Even by Obama’s standards, this is pitiful.

Seventy Iraqi prisoners were freed in the joint U.S./Iraqi/Kurdish operation at an ISIS compound in northern Iraq, which reportedly came in the nick of time before the prisoners were executed. Sounds like a glorious success, and The One’s not known for letting others take credit for “his” successes. So why is this operation being laid in Ash Carter’s lap? Presumably because, in the gunfight at the compound, one American soldier was killed — the first killed in action in Iraq since Obama brought the troops home in 2011.

“A mass atrocity was averted,” a senior U.S. defense source added. According to the Pentagon, rescuers “deliberately planned” the operation, and moved in when it was apparent that ISIS hostage takers were planning to kill the hostages.

When asked if the mission violated President Obama’s vow not to put boots on the ground in Iraq, Cook said U.S. forces can “protect against the loss of innocent life” in their support role. He said Defense Secretary Ash Carter approved the mission, and the White House was aware.

If there was any promise-breaking here, it’s on ol’ Ash Carter, not President “Found Out About It On The News.” Now, let’s think: What are the odds, realistically, that the White House would have allowed the secretary of defense to make the call on a mission like this? U.S. officials told Fox News that “dozens” of American soldiers were involved; if things had gone sideways at the compound, with the Americans massacred and their bodies paraded on video for ISIS death-porn consumers, it would have been one of the worst counterterror fiascos of Obama’s presidency. It would have been a propaganda coup not just for the jihadis but for Russia, which would have used it to highlight by contrast how effective its own operations are in Syria. And it would have scrambled the historic narrative in light of the Bin Laden raid that, whatever his other faults, Obama’s track record on surgical strikes with special forces to take out terrorists is solid. There’s no earthly way that Precious would have let Ash Carter gamble all of that on a risky operation in Iraq, of all places. Obama obviously made the call himself. So why lay it off on Carter? Occam’s Razor suggests that if Obama’s going to briefly revisit “Bush’s war,” he’d much prefer that it be framed as “Ash Carter’s war” instead of his.

But that raises another question: What was the real purpose of this raid? As noble as the idea is of trying to avert an atrocity, we’re awfully late in the game of ISIS atrocities for the U.S. to suddenly be risking American troops to prevent them. Again, a raid like this had Mogadishu potential for the White House. They wouldn’t risk it, I think, simply to try to save the lives of 70 rank-and-file Iraqi soldiers and prisoners. Ace quotes a Guardian report claiming that the real target of the raid was Nema Arbid Nayef al-Jabouri, a senior leader in ISIS. That makes more sense, although there’s not a lot online about al-Jabouri that would explain why they valued him highly enough to put boots on the ground. Another possibility is that it wasn’t just Iraqi prisoners being held by ISIS but Americans. Maybe that detail’s being held back for the moment — although in that case, assuming Americans were safely rescued, you would think Obama would be really eager to take credit for the operation, notwithstanding the tragic loss of an American soldier in the firefight. There’s more to this story than we’re being told. Keep your eye on it this weekend.