Wingnuts give the president creditIf you’re like me, you just spent the better part of the past week listening to Right-wingers dismiss President Obama’s great achievement of finally getting Osama bin Laden, and give most of the credit to President Bush. Their arguments for doing so are filled with wingnut torture fantasies and baseless assumptions, not a single one of which holds up to any scrutiny.

I almost feel ashamed of last weeks’ column, written mere hours before news broke of OBL’s capture. Add to that a week of the best jobs numbers in 5 years and lower unemployment (8.7%), and few presidents have had weeks as good as the one President Obama just had.

When news of bin Laden’s capture broke, I immediately added my YouTube video of President Bush… a mere SIX MONTHS AND TWO DAYS after 9/11… telling reporters that he “truly was not that concerned about” the man that had just murdered 3,000 Americans in one day, not to mention the 17 sailors killed (and 39 injured) in the bombing of the USS Cole the month before the 2000 election (which he didn’t follow up on when it was discovered bin Laden was the perpetrator just 11 days before taking office), or the numerous overseas hotel bombings in the late 90’s.

I uploaded that video in 2006. I had gone to the Whitehouse website, searched their video archives for the Press Conference given on the morning of March 13, 2002, and (via a bit of detective work), was able to download the raw video, find the quote in question, clipped it, and uploaded a damning “short” version (and a longer “full” version for the inevitable Freepers screaming “out of  context!”) to YouTube. 177,000 hits in four years (not too shabby) suddenly saw 20,000 hits overnight! Yikes! As Casey Casem would say: “The hits kept coming”, with 154,000 new views just since last week. Every time I saw the clip played on TV or the radio, I knew it was MY clip they were playing, and it felt good. Suddenly, it was all worth the trouble.

Anyway, in that first week, the video drew the Bush defenders/apologists like flies, spouting the most ridiculous nonsense. “Obama taking credit is like the elevator operator taking credit for taking you from the ninth to the tenth floor!” I shot back, “No. It’s more like running the football in for a touchdown after the last guy fumbled the ball 99 yards back.” And of course, there were those trying to credit “intelligence” collected via torture for information “DIRECTLY” leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden.” And their evidence of this? CIA Director Leon Panetta’s comment that information gathered from “all sources, including waterboarding” led to the success of the mission. This really is just Pannetta’s way of saying “there is no such thing as useless information”. But Panetta did NOT say intel gleaned from torture “directly” led to the capture of bin Laden. Nor did he say that the information couldn’t of been acquired any other way. He was simply trying not to get caught up in a discussion/distraction over the legality of torture. But the Right took the comment and ran with it. “Bush Vindicated!” they trumped like elephants. “Torture works!” “Obama’s own CIA Director admits they couldn’t of done it without information extracted through torture!” Of course, he never said any such thing. Instead, he acknowledges that “we’ll never know if the information couldn’t of been acquired without the use of ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques”, but that was what Bush used, so that’s what they got.

Now, regardless of what Panetta said, two year old (minimum) intelligence about the whereabouts of where someone will be in 2011 isn’t terribly likely. And everyone from Rumsfeld last week, to Dick Cheney yesterday on Fox “news” Sunday, all concede that the Obama Administration abandoned the practice of “enhanced interrogation” when he took office. (tip of the hat to Nicolle Belle on Crooks & Liars for a link to former NSA Chief Hayden saying they stopped waterboarding detainees in 2003.)

And if information derived from “enhanced interrogation” provided actionable intelligence on the whereabouts of bin Laden, why did it take two more years (minimum, assuming the info was obtained in 2008) to find him? The information couldn’t have been THAT valuable if, best case scenario, it took another two years for it to lead to bin Laden.

The most popular claim I’ve been hearing is that the information that led to OBL’s capture came directly from “KSM: Kalid Sheik Mohammad”. This is probably the BEST examples of Republican “desperation” to defend Bush I’ve seen. KSM was the biggest fish caught by the Bush Administration, whom they reportedly waterboarded “183 times” (not sure what they expected to learn on the 183rd try that 182 prior attempts failed to reveal) for “useful” intelligence. How much worthless information did they have to sift through before something “legitimate” was found in that mountain of worthless intel? How much time & money did they waste chasing down every needle in those haystacks?

Now follow me on this: KSM, who was captured in 2002, supposedly provided intel on where OBL would be nine years later in 2011, living in a house that wasn’t even built until 2005. Yep. NO WONDER KSM was able to pull off his attacks, he was psychic and could see the future (not counting the day he was caught).

We already have the video of Bush telling us how “unconcerned” he was about bin Laden as far back as March of 2002. We know they “closed the bin Laden desk” at the CIA in the first year of Bush’s second term because the trail had grown “stone cold”, and it wasn’t until July of 2008 that President Bush renewed the push to get Osama bin Laden “before he leaves office”. But by that that time, they were basically “starting from scratch”. They clearly didn’t already possess some “vital intel acquired via enhanced interrogation” in 2008 or they would of caught him, no?

What DID happen was this: bin Laden never left the compound he had built in 2005 for fear of being caught, so he relied on two “couriers” to play “Go’fer” for everything he needed, one of whom was a Kuwaiti national (a nation that still thinks well of the U.S. for kicking out Saddam in 1991.) And it is that courier that reportedly revealed the whereabouts of bin Laden. Not torture, not “waterboarding” or even “enhanced interrogation”. Just plain old intelligence gathering.

Which suggests another possible factor in why Bush failed so miserably at catching bin Laden: his relationship with the intelligence community… or lack thereof. Remember, they were serving a president that outed an undercover CIA agent and pissed away a long standing intelligence operation, endangering hundreds of lives (both agents and contacts) all in a petty act of revenge for the husband of an agent exposing Bush’s lies. A president that blamed the CIA for their intelligence failure on the existence of WMD’s in Iraq, after riding them like a pony at a rich kids birthday party for two years demanding that they tell him exactly what they wanted to hear. You just don’t stick your neck out for a president that treats your organization like that. So, did that affect just how hard they worked to find bin Laden so they could hand him the political coup of his miserable presidency? Who knows, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.

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