The relentless banter by the mainstream media and others (including by some in the comments here) is that Bush let bin Laden get away at Tora Bora and gave up the search.
As the facts come out in the wake of bin Laden’s death, bits and pieces are coming out that debunk the mythology and lies. In fact, there was a never ending and relentless campaign to find bin Laden, the fruits of which were not harvested until last Sunday.
The Washington Post has a multi-part article today on how bin Laden stayed hidden for so long, and the import of the article is that it was not because we weren’t trying to find him.
First, the escape from Tora Bora was not by the direct route to Pakistan as we have been led to believe countless times, or a supposed failure to seal the border with Army Rangers. In fact, something I had not heard before, bin Laden took an unexpected route to the north right past U.S. special forces:
The popular version of bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora was dramatic enough. Somehow, a hunted man made it over the mountains, south to the tribal areas of Pakistan.
But U.S. interrogators later learned from Guantanamo detainees that bin Laden had actually taken a more daring route, to the north toward Jalalabad, right past the approaching U.S. and British special forces and their Afghan allies. After resting there, he proceeded on horseback on a several days’ journey into Konar province, in Afghanistan’s far northeast. A U.S. intelligence official this week confirmed this account.
Then came the hunt, which never ended:
U.S. forces believed that at Tora Bora they had come within perhaps 2,000 yards of bin Laden. Yet he managed to slip away, vanishing so completely that several years went by without a single tip, surveillance photo or monitored transmission of any value. On the ground, American operatives continued to try to pry intelligence from “locals willing to talk for some pocket change,” Fury said. “The CIA did a lot of this fishing. Mind-numbing. A million dead ends.”
Even as the White House was consumed politically by the Iraq war, the search for bin Laden and the development of leads through interrogations never let up. Not knowing where bin Laden was, a “flood the zone” strategy put in place (Operation Cannonball) proved ineffectual
Comments used against Bush to show he was unconcerned simply were an attempt by the Bush administration not to raise public expectations when no one knew where bin Laden was:
In the Bush White House, the lack of credible leads led to public statements designed to play down the individual and focus attention on the broader threat.
The idea was “not to overly aggrandize the man even as we tried to find him,” Zarate said. Outside the HV Unit, the landscape looked grim: “I can’t remember any single piece of intelligence that got us especially excited,” Zarate said.
And as we now know, the ultimate location and killing of bin Laden was the direct result of painstaking intelligence gathering and interrogations much of which took place during the Bush years:
But even as the hunt became a political liability, the road to bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad was being built, not “brick by brick,” said former CIA director Michael V. Hayden, but “pebble by pebble.”
Turning vague references to a courier into a verified name took upwards of four years, but that opened the way to discovering how he operated, and that led to the surveillance of the strangely overbuilt house that curiously had no phone or Internet service.
The couple of dozen U.S. commandos who dropped onto bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad last weekend had to complete their mission in minutes, but it had taken years to get them there.
Hindsight always is 20/20. Mistakes were made, but Bush had to deal with the hunt in real time, without the benefit of prior intelligence creating links to bin Laden’s location.
Bush laid the foundation for Obama’s success, a success which would not have taken place had Bush followed Obama’s demands to stop harsh interrogations (even those short of waterboarding), to close so-called “black sites,” to lawyer-up detainees early on, to close Gitmo, and to treat the al-Qaeda problem as a law enforcement problem.
Obama made the right decision in killing bin Laden, but it was a decision made possible by hard work that took place during the Bush years.
One of the collateral benefits of the killing of bin Laden is that more facts are coming out, and those facts debunk the malicious mythology which has been spread by the mainstream media and Democratic Party politicians and pundits about George W. Bush and the hunt for Osama bin Laden.