by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
May 4, 2011
BIN LADEN'S DEAD. CAN WE END THIS WAR NOW, PLEASE?
ANGEL FIRE, N.M., May 4, 2011 -- The killing of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. Navy Seals inside Pakistan presents a new challenge to the United States and its intelligence communities in dealing modern political and media realities.
A number of questions, possible solutions, and changes in policy have come to mind over the past few days. For objective leaders willing to embrace change they are food for hard thought. For doubting Thomases or folks who like things just the way they are, these comments should still be a starting point for open debate:
BIN LADEN DEATH PHOTOS: We live in a world where an editorial cartoon in Denmark sparked anti-Western riots by militant Islamists in a number of countries. This resulted in scores of deaths and injuries.
We also live in a world where photos can digitally be doctored to look like anyone or anything, and those who choose to believe that Osama Bin Laden was never killed, man never walked on the Moon, or the Red Sox never won the World Series will continue to think that way.
If officials beyond my savvy or pay grade believe there could eventually be a benefit to U.S. foreign policy by releasing death pix ß la ChÚ Guevera, one person should still be given veto power.
I am not referring to President Barack Obama. The decision should be made by Mrs. Mariane Pearl, widow of beheaded Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl.
Many in the Islamic world did not doubt the veracity of the video of a Jewish journalist being beheaded. Gruesome or "true some"? No one is better qualified to judge the impact or justice of releasing the Bin Laden photos than Mrs. Pearl.
NATIONAL SECRETS AND TREASON: Millions of documents are classified "secret"Łeach year even if they list the patrons of a brothel near a U.S. military base. The world of Facebook, Twitter, and text messages has created a new reality.
If a former aide to a former U.S. Secretary of Defense received a call or a "tweet" from a friend of a friend who knew someone "who knew something" before the President"s address to the nation Sunday night, he should have kept his mouth shut and his keyboard under the desk.
If Wolf Blitzer at CNN felt the need to gush that the imminent White House announcement was "a matter involving national security, but I am told it does not involve Col. Gaddhafi," he should have done his best Larry David impersonation and curbed his enthusiasm.
Ditto for Geraldo Rivera of Fox, and members of Congress who were "briefed" ahead of the public.
Think about it. If the announcement was not involving Libya it could be two things causing the President to pre-empt Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" in my time zone: Atomic War, or Bin Laden's capture or killing.
Present and former government employees and members of the press must be held accountable. If things had gone seriously wrong in Pakistan, and U.S. troops and their informants were in danger, the White House might very well have had a good reason to control and spin the time and wording of any release.
There are real secrets which jeopardize American troops. Crack down on loose lips. What is called "operational security" has slowly slackened since 9/11/01.
THE TRUTH ABOUT KILLING PEOPLE: There is one and only one group of Americans I know who are justified in denouncing the U.S. killing of Bin Laden. That group is called "Pax Christi." These are devout Catholics who feel there is no justification for killing someone.
They protest death row executions, abortions, and war. They always have. They are passionate and articulate, and under our Constitution they have a right to their views.
Personally, since they make no exceptions for rape, incest, police killers, or Hitler or Bin Laden, I actually respect their intellectual honesty even if I might refute their intellectual reasoning.
Aside from Pax Christi I think the "me" or "permissive"Ł generations of liberal parenting have too often left us confused about a basic tenet of America and Western Democracy: the Rights of the State.
Here is the problem with one person's deeply-felt belief that two wrongs don't make a right, or "an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind." It is not your call..
The State (nation) retains the right to make the call to defend and enforce the laws and rights of the State.
The cops catching a repeat shoplifter fleeing a store with a pocket full of I-Pods, should not be moved by a shop owner "refusing to press charges" against the suspect, who is the mayor's son. Every other shop keeper, retail customer, insurance-payer, and citizen in that community has a right and expectation that the "common" rights of the community will be protected by the State.
In the simplest John Mills democratic thought, we once gave up the right to step out of the cave and club to death the guy who stole our goat. Instead we made lots of clubs and hired a bunch of guys to patrol the caves to protect our goats and arrest, try, and - if convicted - punish the goat thieves.
Things get a bit foggy when we invaded the territorial sovereignty of another state (Pakistan) to kill an international terrorist who controlled a network of mass murderers, but the macro concept remains the same: We honor and respect your feelings about murder of any human being. This is a personal and probably deeply held view.
