John Yoo: Obama Killed Osama Because He Was Afraid To Capture Him

In what may well be the most idiotic piece of commentary arising out of the successful mission against Osama bin Laden, former Bush Justice Department lawyer (he of the torture memos and “Unitary Executive” theory) claims that the Obama Administration chickened out by killing the al Qaeda leader rather than capturing him:

John Yoo says President Obama is too afraid of the politics of Guantanamo Bay to capture and interrogate terrorists.

(…)

Yoo told CNN on Thursday night that the special forces team sent to kill bin Laden should have instead taken him alive and kept him as a source of future intelligence. Failing to do that, Yoo says, cost the U.S. a valuable asset. That was a mistake, Yoo says.

“If they were going in with no options other than to kill him, then that’s a problem,” Yoo told CNN’s Eliot Spitzer.

In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, Yoo wrote that shooting the unarmed bin Laden meant “one of the most valuable intelligence opportunities since the beginning of the war has slipped through our hands.”

Yoo told Spitzer “that a deliberately small force was sent in” to Abbottabad, Pakistan by the White House because “they don’t want to capture high-level al Qaeda leaders.”

Why? As Yoo said in his op-ed, the administration is terrified of backing the Bush administration’s moves in the war on terror.

Here’s the CNN interview:

Yoo cannot possibly be serious, can he? He’s obviously more interested in protecting the political legacy of his former bosses than in either the national security of the United States or common sense. If, by some stretch of the imagination, Osama had been captured alive, it most likely would’ve become a huge headache for the United States, as Jeff Greenfield explores in this rather interesting counter-factual look at Sunday’s raid:

It began with a triumph. On Sunday evening, May 1, President Obama strode down a red carpet and spoke to the nation from the East Room of the White House:

“Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that captured Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. It is the unbreakable intention of this country to bring him to justice.”

But by Monday morning, the celebrations — the chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” in city streets, on college campuses, outside the White House, even at a nationally televised baseball game — had given way to questions.

“Why did we take him alive?” a dozen radio talk-show hosts asked. “Aren’t 3,000 dead Americans enough?”

“I am sure,” Rush Limbaugh thundered, “that Attorney General Holder is prepared to bring charges against those SEALs that they didn’t read Osama his Miranda rights.”

Among congressional Republicans, praise for the capture was followed by demands for swift and firm justice — including a suggestion by one House member that bin Laden be executed and buried in pigskin “to prevent him from meeting up with those 72 virgins in paradise.”

(…)

His survival further enhanced his image as an outlaw-hero whose cunning and skill outwitted the West. When an anonymous solider or worker at Bagram snapped a cellphone picture of Osama, smiling and flashing a V sign with his hand, that image appeared on Web sites around the world and on posters in the streets of a dozen cities, with supporters chanting: “The sheik lives!”

And far, far worse, early on the morning of Dec. 22, members of Lashkar-i-Taiba, the Pakistan-based terror organization responsible for the Mumbai slaughters of 2008, seized an elementary school in New Delhi, holding more than 200 children and teachers hostage and threatening to kill them unless bin Laden was released within 72 hours. Simultaneously, a dozen armed terrorists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, killing three guards before being repulsed.

Within the Obama administration, suspicion immediately arose that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency was linked to these attacks. The ISI, long believed to have links to the Taliban, if not to al-Qaeda itself, had been enraged at Washington for violating Pakistani sovereignty when it captured bin Laden. Those suspicions further eroded relations between the United States and the nation long considered indispensable to the Afghan war effort.

More broadly, the attacks stirred fears of similar acts aimed at U.S. Embassies, bases and businesses around the globe. Back hom, airport security was heightened so much that holiday travelers faced four-hour delays at security checkpoints, countless missed flights and jangled nerves.

Inconceivable? Hardly. Which is why we should be glad that bin Laden resisted and that killing him the only option left for SEAL Team Six. Yoo needs to grow up and stock playing war games on his computer.

