Over the weekend I heard an interview with the author of what we can only assume will be one of dozens of books written now and in the near future about the killing of Osama bin Laden. One (throwaway) comment the author made was so stunning that I immediately set out to verify it when I arrived at home.

A little background. The CIA claims that it first discovered the bin Laden house in Abbottabad in 2010 through a combination of satellite images – the house stood out as newly built, very large, and "obviously custom-built to hide someone of significance" – and by following a known al-Qaeda courier to the location. Over the next year the CIA used undercover agents stationed in a safe house in Abbottabad to conduct surveillance on the compound. The author being interviewed described the results of their efforts – and I found this verified in the Washington Post – as follows:

Despite what officials described as an extraordinarily concentrated collection effort leading up to the operation, no U.S. spy agency was ever able to capture a photograph of bin Laden at the compound before the raid or a recording of the voice of the mysterious male figure whose family occupied the structure’s top two floors. Indeed, current and former U.S. intelligence officials said bin Laden employed remarkable discipline in his efforts to evade detection.

Seems innocent enough, right?

Except it means that Barack Obama essentially put his entire political life on the line here by ordering the raid (and rejecting Clinton-like options such as cruise missile attacks) without anyone being able to state with certainty that bin Laden was actually there. No one had seen him. No one had heard him. No one snapped a picture. Sure, the circumstantial evidence suggested that he was living there. But they didn't know. Obama might be criticized for making a foolish rush to judgment based on limited information. I'm more inclined to look at it as a "balls of steel" moment that no one – least of all Republicans – gave him any credit for.

Imagine this scenario: a bunch of CIA/military operatives invade a foreign country unannounced. They assault this compound. Things don't go quite as well as planned. American soldiers are killed. A helicopter crashes. Civilians are killed by a stray explosion. And bin Laden isn't there. It turns out that the house was hiding some run-of-the-mill opium dealer or Russian mobster. The raid combines huge losses with zero gains. Can you imagine the public reaction? The FOX News reaction? The House GOP's reaction? Obama would have been hung in effigy and I'm certain someone would have suggested hanging him in the flesh as well. It would have made Jimmy Carter and "Desert One" look like a rousing success in comparison.

That's not what happened, of course. Bin Laden was there, no American casualties were reported, and the mission went, despite the loss of one helicopter, without a hitch for the most part. It was a much bigger risk than anyone depicted it at the time, and since then the Obama people have done next to nothing to play up the "This was actually a pretty big goddamn risk, if you must know" angle. No aircraft carrier / flight suit parades. Just a hint of gloating. Had a Republican made the same decision under the same circumstances the media would be soiling themselves in awe and Congress would be preparing to chisel him into Mount Rushmore. But it wasn't a Republican; it was the brown guy who really isn't American to begin with.

Anyone who says that Obama didn't take a risk, didn't make a bold decision, or didn't really do anything of note ("Why give him credit? All he did was give the order!") exists in a fantasy world. It puzzled me in the immediate aftermath how the argument that Obama deserved no credit could be plausible…I mean, it makes sense only inasmuch as the right wing wouldn't have blamed Obama had the mission failed, i.e.,it made no sense at all. Whatever your opinion about the value of the objective or the moral implications of de facto assassination missions, it is undeniable that Obama put his entire presidency on the line there – and he did so with much less information than most of us realized at the time. Despite the great lengths our military and intelligence agencies go to creating an image of omnipotence, they basically gave the White House a photo of a house and a hearty, "Yeah we're pretty sure he's in there." And then the President approved the highest risk, most dangerous option presented to him for dealing with bin Laden.

That deserves a slow clap. I have to say, this actually bumped Obama up a little in my estimation – not because he "killed Osama, wooo!" but because he took an enormous risk to achieve something he promised the nation he would try to do and he didn't even get much credit for it. Nor did he harp on the details, on the magnitude of the risk, to harangue the media and public into applauding louder for what he had done. He ran out on the tightrope with no safety net beneath him; if this operation went bad it would have gone really, irretrievably bad. He did it anyway, and yet the two George Bushes are the presidents that supposedly approached foreign policy with a steely-eyed resolve that liberal pussies could never understand.

48 thoughts on “YOU KNOW, NO BIG DEAL”

  • So, it's kinda like a sister rule to IOKIYR?