That noted, our society still has the right, and in fact the duty, to enforce the common civilized will to ridding the world of terrorists, especially when it is in response to the killing of almost 3,000 of our own citizens.
PAKISTANI COMPLICITY OR IGNORANCE: Of the sidebar stories emerging from the Bin Laden killing, I find the question of "What did Pakistan know?" or, "Why didn't they know it? " the least important or clear cut.
Some of the people claiming that "Pakistan had to know Bin Laden lived in Abbottabad for five years"Łare people who do not know the name of the neighbors on their block, or have never actually seen the resident of the apartment down the hall. Come on folks!
The United States government had foreign nationals, often with forged I.D.'s, taking flight lessons on how to take off in airplanes but not land them, who were free to roam America.
The United States had foreign nationals with symptoms of anthrax poisoning on their hands walking into Walgreen's in Delray Beach, Fla., looking for over-the-counter remedies, and we still have doubts about who launched anthrax mail attacks in the United States.
To anyone with long years in law enforcement, journalism, or intelligence work Bin Laden's mystery compound is no mystery. We have had CIA moles inside the Beltway living for decades with impunity.
Bin Laden, an educated and shrewd guy with a scientific background, knows the odds. Get trapped in the middle of nowhere in a hut or a cave when a lost patrol gets lucky, or plop your family down in an upscale neighborhood in a populous Moslem nation, and you're done.
Not only is "hiding in plain sight"Ła great American theme in both fact and fiction, but one aspect of Osama's reclusive life is right out of popular Hollywood lore.
We are now told that when kids kicked or threw or (cricket anyone?) batted a ball over Bin Laden's wall, they quickly got it back.
If they were lucky, a Bin Laden flunky came to the gate with some scratch and said, "Salaam aleykum, take this money, go buy another friggin' ball, and get the hell outta here,"Łor the equivalent.
This is the al-Qaeda version of the movie "The Sandlot" where a home run over the back fence meant your ball was captured by "The Beast."
We may learn of policemen or corrupt intelligence agents who were well paid "facilitators" for the Bin Laden family in Pakistan. But ignorance has no nationality, and it is indeed possible or even probable that top government and military officials in Pakistan were as ignorant as pre-9/11 "defenders" of America.
MEMO TO THE PEOPLE OF PAKISTAN: Be careful what you wish for. When Filipino militants called for an end to "U.S. Occupation,"Łthe United States of American closed down the largest military base in the world: Subic Bay. The world did not end and America did not end.
The Pakistanis who move to Manchester and Mobile, London and Lubbock and send their kids to Duke and Dartmouth have the most to lose. Put the anti-American terrorists on a tighter leash or risk being an isolated nuclear power with lots and lots to lose.
You lose diplomatic parity with India and force the United States to give pre-eminence to all sorts of political and geopolitical Indian claims against Pakistan.
You create a new view of the Afghan-Pakistani border, where a shunned Pakistan is now subjected to fierce retaliation for cross-border forays against U.S.-led forces.
You also are added to the list (along with North Korea and Iran) of nations which can have your "peaceful" nuclear facilities flattened by the United States or its surrogate Israel.
Worst of all, using the death of Bin Laden as the catalyst for Pakistani ultra-nationalism kills off the chance of Turkey-style secular democracy in the "Arab Spring"Łand sustains a fractured economic and social class structure which has made Pakistani the Petri dish for radical killers.
MEMO TO AFGHANISTAN: More and more of your people do not what NATO or U.S. troops in the network of tribes and thieves called a country. Many of your misleaders are corrupt and have admitted it.
We probably still have a mutual interest in keeping the Taliban from coming back into power. So in the words of political theorist. Dr. Howie Mandel, "Deal or no deal?"
With the help of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, launch a five year plan to compensate farmers, learn about new crops, and wean your so-called nation from the poppy commoditized heroine industry.
Our troops are being killed in part to maintain a government which actually encourages the Willy Wonker factory of the drug world. Let's put it this way: American troops are dying to allow you to create the stuff which kills Americans. By the way, own our drug culture and problems with Mexico or Colombia are not the issue here.
Launch and implement the plan to end the next cycle of drug raw materials or all our troops are gone by New Year's Day. Either way, he United States retains the right to bomb and destroy Afghan outposts which we feel threaten American security.
MEMO ON DOMESTIC POLITICS: GOP supporters continue ad hominem, racist and ideological criticism at their own risk.
Democrats gloat, become cocky, and forget about the economic crisis at their risk.