I believe in giving former President Bush all the credit he deserves in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Read on to find out the credit I think he earned in his eight years as president.
Republicans have been quick to acknowledge and praise former president Bush's "contributions" to bringing the head of Al Qaeda and the man behind the 9/11 attacks to justice. However, they have been less charitable regarding our current President. Indeed many of them have refused to give Obama much of any credit for getting Osama bin Laden as Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks demonstrates in this video:
Republicans have also been claiming that Bush's policy to torture "enemy combatants" was the key to finding Bin Laden. Unfortunately for them, our own BooMan and Marcy Wheeler have demonstrated that their assertion torture had much if anything to do with tracking down Bin Laden is at best misleading, and at worst, an outright lie.
I know Marcy Wheeler is an encyclopedia when it comes to the timeline and torture of various detainees and so I checked her site first. Sure enough, she had already made an effort to debunk this talking point, which didn't originate with King and was not a result of King being briefed on anything. But, actually, Wheeler didn't pick up on the most obvious evidence that waterboarding had nothing to do with finding bin-Laden. It's right here in this ABC News piece, and it's completely explicit.The revelation that intelligence gleaned from the CIA's so-called black sites helped kill bin Laden was seen as vindication for many intelligence officials who have been repeatedly investigated and criticized for their involvement in a program that involved the harshest interrogation methods in U.S. history.
"We got beat up for it, but those efforts led to this great day," said Marty Martin, a retired CIA officer who for years led the hunt for bin Laden.
Mohammed did not reveal the names while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He identified them many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic.
Let me spend just a little time laying this out for you. Two men gave information that led to the identification of one of bin-Laden's couriers. Both of those men were held in black sites in Europe. Both men were tortured, including with the waterboarding technique. But they didn't give up the relevant information while they were being tortured.
The first detainee is alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He gave up the courier's nickname under standard questioning, many months after he was tormented with incessant waterboarding. Two years later, another detainee was captured and waterboarded. His name is Abu Faraj al-Libi. As Marcy details, al-Libi didn't provide the man's actual identity until long after his waterboarding had ceased, and probably not until after he was transferred from the black site to Guantanamo.
Let me just add one more "pesky fact" but highly significant action by the Bush administration that demonstrates Bush had little if anything to do with getting Bin Laden.
Back in 2005 a special unit of the CIA was devoted solely to tracking down the whereabouts of Bin Laden as well as working to discover his plans for future terrorist attacks. It was a unit that had been officially put in place in 1996 under President Clinton. Guess who disbanded that unit and then waited over 6 months to tell anyone about it? If you guessed President George W. Bush have your self a cigar:
Published: July 4, 2006
WASHINGTON, July 3 — The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, intelligence officials confirmed Monday.
The unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the C.I.A. Counterterrorist Center, the officials said.
No one knows exactly when the CIA began taking an interest in Bin Laden, but its clear that the CIA and NSA began surveillance of Osama Bin Laden as long ago as the early 1990's when George Herbert Walker Bush was President.
It has not been revealed when US intelligence begins monitoring bin Laden exactly, though the CIA was tailing him in Sudan by the end of 1991 (see February 1991- July 1992). But in late 1995 the FBI is given forty thick files on bin Laden from the CIA and NSA, mostly communications intercepts (see October 1995). The sheer amount of material suggests the surveillance had been going on for several years. Dan Coleman, an FBI agent working with the CIA’s bin Laden unit, will begin examining these files and finds that many of them are transcripts from wiretapped phones tied to bin Laden’s businesses in Khartoum, Sudan, where bin Laden lives from 1991 to 1996.
Yet the George W. Bush administration unilaterally decided to make Osama Bin Laden a lesser priority in 2005, just as they had earlier decided to make Afghanistan a lesser priority when they decided to invade Iraq. In essence, Bush pulled the plug on getting Osama Bin Laden four years after 9/11.
The first head of the Alec Unit (sometimes referred to as the Bin Laden Issue Station), when informed of Bush's decision to disband it stated quite clearly at the time he thought Bush was making a major mistake and would hurt our nation's ability to combat Al Qaeda:
Michael Scheuer, a former senior C.I.A. official who was the first head of the [Alec] unit, said the move reflected a view within the agency that Mr. bin Laden was no longer the threat he once was.
Mr. Scheuer said that view was mistaken.
"This will clearly denigrate our operations against Al Qaeda," he said. "These days at the agency, bin Laden and Al Qaeda appear to be treated merely as first among equals."
So the next time someone tells you Bush deserves the credit and all Obama did was follow his policies drop that little bombshell on them:
In 2005 Bush dismantled the only unit in the CIA that was dedicated to looking for Bin Laden because the Bush administration didn't think it was important anymore. It wasn't until 2009 when Barack Obama took office that finding Bin Laden and bringing him to justice was reinstated as a priority.
That last quote is solely my own words, by the way, but feel free to use them in any emails or social media communications you employ.
What credit does Bush deserve for what Obama, his national security team, intelligence analysts and the Navy Seals accomplished in killing Osama bin Laden? This was, after all, the man who Bush ignored until the Twin Towers lay in ash and rubble with thousands of people buried within their smoking ruins?
[In "The One Percent Doctrine," Ron Suskind's] book's opening anecdote tells of an unnamed CIA briefer who flew to Bush's Texas ranch during the scary summer of 2001, amid a flurry of reports of a pending al-Qaeda attack, to call the president's attention personally to the now-famous Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." Bush reportedly heard the briefer out and replied: "All right. You've covered your ass, now." Three months later, with bin Laden holed up in the Afghan mountain redoubt of Tora Bora, the CIA official managing the Afghanistan campaign, Henry A. Crumpton (now the State Department's counterterrorism chief), brought a detailed map to Bush and Cheney. White House accounts have long insisted that Bush had every reason to believe that Pakistan's army and pro-U.S. Afghan militias had bin Laden cornered and that there was no reason to commit large numbers of U.S. troops to get him. But Crumpton's message in the Oval Office, as told through Suskind, was blunt: The surrogate forces were "definitely not" up to the job, and "we're going to lose our prey if we're not careful."
You tell me if Bush deserves any credit for getting Bin Laden whatsoever.
I know what my answer is. I give Bush all the credit in the world for making certain we would not find Osama bin Laden or bring him to justice until someone else became President. He did a great job at accomplishing that mission.