 

 

 

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, National Security, Politicians, Quick Takes, Terrorism, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Boyd says:

    Short version:

    Capturing Bin Laden alive is not what Doug would have done, so anyone disagreeing with him is an idiot.

  2. Tsar Nicholas says:

    It takes a special level of naivete (only found on the Internet) not to realize at this juncture that this operation was an execution squad with specific orders to kill and not to capture. I happen to support that approach 100%, but reasonable minds can and probably will differ as to whether it would have been better over the long term to capture Bin Laden as upposed to snuffing him out.

    On a related topic, I wouldn’t be so quick as to question Yoo’s motivations, nor would I be so quick to discount his expertise. Someone who clerks for the D.C. Circuit and then the U.S. Supreme Court and then goes on to be a key advisor for the President of the United States should be granted a bit more credence, at least in my book. Perhaps this entry simply is a case of projection, who knows?

  3. jwest says:

    A qualified, competent president would have captured Bin Laden and the “treasure trove” of information without saying a word.

    By taking Bin Laden to one of our (now non-existing) rendition sites, we could have had a valuable asset for information, but that wasn’t the politically valuable prize Obama was reaching for. On top of everything else, our hapless leader bumbled the only thing he was responsible for – the victory lap.

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/05/06/bin-laden-killing-white-house-pentagon-cia-botched-storyline/

  4. tom p says:

    John Yoo…. John Yoo… Haven’t I heard that name somewhere before?

    Oh yeah…. He used to pretend to be lawyer now he pretends to teach law students about the law alll in an effort to hide the fact that he is war criminal who doesn’t dare leave this country.

  5. Derrick says:

    A qualified, competent president would have captured Bin Laden and the “treasure trove” of information without saying a word.

    By taking Bin Laden to one of our (now non-existing) rendition sites, we could have had a valuable asset for information, but that wasn’t the politically valuable prize Obama was reaching for. On top of everything else, our hapless leader bumbled the only thing he was responsible for – the victory lap.

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/05/06/bin-laden-killing-white-house-pentagon-cia-botched-storyline/

    I know you think that you are just being a partisan hack and attacking the President, but you are really attacking the soldiers who faced with one of the most vicious mass murderers that we’ve seen and made the ultimate choice. But you are too much of coward to question them, so you would rather criticize Obama. I’m sure glad these Keyboard Generals aren’t in charge, because how nice is it to worry more about proving some immoral point about torture than actually giving your very best soldiers the discretion to do their job.

  6. legion says:

    Yoo has always been a tool, ready to say whatever he’s paid to say rather than giving actual, truthful advice (as he took an oath as an Officer of the Court) to do. I don’t for a minute believe Yoo went on CNN by his own impetus – someone sent him there, and someone told him what to say. That’s all he does.

  7. jwest says:

    Derrick,

    If you want to make the argument that it was more important to kill Bin Laden, then mislead, bumble, backtrack, change and dodge answers on the details of the raid and hide the evidence of his death rather than to quietly capture and interrogate him, then go ahead.

  8. Nikki says:

    A qualified, competent president would have captured Bin Laden and the “treasure trove” of information without saying a word.

    This from a supporter of a president who staged one of the most infamous (and probably most regretted) photo-ops ever–landing aboard a naval ship in a jet, dressed in military flight gear with prominent codpiece, and, later appearing before a podium on that same naval ship with a “Mission Accomplished” banner hanging in the background, with the press heads simpering about how “manly” it all was.

    Don’t you guys remember this stuff? Do you really believe the rest of us will ever forget it?

  9. Nikki says:

    And let’s not forget the fact that the “mission” was actually “accomplished” 10 years later this past Sunday!

  10. jwest says:

    Nikki,

    You seem to have your wars confused.

    Bush landed on the carrier when the mission (to depose Saddam Hussein from power, render the fourth largest standing army in the world ineffective to mount a coordinated resistance and allow U.S. inspectors unfettered access to all Iraqi locations) was accomplished. This happened in 30 days with about 200 casualties – the most successful operation of its kind in the history of the planet.

