrect name of the Osama spawn that was killed in the firefight.

Carney wrote this off as the result of the fog of war.  Which is exactly why Brennan was a fool for shooting off his mouth before the fog cleared.

Next, the administration can’t figure out whether to release any images of Osama’s death, or of his dead body.  Why are they making this decision now?  This was an inevitable situation, and should have been addressed pre-mission.  Insofar as inflaming Muslim sensibilities is concerned: (a) outrage is a continuous state among some people, so why pander to that?  and (b) uhm, I thought the whole story was that Osama wasn’t a representative of true Islam, so why would true Muslims be outraged?  And spinning tall tales about Osama’s demise is hardly the best way to avoid the inflaming thing.

There are pretty compelling reasons to release definitive evidence of Osama’s death–if only to reduce the potential for the rise of an Osama Lives! cult and to provide some closure to several hundred million Americans.  What’s more, if the administration believes that its actions were justified and legitimate, it should have no qualms about acknowledging the consequences of its actions.  Squeamishness about frankly acknowledging the consequences of its deeds–in technicolor–suggests a guilty conscience.

Ambrose Bierce wrote: “There are four kinds of Homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy.”  The administration clearly believes that the killing of Osama falls in categories three and four of the Bierce taxonomy.  If so, it should act like it.   We’re not talking about tying Osama’s body to the back of a chariot and dragging it around the city walls to the lamentations of his women.  If some Euroweenies or eUNuchs get the vapors, so be it.

As an illustration of the PC attitudes that are hovering over this whole episode, after the president’s speech the commandant of the Naval Academy told a crowd of Middies “you can hit us and knock us down, but we will kick your ass.”  A video of his impromptu remarks was put on YouTube–and then promptly removed.

What’s the problem, exactly, with telling those who want to kill us that we will hunt them down if it’s the last thing we do?  I think that’s a very salutary message to send.  In a grave in Luxembourg a very profane American war hero is spinning at about 4000 RPM.

Third, and most interesting, is the leaking at the expense of SecDef Robert Gates.  The story is that Gates wanted to flatten the Osama compound and make the rubble bounce with a B-2 strike due to the riskiness of a commando operation, but Obama overruled him.  There’s some merit to Gates’s position–if that was his position.  A commando operation is incredibly risky: if the helicopter that went down had crashed outside the compound the whole thing could have gone very, very wrong.  (I’m very skeptical, BTW, that the helo really suffered a mechanical problem.  More likely a golden BB fired by a lookout in the compound or running into some obstacle designed specifically to thwart a helo landing–which had to have been considered a major risk by those in the compound.)  That said, the counter arguments are strong too–namely, the risk of not being able to determine definitively that Osama was there and had snuffed it.

In other words, there was no compelling right choice; each alternative had its pros and cons.  Gates was doing his job of advising the president according to his best judgment.  So why shiv him on his way out the door?  Is this payback for his mutinous behavior before?  Is this the way to encourage future advisors to give their frank opinions?

One last thing.  In my post yesterday I wondered about whether Chez Osama had been thoroughly exploited for intelligence purposes, because nothing about that was mentioned in the initial reporting.  However, several stories came out today stating that the shooters were accompanied by an exploitation team that did collect quite a cache of intelligence, including computers.  Hopefully many more dominoes will fall as a result.

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  1. Professor-if you will remember the Ex Governor of California correctly pointed out that the lamentation of their women is exactly what you do want to hear.

    Comment by pahoben — May 3, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

  2. What’s the probability that the SEALs killed an OBL double? Or some other case of mistaken identity.

    I’m not into conspiracies, but US intelligencce doesn’t seem very competent in that area (like that random guy they liasoned with for half a year thinking he was a Taliban bigwig).

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — May 4, 2011 @ 3:36 am

  3. What’s the probability that the SEALs killed an OBL double? Or some other case of mistaken identity.

    Slim, I expect. Obtaining a piece of DNA would have involved scraping something reddish off the wall behind him, and his family are many and cooperative.

