The only thing more predictable than Americans' jubilation over the killing of Osama Bin Laden is the Republican campaign to give George W. Bush credit for it. Sadly for the right-wing propaganda machine, as Stephen Colbert warned President Bush five years ago, "reality has a well-known liberal bias." Bush, after all, shrugged off Bin Laden's escape after the U.S. failure at Tora Bora by proclaiming, "I truly am not that concerned about him." And it was President Obama who as promised tripled American resources in Afghanistan and authorized unilateral strikes without the permission of Pakistan.
But you'd never know it from the conservative voices celebrating the death of Bin Laden eight years to the day after President Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. While GOP leaders like Eric Cantor couldn't bring themselves to credit Barack Obama by name, John Yoo, Karl Rove, Rep. Steve King and other cheerleaders for the Bush torture team dubiously claimed so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding provided the vital information leading to Bin Laden's killing.
"All of this was made possible by the relentless, sustained pressure on al Qaeda that the Bush administration initiated after 9/11 and that the Obama administration has wisely chosen to continue."
Of course, Rumsfeld's revisionist history is untrue. More pathetic still, he knows it is untrue.
For starters, it was Donald Rumsfeld himself who cancelled the 2005 U.S. special forces operation designed to "snatch and grab" Ayman Al Zawahiri and other senior Al Qaeda leaders. The story, following July 2006 revelations that the CIA had previously disbanded its Bin Laden unit, gives lie to one of the central tenets of the so-called Bush Doctrine: no safe havens for terrorists. As the New York Times reported in July 2007, Rumsfeld ran roughshod over then CIA Director Porter Goss, scuttling the mission at the last moment even as the U.S. forces were boarding planes for the assault:
But the mission was called off after Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, rejected an 11th-hour appeal by Porter J. Goss, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said. Members of a Navy Seals unit in parachute gear had already boarded C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan when the mission was canceled, said a former senior intelligence official involved in the planning.
Mr. Rumsfeld decided that the operation, which had ballooned from a small number of military personnel and C.I.A. operatives to several hundred, was cumbersome and put too many American lives at risk, the current and former officials said. He was also concerned that it could cause a rift with Pakistan, an often reluctant ally that has barred the American military from operating in its tribal areas, the officials said.
In contrast, candidate Barack Obama was crystal clear that he would unilaterally strike Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan with or without permission from Islamabad.
In August 2007, as you'll recall, Senator Obama received a hellstorm of criticism for his statements regarding attacking Al Qaeda bases in Pakistan. As part of a broad - and forceful - foreign policy speech on August 1, Obama rightly took the Bush administration to task for the failure of its "no safe havens" doctrine in Pakistan. Regarding the Al Qaeda sanctuary safely nestled along the Afghan border, Obama declared:
"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."
And while Republican presidential candidate John McCain in February 2008 blasted Obama's advocacy of unilateral American attacks against Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan, by the beginning of that year the Bush administration itself was already carrying them out.
From almost the inception of his campaign, Obama argued that the diversion of U.S. military assets from Afghanistan to Iraq meant that "the people who were responsible for murdering 3,000 Americans on 9/11 have not been brought to justice." In a June speech, Obama highlighted McCain's denial of this inescapable point:
"We had al Qaeda and the Taliban on the run back in 2002. But then we diverted military, intelligence, financial, and diplomatic resources to Iraq. And yet Senator McCain has said as recently as this April that, 'Afghanistan is not in trouble because of our diversion to Iraq.' I think that just shows a dangerous misjudgment of the facts, and a stubborn determination to ignore the need to finish the fight in Afghanistan."
During a major national security address on July 15, 2008, candidate Obama restated his case:
"The greatest threat to that security lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train and insurgents strike into Afghanistan. We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary, and as President, I won't. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO to secure the border, to take out terrorist camps, and to crack down on cross-border insurgents. We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights."
Throughout the summer and fall of 2008, the Pentagon and U.S. commanders in the field made clear they agreed with both Barack Obama's assessment of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and his call for deploying additional resources there.