Monday, May 2, 2011

Three FOK News Channel posts for this date.
Click to go directly to:
Special Comment: On the death of Osama bin Laden
Bin Laden Dead – And It Was Live-Tweeted
Snappy Answers
Special Comment: On the death of Osama bin Laden
Video via FOK News Channel
video 'podcast'

transcript dubiously sourced, may not be official

Now, as promised, a special comment on the death of Osama bin Laden and its immediate impact on this country.

Unlike most such things, the counterterrorism component can be overestimated. By all accounts, bin Laden had largely disconnected from the operational side of al Qaeda, so he will likely prove more valuable to its terrible cause as a martyred inspiration than he had been as a large and perpetual target.

Concomitantly, while the desire for revenge within those who ally themselves with that almost diaphanous organization may be intense, al Qaeda was never built for, and has never succeeded at the quick, bold strike; plans were meticulous and lead-times measured not in days but in years. If there have been such nightmares hatching within what we might define still as "al Qaeda", it is possible that they might be sprung, and soon.

But the story of terrorism within this country since 9/11 is the story of amateurs in a hurry. And in terrorism, amateurs in a hurry tend to kill themselves; or lock their car keys in their car bombs in Times Square; or decide to shoot up an army base while leaving their training videos to be duplicated at Best Buy; or wind up lighting on fire not their underwear bombs, but their own crotches.

The greatest threat right now certainly is from individuals, not directly connected to al Qaeda, out of rage and frustration, and an accurate sense that their evil inspiration is now dead, acting alone with whatever they might have. It is simultaneously both reassuring and disturbing to remember, however, that these kinds of individuals could be set off by anything - anything from bin Laden's death to bad weather - their threat level may not grow very much at all.

Certainly there will be no groundswell in the Middle East, rising up to avenge the slain supposed leader. Except for the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, and those Pakistani elements who completely failed bin Laden and have a lot more to worry about now, there is not a government in the region who is not happy he's dead: he was their enemy as much as he was ours.

And curious, was it not, that as the uprisings of 2011 unfolded in Egypt, in Libya, in Tunisia, in Syria, in Yemen, not only did none of those who sought change invoke bin Laden or al Qaeda as symbols or inspirations, but the fact that they ignored a terror group that also sought to overthrow these very same governments was not even a part of the public discussion, there or here.

Nobody even questioned why those rightly seeking to derange the power structure of the Middle East did not turn to bin Laden, and that is the ultimate answer to the proverbial question, "What will be the reaction on the Arab street?" Some on the "Arab street" may have danced on 9/11. They did not dance when bin Laden began killing Muslims in Indonesia, or in Mumbai.

Thus, the largest international impact for this country relates to the nature of our involvement in Afghanistan. Despite the elimination of bin Laden and the prospect that it could animate the Taliban, support for the Afghanistan war here will probably vanish in the weeks and months to come. President Obama could easily accelerate a withdrawal and get nothing but praise from most of the nation.

And now we come to the least important, but the most fascinating impact of the raid at Abbottabad - its rearrangement of the political landscape of this country.

If your instinct is that politics should play no immediate part in the aftermath of bin Laden's death, that is natural and commendable, and the ship sailed in the other direction in 2002, from the day the Republicans put out an ad showing Georgia's senator, Max Cleland, and bin Laden in the same picture.

The symbol of that party might as well not have been an elephant, but bin Laden himself. Everything that happened, everything that did not happen, was perverted into a symbol of Republican mastery and of Democratic weakness, and even Democratic treachery. Five separate national Republican political campaigns were run on a simple premise: "Vote Democratic and you die."

Cleland was only the first to be smeared in 2002. The Swift Boaters turned John Kerry's military experience into a liability in 2004, and the GOP boasted that a bin Laden tape released days before the vote had turned the election to President Bush. The 2006 midterms were run on the GOP premise that Bush had kept us safe, conveniently ignoring that it was on his watch that the nightmare of 9/11 unfolded.

2008 brought this divisive, sick strategy to its apex: the claim that a candidate for the presidency was not actually American, that he was a terrorist sympathizer. 2010 saw invocations of how that president had "failed to protect America", even though more terrorist actions had been stopped in his first 18 months in office than had in his predecessor's two entire terms.