    IDCIYAD? It Don't Count If You're A Democrat (or, perhaps the 2nd "D" is for "Darky"?

  • If there are still Republicans in fifty years, they'll credit Obama for taking out Bin Laden, they don't mind talking up most dead democrats, except for Roosevelt.

  • My response to "why should he get the credit" is a question in return: "do you believe he should have been held blameless if it had gone wrong?"

    Incredibly, every single time I've used that, the person asking the initial question has stopped, thought about it for a second, and then agreed with me. Maybe there's still hope.

  • Romney's cheap after the fact Monday Morning Quarterbacking (of the type "Anyone would have made that decision in a heartbeat without any second thought") made me puke by its sheer stupidity. No friggin way i could EVER vote for people like that!

  • Yep. A lot of people believe Obama should get no credit for this operation. But had it failed, he would have received every bit of the blame.

  • Middle Seaman says:

    Clinton's approach is still the way to go. Also, killing Osama gave us nada, absolute nada, just bragging rights. Courage is nice, but you run a country with wisdom and values. Not buying these duck.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Maybe they found some additional evidence in the White House, like a copy of a mortgage for that mansion in Pakistan that George H. W. Bush and his son W co-signed for bin Laden?
    After all, Daddy was with a member of the bin Laden family on 9/11, and Little Boots let the whole family fly out of the US when no one else was allowed to fly. And then W got bored with playing 'hide-and-seek' with bin Laden and let him escape in Tora Bora, while he decided to play "Risk" in Iraq. So, why wouldn't they help him hide in Pakistan?

    All kidding aside, right or wrong, just or unjust, that move took cojones of diamond.

  • a bunch of CIA/military operatives invade a foreign country unannounced. They assault this compound. Things don't go quite as well as planned. American soldiers are killed. A helicopter crashes. Civilians are killed by a stray explosion.

    … why would the reaction be different from all the other times this has happened over the last ten years?

    I sorta see what you're getting at, and yeah, the same jackasses who can't shut up about Benghazi could likely find some grist in this slurry. But I don't get your assertion that U.S. intelligence operatives or special forces attacking someone in a foreign country and causing civilian casualties would be some damning incident to any wing of the U.S. press.

  • "The CIA claims that…." The slender branch that Obama courageously edged out on to make the decision really looks more like a soda straw. IMO, there must have been more evidence in advance than this. Doubtful that the CIA would burn sources or comprise its SigInt any more than it had to.

  • Ed,

    To top it off, Obama was at the White House Correspondents dinner the night before and a speaker was cracking bin Laden jokes, the president sat there , cool as a cucumber and laughed. It was like Micheal Corelone at the baptism, while he had half the NY mob whacked…..except this was real.

    Thirty years ago, he left a job on Wall Street to work on the South Side of Chicago, in the projects, with gang-bangers, in 1983….who does that?

    He must need a wheelbarrow for those gonads.

  • Ivan Ivanovich Renko says:

    To hear conservatives tell it, NO non-white person could POSSIBLY do anything right or achieve success on their own. Of course he got no credit for it; and OF COURSE had it gone wrong, there would have been all kinds of hand wringing about our "affirmative action President."

    It's said that one should never ascribe to malice that which can be sufficiently explained by stupidity; but it's long past the time to note that when it comes to people who aren't straight Christian white men, the conservatives are nothing BUT malicious.

  • When the Hannitized bitched about Obama exploiting the raid for political gain, I was surprised fewer people called out Chimpy McFlightsuit and "Mission Accomplished."

    If that many people have completely erased 2000-2008 from their memories, I'd like some of what they're having.

  • On the other hand, I'm a little biased against praising Obama for this for any reason because OUR PRESIDENT HAD SOMEONE ASSASINATED and I just cannot wrap my mind around that being so okay with everyone. Yikes.

  • who's nose? who knows? says:

    Don't forget to mention that Biden, Clinton, and most of the rest of his cabinet (all except Leon Panatta if memory serves me) were suggesting not to have this raid… either punt, wait for more information, or go missile strike route! You do have to give the president credit, that dude is cool… I couldn't have done it.

  • How do you know he was there? We only have the word of the President (and that Navy Seal who wrote that book.)

    There was never a body.

    How do we even know he EVER existed? Maybe he was just some made-up bogeyman to give Americans something to hate and not notice the decline of our infrastructure.

