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HOW KILLED OSAMA

The Progress Report progress@americanprogressaction.org

THE PROGRESS  REPORT
by Faiz Shakir, Benjamin Armbruster, Zaid Jilani, Alex Seitz-Wald, Tanya Somanader, and Travis Waldron

HIDING IN A MANSION:   While many expected the terrorist leader to be hiding out in a cave in Afghanistan or in the northwest provinces of Pakistan, U.S. forces and intelligence assets actually found Bin Laden to be residing in a mansion compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, which is located approximately  75 miles from the capital city of Islamabad.

The United States had been scoping out the location since 2010, and on April 29, it used a special operations team as a part of a “kill mission” that resulted in the death of the al Qaeda leader, his brother, one of his sons, and perhaps an unidentified woman. President Obama announced the news of Bin Laden’s killing at a press conference on Sunday night, saying, “The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement   to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.”

The fact that Bin Laden was hiding so close to the Pakistani capital and a short drive from Pakistani military headquarters has raised eyebrows among many, with some analysts  wondering how the terrorist could’ve avoided the eyes of the Pakistani intelligence services. White House counterterror adviser John Brennan said during a news conference yesterday that we shouldn’t forget that “Pakistan has been responsible for capturing and killing more terrorists inside of Pakistan than any country and it’s by a wide margin and there have been many, many brave Pakistani soldiers, security officials, as well as citizens who have given their lives because of the terrorism scourge in that country.” Soon after the death of the terrorist leader’s killing was reported, a bomb exploded at a mosque in northwestern Pakistan, killing a wo man  and three kids, perhaps the first retaliation from terrorists.

The news of Bin Laden’s death served to bring closure to many Americans, with a large group of people converging outside the White House to  sing the National Anthem, massive cheering taking place at the Mets-Phillys game, and Arab and Muslim Americans celebrating in Dearborn, Michigan. The reaction among many 9/11 survivors was also recorded in the media. “If this means there is one less death in the future, then I’m glad for that,” said Harry Waizer, who suffered third-degree burns while escaping from one of the Twin Towers. &q uot;But  I just can’t find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama Bin Laden.”

TORTURED CONCLUSIONS:   Shortly after the death of Bin Laden, many right-wing commentators began crediting torture for the intelligence that led to finding the terrorist leader. Bush torture program architect John Yoo said that Bin Laden’s death was “yet another sign of the success of the Bush administration’s war on terror policies” and that the Al Qaeda courier who gave the intelligence was subjected to “enhanced interrogation methods.” Former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen also said that the intelligence came from the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation program.” The National Review’s Dan Foster wrote that “it’s clear that we couldn’t have had this outcome without Bush-era counter-terror policies…Obama was wrong about the usefulness of…the interrogation methods they pursued.”

Yet yesterday, in an interview with Newsmax, Bush Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that the courier   was not subjected to waterboarding or other torture methods. Additionally, the Associated Press reports that Al Qaeda “number three” Khalid Sheik Mohammed “did not reveal” information that led to Bin Laden’s location “while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said.” He identified them many months later under standard interrogation.”

A BOOKEND TO THE WARS:   Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the United States invaded Afghanistan along with a larger international coalition, seeking to uproot Al Qaeda and capture or kill Bin Laden. With Bin Laden’s death, the U.S. has now achieved one of its major war aim, and the killing of the terrorist leader should serve as a symbolic bookend to the conflict, smoothing the way for the U.S. and international community to draw down their forces from both Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda did have a major presence, and Iraq, where they did not. In fact, the Al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan has slowly dwindled to where the group has almost no active fighters in the country. As Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) said during a conference call with bloggers last year, “I think about how much we spend, a billion dollars per year per Al-Qaeda member to defeat them.

It’s not making ourselves safer.” And the irony that Bin Laden was found in Pakistan, an ally with whom the United State s cooperates with on military and intelligence operations, and not in Afghanistan, where it has well over a hundred thousand troops, was not lost on Afghan leadership. “Osama was not in Afghanistan: they found him in Pakistan,” said Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

“The war on terror is not in Afghan villages…but in the safe havens of terrorism  outside Afghanistan.” As Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) told ThinkProgress in an interview yesterday, “We went there to get Osama bin Laden. And we have now gotten Osama bin laden … So yes, I think this does strengthen the case [for withdrawal].” Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT), Rep.  Jarold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) echoed similar sentiments. Last night, 9/11 responder Kenny Specht told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he hopes Bin Laden’s death could finally signal a coming peace after ten years of nonstop war: “I mean, we’re in a quagmire, for lack of a better term, in Afghanistan. I hope to God that tonight is one large step to maybe  wrapping up operations in Afghanistan.”

THINK  FAST

President Obama will visit Ground Zero in New York City Thursday to mark the death of Osama bin Laden. The White House says Obama plans to also visit with “the families of those killed nearly 10 years ago.”

Supporters of President Bush “are irked that the White House isn’t doing more to share the glory” of killing Osama bin Laden, Politico reports. Numerous top Bush officials are making the case publicly that Bush policies played a key role, “and dozens of statements Monday from Republican officeholders mentioned Bush’s role after 9/11.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid insisted yesterday that the death of Osama bin Laden has not changed the timetable for troop withdrawal in Afghanistan. “The president has a timetable to begin withdrawal,” Reid told reporters, “I think that’s appropriate.”

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner announced Monday thatCongress now has until August 2 to raise the nation’s debt limit . Higher-than-expected tax receipts pushed the deadline back 25 days, but Geithner is still urging Congress to act quickly. Failing to raise the limit, he said, “would have a catastrophic economic effect.”

The New York Times notes today that, “by taking advantage of myriad breaks and loopholes that other countries generally do not offer,” American corporations pay about what their counterparts in other industrial countries do in taxes. This makes American multinationals “world leaders in tax avoidance,” according to one source.

House Republicans signed a new deal with attorney Paul Clement yesterday to pay him $500,000 for defending the Defense of Marriage Act. The deal is “essentially identical” to the contract with King & Spalding, the firm that withdrew from the case after finding that “the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate.”

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) gave his farewell speech in front of a “mostly empty” Senate chamber , as none of his colleagues came to listen. On his final day in the Senate, Ensign spoke candidly about the sex scandal and ethics investigation that led to his resignation. Rep. Dean Heller (R) will fill the remainder of Ensign’s term.

And finally: Less than 24 hours after the killing Osama bin Laden, commemorative t-shirts were already being soldonline and in the streets of Washington, D.C., including one popular one reading, “It took Obama to catch Osama.”

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