One year ago, Obama accomplished Bush’s mission of finding Osama bin Laden “dead or alive.” Now the GOP, including a top Romney aide, is accusing Obama of ‘playing politics’ with one of the Administration’s principal national security achievements.
It’s worth remembering that the Bush Administration quashed dissent and ‘played politics’ with the first Bin Laden raid (i.e. the one where he attacked us) for the seven years that followed. Shortly after 9/11, Bush said he wanted Bin Laden “dead or alive”:
but then only a few months later said he was “not concerned” about Bin Laden or his whereabouts, and didn’t spend much time thinking about him:
It became obvious later on that this was because he was diverting resources away from the perpetrators of 9/11 toward Iraq. As the aughts ground on, several things became clear. The dragnet in Afghanistan had netted low and mid-level Taliban and al Qaeda people along with a bunch of random people in the wrong place at the wrong time who wound up in Guantanamo. Resources were diverted away from the pursuit of al Qaeda to use in Iraq. Iraq never had Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Bush Administration had no plan for the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. There was no link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, but the Bush Administration tortured prisoners to get them to say there was. Bush inaugurated this half decade of top level psychosis by landing on an aircraft carrier and giving a speech announcing that the US had won the “battle for Iraq” with a “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him:
Remember when the fighting in Iraq stopped on May 1st, 2003, because we won? The power-drunk necon cabal used this outlandish political theater, at the cost of millions of tax dollars to become invincible from the slightest criticism because of the politics they played relentlessly with 9/11.
By way of comparison, Obama mentions in a new campaign ad
that Romney said in 2007 he wouldn’t divert resources to go after Bin Laden. Whatever you happen to think of that decision, it is a fact that he said it. The ad also mentions that Obama did go after Bin Laden and got him. Again, whether you agree with it or not, it is a simple fact.
Obama has not built his entire Administration around a bizarre twist of history and used it as a club against his critics as Bush did. The ad merely points out Obama’s steely nerves in the face of a difficult decision and the fact that he would have owned it if it had gone badly.
The fact will always be there that Bush killed a lot of people other than Bin Laden, and for reasons that ultimately had nothing to do with him. Meanwhile, Obama went after Bin Laden and got him, bookending an ugly decade and possibly making us all a little safer. When it involves open-ended conflict that they can use to bloat the Pentagon and silence their critics, Republicans love to talk about national security. But when a Democratic president quietly accomplishes the mission that the GOP could only talk about for a decade, it suddenly becomes taboo.