    Come to think of it, I'm not even sure Barack Obama is a real person. Nor Washington DC is a real city, since I've never seen it in person.

    In fact… maybe I'm not real. O_O;

  • @ K

    Some assholes' just need to be shot. Not many, but OBL was one.


    I think you may have gone off the deep end.

  • @K:
    I'm with you in spirit, but I didn't say anything at the time because suggesting that the SEALs shouldn't have wiped out OBL makes pacifism sound ridiculous to most people.

    And I don't think there's going to be a Kucinich Administration.

  • Acer wrote:

    And I don't think there's going to be a Kucinich Administration.

    You were crying when you wrote that, weren't you?

    There there….

  • @ K. – A fair point, in a sense, but I'd call it a "targeted reprisal," inasmuch as 'assassination' bestows an authority/dignity to the deceased that, in this case, is not deserved. Should it creep us out that the President, on his own authority, said "Go and kill this guy"? Yeah, I get that, and it should, a little. But "go and bomb the living hell out of this city" carries with it an insanely higher body count–should we be squeamish because the killing *wasn't* indiscriminate?

    The killing of bin Laden was ruthless and, as others have pointed out, largely symbolic. But "symbolic" doesn't mean "meaningless." Symbols matter–maybe less than some would like to believe–and this was a symbolic gesture that had to be made. Not as a deterrent–it won't act as one. But as a confirmation of a kind of dark contract: If you engage in violence with us, such violence will cost you your own life, so weigh the option carefully. As Ed has pointed out elsewhere, you can't stop all the bombers from getting through, but you can make it clear to all the enemy pilots that this will be a suicide mission, so, you know, think this through before you saddle up.

    Should Obama have taken the gamble? I think he pretty much had to. (Let me clarify: he could easily have not done so, and lost nothing as a result–a weaker man would have made a weaker choice, and slept soundly afterwards.) But as a leader who is *clearly* occupied with his own historical significance, and as someone familiar with history, he knew damned well that great men are invariably gamblers. Gamblers often lose, of course, but the number of lives staked were low enough for a CiC to make the call. This wasn't Pickett's charge. We laugh with embarrassment at Carter's fiasco now, rather than mourning those who died in that desert. (To our shame, let it be added.)

    But Ed's larger implication–that the NeoCon noise machine is such a collective pile of shitheels that they would almost certainly have preferred that A. bin Laden not been there, and thus have escaped retribution, and B. that the lives of American soldiers be lost in order to maximize their own schadenfreude–is well-taken, and horrifying. But in a culture in which there is no consequence to being despicable, how can we be surprised at the self-congratulation of the spiritually bereft?

  • Of course, this sort of unflappable courage will be conveniently forgotten when y'all partisan terrorists (but I repeat myself) are called to answer for this guy's oh-so-courageous domestic policy because you can't take that last step of recognizing that as far as the Administration is concerned YOU ARE THE ENEMY.

    Critical thinking and partisanship are mutually exclusive.

  • Should it creep us out that the President, on his own authority, said "Go and kill this guy"? Yeah, I get that, and it should, a little. But "go and bomb the living hell out of this city" carries with it an insanely higher body count–should we be squeamish because the killing *wasn't* indiscriminate?

    It should creep us out more than a little. This wasn't just a one-time thing. Obama has been ordering kills on a fairly regular basis, has a kill list that he consults and decides who gets whacked. Yes, there are American citizens on that list and yes, he has ordered the whackage of American citizens. That's fucking SCARY. Because once the executive embraces that power, he or she's not giving it up and his or her successor will most definitely not give it up.

    The second part of your statement there is the Israeli school of taking care of "troublemakers." I love how they justify each and every extrajudicial assassination of who they say is some Hamas operative by saying "but, but, we zeroed in on just him. So some kids who happened to be nearby got killed. Much better than bombing the whole block!" 'Course when they go back and bomb the block, they come up with some other justification.

    It just isn't good. When you let one person or a small group of persons decide who is bad and who should be whacked, you wade into some pretty nasty water.

  • mel in oregon says:

    it didn't boost obama up with me. the obvious answer he was killed was there is so much information that is being hidden by the cia, pentagon, homeland security, all agencies having agendas counter to what americans want. the best scenario would have been for bin laden to stand trial, & then when convicted to have been executed. the more information withheld from we the people, the less functioning is american democracy. when you depend on the wa post & ny times for actual truth on government matters, you are going to remain ignorant as to the actual truth.