    Comment by Tim Newman — May 4, 2011 @ 5:53 am

  4. The Saudis are so inbred, you can never know.

    Comment by So? — May 4, 2011 @ 6:30 am

  5. Mongol General: Hao! Dai ye! We won again! This is good, but what is best in life?
    Mongol: The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.
    Mongol General: Wrong! Conan! What is best in life?
    Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

    – Conan the Barbarian, 1982 (

    Comment by Green as Grass — May 4, 2011 @ 6:45 am

  6. Prof-

    The story on the helo I read was that the pilot hit one of the walls with the rotor and it couldn’t take off with the damaged rotor blade.

    Comment by Charles — May 4, 2011 @ 7:04 am

  7. And now they’re saying they’re not going to release any photos / videos after all.

    I’d say the chances of something fishy going on are more than “slim”. IMO, 25%+.

    But perhaps it’s for the best. A symbolic closure, even if it’s unreal, could lay the groundwork for a US retreat from the (fiscally, strategically, etc) debilitating War on Terror project.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — May 4, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

  8. What’s the probability that the SEALs killed an OBL double?

    One-half: either they did or they didn’t. I’m curious how you define (let alone measure) probability of a one-off event.

    Comment by peter — May 4, 2011 @ 4:06 pm

  9. Simple. If you had to bet on it, what odds would you take?

    If the book-keepers gave me odds of 4/1 or better that the OBL in that mansion was not, in fact, OBL, but someone else, – and if there was a way of confirming the fact – then I’d take them up on it.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — May 4, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

  10. It was Osama. There is no way the warriors and officers of Seal Team 6 would participate in this if it were a scam. There still is honor in the hearts of some men.

    Comment by pahoben — May 4, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

  11. Pakistan is hopelessly corrupt as is most of the world but the current President and former husband of Benazir is reaching new heights-

    “I think now, frankly, he is dead for the reason he is a … kidney patient,” Gen. Pervez Musharraf said on Friday in an interview with CNN.

    Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistan president, has said he frequently ran by the area in which Osama bin Laden had been living for the last six years.

    On 2 November 2007, Bhutto participated in an interview with David Frost on Al Jazeera where she stated Osama Bin Laden had been murdered by Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who is also one of the men convicted of kidnapping and killing U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl.

    Current President and former husband of deceased Benazir Bhutto-In 2005, a Pakistani daily reported he is the second richest man in Pakistan with an estimated net worth of US$1.8 billion. He amassed great wealth while his wife was Prime Minister. He was reported to have estates in Surrey, West End of London, Paris, Manhattan, and Dubai. In Britain, he used a common legal device — the purchase of property through nominees— with no family link to the Bhuttos.

    Great place to have nuclear weapons and Taliban in close proximity.

    Comment by pahoben — May 4, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

  12. If the book-keepers gave me odds of 4/1 or better that the OBL in that mansion was not, in fact, OBL, but someone else, – and if there was a way of confirming the fact – then I’d take them up on it.

    If the book-makers gave me odds of 2/1 that Obama was a frog I’d take them up on it. But this doesn’t mean I think there is a 50% possibility that Obama is a frog.

    Comment by Tim Newman — May 4, 2011 @ 11:35 pm

  13. How is that relevant?

    Did you understand my comment to peter?

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — May 5, 2011 @ 1:12 am

  14. Simple. If you had to bet on it, what odds would you take?

    Well, okay, I guess everybody is entitled to their own definition — but what about falsifiability? Is there any way your “25%+” figure could possibly turn out to be wrong?

    Comment by peter — May 5, 2011 @ 4:02 am

  15. How is that relevant?

    You are equating odds you are willing to take as representing the probability of a particular outcome. There is no relationship between the two, and it was that which I was demonstrating.

    Comment by Tim Newman — May 6, 2011 @ 3:52 am

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