    That prominent codpiece really got your attention, didn’t it?

  11. Scott O. says:

    Does Mr. Yoo think we should have taken the children also, so that we could torture them if necessary?

  12. Derrick says:

    If you want to make the argument that it was more important to kill Bin Laden, then mislead, bumble, backtrack, change and dodge answers on the details of the raid and hide the evidence of his death rather than to quietly capture and interrogate him, then go ahead.

    You have it all figure out, jwest. Because of course there would be no questions if we were holding Osama in some black site or Guantanemo. Things would be so EASSSSYYY!

  13. mantis says:

    Why does anyone ask Yoo what he thinks, anyway? How is he a credible guest? It’s like inviting jwest on your show.

  14. jwest says:

    Mantis,

    I had a scheduling conflict that day and couldn’t appear.

  15. TG Chicago says:

    Yoo told Spitzer “that a deliberately small force was sent in” to Abbottabad, Pakistan by the White House because “they don’t want to capture high-level al Qaeda leaders.”

    Why? As Yoo said in his op-ed, the administration is terrified of backing the Bush administration’s moves in the war on terror.

    Yoo’s so vain…
    He probably thinks the killingofbinLaden is about him…

  16. Nikki says:

    Ah, jwest, but you don’t dispute that your mighty Bush participated in perhaps the most regrettable photo-op in the history of photo-ops, no? Especially considering that, though the mission to oppose Saddam was “accomplished,” the whole war was based on lies.

  17. george says:

    A qualified, competent president would have captured Bin Laden and the “treasure trove” of information without saying a word.

    Would that President have gone in alone to do this, or would he have brought along a few Seals just for kicks? Since we’re talking about imaginary superhero Presidents who can do anything they want to do, would that President bother with the helicopter, or would he just fly there and use his x-ray vision to locate Osama?

    Back in the real world, there are no guarantees of success, and as Robby Burns pointed out, even the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes go awry.

  18. An Interested Party says:
  19. anjin-san says:

    Of course, the “Mission Accomplished” speech was the one where Bush told us he had “destroyed” the Taliban. They have been putting up a pretty good scrape all the years for folks who were destroyed…

  20. anjin-san says:

    I had a scheduling conflict that day and couldn’t appear.

    Busy rinsing out your panties?

  21. jwest says:

    Anjin-san,

    “Of course, the “Mission Accomplished” speech was the one where Bush told us he had “destroyed” the Taliban.”

    We are all waiting for a link on this little piece of liberal fiction.

  22. An Interested Party says:
  23. Eric Florack says:

    Yoo may be correct, here.
    Consider the scenario of capturing UBL alive.
    The administration is faced with a choice;

    They can either…

    a) Go through the process of a civilian trial because that was what they wanted to employ for all terror suspects, giving, as I’ve en saying all along, a platform for alQueida to expound on and promote it’s agenda

    b) They could react realistically, do a military trial, thus rejecting their own mantra.

    In either case, they’d have a focal point for other terrorist acts in his support. Exactly what BHO cannot afford in his polling numbers at the moment… more attacks within these united States.

    And guess what? Ordering the killing of UBL is a total rejection if the idea that a civilian trial is effective against terrorism… Put another way, BHO has already rejected his own mantra.

    b)

  24. Eric Florack says:

    addendum… Correct, I mean, insofar as BHO being afraid to capture him

  25. An Interested Party says:

    It figures that the warped minds of torture apologists and former Bush toadies and supporters would twist Bin Laden’s death into the president somehow being afraid to capture him alive…some real proof might help their case, rather than the dim mind reading skills they’re employing…

  26. Eric Florack says:

    So, AIP, explain why the execution order, then. Does BHO believe in his mantra, or not?
    Hmmm?

  27. anjin-san says:

    AIP… It’s pretty simple. The day bin laden, our country’s #1 enemy died, was a dark day indeed for biteric and his ilk. I suggest you simply leave them to their impotent rage and their bizarre rationalizations.

