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Another great call

Editorial for May 12, 2011

One great and gutsy call has led to another for President Barack Obama. He's on a roll.

Last Sunday, May 1, President Obama delivered the news Americans had been waiting to hear for nearly 10 years: America's military and intelligence professionals had finally tracked down terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and taken him out.

"A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability," President Obama told us in a dramatic statement from the White House. "After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body. As a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies ... and on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al-Qaeda's terror: Justice has been done."

The decision to send in commandos to secure bin Laden was an amazing one. We can only imagine what we'd all be feeling if the mission had not gone well and if our guys had been killed while bin Laden got away yet again: Sorrow, frustration, anger, humiliation.

Many of us remember the disastrous attempt to free the hostages from the American embassy in Iran in April 1980. President Carter was commander in chief at that time, and the mission went wrong: During the rescue effort, a Marine helicopter tragically collided with an Air Force C-130 transport plane in the desert night, and eight American servicemen died. Carter was assigned the blame and it cost him a second term. As commander in chief, that comes with the territory, so Carter will get no sympathy here.

Given that awful bit of our history, President Obama could instead have chosen to send in drones armed with missiles. He could have ordered a bombing raid. And our forces may well have killed bin Laden. But we wouldn't necessarily have had any proof. We might have killed a number of civilians. And we certainly would not have been able to gather up bin Laden's computers and papers and other sensitive information that should lead to additional anti-terrorist actions.

Yet even more than that, sending in a small team of Navy Seals was so much better psychologically. It was literally man-to-man at the end, and the Navy Seals won. That's the way it should have been. Osama bin Laden actually saw his attackers and knew retribution for his evil was coming. It wasn't a bomb or a missile launched from the heavens by the push of a button from hundreds of miles away in some secure office.

It was the right move for a lot of reasons, and it spotlighted the courage of our military forces and the unbending will of our nation.

There was no tough talk and bluster from President Obama, but in the end, there were spectacular results. What else can we ask of our commander in chief?

And then, on May 4, President Obama made another strong and wonderful decision. He rejected calls to release photos of Osama bin Laden in death. Bravo!

If there are people out there who want to believe that Osama bin Laden is not really dead, that it's all a trick, who cares? For those fools, a photo would not convince them anyway. And a photo of a corpse is not something we all need to see.

More important, however, is that release of the reportedly graphic photos could very well serve to incite attacks on our troops or our citizens. We know very well some would try to use those photos to stir anger and hatred against us. It would be unwise to hand them that type of ammunition.

Yet there will always be critics. Upon learning of the decision to withhold the photos, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin went on Twitter almost immediately to blast President Obama: "Show photo as warning to others seeking America's destruction. No pussy-footing around, no politicking, no drama; it's part of the mission," Palin tweeted.

Wow. Why should we believe that photos of bin Laden's corpse would scare terrorists willing to commit suicide to kill others? That's just silly.

We know there are many challenges yet to come for our nation, and President Obama may disappoint us at times. But today, like many Americans, we are so proud of the courage and wisdom displayed by our president in both of these decisions.



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