Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we'd be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Hole in the Water

I appreciate my friends who like to remind us all that the death of bin Laden solves nothing. However, I disagree. It's true that his death won't stop the war in Afghanistan or the myriad other fronts (Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Europe, Northern and Eastern Africa, Indonesia, or anywhere else). It's true that his function in al Qaeda at this point was mostly spiritual leadership. It's also true that he had time to create a plan of succession within the organization.

It is not true that this isn't a significant blow to al Qaeda. It also isn't true that this doesn't hurt them.

But in the end, it was because he was the one who ordered the attacks on our Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, the attack on the USS Cole, and what most people remember, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Not to mention the other attacks committed against other nations and the acts done in his name.

You do not get to do that and live. The longer he was alive, the more impotent the US appeared (regardless of our numerous victories around the world). For every day he drew breath it encouraged his followers and recruitment efforts and added to his stature as someone "Blessed by Allah."

For a long time we looked for his handiwork, his signature upon the rock. And in the end, we found him the way I knew we would. We found the hole in the water, as they say. We confirmed it with tracking his couriers. Good old style intelligence gathering and analysis at its boring best. And once we knew where he was, the action was done appropriately. The President signed the order, the team practiced, the watchers waited to make sure the target didn't move, and the plan went off when we determined it would. And nobody tipped their hand. For eight months. You just can't believe the professionalism involved in that.

Now Osama/Usama is dead by America's hand and buried in an unmarked and unremembered grave. (Here I will note, whomever was involved in his burial at sea know where he is at, and will be very good at keeping that secret, thank you)

I would not be surprised to hear, a decade down the road at least, that whatever part of him we took to conduct DNA fingerprinting is stored in some FBI or CIA lab somewhere. Disappointed, but not surprised. bin Laden was special to the US, and in many cases we have put aside our guises of civility and taken inappropriate trophies (just ask an American Indian who grew up on reservation). It will never be shown, but just like Hitler's skull fragment in the Soviet Union, those who are concerned and need to know will know what and where. And I'm okay with that. At some point the photo of him with a bullet through his head will leak or be released. I'm not so good with that, but I understand it will and needs to happen.

The members of whatever team performed the assault (odds are on SEAL Team Six at this point, if I know SEALs, they will never acknowledge it), and all those involved in tracking down the hard data, will receive commendations and awards that will sit in boxes in someone's office. They'll take a well deserved deep breath, and then they'll get back to work looking for al Zawahiri and the rest. Because that's what they do. And as this operation showed, they're the professionals.

This morning the birds sang of spring and renewed life. Our solders around the world continued the war we asked them to fight. The world continued to spin and orbit at its accustomed rate and direction. And while the air is still redolent with the smoke from the fires of civilization, its a little less thick and acrid.

2 comments:

Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

Interesting to consider that he was poured into a "hole in the water", as well. Poetic.

Dr. Phil

Steve Buchheit said...

Dr Phil, I'm sure you're also aware of the provenance of that quote.

"How do you find an American Attack Sub? You look for the hole in the water."