Conservative media figures are suggesting that a recently released memo from Leon Panetta shows that President Obama doesn't deserve credit for ordering the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. In fact, the memo fits the previously reported timeline of the decision to raid the compound and confirms Obama's role in making that decision.
Last August, The New Yorker reported the details of Obama's decision to order Vice Adm. Bill McRaven, who is in charge of the Joint Special Operations Command, to carry out the raid:
Late on Thursday afternoon [April 28, 2011], Panetta and the rest of the national-security team met with the President. For the next few nights, there would be virtually no moonlight over Abbottabad -- the ideal condition for a raid. After that, it would be another month until the lunar cycle was in its darkest phase. Several analysts from the National Counterterrorism Center were invited to critique the C.I.A.'s analysis; their confidence in the intelligence ranged between forty and sixty per cent. The center's director, Michael Leiter, said that it would be preferable to wait for stronger confirmation of bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad. Yet, as Ben Rhodes, a deputy national-security adviser, put it to me recently, the longer things dragged on, the greater the risk of a leak, "which would have upended the thing." Obama adjourned the meeting just after 7 P.M. and said that he would sleep on it.
The next morning [April 29, 2011], the President met in the Map Room with Tom Donilon, his national-security adviser, Denis McDonough, a deputy adviser, and Brennan. Obama had decided to go with a DEVGRU [SEAL team] assault, with McRaven choosing the night. It was too late for a Friday attack, and on Saturday there was excessive cloud cover. On Saturday afternoon, McRaven and Obama spoke on the phone, and McRaven said that the raid would occur on Sunday night. "Godspeed to you and your forces," Obama told him. "Please pass on to them my personal thanks for their service and the message that I personally will be following this mission very closely." [emphasis added]
For a recent cover article, Time magazine released a memo written by then-CIA director Panetta on the morning of April 29, 2011. Time transcribed the handwritten note:
MEMO FOR THE RECORD Apr. 29, 2011, 10:35 a.m.
Received phone call from Tom Donilon who stated that the President made a decision with regard to AC1 [Abbottabad Compound 1]. The decision is to proceed with the assault. The timing, operational decision making and control are in Admiral McRaven's hands. The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the President. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the President for his consideration. The direction is to go in and get bin Laden and if he is not there, to get out. Those instructions were conveyed to Admiral McRaven at approximately 10:45 am. [emphasis added]
So, the memo confirms that Obama met with national security adviser Tom Donilon and others on the morning of April 29. Donilon then called Panetta on the phone and told him that Obama had decided to go forward with the raid, and that McRaven was in charge of operational decision-making, as one would expect with any major military operation.
The right-wing media are twisting this final detail -- that McRaven was in control of the operational decisions -- into a suggestion that there was no "gutsy call" by Obama to go forward with the raid.
Right-wing media have seized on a National Journal report quoting an anonymous State Department official saying that "the war on terror is over" to claim that President Obama has "surrendered." In fact, both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly emphasized their commitment to "eliminat[ing] terrorism" and have repeatedly said "we are at war" with Al Qaeda and other extremists.
Right-wing media have used questioning by CBS' Steve Kroft of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to accuse her of a "conflict of interest" based on an investment in Visa, ignoring her shepherding of historic credit card reform. Kroft's questioning will air on tonight's 60 Minutes, which was reportedly based on a forthcoming book by Peter Schweizer, the editor in chief of one of Andrew Breitbart's websites. Schweizer has worked on behalf of President Bush, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin, and drew criticism for a previous false attack on Pelosi.
Right-wing media outlets including Fox Nation, Jim Hoft's Gateway Pundit, the Drudge Report, and Andrew Breitbart's Big Peace are highlighting a Ynet article describing a conversation between President Obama and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France. According to reports, the two presidents, apparently unaware that their microphones were on, had the following exchange at the G-20 conference in Cannes, France:
"Obama began by reproaching Sarkozy for not warning him in advance that France would vote in favour of Palestinian membership of UNESCO," the website reported. "The conversation turned to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, with Sarkozy saying, 'I don't want to see him anymore, he's a liar.'
"To which President Obama replied: 'You've had enough of him, but I have to deal with him every day!' Obama then asked Sarkozy to try to convince the Palestinians to slow down with their UN membership drive."
