We first heard that the terrorist leader had used a woman, believed to be one of his wives, as a human shield before a Navy SEAL tapped two quick bullets into his chest and head.
"There was a female that was reportedly used to shield Bin Laden from the incoming fire," said U.S. anti-terrorism czar John Brennan on Sunday night. "Here is Bin Laden, who has been calling for attacks, living far removed from the front and hiding behind women put in front of him as a shield. It really just speaks, I think, to the nature of the individual he was."
Problem: That wasn't true
, according to reports coming from Politico.com and Reuters. Top White House officials have now said that the woman, believed to be one of his wives, was injured, not killed, and that she wasn't used as a human shield. Apparently another woman in the compound was killed and may have been used as a shield by one of the male combatants in the compound and Brennan was confused between the two stories.
How convenient a mistake. Why is it that when it comes to dramatic military events -- think Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman -- the government always seems to put out at least one or two self-serving falsehoods (if not an entirely fabricated story)? In this case, it placed Bin Laden in a position of cowering behind a woman when he was killed, as if the world needed that justification or another reason to believe he was really a bad guy and a coward to boot.
Inside, read about what may be the biggest falsehood propagated about the operation of all -- and why these kind of stories aren't just unnecessary but also work against American interests.
Brennan also told the media that Bin Laden was armed at the time he was killed and may have gotten some rounds off in a firefight.
The Obama administration has quietly corrected that now too, admitting that Bin Laden apparently wasn't armed
and wasn't killed in a firefight. The apparent precision of the two shots indicated that already.
But the administration is still saying that they were forced to kill Bin Laden due to "resistance" rather than capture him alive.
Don't buy it. The SEALs are the best-trained forces the world has to offer, and if they wanted to bring Bin Laden out of that compound alive, they damned well would have done it. It appears that early government official was right when he said, "This was a kill operation." They even made sure to put one in his brain.
It was a high-level hit.
And it was totally justified, considering the magnitude of the target and the incredible damage he had done around the world and to America on September 11. When it came to Bin Laden, it was war, plain and simple.
There are serious questions
being raised about the legality of the Bin Laden killing, and it all seems to boil down to the idea that American forces were justified in killing the terrorist leader if they acted in "self-defense." Well, the operation was conducted in self-defense of the nation and the world on a man who was planning more deadly attacks. And as far as the shooting is concerned, just about any furtive action made by Bin Laden at the time of the encounter in his bedroom would satisfy that requirement. Who in their right mind would take any chances when dealing with the man behind the mass murder of thousands of innocent people?
There are obviously profound questions about national security at stake here, and it seems pretty clear that President Obama and Leon Panetta decided it was in America's best interest if Bin Laden were killed rather than captured. Fine. The problem is that the accompanying fiction -- especially the story about the human shield -- hurts America's credibility and actually gives al Qaeda an arguing point, a tiny sliver of moral high ground, that it doesn't deserve.
The administration made the decision, so own up to it, embrace it, and move on in what is undeniably a better world because of it.
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