Catching bin laden: an alternate history; plus, the judo jihadi?

Osama bin Laden in the 80s? A judo instructor says it is.

What if the U.S. had captured Osama bin Laden alive, and attempted to put him on trial, instead of killing him?

Some on the libertarian left are heavily criticizing the Obama administration for not insisting on rules of engagement that would have mandated that the Navy SEALs attempt an arrest, instead of shooting bin Laden in the eye.

Former ABC News correspondent Jeff Greenfield explores how that might have played out:

Put him on trial for mass murder in a New York federal court? Nearly 3,000had died there. But what if information about his location had been obtained through “enhanced interrogation techniques” and was ruled inadmissible? What if bin Laden acted as his own lawyer, turning the trial into a months-long denunciation of America? What if one holdout resulted in a hung jury?

And anyway, the furious reaction to previous efforts to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed in Manhattan — local politicians reversing themselves, Congress denying funds for such a trial — made that idea impossible.

What about an international tribunal, to drive home the fact that bin Laden’s crimes were against humanity?

“As a political matter,” one White House insider reflected anonymously to the press, “that would have brought the wrath of the right down on us: ‘We were the ones he attacked, and we’re going to be the ones to deal with him.’?”

“Besides,” she added, “the International Criminal Court could deal only with crimes committed after 2002. As for a war crimes tribunal at The Hague, that court would not impose the death penalty — can you imagine the president signing off on that small detail?”…

Read the whole thing here. Well worth your time.

Meanwhile, the photo at the top of the post shows what one Taiwanese judo instructor claims is a young Osama bin Laden. Doesn’t look so scary without the head scarf on, I have to say. More like a disco man, if you ask me — one of those guys women had to hide in the bathroom to avoid making eye contact with on the dance floor, circa 1979 … Story here (including the fact that bin Laden would probably have actually demanded that all the women leave the disco…) A clip:

Jimmy Wu, a top Taiwan judo coach, told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of a tournament in the central city of Taichung that he came across bin Laden when coaching the Saudi Arabian national judo team from 1981 to 1991.

Bin Laden, whom Wu then knew only as “Osama,” attended classes at the judo center while still a university student. He was too tall for judo, and Wu said he advised him against the sport, but he was insistent so Wu accepted him.

“I didn’t know the name bin Laden then,” Wu said. “After 9/11 (attacks on New York and Washington), I was invited to a seminar, and some of my former students there said ‘oh Jimmy, Osama, now he’s our hero’. I was surprised and I looked for some pictures and I said ‘oh this guy’ and I started to have some memory of him.”

Should be noted that just as was the case with those grisly photos supposedly showing three dead men from inside bin Laden’s Abbottabad lair, which Reuters bought off some unnamed Pakistani “military official,” Reuters can’t swear to the authenticity of the Osama from the ’80s pic. So of course, they’re publishing it anyway.

The quote of the day goes to Hot Air’s Allah Pundit:

Old and busted: “Obama is a Muslim.” The new hotness: “Obama is a Muslim-killing machine.”

Meanwhile, from the other side of the pond (with a hat tip to Allah Pundit, who tweeted it Saturday morning), comes a bit of worldly wisdom that could be applied to America’s far left:

The modern chattering classes are so utterly removed from the mass of the population, so profoundly disconnected from ‘ordinary people’ and their ‘ordinary thoughts’, that they effectively see happy Americans as a more alien and unusual thing than Osama bin Laden. Where OBL wins their empathy, American jocks receive only their bile.

And this:

This pity-for-Osama lobby, this bishop-led congregation of ‘uncomfortable’ moral handwringers, might pose as radical, denouncing America’s military action in bin Laden’s compound as ‘Wild West-style vengeance’. Yet in truth it is fuelled by self-loathing more than justice-loving. These critics are not opposed to Western intervention in principle – indeed, most of them have demanded ‘humanitarian’, political or legalistic intervention in other states’ affairs at one point or another. No, it is a discomfort with decisive action, a fear of what such action might lead to in the future, and a belief that people in the West should douse their emotional zeal and learn to be more meek, which motors the creepingly conformist anti-Obama and pro-Osama (well, almost) brigade. There is little, if anything, in this outburst of concerned liberal moralism that is worth backing.

While you’re processing that, add this to your mental rolodex. Bin Laden may have been in Pakistan even before 2005. That would mean that not long after the Bush administration was torturing Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, but well before they disbanded the CIA’s bin Laden unit, the al-Qaida leader was headed for the quiet life in Pakistan.

And the U.S.? Under President Bush, we were shifting our focus from catching bin Laden, to this.

Good work, Bushies.