What the right-wing blogs aren't emphasizing is the substance of this conversation: Obama's request to Sarkozy to ask the Palestinians to slow their push for U.N. membership. Simply put, Obama was asking Sarkozy to do something that Israel wants.
Focusing on that would have clashed with the right wing's false narrative that Obama is anti-Israel, something his record contradicts. This theme has resurfaced repeatedly, from Fox's Eric Bolling theorizing that the Palestinian bid for statehood is a "setup" to make Obama seem pro-Israel, to Fox figures' and Rush Limbaugh's distortion of Obama's comments on the 1967 Israel borders and Netanyahu's response. There has also been a litany of highly inflammatory and unsubstantiated statements from the right on Obama's Israel record. The Wall Street Journal has also joined the chorus.
In fact, Obama's record on Israel is supportive, and his actions have been praised by Israeli leaders. Netanyahu thanked Obama for his support during the last U.N. General Assembly meeting, for providing assistance in extracting Israeli security guards from the Israeli embassy in Cairo, for helping to fund a missile defense system to protect Israel, and for the killing of Osama bin Laden. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, now the defense minister, said in August that he "can hardly remember a better period of ... American support" for Israel than "right now."
Right-wing media have expressed outrage over President Obama hugging Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the G-20 summit, claiming that Obama is "hugging enemies [and] abandoning allies." In fact, Turkey is an ally of the United States via its membership in NATO; moreover, this is just the latest example of the right-wing media's obsession with how Obama greets leaders.
In January, after New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie first announced his nomination of attorney Sohail Mohammed for a Superior Court judgeship, he quickly came under fire from a right-wing blogosphere warning of Mohammed's "dirty Islamist ties" and the ever-popular creeping shariah.
Mohammed, a Muslim born in southern India, has "close ties with New Jersey's judicial and law enforcement communities," who describe him as "an important resource" in bridging gaps with the Muslim community. But such facts are irrelevant to the likes of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, which called him a "longtime mouthpiece for radical Islamists," or blogger Pam Geller, who decreed Christie was "in bed with the enemy."
The attacks on Mohammed and Christie continued for months. Finally, asked about the criticism during a press conference last week, Christie lashed out at the "ignorance" of his opponents, slamming them for their "crazy" behavior.
CHRISTIE: Ignorance is behind the criticism of Sohail Mohammed. Sohail Mohammed is an extraordinary American, who is an outstanding lawyer and played an integral role in the post-September 11 period in building bridges between the Muslim American community in this state and law enforcement ... Shariah law has nothing to do with this at all. It's crazy ... This Shariah law business is crap. It's just crazy, and I'm tired of dealing with the crazies.
Christie's comments have drawn plaudits from the editorial board of the New Jersey Star-Ledger and from the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center. But the "crazies" are unhappy, and they're not letting the matter rest.
Geller comments that Christie "has shown himself to be a dangerous blustering bloviator, a good little dhimmi" who has made a "monumental mistake." Andrew Breitbart's Big Peace website calls it "disappointing" to see Christie "dismissing substantive and damning facts, statements and associations in order to accuse his critics of racism and bigotry." And JihadWatch comments, "to think that some people think this tool would be a good president."
It will be interesting to see whether other Republican politicians follow Christie in denouncing the anti-Islam right-wing media, or if they knuckle under in the face of this sort of criticism.
In an August 1 blog post for Andrew Breitbart's Big Peace, Paul Hair attacked the U.S. government for deciding to drop deportation proceedings against an undocumented immigrant who married his same-sex U.S. citizen partner (deportations against opposite sex couples are traditionally dropped in such circumstances). Consistent with the course taken by Breitbart and his bloggers on gay rights issues, Hair warned people to "be prepared for the left to open the doors to sodomites from around the world under the guise that they are 'asylum seekers' needing to get away from oppression."
From Hair's piece:
"FoxNews.com published an article on July 1 entitled, "Halt to Deportation of Citizen's Same-Sex Partner Draws Fire" (HT: The Core Report). The article says the executive branch has ignored the law and allowed a foreign invader to remain in our nation, recognizing the male invader's "marriage" to an American man."
"And as leftists always do, they justify this blatant defiance of the law by saying they are correct for doing so."