  28. jwest says:

    Interested Party, Anjin-san,

    So, after reading the “Mission Accomplished” speech, the two of you came away with the understanding that was what it was all about?

    One point of contrast you may want note between this speech and Obama’s was how Bush spent his time congratulating the sailors on the Abraham Lincoln, along with all the other services and allies instead of patting himself on the back.

    Class.

    Don’t you wish Obama was like that?

  29. Eric Florack says:

    AIP… It’s pretty simple. The day bin laden, our country’s #1 enemy died, was a dark day indeed for biteric and his ilk.

    Hardly. Killing him was the correct thing to do.
    But clearly, Obama’s actions are out of sync with his words.
    Is this a tacit admission on the part of Obama that civilian trials for terrorists are counter productive?

    And will Obama’s followers catch on, I wonder?

  30. matt says:

    OUt of sync with his words? Obama has been saying for year that he’d take out Osama if given the chance. Hell you were one of the right wingers that tried called Obama Naive and worse for this. Remember during the campaign for presidency when Obama declared he’d unilaterally move in Pakistan if he had to in order to get Osama? Yeah y’all screamed and shrieked that was proof that Obama was inexperienced an unready for office. Now that Obama followed through with his campaign promise you’re somehow completely forgetting that fact and instead jumping through about 100 hoops to try to bend killing Osama into somehow talking the talk but not walking the walk. You’re rather quite amazing..

  31. Eric Florack says:

    Obama has been saying for year that he’d take out Osama if given the chance. Hell you were one of the right wingers that tried called Obama Naive and worse for this.

    What you seem to be missing, here is that Obama’s been trying to push suc matters out of the hands of the military, and into the civilian court system. Which would seem a 180 degree turn around from his actions here.

    Care to explain why he did that?

  32. ddennis says:

    I would like to see the logic tree that Mr. Yoo and all those who agree with him here on OTB used to come to the reasoned conclusion that

    1) The SEALS were ordered to kill, not capture, OBL;
    2) President Obama gave that order;
    3) President Obama was afraid to capture OBL.

    Facts and evidence, please.

  33. ddennis says:

    Your hypotheses can start with any or all three statements. Once you’ve used your inductive reasoning skills to map out your logic, please return and share your conclusions. I am very interested in knowing them.

  34. Bin Laden’s death should be seen as a kind of satisfaction for the families who lost their relatives on that terrible day. There is no need to argue about which president deserves credit for the whole action. I think it is the result of the continuity between the two presidencies which also Condoleezza Rice said in one of her interviews.

  35. anjin-san says:

    Jwest… that bush using the troops as props in a photo op so that he can weave fantasies about the destruction of the taliban is a classy move in your books surprises no one. of course the actual troops, who have to go out in risk their lives fighting an enemy supposely destroyed, might see it a little differently.

    but then, an armchair warrior such as yourself is untroubledbled by details such is this

  36. Wiley Stoner says:

    If you believe 2 dozen well armed seals could not take custody of a 54 year old sickly man who was not armed, I would be willing to bet you are a progressive. OK Doug, explain why they did not or could not? Which of the administration stories are you going to use as the reason. One more little item. Since John Yoo is a law Professor at STANDFORD and Doug Mataconis has a law practice which allows him time to nearly daily write posts on this blog. I was wondering if an attack on Yoo by Mataconis is not some sort of ethical violation? I did not know lawyers attacked eachother outside the court room. I always thought bottom feeders hung out together. And once again, the left attacks the messenger not the message. Weak!

  37. Wiley Stoner says:

    Anjin, I know you had a distinguished military career as a CO (consciencious objector) but do you even know anyone who ever flew an F-102 Delta Dagger? Obama’s daddy was the hard drinking mulitple married man who like his son, had little grasp of truth. Bush’s Dad was a World War II war hero, who served his nation most of his life. It is said, apples do not fall far from the tree. What is your familiy history?

  38. An Interested Party says:

    So, after reading the “Mission Accomplished” speech, the two of you came away with the understanding that was what it was all about?

