In a country where the divide between Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters is nearly even, its impossible to keep politics from creeping into everything â€” even the death of America's Public Enemy No. 1, Osama bin Laden.
Following the May 1 targeting of the terrorist leader, debate is emerging over who should receive credit for his death. Some argue that, as the one to pull the trigger on the attack, President Barack Obama deserves praise for his decisive action. However, others argue that Obamas success was built on the anti-terror foundation that was laid by former president George W. Bush.
As details emerge on how intelligence leading to bin Laden was gathered, its becoming clear that information gained under policies put in place by Bush and initially opposed, but later supported, by Obama, played a critical role in pinpointing bin Ladens location.
A May 2 Associated Press article states CIA interrogators in secret overseas prisons in Poland and Romania developed the first information that led to bin Laden.
According to the report, within those prisons Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned the Sept. 11 attacks, provided the pseudonym of one of bin Ladens most trusted aides. The Wall Street Journal also says intelligence came from detainees being held at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Telegraph reports a Wikileaks file suggests that the U.S. learned the identity of bin Laden courier Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti through the capture and CIA interrogation of al-Qaeda facilitator Hassan Ghul.
In an interview on NBC, Brian Williams asked CIA Director Leon Panetta about how the much-criticized enhanced interrogation methods used under Bush, such as waterboarding, helped develop information that led to bin Ladens takedown.
Clearly some of [the information] came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees, but we also had information from other sources as well, Panetta said. They used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees, but the debate about whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always going to be an open question.
After taking office in 2009, Obama ordered the ending of the CIAs overseas prisons, the banning of enhanced interrogation methods and the closing of Guantanamo Bay. Since then, Obama backed away from closing Guantanamo and ordered military commission trials to resume there, rather than the civilian trials he promised to pursue.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama may have banned Bushs interrogation methods and tweaked detention policies, but he also adopted â€” and amplified â€” the most important security polices, such as indefinite detention of terror detainees and military tribunals.
In another Wall Street Journal article, former attorney general Michael Mukasey said the very policies Obama once opposed helped him to locate and kill bin Laden. Support for these programs, he writes, is critical.
Policies put in place by the very administration that presided over this splendid success promise fewer such successes in the future, Mukasey said. Acknowledging and meeting the need for an effective and lawful interrogation program, which we once had, and freeing CIA operatives and others to administer it under congressional oversight, would be a fitting way to mark the demise of Osama bin Laden.
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argued that the information regarding bin Laden was not gathered through waterboarding, however.
It is true that some information that came from normal interrogation approaches at Guantanamo did lead to information that was beneficial in this instance, Rumsfeld told Newsmax. But it was not harsh treatment and it was not waterboarding.
While some, including White House press secretary Jay Carney, former White House senior policy analyst Jeff Schweitzer, Former Associate News Editor for The Huffington Post Larry Womack and Huffington Post columnist Dan Froomkin say Bushs policies did not necessarily play a role in bin Ladens death, others insist Obamas success came because of Bush.
The protocols for taking out Osama bin Laden were all established by President Bush and all opposed by Senator and then candidate Obama, Victor Davis Hanson writes at National Review. When the president reminds us this week of what over the years Ive repeatedly made clear, does he include his opposition to what he now has institutionalized?
It would take one giant leap for mankind to pretend President Nixon was the driving force behind the Apollo missions, Milton Wolf writes for the Washington Times. He deserves credit, of course, for following Kennedys vision, just as President Obama deserves credit for following Mr. Bushs vision, but it would be the step of a truly small man to ignore the real visionaries.
The bin Laden operation is the perfect vindication of the war on terror, Charles Krauthammer writes. It was made possible precisely by the vast war-like infrastructure that the Bush administration created post-9/11, a fierce regime of capture and interrogation, of dropped bombs and commando strikes. In other words, from a Global War on Terror infrastructure that critics, including Barack Obama himself, deplored as a tragic detour from American rectitude.
Osama bin Laden was found because the United States military exploited actionable intelligence extracted by subjecting terrorist to enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) in secret CIA prisons, by questioning enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, and by capturing a top al-Qaeda source in Iraq, Guy Benson writes at Townhall.com. It must be pointed out that all three sources of these indispensable data points were direct or indirect results of Bush policies â€” EITs, Gitmo, and the Iraq war â€” that much of the American Left, including Barack Obama, fought tooth and nail.
On the other hand, those who protest that Obama deserves all the credit for finding bin Laden cite Bushs own words regarding bin Laden as reason to avoiding giving the former president credit. Media Matters cites a 2002 interview in which Bush said he was not concerned about bin Laden anymore.
I was concerned about him when he had taken over a country, Bush said in the interview. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.
Others argue that Obama should be able to take credit for doing exactly what he promised to do during the 2008 presidential debate, where he said he would be willing to take out bin Laden in Pakistan without Pakistans approval.
If the United States has al-Qaeda, bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take him out, he said during the debate.
White House aides also told ABC News that Obamas decision to go forward with the operation against bin Laden was gutsy and bold. And in his speech to the nation on Sunday, Obama took credit for making the hunt for bin Laden a priority of his administration.
Shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al-Qaeda even as we continued our broader effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network, Obama said. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
In an interview with Morning Majority, Lanny Davis, a former Clinton White House Counsel, urged people to stop arguing about who deserved the credit for bin Ladens death and to focus on unity.
Just this once, cant the strident voices on the left and right â€” from those taking cheap shots at George Bush to those still questioning President Obamas birthplace â€” take a breath and allow Americans to feel proud of our president, proud of the brave Navy SEALs who pulled off this operation, and proud of our country â€” Red, Blue, and now, truly, Purple?
This message of unity has been echoed in other sources, where still others credit both Bush and Obama for the death of bin Laden.
President Obama gets credit. It happened on his watch. The decision to use helicopters as opposed to aerial bombardment was extremely gutsy, Ari Fleischer, a former Bush press secretary said. Does Bush get credit? Of course he does. But nothing says that credit in this country cannot go to two presidents.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told The Hill she called not only Bush, but also former President Bill Clinton to praise them for their part in finding bin Laden. She also praised Obama for his leadership. ABC News reports other Republican and Democrat leaders praised Bush, Clinton and Obama as well.
Former Bush White House chief of staff Andy Card said he credits both presidents for bin Ladens demise, telling the Seattle Times that Bush put bin Laden on track to be brought to justice and Obama deserved credit for approving the operation. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney offered their congratulations to Obama as well.
In a National Journal column by reporter Major Garrett, Garrett recalls being with Bush on the morning of Sept. 11, writing that in the 10 years since that event, the United States learned about diplomacy, counter-terrorism and perseverance through trial and error.
It is worth noting and celebrating that George W. Bush and Barack Obama, two very different men from utterly different backgrounds and perspectives on American politics, pursued the same goal and achieved it on behalf of a grateful country, Garrett writes. The death of bin Laden links them both.