- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 2011

Had U.S. special-operations forces handled the Osama bin Laden takedown the way the White House conducted public relations, they would have landed in the wrong compound and proceeded to shoot themselves in their feet. The raid took months of meticulous preparation, but the communication strategy apparently was whipped up on the fly. The post-kill message is inconsistent and confused.

Bin Laden had a weapon and went down fighting. Osama did not have a weapon but was resisting - somehow. Weapons were within his reach, but not necessarily that he was reaching for them. Bin Laden used one of his wives as a human shield, and she was killed. There was no human shield. It was not his wife, and she was shot in the leg. The mission was to capture or kill the terrorist leader. The mission was only to kill him. Now the terrorist’s daughter is claiming that he was first captured, then killed.

Helmet-cam video would clear up many of these questions, but President Obama stubbornly refuses to release any imagery from the operation, saying he doesn’t need to “spike the football.” The internal debate over release of the photos of bin Laden’s corpse made it seem as if the White House had not discussed this critical and fairly obvious question before the fact. Mr. Obama is an expert at creating and controlling his own image, so it was a significant leadership failure not to give instructions on documenting this historic incident.

It’s beyond belief that there were just three photos from which to choose and that there were none from any point in the operation that would not be too gruesome to view. Even a photo of the carefully cleaned and respectfully wrapped corpse, showing the face but obscuring the more ghastly wounds, would have sufficed. Falling back on the excuse that a picture of bin Laden deceased would “offend Muslim sensibilities” is simply cowardice. And Mr. Obama also decided the American people aren’t mature enough for PG-13 pictures.

The White House attributed the message chaos to “fog of war,” but the murkiness is self-imposed. Counterterrorism honcho John O. Brennan, chief source of most of the romantic and ultimately false details of the incident, later had to admit lamely that he was not the best source because he was “not there.” Press secretary Jay Carney simply punted all questions to the Defense Department, knowing the Pentagon can answer nothing about classified operations. It took Vice President Joe “Loose Lips” Biden to reveal that the Navy SEALs performed the mission.

Even the terrorists are baffled. The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence published a translated chat-room post from a frustrated jihadist named Mujahid, who said, “Is there really still no official word out? It’s weird on both ends, the story the Americans are saying doesn’t make sense and no official word has been put out yet by [al Qaeda].” On Friday, al Qaeda issued a press release (dated May 3) announcing the “dignity and martyrdom of Sheikh Osama bin Laden,” which, if nothing else, confirms his demise. The organization praised its former leader as a steadfast warrior who “accepted the challenge of arrogant forces who came with machinery, weapons, aircraft and troops to subjugate the people” and “completed his duty until the bullets of the treacherous infidels took his soul back to Allah.”

Even in defeat, the terrorists declare victory; they have their fact pattern under control and will spike the football even if Mr. Obama won’t.