Now It's Getting Ugly: Was Obama Essentially Sidelined on the Osama bin Laden Raid? – UPDATED

Now It's Getting Ugly: Was Obama Essentially Sidelined on the Osama bin Laden Raid? – UPDATED May 4, 2011

UPDATE: I originally came across this story through a Tweet, and Live Leak, and the blog known as Atlas Shrugs.  I don’t regularly read Atlas Shrugs, although I know that Pamela Geller (the proprietor of that blog) has written some things regarding Muslim matters that seem wrong to me.  Anyway, after posting this, some folks who regularly read what I write (even though they often disagree with me) suggested that I was wrong to have passed this along without learning more about the source.  I looked into the matter further.  Now, I have to say, I have no knowledge whether or not the story is true, but I find no reason to ascribe credibility to the source.  In those circumstances, I’ve come to agree that it was wrong to pass along the story, even framed (as it was) in all sorts of warnings to be skeptical.

My apologies.  I will leave up the post because it’s generally considered bad form on a blog to erase the record of your mistakes.  As I’ve said before, I do not pretend to have all the answers, or pretend to do everything right.  I’m learning my way forward, as we all are.  My thanks to those who offered their criticism in good faith.  Here is the original post:

I did say it was going to get ugly, once the details began to emerge and the real scrambling for credit began.

I’m about to post links to an explosive version of the backstory behind the bin Laden raid that is surely going to receive a lot of attention.  Before I do, however, I want to issue a few provisos:

  • Even if all of the claims in these accounts are true, President Obama should still be congratulated for being the Commander-in-Chief when Osama bin Laden was delivered to his demise.  The accounts definitely put a different color on the story, and the image of Obama as the aggressive, hard-nosed leader throughout this process takes a big hit.  But, as President, he could have pulled the plug at any time.
  • Even if all of the facts in these accounts are true, I’m sure they can be spun in a manner much more favorable to the President and to Valerie Jarrett.  This is a telling of the story from someone who is obviously not an Obama fan, and much less a Jarrett fan.
  • I will say, however, that the account seems consistent with what we have observed of the personalities of various other principals such as Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, Bill Daley and Valerie Jarrett.  I will also say that it explains a few things that have seemed peculiar to me.  It seemed very odd that the President would have been playing golf when the mission began, and then brought back directly to a briefing and to the Situation Room, where he is still wearing his golfing clothes (in this picture).  It also seemed odd, in the same picture, that he would seem effectively on the sideline (perhaps someone can tell me whether that is normal in these situations).  And lastly, it seemed odd that so much time passed between the assessment that bin Laden was very probably inside the compound and the actual raid.  This account makes sense of those things.
  • Finally, I wonder what it means for us as Christians to wrestle with these things.  I have to check my motives when I post this.  Am I just trafficking in rumors because I don’t want President Obama reelected?  I don’t think so.  I’ve been more than happy to give great credit to President Obama, and I will continue to do so.  He is my President too, even though I did not vote for him.  But I also want to know the truth, and I prefer to spread the credit broadly across all of those who truly deserve it.  The truth has value.  It brings clarity.  If Obama was truly the decisive leader that his own account made him out to be, then I want to know that.  It would make me feel much better, to be honest.  But if he is not, I want to know that too.  Is it unseemly to want to know the truth?  If these accounts are filled with lies, am I complicit in passing them on?  Perhaps so.  But I do warn that these are just stories from an anonymous source, and I would not pass this on if it did not sound at least credible to me.  But I look forward to learning more over the weeks and months to come.

This is certainly newsworthy, so here you go:

  1. The first part of the account, from an anonymous DC insider, says there was effectively a “coup” (which seems like exaggerated rhetoric to me) that forced the 5/2 raid over the objections of Valerie Jarrett and the ongoing indecision of President Obama.
  2. The second part goes into much greater detail on the frustration of the military and Defense Secretary Gates at the unwillingness of Obama to act on the intelligence and initiate the raid, the threat from Petraeus to go ahead and bomb the compound on his own, and the “masterful manipulation” by Leon Panetta that eventually made the operation a go.  Obama, according to the anonymous (and we should always add a dose of skepticism when sources are anonymous) source, did not really know the operation was underway until it was already underway.

If all of this turns out to be rubbish, then it will be a good lesson in the dishonest tactics of the info-wars and on the unreliability of accounts from anonymous sources.  But I’m sure this will get a lot of conversation, so there are the links.  Check them out and let me know what you think, both about the political questions and the ethical questions.

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  • You need to add political journalist to your career title. You write such informative statements and still let the reader determine their personal take on the facts. Thanks Timothy

  • Nathan Smith

    The thing I don’t get about this story is this: how is it that Panetta, someone who’s had a history of combustible antagonism with the White House, gets promoted to Secretary of Defense in the midst of a supposed strategic “coup” of White House priorities? All of the players that were supposedly frustrated with Obama and fighting over plans on this action were promoted last week. I just don’t get how this fits into the narrative. (IMO, Panetta’s a vindictive, heartless, and crafty insider. There’s no doubt he and his people would have every reason to try to control the narrative, make Obama look bad and themselves look good, in the aftermath of this.)

  • Timothy Dalrymple

    A very valid question, Nathan. It may well be that Panetta’s people are promoting this story. They may also be telling the truth, or parts of the truth that have not yet become known. But I don’t know the answer. I’m entirely open here to people who think the story sounds right, those who challenge it, and those who challenge the fact that I posted it. This is an entirely open conversation.

  • C. Ehrlich

    Given the many and diverse responsibilities of a U.S. President, what to your mind would be the appropriate level of involvement in the execution of this particular event?

  • Nathan Smith

    One other thing: have you sourced this stuff? I don’t have any contacts and know essentially nothing, but these sites that you link to are really strange sites. This leaked information is basically buried in on these no-name sites with almost no original content as far as I can tell. What’s your confidence in its accuracy?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I’ll look into it a little more, Nathan. But I’m also inclined not to give it too much credence, or worry about it too much, right at the moment. I’m very curious to see how the story evolves, and I admit that I personally find a sort of prima facie plausibility to the story itself, but I think we’re going to have to wait to see followup to see whether there’s any legitimacy or not. Even if there are no corroborating voices, or evidence, but there are also no disproving voices or evidence, I will conclude that it’s unfounded and should be ignored. I think it would take some strong corroborating evidence here.

      • Richard


        Don’t you think checking into a little more should be step 1 before linking to the sources? Linking to uncorroborated stories on the web often lends itself to an echo chamber in which google hits become an indicator of validity. Heck, even Obama totally discrediting Trump’s Birther-drumbeat lended it credibility in the eyes of some.

        It seems similar to the Rob Bell echo chamber that had him labeled an “all dogs go to heaven universalist that doesn’t believe in hell or judgment” before the book was even read by anyone that was commenting.


        • Timothy Dalrymple

          Yes, I do, Richard. Please see the update. Thanks!

          • Richard

            Good follow up Tim.

  • Dan K

    Mr. Dalrymple, I am on “your side” of poltical issues more offten than not, and more importantly I value your spiritual and religious insight. I am disappointed to see you passing on this very poorly sourced, agenda-driven innuendo. Your warnings about taking them with a grain of salt just isn’t good enough, in my opinion. It should not have been posted at all. It doesn’t even come close to passing any remotely responsible “sniff test.”

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I’ve come to agree with you, Dan. I did not feel that the story itself failed the smell test, at first whiff, but I shouldn’t have posted it until I had looked into the matter further. My bad.