  • Even ignoring the fact that, thanks to Scalia, the Court has moved away from relying heavily on the warrant clause and more towards reasonableness, this would *clearly* fall within the exigency exception to warrants needed for the home. The exigency exception has been a part of 4th amendment jurisprudence for quite some time now. Anyway, the Court has held that the 4th amendment does not apply to nonresidents/noncitizens outside of the US. I.e. bin Laden was not one of "the people" protected by the fourth amendment. (Verdugo-Urquidez is the case). A valid argument for Awlaki exists because he was a U.S. citizen.

    None of this is not to excuse what happened. I don't see how the fourth amendment was violated, in that, even if it applied, it would be an exigency. Due process and international law, I'm not so sure.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    Last I checked, the head of an organization that is engaged in armed conflict is a legitimate military target. Of course, that organization is usually a nation state, so it's a bit of a gray area, but Bin Laden needn't have been shooting back to be a legitimate target to take out.

  • That's the other thing, bin Laden should be treated as a military leader not civilian. Whatever the protocols for that, I'm not sure

  • He is the head of an organized non-state actor that declared war on the United States. He was not assassinated. He was targeted and killed, not for political reasons but in his capacity as the leader of that same non-state actor.

    I shed zero tears over it. I believe that killing him accomplished nothing (except symbolically) but I have no interest in hand-wringing over the legality of it. The 19th and 20th century concepts of traditional state-to-state conflict are dead. This is the new reality and I'm willing to take the organization at its word when it declares war on the U.S.

  • mel: it didn't boost obama up with me.

    As if there were anything that would.

    I'm with Ed on this one. Still, there's probably more confirming intelligence we'll never know about.

    But more still, that doesn't really matter. Point is, if this had been a Rethug president, there would have been spontaneous orgasms all over the networks and the series of tubes.

    As is — pretty much crickets, with a smattering of right-wing contempt.

    eau nailed it in the very first comment.


  • 'The 19th and 20th century concepts of traditional state-to-state conflict are dead.'

    Exactly correct. Where it leads us to is unknown to all of us.

  • I fail to see how Obama "putting his entire presidency on the line there–and did so with much less information than many of us realized at the time" is some kind of virtue in itself. Your excitement here seems to be solely concerned with pointing out the hypocrisy of Republicans who don't give Obama credit for a "ballsy" move reminiscent of their foreign policy decisions. What a myopic way to look at this event.

    The fact is Obama risked the possibility of a serious conflict with an erratic nuclear armed state with more than its fair share of radical Islamists for a very uncertain objective. It seems that at least a very significant factor in doing the mission in this fashion, if not the primary one, was based upon the fact that Obama never had any intention other than to straight up murder Bin Laden. Many in the nation were indeed excited over the assassination, but I don't think I am alone in saying it was despicable and it will only serve to further entrench the U.S. as a supreme hypocrite in the rest of world's opinion, and rightly so. What is the purpose of putting aside ethics in analyzing Obama's decision? I just fail to see value. But Congratulations. Obama is not as obnoxious as Republicans, but still just as "bold" a wielder of illegal, counterproductive, authoritarian, and violent American! power to meet out American! justice.

    …..But at least he's not a Republican!

  • Thank you Ed.

    Say what you want about Obama, but this showed some big brass balls. And that's admirable.

    As to the legality of it, we had no obligation under domestic law or international treaty to take him alive and put him up for trial. It was permitted under the self-defense provisions of the UN Charter. It also comported with the principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law, or the laws of armed conflict. Killing Bin Laden was a legitimate military objective in an armed conflict, so I think my brain is going to explode if hear any more liberal hand-wringing about it.

  • Also. In response to your comment in the comments section: If the state-state rules of war are dead what is the international world left with? The U.S. would like a system where they go around and do whatever the hell they like and countries like Pakistan and Yemen should just accept violation of their territory because 20th century warfare is "dead" after all. What this means is that the U.S. is determining classifications of groups that they find to be an enemy to their state and then using this entirely internal classification as justification for violating other nations' territory. By this standard the U.S. government should accept if China decides that legal activist Chen Guangcheng is an enemy or terrorist they should have the right to covertly violate U.S. territory and kill/abduct him. Endless examples of this can be given, for the U.S. and other countries. I'm not sure what your opinion is, but most supporters of your opinion(off which there are many) would find this idea laughable. To me, this exposes this argument for what it is: justification for a U.S. hegemony that disregards all rules whenever it finds expedient to do so. If you're willing to accept the China example then it is a different argument, but I don't think that is likely.

