“We No Longer Need to Kill bin Laden, Claims Barack Obama”–headline, Daily Mail (London), Jan. 15, 2009
Unless, I guess, your poll numbers are falling off a cliff and you need something to distract the hoi polloi. I’m expecting the movie to come out next summer, just as the presidential campaign is heating up. From the Bookworm Room blog we get this summary of the White House narrative following the demise of bin Laden:
1) There was a firefight.
2) There was no firefight.
3) Bin Laden was “resisting.”
4) Bin Laden wasn’t armed. (Makes the concept of “resisting” interesting.)
[4.a) And the newest one: the SEALS thought bin Laden was reaching for a weapon.]
5) He used his wife as a shield.
6) His wife was killed too.
7) He didn’t use his wife as a shield. She ran at a SEAL who shot her in the leg, but she’s fine.
8 ) Some other woman — the maid? — was used as a shield. By somebody. Downstairs.
9) That other woman — downstairs — was killed.
10) Maybe not. She was killed unless she wasn’t — and who was she, anyway?
11) Bin Laden’s son was killed.
12) Unless it was some other guy.
13) Bin Laden’s daughter saw him get killed. She’s undoubtedly traumatized, poor dear.
14) They were going to capture Bin Laden until the problem with the helicopter, which was:
A) It had mechanical trouble
B) It did a hard landing
C) It crashed
D) It clipped a wall with a tail rotor, effectively a crash
15.) They were never going to try to capture him; it was always a kill mission.
16.) No, it wasn’t.
17) The chopper blew up.
18) The SEALs blew it up.
19.) Panetta said the world needed proof and the photo would be released.
20.) Obama said in an interview he taped with Steve Kroft for “60 Minutes” to be broadcast Sunday that it won’t be released. It’s too gruesome, would offend Muslim sensibilities (something he worries about a lot — I personally do not give a warm fart on a wet Wednesday about Muslim sensibilities), and how would Americans feel if Muslims released pictures of dead Americans?
21.) Kroft — who’s not a total idiot — pointed out that ever since “Black Hawk Down” days, Muslims have been doing precisely that, filming American bodies being dragged through the streets, filming Daniel Pearl’s head being cut off, filming any and everything.
22) Obama gets pissed at CBS, the tape gets cleaned up, that question disappears. (Inside info.)
23.) We got a “treasure trove” of stuff from hard drives, etc.
24.) There were no phone lines, and no internet access at the “mansion,” they didn’t even have TV — what “treasure trove?”
25.) There is obviously in the pictures of the place a large satellite dish. I guess they used it for making salads.
26.) And now, just today: apparently the idea was to capture him, but only if he was naked. There was a suspicion he might be wearing a suicide bomber type explosive vest, or belt. So if he’s not naked and you can’t see if he has a vest on or not – shoot him.
The Administration is now saying that the multiple conflicting statements are due to ‘confusion’ from incomplete information. Here’s an idea: if you don’t know what you’re talking about, shut the hell up.
But that little bit of wisdom is anathema to politicians and journalists, who must at all times appear to be the smartest, most informed people in the room. The usual result is that they very often appear quite the opposite, but then find some scapegoat so they’re not held accountable. A politician’s ability to make the public forget their transgressions was much easier to pull off before the Information Age gave just about everyone access to any public utterance.
Of course, if you’re going to repeatedly and publicly put your foot in your mouth, not even a tame press can help you. The president’s announcement after the fact was appropriate for it’s content and brevity. A simple announcement that a press conference would be held when the facts were known might have generated suspicion and speculation in the short term, but the long term effects of a factual, coherent message would have been far more salubrious. Rather than an image of confidence and competence, the Executive branch has made themselves appear incompetent and disorganized.
For a coherent look at the events of 2 May, check out the Wikipedia entry.
From the description of events it appears that the downed helicopter encountered a phenomenon known as Vortex Ring State, a condition encountered by rotary-wing aircraft, often near the ground, that severely reduces lift. This same condition caused several V-22 Osprey crashes during that aircraft’s development. The recovery procedure is to fly the aircraft forward to get to ‘clean’ air, but that’s not an option when you’re surrounded by buildings and high walls.