As lefties gloat over the political implications of Osama bin Laden’s demise, and the media ramp up an “Obama bounce” meme, conservatives should politely but persistently shift the conversation from politics to policy. In my latest column for Townhall, I draw on a number of fascinating news accounts elucidating how the our military and intelligence community finally nailed bin Laden. US officials describe a “mosaic” of intelligence that ultimately led a team of Navy SEALs to a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan — suggesting that it took many years and myriad sources to pinpoint bin Laden’s precise location. As we now know, the central strand of intel involved one of bin Laden’s trusted couriers, Abu Ahmed Al-Kuwaiti; finding him was the key to locating his boss. The early evidence is in, and President Bush and his team should feel gratified and vindicated:
Osama bin Laden was found because the United States military exploited actionable intelligence extracted by subjecting terrorists to enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) in secret CIA prisons, by questioning enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, and by capturing a top al Qaeda source in Iraq.
As long as some liberals remain intent on keeping political score, it must be pointed out that all three sources of these indispensible data points were direct or indirect results of Bush policies – EITs, Gitmo, and the Iraq war – that much of the American Left, including Barack Obama, fought tooth and nail.
Much of the evidence I cite to back up my thesis comes from two sources: A short AP story published shortly after the raid (and linked here by Allahpundit), and an incredibly detailed piece in London’s Daily Telegraph. A few key bits from the resulting information goldmine:
On the Guantanamo connection –
Secret American military files from Guantanamo Bay, leaked to Wikileaks and seen by The Daily Telegraph, suggest that al-Kuwaiti may have been with bin Laden ever since he disappeared from the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan in 2001.
The file for the Guantanamo detainee, Muhammad Mani al-Qahtani, who was to have been the “20th hijacker” on 9/11, contains a reference to the key US intelligence thread that led directly to bin Laden.
According to the file, al-Kuwaiti provided al-Qahtani with computer training for the mission to attack the US in the summer of 2001. Al-Qahtani was told by the lead 9/11 hijacker, Muhammad Atta, “to make reservations and buy airline tickets to Orlando for five individuals” including himself.
“Detainee [al-Qahtani] received computer training from al-Qaeda member Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti in preparation for his mission to the US,” according to the file, dated 30 October 2008.
On KSM, secret CIA “black site” prisons, and Enhanced Interrogation Techniques –
Current and former U.S. officials say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, provided the nom de guerre of one of bin Laden’s most trusted aides. The CIA got similar information from Mohammed’s successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi. Both were subjected to harsh interrogation tactics inside CIA prisons in Poland and Romania.
Al-Libi’s file, dated 10 September 2008, also refers to his contact with bin Laden’s personal courier, although he gives another name.
And on the Al Qaeda operative captured in Iraq:
The file suggests that the courier’s identity was provided to the US by another key source, the al-Qaida facilitator Hassan Ghul, who was captured in Iraq in 2004 and interrogated by the CIA. Ghul was never sent to Guantanamo but was believed to have been taken to a prison in Pakistan.
He told the Americans that al-Kuwaiti travelled with bin Laden…
The picture that emerges from al-Qahtani’s Guantanamo file supports statements given in the last 24 hours by US officials, who named Ghul as the “linchpin” in the intelligence operation to find bin Laden.
In short, Al-Kuwaiti’s existence was flagged by at least one Guantanamo Bay detainee, his role and pseudonym were confirmed by KSM and al-Libi, and his true identity was spilled by an Al Qaeda terrorist operating in Iraq. It’s no exaggeration to assert that all three of these intelligence “strands” may never — or perhaps would never — have materialized absent the controversial Bush administration policies listed above. These facts are not historical footnotes. They eviscerate a number of core left-wing articles of faith, including the flawed notions that President Bush “took his eye off the [Al Qaeda/bin Laden] ball,” that Iraq was unrelated to the larger war on terror, and that EITs are not effective — not to mention the ongoing obsession with shuttering Gitmo. As I conclude in the Townhall piece, Presidents Bush and Obama deserve significant credit for this massive accomplishment, and it would be intellectually dishonest to suggest otherwise:
Barack Obama ran for president, in large measure, as the anti-Bush. He was a prominent opponent of the war in Iraq. He promised to shutter the Guantanamo Bay prison. He pledged to ban certain EITs. Today, as president, he is rightfully receiving praise from virtually all quarters for his decisive order to take out the most wanted man in the world. Obama, his supporters, and indeed all Americans have every reason to celebrate that accomplishment. But they must also recognize and appreciate that actions and policies implemented by President Bush, often in the face of searing partisan criticism, played an inextricable role in identifying the dots that were finally connected and acted upon last weekend.
In response to bin Laden’s death, Americans of all partisan stripes should follow the example set forth by the current president and his predecessor: Credit the brave special ops forces who conducted the daring operation, offer political credit where it’s due, and celebrate this American achievement, which is a gift to all of civilization.
UPDATE – Larry Elder makes another good point in this vein:
Osama bin Laden was a) killed by a unit overseen by what New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh denounced as Vice President Dick Cheney’s “executive assassination ring,” which was b) sent into action based on intel derived from the now-outlawed “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which were c) used on detainees captured during the George W. Bush administration, who were d) being held in now-outlawed “secret prisons” or in the intended-to-be-closed Gitmo.
That’s another feather in Bush’s cap. All of the detainees/informants involved in this story were captured on his watch.