Missing the point on Osama

Lost in all the media shuffle of ‘what wacko can we find today that doesn’t think Bin Laden’s dead,’ is a very important question: was killing Osama Bin Laden a political decision?

Obviously killing Bin Laden is pretty good. It does eliminate a long time enemy to the US and western culture as a whole, but could he have been captured? Why wasn’t he captured? Was the intention always to kill him? And if so, was that decision politically motivated?

After discovering Bin Laden’s whereabouts, President Obama was left with basically three initial options: kill, capture and keep it a secret, or capture and make it well known.

All three scenarios have merit, and all three are flawed.

If you capture Bin Laden, and make it well known, you will spend the rest of his life guarding a target for every extremist on the planet. Who wouldn’t want to be the jihadist that attacked the unholy infidel prison housing Bin Laden?

It wouldn’t matter where you put him. Supermax in Colorado, Guantanamo Bay (let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not closing), any location would become a target.

Then there’s the added difficulty of trying and convicting Bin Laden. If it’s political suicide to try the current occupants of Guantanamo in a US district court, can you image the fuss Bin Laden would cause? That’s a task for the second four year term, not the first. The point of politics after all is to get reelected.

You could capture him and keep it a secret. Maybe. The capturing isn’t the hard part. Neither is housing him in a secret facility. Housing him would be surprisingly easy. The real problem is the size of the lie.

After the realization that the CIA was operating secret prisons around the world, lying about Bin Laden is something you simply can’t afford. There’d be no need to worry about an international criminal court, the US isn’t even a signatory to that whole process, the American people would have your head faster than you can ask ‘where’s your birth certificate?’

That leaves you one option: kill him. The beautiful thing about any military rules of engagement is the term “perceived threat.” It’s your convenient little card to do whatever you really want. There’s been enough media reports about regular military units quoting the clause, that it is just accepted at this point. Everybody knows it’s not entirely true, but everybody also knows that it’s so subjective you can hardly argue against it.

That’s exactly what the media is being spun through right now. Bin Laden “may have” been reaching for a weapon. He “may have” made a sudden movement. He “may have” done any number of things that would result in a double tap to the face. You can’t argue it, because you don’t know.

Fact is, politically, it was easier to kill Bin Laden. Forget about the intelligence value of the world’s leading terrorist, you can ransack his humble barb wired compound, take all his computer hard drives and thumb drives and any papers you can find. Sure, they won’t tell you the established courier routes, and they probably won’t tell you the code names used in communications, but who cares? It’s easier than having to explain to the American people what you’re going to do with him alive.