Capturing Sept. 11 terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden has been the nation’s top national-security priority for 10 years, but carrying out the final kill didn’t stop President Obama from playing golf on Sunday. In a tiny concession to his job requirements as commander in chief, Mr. Obama cut his golf game short by nine holes in order to get back to the White House to monitor the final moments as Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in Pakistan.
The plan to capture (or kill) bin Laden at his fancy compound in a suburban Islamabad neighborhood had been in the works for months. Mr. Obama gave final approval for the mission on Friday morning, April 29. The mission was planned for Saturday but was delayed by one day because of weather.
On Sunday, with the small team of Navy SEALs en route to the Pakistan compound, the commander in chief left the White House at 9:42 a.m. and arrived at Andrews Air Force Base golf course at 10:06 a.m. He played golf in the chilly, rainy D.C. weather until he finished the ninth hole. He departed the base at 1:39 p.m.
Mr. Obama has played 66 rounds of golf in the 27 months he has been president. He usually plays 18 holes with a foursome of White House aides, which takes him about four to five hours. The last time the president cut his golf round in half and played only nine holes was Aug. 25, 2010. (He played 12 holes on Dec. 28 at the private Mid Pacific Country Club in Kailua Hawaii because he started late in the afternoon and the sun was setting.)
While the president was playing golf, the highly-trained U.S. special forces were en route to bin Laden’s fortified compound. “The high walls, security features, suburban location and proximity to Islamabad made this an especially dangerous operation,” said a senior administration official after the killing. “The men who executed this mission accepted this risk, practiced to minimize those risks and understood the importance of the target to the national security of the United States.”
When Mr. Obama finished his golf game, he held a national-security briefing after he returned to the White House at 2:04 p.m. At 3:30 p.m., U.S. forces landed helicopters inside bin Laden’s compound, the terrorist resisted the assault force and a firefight ensued. The mass-murderer bin Laden was killed during the short battle by a gunshot to the head. During the high-risk operation, one of the American helicopters failed. The military took bin Laden’s corpse, destroyed their broken helicopter and departed the Islamist safehouse 40 minutes later.
The president made a televised briefing to the nation at 11:35 p.m. to announce that the 9/11 terrorist had, at last, been captured and killed. He concluded his scripted remarks – which he read from a teleprompter – with soaring, spiritual words. “Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” said Mr. Obama. “May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.”
Talking points aside, the suddenly religious president started his Sunday morning as he usually does: skipping church to go hit the golf links.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.