When Jefferson Davis was captured at the end of the Civil War, a report spread that he had been wearing one of his wife’s dresses as a disguise. Northern cartoonists had lots of fun with the image:
It wasn’t true, but no matter: the idea that Jefferson Davis fled from Union troops in a dress was impossible to eradicate.
It has now come out that the account of bin Laden’s death that was retailed by John O. Brennan, President Obama’s remarkably cavalier Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, was wrong in just about every detail. Bin Laden was unarmed; he did not use his wife (or any other woman) as a human shield; and his wife was not killed in the raid. These corrections appear to shed additional light on an earlier contradiction: one Obama official told the press that this was a shoot-to-kill operation all the way, while another said that the SEALs were prepared to capture bin Laden if he had surrendered.
Knowing how SEALs generally operate–very fast–it seems highly unlikely that they engaged in any conversation with bin Laden about whether he wanted to give himself up. Which is a good thing; if they had brought Osama back alive, they would have had to turn him over to Eric Holder. That prospect was no doubt enough to make even Barack Obama shudder.
Asked about the discrepancies, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney attributed the earlier wrong information to the “fog of war.” But it seems obvious that the administration was trying to make bin Laden appear cowardly, and hoped that the image of the “sheikh” hiding behind a woman as he fired at American troops would stay in peoples’ minds. Who knows? If he had thought of it, Brennan might have claimed that bin Laden was wearing a dress.
The raid was brilliantly planned and executed by the military, but one can’t say the same about the administration’s decision-making or communications. Now we are embroiled in controversies about whether photos of the dead bin Laden will be released and whether it was appropriate to give him some sort of religious service in connection with his “burial” at sea. The administration’s missteps do not significantly tarnish the achievement of getting bin Laden, but President Obama and his minions can be grateful that the press will, for the most part, pass over its errors and contradictions in silence.
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