It has taken a while for me to write anything regarding Barack Obama's announcement last Sunday night that members of the US Special Operations Forces (JSOC's Navy SEAL Team Six) had shot and killed Osama bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The reason is primarily due to so many other excellent analysts beating me to the punch and voicing my own feelings far better than I could have myself (thus saving me the time and effort). My own reaction to the news lies somewhere within an amalgam of these articles by Glenn Greenwald and David Sirota in Salon, Chris Floyd from Empire Burlesque, Haim Baram in H'aretz, Cord Jefferson in Good, Chris Hayes in The Nation, Kai Wright of ColorLines, and this post by Will Wilkinson from The Economist.
With all the shifting versions of what really happened during the Abbottabad raid (prompting the White House to finally gag itself), one thing is clear: this was a kill mission.
The other day, Marc Ambinder, writing in National Journal, reported:
The White House made clear to JSOC that it strongly preferred to have bin Laden killed, rather than captured, because the administration had no good idea where to put him. Still, just in case bin Laden successfully surrendered, a contingency plan was created for taking custody of him. It involved flying bin Laden to a U.S. aircraft carrier in international waters, with decisions to be made later on where to take him after that. The half-formulated plan, of course, never had to be used. (emphasis added)So, apparently, it's better to execute a wanted criminal than have the annoying task of actually bringing him to justice. I mean, it's such a hassle to figure out where to put him! And they had "no good idea" anyway. Imagine all the paper work! Far easier to shoot him in the face and dump him into the ocean. In strict accordance to Islamic principles, of course. Just like all Muslim sea burials.
Clearly, this is what Obama meant by the "pride in what this nation stands for, and what we can achieve." He is aware that shooting an unarmed man is "a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people." Anyone who might think that the "rule of law and the rights of man" are what make America great would be wrong. Covert kill teams are what make us great. A decade of invasions, occupations, and hundreds of thousands dead in order to exact vengeance on one man, now that's dedication, American-style. It's how we "stand up for our values abroad." It is "the story of our history."
Apparently, when he declared "that America can do whatever we set our mind to" and affirmed that "there’s nothing we can’t do," the President really meant, "there's nothing we can't do except actually capture bin Laden alive in order to put him on trial and sentence him to death for his crimes like our Constitution demands we do, because, hey, I just have no good idea about where to put him." When, during his inaugural speech, Obama said, "In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less," he wasn't counting the short-cut of killing rather than capturing and the settling for revenge rather than justice. And when, in the same speech and many since, Obama rejected "as false the choice between our safety and our ideals" and assured his citizens, and the world, that the United States would not abandon those ideals "for expedience sake," he didn't mean having to spend time dealing with the irritating task of finding a suitable location to detain the country's most wanted man and irksome minutiae of due process.
Earlier in his fawning love letter to JSOC, Ambinder also noted,
Created in 1980 after the disastrous hostage-rescue mission in Iran, JSOC is part of the U.S. Special Operations Command that oversees the various special-operations commands of the Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy. Over the past 10 years, JSOC units have been essential to U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. JSOC has fought a silent but successful proxy war against Iran's Revolutionary Guards—even, National Journal has learned, engaging directly with its soldiers in at least three countries. It has broken up nuclear-proliferation rings. JSOC has developed contingency plans to safeguard Pakistan's nuclear weapons in the event of a coup in that nation. Its intelligence unit helps Colombian commandos dismantle lucrative drug rings that finance Hezbollah operations around the world. (emphasis added)One would hope that such assertions would be backed up by actual evidence or at least a link to a source, but nah, Ambinder and his editors don't think so. Isn't this major news? Armed combat with the troops of another country? And yet, it's just glossed over with the expectation that Ambinder's readers will just smile and move on, thrilled that our militarism and kill teams know no bounds.