  • @Darwin: this isn't a case of Del Monte being denied the "right" to exploit a country as they will. Chavez is still very much alive, same with Ahmadinejad. Mullah Omar prior to this whole situation occurred remained very much alive. Even Hussein was left untouched after GW-I and firing upon one of our naval vessels.
    The last time we made a direct attack on national leader who we weren't in a direct declared conflict was…?

    Qaddafi! Which was instigated by Holy St. Ron. No one ever whinged about that one. And it accomplished?

    By his actions and behaviour this was **not** an assassination. Qaddafi would have been. Can I live with this one? Yes. There are certain decisions that a national leader must make that the avg citizen may not. So get your knickers out their self-righteous knot.

  • @Darwin: can we say false equivalence??
    At which point did Chen make/lead/instigate an assault upon China? Why wasn't he executed whilst still living in China?

  • duck-billed placelot says:

    Ed, you say pretty often that you don't want to glorify war…maybe stop with the glorifying of war? You want to talk about Obama's risky decision making, you could talk about sticking with health care reform, which had become wildly unpopular a year after starting the issue (not reform itself, but the political process). I'm not a huge Obamacare fan, but that whole 30 million people number that will now have access to care..that's an amazing accomplishment. And if nothing had passed, guess how much hay Republicans would have made? Or gay marriage support (yeah, he was forced into it, whatever). Or, you know, being the first black president, cause damn, don't you expect the first black president with the name Hussein to get assassinated? I sure did/kind of still do.

    Big manly men and their courageous acts of valor in wartime: what a stupid way for us to define courage, and what a sickening way to make mass death and destruction a plausible, noble pursuit.

  • Chen Guangcheng is a cushy human rigths activist who means little harm to China because he is out of the country and thus irrelevant. He speaks loftily, but he doesn't advocate violence against the CPC autocracy. "Separatists" do, however, and they happen to be of the same religion as many of those against the US. Were, say, Rebiya Kadeer leading a violent revolution against the PRC to free East Turkestan from a hiding hole in the US and the US doing nothing to find or stop her, then one could see the PLA considering action against her on US soil. Of course, the US has accepted people China has declared terrorist enemies of state into Guantanamo, so one rather doubts that they would no act to contain Rebiya were such truly the case.

  • Well.. if Obama had not let Osama get away in the first place.. the GOP would have caught him RED handed! but no! Obama raised taxes and so we could not afford to watch and Osama got away…

    away away away… and then later on.. acting on info from BUSH TORTURE SESSIONS Obama got lucky because republicans showed him how.. and.. and torture.

  • @Xynzee

    The use of Chen was an illustration. The point is that Bin Laden was not proved guilty under any legal code or presentation of evidence to an impartial body, ya know due proces. The basis for his guilt is based solely on the assertions of the U.S. government. I'm not saying the U.S. government is wrong here but there is a reason why we did not just shoot Timothy McVeigh or Anders Behring Breivik as soon as they were captured, despite their clear culpability. It sets precedent. If the state is allowed to act outside of due process when the facts of the case are "clear", this power will eventually almost certainly be abused.

    This is not theoretical. At what point did Anwar al-Awlaki or his son make an "assault upon" the United States or commit any crime what so ever? Well, we don't know. The government is withholding all evidence for the basis for their Al-Awlaki ASSASSINATION. It appears likely that his only crime was speech the government didn't like. The shocking response of many has been, OF COURSE he was guilty, otherwise the government wouldn't have killed him.

    So the point is the U.S. government is using internal, opaque measures to determine who to murder and then INSISTING that other governments respect these internal deliberations to the point of allowing the U.S. to enter their territory with military force intent on murdering a suspect.