Meanwhile, the administration that could be bothered finding bin Laden is demanding Pakistan give up the intel:

WASHINGTON — Pakistani officials say the Obama administration has demanded the identities of some of their top intelligence operatives as the United States tries to determine whether any of them had contact with Osama bin Laden or his agents in the years before the raid that led to his death early Monday morning in Pakistan.

The officials provided new details of a tense discussion between Pakistani officials and an American envoy who traveled to Pakistan on Monday, as well as the growing suspicion among United States intelligence and diplomatic officials that someone in Pakistan’s secret intelligence agency knew of Bin Laden’s location, and helped shield him.

Obama administration officials have stopped short of accusing the Pakistani government — either privately or publicly — of complicity in the hiding of Bin Laden in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. One senior administration official privately acknowledged that the administration sees its relationship with Pakistan as too crucial to risk a wholesale break, even if it turned out that past or present Pakistani intelligence officials did know about Bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Still, this official and others expressed deep frustration with Pakistani military and intelligence officials for their refusal over the years to identify members of the agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, who were believed to have close ties to Bin Laden. In particular, American officials have demanded information on what is known as the ISI’s S directorate, which has worked closely with militants since the days of the fight against the Soviet army in Afghanistan.

“It’s hard to believe that Kayani and Pasha actually knew that Bin Laden was there,” a senior administration official said, referring to Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the ISI director-general, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha. But, added the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, “there are degrees of knowing, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we find out that someone close to Pasha knew.”

And in his meeting with the SEAL team that took down bin Laden, President Obama gave them the highest award a military unit can receive.

In private meetings at this Army installation, Obama and Vice President Biden congratulated members of the elite Navy SEAL Team 6 and units that supported their mission, presenting them with the Presidential Unit Citation, the highest award for a military unit, a senior White House official said. …

… The president said his meeting with Special Operations forces “was a chance for me to say on behalf of all Americans and people around the globe, job well done, job well done.”

“These Americans deserve credit for one of the greatest intelligence and military operations in our nation’s history,” he said.

The identities of the men who killed bin Laden are likely to remain secret. White House officials released few details of Friday’s meetings and would not formally confirm whether Obama met members of SEAL Team 6, whose existence is classified.

But the always-candid Biden gave a strong hint. Beaming as he introduced Obama at the hangar, the vice president told the troops that he had tried to explain to one of his granddaughters what he was going to do in Kentucky, and she had replied, “My pop’s going out to see the whales.”

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6 Responses to Catching bin laden: an alternate history; plus, the judo jihadi?

  1. Rupert says:

    What if the U.S. had captured Osama bin Laden alive, and attempted to put him on trial, instead of killing him?

    No doubt Greenwald and Hamsher would be protesting that his bed is too hard and his pillow too lumpy. Meanwhile, al qaeda would be grabbing Americans overseas and holding them hostage until OBL is released.

    This all assumes he would have allowed himself to be taken alive, which is unlikely.

  2. bmull says:

    Horsefeathers. The rule of law applies whether it’s convenient or not. It’s part of our culture that one doesn’t shoot an unarmed man if one can avoid it. And frankly, your witnesses suck:

    Jeff Greenfield is among the top candidates to replace David Broder as Dean of the Villagers. Jimmy Wu had at best a fleeting knowledge of bin Laden who finished his graduate degree in 1981. Brendan O’Neill from Spike is an avowed communist in the Stalinist mold.

  3. JReid says:

    @Rupert –
    I completely agree with you.

    @BMull –
    What you’re saying would make sense if this was a police action (ie had we sent the FBI or CIA to Pakistan to capture bin Laden). It was not. This was a combat operation. Very different rules of engagement (ask yourselves how many troops “arrest” their opponents on the battlefield.) You and your favorite online columnist are comparing civil law apples to military oranges.

  4. Rupert says:

    I think “rule of law” is becoming the lazy response for purity trolls; like teabaggers calling anything they don’t like “socialism.” And since the Attorney General said the action was legal, that would be the rule of law.

  5. bmull says:

    @JREID: There is an article in The New Yorker called “Bin Laden: The Rules of Engagement” which makes your argument nicely. I didn’t mean to imply that the killing of bin Laden was illegal under U.S. law. But we need to reflect on those laws and whether they represent our values as a society. Having one set of rules for policing and another for a GWOT which is never-ending seems nonsensical to me.

    @RUPERT: The AG doesn’t get to decide what’s legal, but again I didn’t mean to imply that the killing was a violation of the rule of law. Just that whether it’s politically convenient or not shouldn’t be a consideration. It’s a slippery slope every time you apply wartime rules to the GWOT.

  6. Flo says:

    A kudo to BMULL for bringing back the word “horsefeathers.”

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