Who Got Bin Laden?

The Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen on Republican attempts to claim credit for getting bin Laden:

In March 2002, just six months after 9/11, Bush said of bin Laden, “I truly am not that concerned about him…. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.”

In July 2006, we learned that the Bush administration closed its unit that had been hunting bin Laden.

In September 2006, Bush told Fred Barnes, one of his most sycophantic media allies, that an “emphasis on bin Laden doesn’t fit with the administration’s strategy for combating terrorism.”

And don’t even get me started on Bush’s failed strategy that allowed bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora.

I’m happy to extend plenty of credit to all kinds of officials throughout the government, but crediting Bush’s “vigilance” on bin Laden is deeply silly.

Let’s be fair: some things are fundamentally difficult.

I didn’t consider it a black mark against the Bush Administration that they didn’t “connect the dots” before the 9/11 attacks. I didn’t consider it a black mark against the Bush Administration that bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora — even if a case could be made that Defense Department errors made that possible.

Hindsight is easy. Getting the answers right when you can’t even be certain what the questions are — that’s hard.

Getting Osama bin Laden required enormous competence, a lot of hard work, and patience.

But, from The Lost Year in Iraq:

Bremer, who arrived with sweeping plans to remake the country, had a young and inexperienced team, but his staff had passed a political litmus test in Washington. “It’s a children’s crusade … of former Republican campaign workers, White House interns [and] Heritage Foundation people,” says Thomas Ricks of The Washington Post.

Col. T.X. Hammes, a counterinsurgency expert and adviser to Iraq’s Interior Ministry, felt Bremer’s staff could have been better trained. “We had so many of these very, very young people that are dedicated Americans, brave enough to take a chance and go into Iraq to try to do something right for their country,” he tells FRONTLINE. “But [they] didn’t get any training; they have no background. … And yet we put them in charge of planning at [the] national level.”

It seems to me that the Bush Administration didn’t value competence, didn’t respect hard work, and didn’t have patience.

That is the black mark against them.