"In other words, be prepared for the left to open the doors to sodomites from around the world under the guise that they are 'asylum seekers' needing to get away from oppression. In fact, the left is already using this method. And if you think conservatives are demonized now for opposing the invasion and colonization of America, just think how bad we'll be vilified for, 'Wanting to torture and murder homosexuals all over the world by making them live under oppressive regimes where their lives are even worse than they are here under the Christian Taliban!'"
Following the terrorist attacks in Norway by anti-Muslim fundamentalist Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing media have leapt to defending their own Islamophobic response to the attacks, often by making absurd claims like calling Breivik a "jihadist."
When word first broke of the deadly bombing and mass shooting in Norway, there was little information available to suggest what party or parties were responsible. Much of the right-wing commentariat filled that information vacuum with their own prejudices, declaring that this was clearly an act of Islamic terrorism. It was later reported that the suspect in custody, Anders Behring Breivik, is a native Norwegian with extreme right-wing politics and ties to fundamentalist Christianity.
Among the conservative to rush to judgment were Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post, CNN contributor Erick Erickson, and Andrew Breitbart's BigPeace.com. The Breitbart website surmised that the attacks could have meant that Norway's "big Muslim problem" had "just blown up in its face." Erickson wrote via Twitter: "Terrorist bombing in Oslo. I bet you it was not Lutherans who did it."
Now that their uninformed and ideologically motivated guesswork has been proven wrong, these same conservatives are adopting the "No True Scotsman" fallacy and claiming that Breivik's abhorrent behavior was not that of a Christian, but more akin to that of a Muslim.
From a Big Peace post today, bearing the headline "Anders Behring Breivik: Jihadist":
This Norwegian terrorist was not a Christian or a conservative. He acted contrary to the teachings of the Bible and conservatives from Burke to Madison. He was instead a jihadist, blinded by an ideology who resorted to violence rather than engaging in a public debate of ideas. He was a coward who planted bombs and killed innocent people. For him, violence was the only answer. He claimed to be fighting jihadists...but he actually became one. He didn't kill one islamist [sic] terrorist with his actions-only innocent Norwegians. Change the location, and he acted like so many jihadists in the Middle East. He became one of them.
Erickson writes that while he was wrong, he was nonetheless justified in his assumption because Christians, unlike Muslims, do not commit politically motivated violence:
First, those of us on the right who point out the now fairly common ties between terrorists and Islam do so largely because the secular left has become willfully naive. The fact of the matter is violence and Islam may not be very common among American muslims [sic], but internationally it is extremely common and can fairly well be considered mainstream within much of Islam. Read Andy McCarthy if you suffer on the delusion that it is not mainstream.
With Christians, it is rather rare to see a self-described Christian engage in heinous terrorist acts. In fact, in as much as there is an Arab Street filled with muslims [sic] more often than not cheering on the latest terrorist act of radical Islamists, you will be very hard pressed to find a Christian who does not condemn the act regardless of the faith of the person doing the killing.
Over the next week, assuming the budget fight in Washington doesn't over shadow it, you can expect lots more gloating that the guy in Norway described himself as a conservative Christian. Never mind that a conservative Christian would not do what the guy did. The left, however, will not be persuaded otherwise. They are of this world and this world is all that matters until the last day.
Muslim-bashing is one of the pillars of today's conservative movement, and they rarely pass up the chance to equate "Muslim" with "terrorist." The reaction from these conservatives to the tragedy in Norway -- from the initial round of shoddy guesswork to the subsequent dissembling on Breivik's ideological identity -- demonstrates the intensity of that anti-Muslim fervor. Even though no Muslims were involved, they are still working hard to make sure Muslims share the blame.
The right-wing media is sure that President Obama betrayed Israel and "sided with the terrorists" with his restatement of U.S. policy that the Israelis and Palestinians should come to a peace agreement that results in a "secure Israel" and "viable Palestine" with "borders ... based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states."
But a funny thing happened. American Jews -- 78 percent of whom voted for Obama in the 2008 election -- didn't immediately rise up against the president. So the conservative media found their next target for attack: American Jews.
On May 23, Glenn Beck called Obama's statement an "absolute betrayal" but said "the Jewish community seems to be giving him a pass yet again ... How is that possible?" One of his sidekicks said the reaction of the Jewish community was "unbelievable."