    Nice dodge, but you claimed that Bush didn’t say something that he, in fact, did say…better luck next time…

  39. Eric Florack says:

    If you believe 2 dozen well armed seals could not take custody of a 54 year old sickly man who was not armed, I would be willing to bet you are a progressive

    LOL

  40. Eric Florack says:

    Let’s take Stoner’s answer and add something;

    Obama stood up and claimed credit for ordering the action even though they cant seem to get their story straight.

    At the same time there are other factors…. We have an administration that has taken great joy in criminalizing those trying to gather intel, and even those leveling “insults ” at Muslim subjects. THey’re still at it, in fact.

    So, If the seal team had exceeded it’s orders in killing UBL, does anyone really think Eric Holder wouldn’t be leveling murder charges?

  41. matt says:

    What you seem to be missing, here is that Obama’s been trying to push suc matters out of the hands of the military, and into the civilian court system. Which would seem a 180 degree turn around from his actions here.

    Care to explain why he did that?

    Only in your head buddy only in your head. I see no issues with trying those we can and killing those that resist. You’re basically arguing against allowing police to shoot suspects that are clearly armed and threatening them. Since supposedly the police are serving a civilian court system and all…

  42. Eric Florack says:

    So the whole world subject to our law? Do you really think they CARE about our law?

  43. matt says:

    We probably should..

  44. Eric Florack says:

    Maybe we should instead bow to reality. Or isn’t that progressive enough?

  45. matt says:

    If we’re not a nation of laws then what are we?

  46. Eric Florack says:

    Why not ask Obama? After all, he’s the one who made the argument that civilian trials were THE legal way to deal with terrorists like UBL. He went outside that line of thoughtg with this execution order, no?

    You keep trying to dance around that salient point….

  47. An Interested Party says:

    After all, he’s the one who made the argument that civilian trials were THE legal way to deal with terrorists like UBL.

    Except for the little fact that even before he became president, Obama was calling for the killing of Bin Laden…

  48. matt says:

    Why not ask Obama? After all, he’s the one who made the argument that civilian trials were THE legal way to deal with terrorists like UBL. He went outside that line of thoughtg with this execution order, no?

    You keep trying to dance around that salient point….

    Around around we go. For the answer look above at my police example..

  49. Eric Florack says:

    Except for the little fact that even before he became president, Obama was calling for the killing of Bin Laden…

    So, then he was contradicting himself during the campaign? Gee, big shock but it changes nothing. He either believes in civilian trials for terrorists or he doesn’t. Which is it?

    For the answer look above at my police example..

    Which dances around the issue without ever touching on the core of it.

  50. An Interested Party says:

    So, then he was contradicting himself during the campaign?

    Psst, here’s a little clue, Bin Laden wasn’t just any terrorist…can you find any evidence that the president ever said he wanted to put Bin Laden through a civilian trial? If not, your charge doesn’t mean very much…

  51. matt says:

    Look Bit I have no issue with cops shooting people that are presenting a legitimate threat to innocents or law enforcement members. So naturally I give even more leeway to those seals who quite bravely stormed what could of been a giant explosion waiting to happen. Osama could of had a suicide vest on he could of had explosives rigged for one last hoorah. I could sit here the rest of the night coming up with “what if” scenarios where not killing Osama could of resulted in disaster. While I would of preferred to capture Osama I’ll just have to settle for second best.

  52. Al B says:

    Yoo lacks credibility, not least as a lawyer, notwithstanding his resume’. I’m an attorney with more than 20 years experience, and if an associate had presented me with a memo using Yoo’s “tortured” attempts to justify extreme coercive techniques, that associate would have been told to try again. He has misapplied precedent, misinterpreted the Constitution, and, so far as I’m concerned, sullied his profession (not that we need the additional help)! My advice to reasonable conservatives: don’t quote him, ever! That puts you on the same ground as reasonable liberals who quote Michael Moore, whose childish arguments are also easily demolished by hard fact.