And each campaign, and those few days between each campaign, were devoted to a campaign of a different sort - the argument that terrorism could be countered only by unique and gruesome methods. Torture was necessary; laws were not. And none of that bestiality captured anybody, least of all bin Laden. Just two years, three months, and eleven days after that subhuman dictate was reversed, the ordinary rules prevailed, and triumphed.

This disgusting cornerstone of Republican politics is now gone. Rudy Giuliani's political career ended in an instant: he was reduced this afternoon to praising President Obama. Sarah Palin sealed her demise by tweeting congratulations only to the military, not to the desk jockeys and other intelligence officers whose reading of reports and hard slog work over maps made this possible. And certainly she offered no congratulations to the Commander-in-Chief. Michelle Bachmann's "un-American" meme just vanished. Newt Gingrich's premise of a president flailing internationally went up in a puff of ego. The Peter King hearings in the House - the ones with that thin veneer of studying Muslim extremism masking the true goal of smearing Obama's counterterror efforts - it'll be a surprise if anybody but Rupert Murdoch even sends a reporter now.

Even the immediate fallback, the Republican default about all this, that Barack Obama simply finished what George Bush had started, collapses with the addition of just one fact, that the Republicans themselves so gleefully and viciously trotted out in 2006 and 2007, namely, the hunt for bin Laden did not begin with President Bush, it began with President Clinton. It began with a Democratic president, and it has ended with a Democratic president.

The oversimplification is ridiculous and unfair to those who genuinely fought al Qaeda and bin Laden under the previous president, but oversimplifications shape a nation's thinking, and win elections, and have been the essence of Republican argument on this and other complex subjects for decades. And there is right now only one oversimplification that matters anymore: Barack Obama got Osama bin Laden. And every other political calculation, every strategy that suggests Democratic weakness or liberal uncertainty, or an Obama half-hearted in his defense of this nation, is, of an instant, gone.

These arguments are worse than laughable, worse than stupid, worse than bankrupt. These arguments are today as dead as bin Laden.

Good night, and good luck.
Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions

Idiot Named Jay Gaston Keeps Posting Inappropriate And Vulgar Comments Here Not Realizing I Have His Email And IP Addresses

Answer: I said if he does it again, I'll post them. Let's start: email addresses censored by Countdown Library management

As a further warning: any commenter posting threats against other commenters (or anybody else here) will also be banned from this site. Nothing of this sort will be tolerated; do not make threats to commenters on or off this site.
Bin Laden Dead – And It Was Live-Tweeted (Updated)

As the details continue to come in, there are several important points (and, at the bottom of this, several unimportant ones) to remember, and a remarkable new one to digest.

- The elimination of Osama Bin Laden was live-tweeted:

Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).

That, for Sohaib Athar of Abbottabad, Pakistan (@ReallyVirtual) was when it started, around 4 PM Eastern time.

Go away helicopter – before I take out my giant swatter :-/

Closer to 5 PM Eastern:

A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty :-S

Ear-witness to history. The details begin to come in to Mr. Athar:

the few people online at this time of the night are saying one of the copters was not Pakistani...

Tell me about it.

Since taliban (probably) don't have helicpoters, and since they're saying it was not "ours", so must be a complicated situation #abbottabad

I once left Palm Springs, California, at the exact moment students began to riot during spring break. My astonishment upon learning what I had seen is still fresh in my memory. That must've been nothing compared to Mr. Athar's growing awareness:

Two helicpoters, one down, could actually be the training accident scenario they're saying it was

This next one, about 10 PM Eastern, gives me chills:

Interesting rumors in the otherwise uneventful Abbottabad air today

Once again, all jigsaw puzzle parts are there. Only nobody knows that it's a jigsaw.

Report from a taxi driver: The army has cordoned off the crash area and is conducting door-to-door search in the surrounding

We are now past the time Obama's speech has been announced:

Report from a sweeper: A family also died in the crash, and one of the helicopter riders got away and is now being searched for.

Truer words never tweeted. And then comes this:

RT @ISuckBigTime: Osama Bin Laden killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan.: ISI has confirmed it << Uh oh, there goes the neighborhood :-/

I love this man.

Uh oh, now I'm the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it.

Mr. Athar is, for now at least, The Most Interesting Tweeter In The World.