On May 26, Ben Shapiro published a piece on CNS News arguing that Jews who support Obama are "Jews In Name Only." Shapiro wrote:
In 2008, Obama grabbed 78 percent of the Jewish vote. Even the most wildly optimistic polling today shows that Obama's support remains high among Jews. It's a result that Republicans simply can't understand - why do so many Jews continue to support a president who has shown time and again that he stands against the State of Israel?
The answer is deceptively simple: the Jews who vote for Obama are, by and large, Jews In Name Only (JINOs). They eat bagels and lox; they watch "Schindler's List"; they visit temple on Yom Kippur - sometimes. But they do not care about Israel. Or if they do, they care about it less than abortion, gay marriage and global warming.
And then on May 27, on Andrew Breitbart's BigPeace.com, blogger Dan Friedman trumpeted a Jerusalem Post poll finding low support for President Obama in Israel and declared that "Israeli Jews [Are] Not Nearly As Sick As USA Jews." (I wonder whether Friedman will also turn on Israeli Jews when he sees a Haaretz poll of Israelis finding that "only 20 percent saw [Obama] as hostile" compared to 43 percent who found him "businesslike" and "a quarter [who] described him as friendly.")
American Jews aren't buying the right-wing media's alarmism about Obama's views on Israel, and these media figures would rather attack the Jews than rethink their own arguments.
The conservative media are suggesting that former President Bush deserves more credit than President Obama for the death of Osama bin Laden. This is in stark contrast to their usual attacks that Obama is responsible for things that are happening during his presidency, including those tied to Bush-era policies like the Gulf oil spill, the weak economy, and the nation's deficit problems.
Led by Fox's Andrew Napolitano, right-wing media figures have embraced yet another conspiracy theory aimed at attacking President Obama: that Osama bin Laden might not be dead. Right-wing media have previously promoted the false conspiracy theory that Obama was not born in United States and the myth that Obama is a Muslim.
A March 23 post on Andrew Breitbart's blog Big Peace claimed that "President Obama has almost lost the Middle East" because the recent turmoil there means "Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, its 'moderate' cousin, are on the verge of stunning strategic victory." The post went on to baselessly claim, "In retrospect, Obama's Cairo speech will be seen as the catalyst that handed Islamists the legitimizing victory that decades of terrorism and pan-Islamic political maneuvering failed to spark."
From the post:
Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia: Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, its "moderate" cousin, are on the verge of a stunning strategic victory in the Middle East. U.S. national interests are on the precipice of suffering the worst setback since the Chinese Communists seized the world's most populous nation in 1949.
It isn't hard to see that President Obama has almost lost the Middle East.
In 2008, America was wrapping up its successful surge in Iraq. Al-Qaeda was a spent force, unable to mount any successful attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11. Candidate Barack Obama opposed the surge, claiming, with the anti-war left, that the only morally just war was in Afghanistan, a theater which, the narrative went, had gotten the short shrift due to the unneeded war in Iraq.
Obama assumed the Presidency in 2009 claiming a new beginning in foreign relations - pushing the "reset" button with U.S. rivals and enemies such as Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as entire peoples, as was his intent with his famous Cairo speech to the Muslim world on June 4, 2009.
In retrospect, Obama's Cairo speech will be seen as the catalyst that handed Islamists the legitimizing victory that decades of terrorism and pan-Islamic political maneuvering failed to spark. The only question is this: which brand of Islamism will prevail, the impatient, hyper-violent Al-Qaeda or the "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood? For the West and Israel, it's a difference without a distinction as both seek confrontation with non-Muslims.
The Middle Eastern catastrophe will stand beside America's burgeoning debt as the twin pillars of failure that will indelibly mark President Obama's term in office.
Following the release of a dubious report on "birth tourism" by the Center For Immigration Studies, Andrew Breitbart's website Big Peace highlighted the study's conclusions that hundreds of thousands of women visiting the United States give birth to babies here each year and that some of them are likely "terror babies" who will eventually use their U.S. citizenship to attack the United States in 20 to 30 years.
The right-wing media is grasping for coherence in its attempts to portray military action in Libya as "Obama's Iraq."