    My use of Chen was to point out that the CHINESE government or any other government coud easily use similarly opaque internal processes outside of due process to determine who is enemy of their states. Other states have no ability to challenge these determinations…that's the point of opaque processes outside of due process. Chen was the first dissident taking refuge in the U.S. to come to mind. If you don't think that other states don't now have the right to enter any other country militarily to kill/capture a "violator" due to U.S. precedent then you are simply a promotor of the idea that "the U.S. is the best and most ethical, moral, best nation and therefore doesn't have to follow rules, unlike other countries who aren't as ethical as the U.S and therefore MUST follow rules or the U.S. will punish them."

  • @Therese

    other government don't give a shit what you or I think about anybody. The point is if they decide someone is bad nobody has any right to question it. At least this is the rational being developed by the U.S.

  • Barack has personally approved drone strikes that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians in Pakistan and Yemen. If we disregard state to state war as ED wants us to, how do people there not have the authority we all should respect to assassinate Barack Obama on U.S. soil? Just like Bin Laden here is personally responsible for those deaths.

  • Darwin: again. you're being an idiot. If you'd mentioned Litvinenko, you may have made a point. Oh hey wait? The Russians allegedly did poison a defector on foreign soil. Or perhaps Markov… ooo… he was assassinated too wasn't he, again on foreign soil.

    Breivik?? Breivik?? Seriously? And he attacked the US when exactly? Was he ever a US concern?

    So al Qeada is what a exactly? A social organisation that organises meals on wheels deliveries for elderly ladies in Tora Bora??

    So would you like to make equivalencies? Manning and Asange? More to the point Asange? He is both still alive *and* free (sort of). Has anyone tried to take him out?? Yes they're trying to extradite him to the US, but no helicopters have flown into the Ecuadorian embassy as of yet.

  • @xynzee

    I'll refer you back to my earlier posts. I'm not sure that you've gathered what I'm talking about exactly because none of these complaints form a cogent response or critique. But I'm speaking more generally about the value of due process e.g Breivik.

    But i'm confused. Are you endorsing the Russian government's actions? Or saying, look at the Russians. They do it too! The example you cite is yet another example of what the abandonment of due process allows.

    But thanks for the idiot comment. It really helped me see faults in my argument.

  • Darwin: you're not using like for like.

    Breivik is a non starter as he has nothing to do with the US. PERIOD! How the Nils chooses to handle their foreign and domestic policy is up to them.

    I was giving you:
    A) examples that you should have used as they are comparative.
    B) What*actual* political assassinations look like as you apparently are unclear on the concept.

    Qaddafi is the closest we have to an assassination attempt on a political leader by a US leader during "peace time" in recent history. We never made so much as the same efforts upon Hussein at any point **excluding** GW-I & GW-II, despite having vaguely more reason to do so.

    Do you think the authorities wouldn't have put a bullet through McVeigh or Abdel-Rahman if they could have in the field?

    You seem to be unclear on the idea that there's a bit of history of trying to take out OBL for his actions. Clinton failed in the 1990s.

    OBL was holed up in a country that was a supposed ally. Would an extraction for trial been better? What charge? Try re-reading Ed's comment on OBL, he's far more succinct than I.

    So let's find a living example shall we? Asange. Asange is very much wanted by the US Gov't. Has disseminated confidential materials. Been cut loose by his government. Holed up on foreign soil. Heck even English law has a caveat that allows them to rescind diplomatic immunity on foreign missions if the Government deems it necessary. So where are the helicopters and sniper squads? Even if he makes it out of the UK and gets to Ecuador, do you think there'll be a drone after him?

    Oh, wait! Yeah! That's right, Asange's raison d'etre is to bring to light what people try to keep hidden. In this case it was US Foreign Policy dirty laundry. Which though could bring down an Administration, or in the worst case get field agents or troops killed, he is not hellbent on killing people.

    Do you see the difference?

  • "Except it means that Barack Obama essentially put his entire political life on the line here by … without anyone being able to state with certainty that bin Laden was actually there."

    Uhhh… what? If bin Laden wasn't there, Seal Team Six would have been in and out in thirty minutes; maybe they would have shot a couple of Pakistanis. You think that would have made the newspaper?

    There are two variables in this equation: The cost and the benefit. The I-guess-unknown question of whether the house was in fact the hiding place of Osama bin Laden had a lot of bearing on the latter, but none at all of the former. If the intel had been wrong and bin Laden not there, it wouldn't have been Carter's failed helicopter mission; it wouldn't have been anything.

    (Xecky Gilchrist, for the record, wins it.)

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