- Mr. Athar's life now begins to resemble Wilmer McLean, on whose property the first major battle (Bull Run) of the Civil War was fought. Athar advises he relocated from Lahore to get "some peace and quiet." This was why McLean left his farm and moved to Appomattox Courthouse, where four years later his house was used for Lee's surrender to Grant.

About 1:40 AM Eastern, Mr. Athar decided to show us Abbottabad.

He accompanies this with sage insight:

People don't use twitter here, hence they don't realize the attention they're getting. Ignorance is bliss.

And a little more humor, at about 2:15 AM Eastern:

Interesting. I didn't think my name would trend on twitter before releasing a couple of rock albums and a few award-winning software...

Have you ever considered hosting a show on Current?

- The President is right to raise security levels at US installations and bases. However, remember the premise of Al-Qaeda is the long-planned, meticulously-choreographed "spectacular." While an attempt at vengeance should not be discounted, it should be pointed out that what we would call in normal-human speak 'a quick turnaround' is not their forte. A terrorist in a hurry is a terrorist who drops the backpack bomb when he gets chased out of the subway. A terrorist in a hurry is a terrorist who lights himself and not his underwear bomb on fire. A terrorist in a hurry is a terrorist who locks his house keys in his car-bomb in Times Square.

- There is no reason to assume Al-Qaeda dries up and blows away. It is in fact plausible to consider that since (as Al-Jazeera pointed out) Bin Laden was no longer even connected to actual terrorist operations, he may prove to be more valuable to terrorists as an inspirational martyr than he was as a perpetual target.

- It is fascinating that after a decade of breaking all of our traditions of spycraft and not torturing so we wouldn't get bad intelligence and not starting wars that don't have anything to do with the matter at hand, it only took two years, three months, and eleven days after reverting to the ordinary old hard slog of human intelligence, the target was eliminated. In fact, based on the skeletal timeline the President gave, the target was located only 19 months after the old rules were restored. Remember: the professionals always say spying and intelligence (military intelligence included) resembles not Ian Fleming's James Bond, but John LeCarre's George Smiley.

- Here's one of those unimportant things. This was the President, via C-SPAN, captured by The New York Observer, during the jokes about bin Laden during The White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday Night. The proverbial 1000-word screencap:

- You can say all you want about unity and non-politicization of this event, but that ship sailed – and in the other direction – in 2002 and 2004. The GOP claimed all the credit in the world for anything that happened and anything that didn't. President Obama was attacked before during and after his election for supposedly "weak" national security credentials. In point of fact, as of tonight his national security/counter-terrorism credentials probably jumped to Number 4 on the all-time Presidential list, just behind Lincoln, FDR, and Madison.

- To that end, please join us in saying goodbye to Sarah Palin, whose career ended tonight. She sealed it by tweeting congratulations only to the military. Not a word about Intelligence personnel, and certainly not a word about Obama. Speaking of intelligence, rationalizing the death of Bin Laden under a Democratic president is going to test the limit of hers. Which ain't gonna take long.

- The primary "respectable" meme from the Right will be that this was merely the culmination of the search begun under President Bush. You know: the parallel to the sense that Harry Truman was only a steward completing the World War II tasks of FDR. That's very nice – and certainly those Americans who bravely hunted and searched, no matter who was in charge, deserve our humble thanks right now. But the American hunt for Bin Laden began under President Clinton – as the Republicans were so happy to point out loudly and grotesquely in 2005-06-07 (and the arming of Bin Laden began under President Reagan, by the way, back when we thought he was a good wedge against the Russians in Afghanistan).

- An ugly, and ill-informed, version of the above has appeared in the laughable Washington Times. In point of fact, Mr. Bush personally de-prioritized the hunt for bin Laden said himself he didn't worry about him. There will be a lot of Sour Grapes on the right – it sucks being them right now.

- Lastly, you can't stop them, you can only hope to contain them. This twitpic from ESPN Chicago correspondent Sarah Spain comes from the Fox affiliate in Sacramento. Sigh.

Somebody found an even better image:

This pales, of course, to what the anchor at the Fox station in Washington, WTTG, said – first thing out of his mouth as the President walked away from the podium:

"President Obama speaking from the East Room of the White House, telling the nation and the world: President Obama is in fact dead. It was a U.S.-led strategic (horrified co-anchor mumbles correction) I'm sorry. Osama Bin Laden is dead."