December 20, 2009
Blunder on the Mountain
Unlike the Bushies, who tried to play down Osama’s importance the longer he was on the lam, Gen. Stanley McChrystal acknowledged in recent Congressional hearings that “he is an iconic figure.”
“It would not defeat Al Qaeda to have him captured or killed,” he said, “but I don’t think that we can finally defeat Al Qaeda until he is captured or killed.”
I asked Bob Gates, as we flew over the notorious terrain, if he had any insights into why such a bellicose team as W., Cheney and Rummy flinched at the very moment they could have captured our mortal enemy. Gates, who said there hasn’t been any good intelligence on Osama’s whereabouts in years, said “it’s just hard to find somebody who has a sympathetic network and local support.”
(It seems hard to believe the C.I.A. can’t infiltrate terrorist networks, given all the Americans who keep popping up as wannabe jihadis.)
During the climactic showdown at Tora Bora, Rummy distracted Gen. Tommy Franks by demanding that he freshen up an
Noting that the dad of Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was a Hollywood publicist whose clients included Julie Andrews, Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart, Phyllis Diller, Carol Burnett and Anthony Quinn, and his mom was an assistant for a time to Jimmy Durante, I said that if this were a movie, an elite Rambo team would have gone into the Pakistan border area long ago to fulfill W.’s empty threat to get Osama “dead or alive.”
I wondered why Bush and Obama officials went along with the mythological geological alibi of “impassable” mountains. Health care has often seemed impassable. Lots of things are difficult. But in
“What we didn’t realize,” he said, “was that, particularly beginning toward the end of 2005, the deals that the Pakistanis cut with the tribes to back off and leave them alone created the space in which the Taliban were able to come back.”
The Bush administration may not have realized that, but common sense told you the deal was lousy, giving those who hated us a sanctuary in which to rejuvenate.
In a compelling cover story in the current
General Franks told the C.I.A. he wanted to keep a light-footprint approach.
(Curiously, Gates — who is known in the Obama administration as “the man who leaves no footprints” — decided to support the heavy-footprint surge after McChrystal made the argument that it’s not the size of the footprint, but how hard the foot comes down.)
Franks and Rummy were risk averse about American troop casualties at the very moment they could have decapitated Al Qaeda. Instead, Osama’s myth grew with his escape as a 15,000-pound Daisy Cutter bomb and a series of 500-pound bombs rained down on the caves.
Eight years after Tora Bora, the failure there poses the question at the heart, or Achilles’ heel, of President Obama’s strategy: What if victory over Al Qaeda and other terrorists lies in
Are we going to go get them in
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs