A panel of top political commentators joins Diane to talk about some of the head spinning events of this last year and to get their perspectives on the challenges ahead.
Osama bin Laden’s death has been hailed as a triumph for the United States, its intelligence operations, its military, and its president. But it also raises many questions. As new details of bin Laden’s death emerge, there are deepening suspicions in Washington over what Pakistan’s government knew. White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan said it was inconceivable that bin Laden didn’t have a support system. There are also new questions about the future of al-Qaida and who will lead it. And from critics of the war in Afghanistan, the death of al-Qaida’s leader has renewed calls to withdraw troops. What bin Laden’s death in Pakistan means for the region, the U.S. and global terrorism.
- Michael Scheuer Former CIA analyst who headed the agency's Osama bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999; author of the book "Osama bin Laden"
- Michael Hirsh Chief correspondent, National Journal magazine; author of "Capital Offense: How Washington's Wise Men Turned America's Future Over to Wall Street."
- Col. Douglas Macgregor U.S. Army-Retired, decorated combat veteran, executive vice president of Burke-Macgregor Group, LLC, and author of "Warrior's Rage"
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. When President Obama announced Osama bin Laden's death Sunday night, he credited counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan. But as details of the al-Qaida's leader's death emerge, so do new questions about just how much Pakistan knew. This has strained already difficult relations with the U.S. That's just one of the issues raised in the days following bin Laden's death. The larger question may be what happens now to al-Qaida and the U.S. war on terror.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me here in the studio, Michael Hirsh of National Journal and U.S. Army retired Col. Douglas Macgregor. We will be joined by a former CIA analyst, Michael Scheuer, in just a few moments, and if you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning, gentlemen.
MR. MICHAEL HIRSHGood morning, Diane.
COL. DOUGLAS MACGREGORGood morning.
REHMMichael Hirsh, the White House seems to have revised key details about bin Laden's death. He was unarmed, for one thing. Do the details change anything?
HIRSHYeah, this has been after a couple of days of, you know, enormous praise, unalloyed praise even, in light of the lack of apparent massive demonstrations in the Arab world and elsewhere, sympathizing with (word?). It's been a propaganda setback, if you will, in the jihadi world because in the very first briefing, John Brennan, the president's counterterrorism adviser, sought to put his own spin on what details they had. And he suggested, very strongly, very plainly, that bin Laden had been armed and was shot while armed, and that bin Laden actually had acted in a cowardly fashion, hiding behind a woman, who may have been his wife.
HIRSHNow, yesterday, Jay Carney, the press secretary, came out and said, no, he was not armed. And, in fact, there's no indication that he was actually hiding behind a woman, which, of course, you know, the point that Brennan, I think, was trying to make was to sort of take down bin Laden's reputation. That would be an act of great shame, particularly, you know, in the Arab world if he were to seen -- be seen hiding behind a woman. So I think this is a little bit of an embarrassment coming on the heels of a great victory.
REHMCol. Macgregor, Leon Panetta said on the NewsHour last night that bin Laden had made threatening moves, and it was a split-second decision. Now, something different?
MACGREGORWell, first of all, I'm someone who would like fewer details about this event than we're getting. This should be kept, in my judgment, as secret as possible. These operations are very dangerous, even under the best of circumstances. You're sending in men with automatic weapons, who have to fly in the middle of the night in vulnerable helicopters, regardless of what we do with them. They have to act on information that may not be relevant anymore. Things change on the ground long before you arrive.
MACGREGORUnder those circumstances, I would prefer to know less, be grateful that bin Laden has been eliminated along with anyone else who was associated with him, that we have profited from this in an intelligence sense, which, I think, we probably have. But beyond that, I think we've harmed ourselves, much as Michael says, by providing too many contradictory details because of too many people trying to spin things. I think it's time for the president to get control of the whole thing. There should be one person speaking for the administration. There should be one story, and it should be quick, straightforward, dirty and uncomplex. (sic)
REHMAnd there are now questions about whether photographs should be released. What's your view?
MACGREGORNo, I wouldn't release anything. Again, you know, these men's lives are at risk. What you saw, by the way, is something that we should have been doing repeatedly in the past on a case-by-case basis as opposed to pouring hundreds of thousands of conventional combat troops in the Muslim countries, cultivating friends in support for Osama bin Laden. This is the kind of thing that makes sense when you've got good, hard intelligence. We should look at this operation from that standpoint and move away from the things that we've done in the past. So I hope that Mr. Panetta, who will now come to defense, I think, with a certain amount of credibility that he didn't have before and will now be empowered to make some of the dramatic changes that he's got to make to the defense budget.
REHMMichael, as a journalist, you may have a different view about photographs.
HIRSHOh, yeah, I do. I mean, obviously, we, in the journalistic community, are trying to get a hold of them, get descriptions of them. I have had the photographs described to me. They are said to be gruesome, but in which Obama -- Osama -- excuse me -- who was shot in the eye is also recognizable -- that is, his corpse. And the indications are that they will release the photographs. This whole effort by the Obama administration in the last couple of days of briefings, I think, has been to sort of establish the facts of his death to make sure that there is, you know, no disbelief about it. I mean, you've already seen these conspiracy theories. The decision, which has not yet been taken finally, as I understand it, to release the photographs is part of that effort to make sure that everyone understands he is gone.
REHMWhat about those conspiracy theories, Col. Macgregor? Would photographs put those to rest?
MACGREGORWell, we still have people who are convinced that we never landed on the moon despite the fact that we've got videotape and excellent photography. I'm not sure you're going to put those to rest no matter what you say or do. Again, we've done it. It's a good thing. We were successful. The president should capitalize on that, but otherwise restrain himself.
REHMAnd joining us now by phone from his home is former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer. Good morning to you.
MR. MICHAEL SCHEUERGood morning. How are you?
REHMGlad to have you with us. You know, I'm wondering about bin Laden's wife. It is said that she was shot in the leg, that she was not killed. Do we know where she is?
SCHEUERWell, they must have left her behind. I would think if -- unless they're not admitting that they have her, I really don't know where she would be at. I think it was -- I've read that it was the Yemeni wife, so she was the youngest wife.
REHMCol. Macgregor, you're saying, rather...
MACGREGORWell, she's in a Pakistani hospital where she is being treated. And the Pakistani government, thus far, has said that we will not have access to her.
REHMAll right. And that takes me to my next question. There are so many unanswered questions about Pakistan. Michael Scheuer, what do you believe its government knew about where bin Laden was?
SCHEUEROh, I think there's someone in Pakistan who knew where they were, either in the military or the intelligence service or both. But I don't think that's any surprise to anyone in the United States government, at least in the intelligence community. Pakistan's interests, in regard to Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden, have never been contiguous with ours. Their interest is restoring an Islamist government in Afghanistan and stopping the war in their own territory. So Mr. McCain and Sen. Feinstein and the rest of them are all blowing hot air at the moment because they've been telling the American people for 10 years that the Paks were good allies.
SCHEUERAnd the reality is we are much more dependent on them than they are on us. We cannot resupply our coalition in Afghanistan without Karachi Naval Base and the ability to truck supplies from there into Afghanistan.
REHMSo what you're saying, I gather -- and, Col. Macgregor, I'd be interested in your comments. What you're saying is, no matter what they knew, we need them and, therefore, we'll continue to play this game?
MACGREGORWell, Michael Scheuer is right. First of all, no state can be expected to move beyond the limits of its own interests. Pakistan's interests are exactly as described. Everything that Pakistan does has to be seen against the backdrop of its conflict with India. So it has an interest in a government in Kabul that's friendly to Pakistan, not India. And our friend Karzai has been very close India and to Iran, and these are two states that Pakistan considers to be enemies. So that's the first thing. Second thing is that, if we're going to maintain this huge presence in Afghanistan -- yes, we're dependent upon them, which is one of the reasons that, I think, the presence is counterproductive and unnecessary.
REHMGo ahead, Michael Hirsh.
HIRSHRight. That is true. I mean, it's difficult to apply a metric to how dependent they are on us versus on, you know, the reverse. But there's no question that the Pakistanis are also dependent on the U.S. military aid, which amounts to billions per year, and that they have been playing a double game ever since 9/11, handing over some jihadists, usually under U.S. pressure, and keeping others for themselves, sometimes under protective custody, which may well have been the case with bin Laden. We don't know yet. But it certainly defies credibility to think that he had been living in this compound, you know, in the shadow of a Pakistani military, where many Pakistani military officers live, for six years without anyone knowing.
HIRSHBut this has been the Pakistani game all along. They'll be handing over an al-Qaida number three one day and the other day continuing their strategic interest of supporting a jihadi group for exactly the reasons that Col. Macgregor and Michael Scheuer just mentioned.
REHMCan you describe this compound for us, Col. Macgregor?
MACGREGORWell, I only know what I've read. And, of course, I think we've got enormous reinforced concrete walls. It's an enormous compound. It's not quite an acre -- but, I think, it's close -- and several stories, heavily guarded, two entrances, two exits. You know, the man has been living there, we think, now, for at least a year. Some people are saying he's been there for longer. Again, hard to imagine how we missed this.
REHMCol. Douglas Macgregor, U.S. Army-Retired. We'll take a short break. Your calls when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd we're back talking about the aftermath of the bin Laden killing. He was found in Pakistan in a rather imposing compound and was shot and killed. Col. Douglas Macgregor, U.S. Army-Retired, is here with me. He's the author of a book titled "Warrior's Rage." Michael Hirsh is here as well. He's chief correspondent for National Journal magazine and author of the book "Capital Offense: How Washington's Wise Men Turned America's Future Over to Wall Street."
REHMAnd on the line with us, Michael Scheuer, he's former CIA analyst who headed the agency's Osama bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999, and author of the book "Osama bin Laden." We're going to open the phones in just a few moments. Michael Scheuer, any idea what might be in those computer troves that were taken away?
SCHEUEROh, it could a be a gold mine of information about finances, about locations of people overseas, about safe houses, about procurement channels for weapons and moving people. We'll have to wait and see how it comes out. But it could be very important, having been there with the boss, if you will.
REHMWhen you say it could be important, what kinds of things might be in there?
SCHEUERWell, certainly, if there are locations of people overseas that can be picked up, that would be very important. If it had a list, for example, of al-Qaida's people based in the United States and Canada or North America, that would be extremely important to find out. If they're getting money from the Saudis and the Kuwaitis and other people and that's on the computer, that would not be surprising, but it would be interesting to have the documentary information. So there could be some very important things on that, Diane, but, you know, maybe not.
REHMMaybe not. And here is one of the tweets we've received, saying, "How strongly will the White House push to address the issue of torture now that we've determined it was not helpful in catching Osama bin Laden? How is the government going to smooth things over with the public regarding the money going to Pakistan and their obvious lack of cooperation regarding bin Laden?" Two separate questions. First to you, Col. Macgregor.
MACGREGORWell, the second one about Pakistan, I think, is going to be an enormous problem for the administration. And, rightly so, I would argue.
REHMWe are currently giving them, what, $3 billion a year?
MACGREGORIt's -- right now, I think it's about 4.2.
MACGREGORAnd the argument is that we're propping up the military and our friends in that country. Again, we don't have as much control over where that money goes inside Pakistan as many people would think, and that's part of the problem. So I would hope that this compels us to reexamine the wisdom of much of the foreign aid that we are distributing around the world, not the least of which is going to Pakistan. The second one -- the first question that you asked is a little more difficult. That -- you're always going to have people on the side of some form of coercion. But I think the evidence is almost overwhelming, that coercion really doesn't work. It's counterproductive, but it doesn't make much difference. It's really a legal question for us. Where do we want to stand as a nation that believes in the rule of law?
REHMAnd a moral question.
SCHEUERYes. There is no moral question in foreign policy. You know, foreign policy is about material interests and about America's security. I don't know where the information came -- if it came from just regular interrogation or enhanced interrogation. My concern is that the people we have at Guantanamo, in terms of information, are getting very long in the tooth. They don't have much information left anymore that would be relevant to help our operations. And, for me, the problem is the president who decided to end the rendition program, which at least brought in a new flow of al-Qaida fighters to be interrogated in one way or another.
SCHEUERHis decision to stop the program was certainly within his ambit of responsibility and right to do, except on -- as on many thing things, Mr. Obama has -- seems to have a real talent for getting off of one horse without another horse to get onto. So I would be less concerned with how they were questioned than simply trying to get them off the street and getting them to the place where we could talk to them.
REHMMichael Hirsh, several lawmakers have said the U.S. should reevaluate the aid plan to Pakistan. Sen. Carl Levin questioned it. Sen. Frank Lautenberg called for suspending U.S. aid immediately. Congressman Ted Poe of Texas is proposing legislation that would cut off future aid.
HIRSHI don't think it's going to amount to much. I think there will be protests. There will be hearings. There will be intense additional pressure, as there is right now, at high levels to find out what the Pakistanis knew about this particular compound and bin Laden. But this is another go-round of a game we've been playing with them for the entire decade since 9/11. There are just too many critical U.S. interests in maintaining a relationship with Pakistan. And the same senators, like Carl Levin that are now raising protests, understand that. In particular, at the heart of it is that Pakistan is a nuclear power. And it's a nuclear power that is adding warheads, you know, because of its relationship with India, which is very dangerous.
HIRSHAnd it's a nuclear power that has high-level jihadi sympathizers in various parts of the government, including the ISI, the intelligence service and the military. That is something that we simply cannot look away from.
REHMHmm. So, Michael Scheuer, in all, how embarrassing to Pakistan has this incident been?
SCHEUERI think to probably some of the government it is embarrassing, but I think they're relieved that they can say that they didn't have anything to do with killing Osama bin Laden. They're likely to have violence on the streets anyway because he was killed on Pakistani territory. But embarrassment doesn't buy you much, really, Diane. And the Pakistanis are very hard-headed people. They know we need them more than they need us. They also know that the Saudis and the Chinese would step in with money and aid if we backed out. And, really, it's always amusing to me that we're so worried about Pakistan, and no one ever mentions the Saudis. We pay for their protection. We buy their oil.
SCHEUERAnd they're spreading subversion amongst our Muslim community in the United States with gay abandon, and yet the Congress never stands up and says a word about that.
HIRSHWell, again, another very complex and difficult relationship that's been worked on for the last decade since 9/11. The Saudis also, to some extent, have played a double game. But I think it's also fair to say that their intelligence service has been somewhat cooperative. I mean, a very key move that was made late last year was when those package bombs aboard two, you know, transport planes were exposed by a Saudi intelligence tip. It didn't come from the Yemeni government. It came from the Saudi.
HIRSHSo they have been helpful on many occasions. I mean, Michael Scheuer is right, in that the official religious ideology of Saudi Arabia, which is Wahhabism, which is an extreme purist form under which bin Laden himself was raised, has been spread around the world by Saudi petrol dollars. It has made its way into many mosques. It's a dangerous trend. But, on the other hand, in an official capacity as a government, they have also helped.
REHMCol. Macgregor, suppose the U.S. does discover that Pakistan knew exactly where bin Laden was. How does the U.S. respond or react, very quietly within the walls of the White House or with some larger statement?
MACGREGORWell, I think, historically, these things are best handled on the quiet, not publicly. Eisenhower privately sent a letter to the Chinese, threatening them with the use of a nuclear weapon if they did not agree to the ceasefire in Korea. That was the right thing to do. It's interesting we keep bringing up the nuclear weapons in Pakistan. It's almost as though people are saying if we don't pay them money, we are at risk of seeing those weapons used against us. I don't think that's true.
MACGREGORFirst of all, they're under the control of Pakistani military. They're very professionally controlled. But keep something else in mind. We're not the only people watching, and we're not the only people targeting those weapons. The Russians and the Indians also target them. It would be mass suicide for them to turn a nuclear warhead over to a so-called jihadist, and I think they understand that.
HIRSHI think Col. Macgregor is right about that. But I think the greatest fear in the U.S. national security intelligence apparatus about Pakistan is not that they would use a nuclear weapon against the United States -- that's unthinkable -- but that information about it and about the program or nuclear weapon materials could be secreted to a jihadi group. Again, there are jihadi sympathizers. The former head of the Pakistani nuclear program, you know, A. Q. Khan, led an entire black market network that he set up in which nuclear know-how and technology and equipment were passed around the world, including to North Korea, apparently. So that is the danger.
HIRSHThe danger is not so much that they would ever make use of such a weapon, which is part of their deterrent against India, but that information about it or materials or equipment from that program could be passed on to, you know, unsavory...
SCHEUERDiane, if I might say...
SCHEUERThe Pakistani -- the civilian Pakistani military or nuclear establishment has packed -- has passed to al-Qaida already all the information they need about how to use a nuclear weapon. The al-Qaida simply can't buy it. And I think the fear is -- and I agree with both of the other gentlemen that there's no real chance of the Pakistanis using it against us or giving it to anyone. But Pakistan is not far from the edge of collapse. And once there was some kind of a governmental collapse, all bets are off, I think, about how well those weapons could be protected, although the Pakistani military, I agree, is very professional. In a chaotic situation, well-organized groups always have an advantage, and it may well be that that's what we're worried about, that the chaos would give access.
REHMAnd, Michael Scheuer, could a stronger al-Qaida emerge from all this? And, if so, who would be its leader?
SCHEUERWell, let me say, Diane, that I think that somehow we've missed a little bit of growth since 2001. Bin Laden had always planned not to live to see the end of the war. He had written several times and spoken about it that this would be a generational struggle. And in the last four or five years, his organization has been dispersed, whereas on 9/11, we had been facing a threat only or primarily from Pakistan in terms of planning, training and launching operations. They now have a slice of Pakistan -- a slice of Afghanistan. They have a good position in Pakistan. They're in Yemen and Somalia. They're growing -- regrowing strength in Iraq. They're in the Levant. The Israelis say they're in Gaza. And they're in North Africa and Somalia.
SCHEUERSo the expansion of the organization, geographically, has been striking since 9/11. And I think the number -- certainly, the number of jihadists in the field fighting us or the allies or other governments is much greater today than it was at 9/11. So it's a pretty big organization with pretty big allies.
REHMFormer CIA analyst, Michael Scheuer, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." At the same time, Col. Macgregor, you've seen the so-called Arab Spring. So how does that figure in to the spreading of al-Qaida and its influence considering the popular uprisings?
MACGREGORWell, the frustration that you see across the Arab world is rooted in many, many years of bad government. This rests on the foundation of widespread corruption, the worst kind of nepotism, but it's also a reflection of a very dysfunctional culture. This is a region of the world that has missed modernization almost completely. You know, we take for granted our experience -- the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution -- all of these things that had produced modern society in Europe and the United States. Those things were absent from the Arab world.
MACGREGORSo you're dealing with people who are burdened with social pathologies that have roots 1,000 years ago. They're tribalized. They're fragmented. They're divided. And there is no easy solution. And it doesn't necessarily mean that it will lead to liberal democracy in the short run either, that you could very well end up with various kinds of authoritarian regimes, some of which are sympathetic to al-Qaida and some of which are not. But the notion that this is a burgeoning democratic movement, I think, is very misleading.
HIRSHWell, I tend to agree with a lot of what both Col. Macgregor and Michael Scheuer just said, but I would sound a couple of hopeful notes. I mean, we don't know how these are going to turn out. But one of the interesting dynamic that we've seen in the last couple of days is, as I mentioned earlier, a lack of outpouring of sympathy for bin Laden in the wake of his death, which is something certainly you would have seen right after 9/11. There is a sense among many of the young Arabs who led these movements in places like Egypt, which were largely secular, which were really targeted against these oppressive regimes. Groups like the Muslim Brotherhood only had a very tangential role in them. There's a sense that, you know, we're not terribly interested in al-Qaida. It's kind of yesterday's movement.
HIRSHAnd, now, it's lost, you know, its nominal head, this mythological figure, who was seen as once untouchable. So I do think that that is a hopeful sign that the Arab world, whenever, wherever it ends up, whatever form of democracy or not that takes the place of some of these regimes from Egypt to Tunisia to, now, Yemen, that it will be, you know -- that the Arab world will be in a better place, and that al-Qaida and extremist groups like it will no longer be the only channel of -- means of self-expression out of that repression.
REHMAnd for you, Michael Scheuer, before we take a break, what could bin Laden's death mean as far as U.S. involvement in Afghanistan?
SCHEUERWell, we've already surrendered them. We don't have enough troops there to win. We can't even define victory. And we said we're going to pull out. The Taliban, whether it -- under that name or another name, will take power -- and I'm, frankly, a hawk on this issue. But neither the Republicans or nor the Democrats want to win the war they started, and so I don't think it's worth another marine or a soldier's life in Afghanistan.
REHMMichael Hirsch, you disagree?
HIRSHWell, to some degree. I don't think we've already surrendered. Certainly, there is a very legitimate debate about whether U.S. lives are being expended needlessly there. But at the same time, the strategy that Gen. Petraeus has adopted there, you know, is killing off a lot of Taliban. It's a very targeted strategy involving a lot of direct action. There is -- it's always been about getting the Taliban beaten back enough to drive them to the peace table. And I don't think that, you know, Kabul is simply going to be surrendered. That's not going to happen, even after 2014, which is the withdrawal date that Obama has targeted.
REHMMichael Hirsch, chief correspondent for National Journal magazine. We'll take a short break. And when we come back, we'll open the phones for your calls, your emails. Stay with us.
REHMAnd we'll open the phones now. First to Umar (sp?) in St. Louis, Mo. Good morning to you.
UMARGood morning, Diane. I have a question. You know, the government always seems to be able to leave itself open to conspiracy theories, to leave itself open to questions. If bin Laden was shot and killed, it doesn't make any sense as to why they would dump the body in the ocean. Now, this is not in keeping with Islamic burial tradition because it's only permissible to bury a Muslim at sea if he died on a ship and they're worried about infectious disease allowed to be going in the ship. Why not allow the body for viewing, hand it over to the Pakistani authorities? And if they wanted to ensure that the grave wouldn't become a shrine, they could put them in Saudi Arabia. There's a grave for the Prophet Muhammad. They can contain it. I'm not even sure it's at Saudi Arabia.
REHMAll right. Michael Scheuer.
SCHEUERYeah, I think the aftermath has been a little bit biased. There was no really -- there was no reason at all to fear the idea of a pilgrimage to a shrine to bin Laden. Bin Laden is a Salafi Muslim, a Salafi Sunni. They regard all shrines, except for Mecca, as heretical and would tear them down, and so there was really no reason not to bury him in the ground. But, you know, I think this is an issue that's really not all that important, but it does reflect that certain lack of knowledge of the target, that they were afraid of a shrine being built.
REHMAll right. To Brattleboro, Vt. Good morning, Peter.
PETERYeah, thanks for having me on. I just find this whole (unintelligible) ...
REHMPeter, I'm afraid -- are you on a speaker phone?
PETERNo, I'm not.
REHMOkay. Good. Let's hear you now.
PETERYeah, I just find all of the lead up to this over the past decade to be quite Orwellian. Good old Osama was our Goldberg for our two minutes hate ever day. And, now, I already see al-Zawahiri, he -- however you pronounce his lieutenant's name -- being elevated to the-new-guy-to-watch. And I don't see any talk about removing ourselves from Afghanistan now that our supposed mission is accomplished. Instead, I see more endless war. And, I think, had we had a Dean presidency or a Hillary Clinton presidency, we wouldn't be seeing this sort of thing. Instead we see this constant parsing and continuation of the same Bush-Clinton, Bush-Reagan warmongering. The last guy we had we could trust was Clinton. And I just would like somebody to comment as to why we don't just get out of the place where empires die.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling. Col. Macgregor.
MACGREGORWell, the caller's first point on turning these people into rock stars is on target. I mean, everyone with experience in the region from the very beginning has advised us against constantly talking about key figures, whether they were in Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan or anywhere else. That's what they want. They want attention, so you don't want to give them attention. But we have a bad habit of demonizing things, and that's part of our culture. Secondly, the caller makes another good point. What are we really doing in Afghanistan? And we have lumped the Taliban together with al-Qaida, and that was, in my judgment, always wrong.
MACGREGORWe are killing large numbers of people who are basically irrelevant to us strategically. And, again, could we do things differently? Is there a lighter footprint, a more economical way to monitor this? And the answer is yes. So getting the general purpose forces out, I think, is vital.
REHMAnd do you think that will happen early on?
MACGREGORWell, I think -- well, listen, you started out, Diane, by reminding everybody of what Carl Levin was saying and others. And I think that there are a number of politicians who've been looking for the cover to extract forces from Afghanistan, as well as Iraq. And I think this will now begin, but I don't think it will happen quickly.
REHMAll right. To Lanham, Md. Good morning, Tee (sp?). Thanks for joining us.
TEEGood morning, Diane. You took my call. And, first of all, my comment is I thank you so much, and I thank God bin Laden really got killed because he was trying to build on different things. And I believe all the Muslim and the non-Muslim, really, some of them really believe that it's a blessing from God that bin Laden got killed because bin Laden made the Muslim really look so ugly, bad and good put on the same basket. So I don't see the reason why people really are trying to (word?) on bin Laden. The man really don't like democracy and everything. It's not good for him to be in this world, really.
REHMAll right. Michael Scheuer.
SCHEUERWell, I, you know -- I think there are different feelings about bin Laden in the Muslim world. Some people hate him. Some people love him. The fact of the matter was, in terms of historical personages, he was a great man. He affected, certainly, negatively, American life more than anyone in the last 50 years. And for the presidents to keep repeating it, as did Mr. Bush, that we are not at war with Islam is -- it sounds very, very good. But increasing numbers of Muslims are at war with us and our allies.
SCHEUERAnd I think it's extraordinarily good that bin Laden was killed. But to think that as long as we support the Israelis, as long as we're the protectors of the Saudi police state, as long as we have troops on Muslim territory, that this war is going to end or we're going to stop being the main recruitment tool for the Islamists, I think that's a stretch.
REHMAnd to Southfield, Mich. Good morning, Bob. Thanks for joining us.
BOBThank you. There was a rumor going around at one time that bin Laden had serious kidney illness. He was undergoing dialysis. I'm wondering if one of your panelists could put that to rest. And I'd also been wondering, given his lack of communication with the outside world, communicating through couriers as he was, how effectively could he had been leading anything from there?
HIRSHYeah, it's a good question. There were credible reports that he had kidney problems, that he needed dialysis. It was one -- you know, right after 9/11, there were questions about how long he could stay in the caves he was disputatively hiding in. We have not had any information as yet in terms of what was removed from the compound, whether that included a dialysis machine or, really, what was the state of his health. And, yes, we had reports going back to 2006, 2007, that he was really no longer in operational command of al-Qaida, that Ayman Zawahiri, his chief deputy, was more or less running things, and that he, you know, would continue to issue these audio and occasional videos, but that was about it.
HIRSHSo we don't -- I think it is believed that he was not in direct command, particularly since we knew that al-Qaida had evolved to a decentralized organization in which Internet preachers -- like Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric, who's holed up in Yemen -- were sort of issuing their own Fatahs on the net.
REHMAnd here's an email from Newport News, Va., that says, "The global war on terror is not over. I'm not sure what the response is going to be, but I am sure it will be unpleasant." Col. Macgregor.
MACGREGORWell, your caller is right. One, you know, Michael Scheuer did a good job of outlining all of the places in Africa, in the Middle East, where al-Qaida's adherence or supporters are operating. He neglected to mention Latin America, where we've seen a significant increase in the numbers of jihadists there. And we know that many, many, many have passed over our porous borders inside the United States. We just don't know precisely where they are, how many, because we don't capture most of them. So I think your caller is right.
MACGREGORThe question that's really important is how do you deal with this? And my point has been, for a very long time, you don't deal with it by marching in with hundreds of thousands of troops and occupying other people's countries. That's a disaster. You don't deal with it by pouring trillions of dollars into failed societies, expecting to change them overnight. You've got to be much more selective about what you do. Look at the instruments of power that you have. And ensure that if you are going to kill someone, kill the right person because we've been killing, maiming and incarcerating hundreds of thousands of people who were never the enemy. And we have cultivated millions of enemies as a result.
HIRSHYeah, I agree. And I think that one of the untold stories here behind this successful mission is that President Obama, very quickly, upon taking office, reoriented the entire strategy, made it focus on al-Qaida and its spawn, drop the term global war on terrorism, which was all about conflating all of these various Islamist groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah, which was a way of justifying the Iraq War under the Bush administration, and had his defense and intelligence apparatus focus on getting bin Laden and the actual al-Qaida guys that attacked on 9/11. And I think that that is one of the reasons why he's had this success.
SCHEUERIf I could -- Diane, if I may...
REHMHere's an email from Hank, who says, "I don't believe any photos of bin Laden should be released. It will only inflame the Muslim world. Anyone who believes that" -- let's see -- "is implying the military is participating in the lie." Michael Scheuer.
SCHEUERWell, I don't know what the answer is to this, Diane. You know, pictures would inflame the Muslim world, but they're going to be inflamed anyway. I think the -- what the president is faced here, though, is with such a complete lack of faith in the United States government by so many people in the United States, this is going to be viewed by those folks as another cover up. So I don't -- he's in a tough place. I don't know what he'll do. I'd like to add, though, just on the point that was just being discussed.
SCHEUERI think the killing of bin Laden was, again, a worthy thing to do, but it also proves how useless it is to depend on the CIA and Special Forces to win this war. We began capturing and killing people one at a time in August of 1995, and we've continued to that. And all we really have as a result is a body count. We don't have a metric of how much progress we have made. And the fact is, there is many more jihadists in the field today than there were in August 1995. So I don't know what the answer is, but the answer is not targeted killings.
REHMHere's an interesting email from Michael, who says, "Please give the Pakistani government a break. If they did know, they certainly do not want to be seen by the Muslim world as the ones who betrayed bin Laden for pragmatic reasons. At the very least, they did not resist our efforts to kill him on their territory, and we need to be grateful for that. They still appeared to want to be our friends and are working with us." Is that worth a lot, Col. Macgregor?
MACGREGORWell, I'm not sure it's worth $4.2 billion a year. That's very much open to debate. And I think that we can continue to cooperate at lower levels with people that are willing to work with us that share our views. We've got to understand, most of these Muslim states are not states as we understand them in the West. They're very complex. They're not unitary. They're not perfectly integrated. There are many, many different actors. That's going to be the case in the future no matter what we do.
MACGREGORYou know, to follow up on Michael Scheuer, one of the issues that we might want to consider is whether or not just containing this (sounds like) bacillus is not a better solution rather than intervening everywhere. We practice containment against communism. That seems to have worked rather well. We should think about a containment strategy in the future.
REHMCol. Douglas Macgregor. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to Baltimore, Md. Alex, you're on the air.
ALEXGood morning. Quick point, I believe they should have captured bin Laden rather than kill them in terms of, you know, we have guys in Guantanamo that are supposedly, you know, third runner -- third string or fourth string operatives for al-Qaida. And we torture these guys. And bin Laden, who is the mastermind, supposedly, of all this stuff, and we killed him rather than secured his -- I mean, they could have used nerve gas or something to anesthetize him or the people in there and take them and interrogate them or get information, rather than kill him. Because I believe that he was, at one time, the CIA trained him, and they wanted to shut him down. And that's why they killed him rather than captured him...
SCHEUERYou know, I think they made the right decision, Diane. Killing him was the way to go. That's just the way I believe it. And if Mr. Clinton had given the CIA the same authority that he gave the SEALs in 1998, bin Laden would have been dead in 1998. So, sometimes, killing is a wonderful solution to your problem.
HIRSHI don't think you can second-guess the split-second decisions made by Navy SEAL Team Six when they went in there. And it doesn't really matter if he was armed or not. There were a lot of means he had to harm these guys, including the possibility of a suicide vest. You simply can't second-guess the decision that was made at that moment when they entered his room.
REHMCan we ever really know until years later? I mean, you think about the Pentagon papers coming in regard to Vietnam. Can we ever really know whether the comments made after the killing are simply to protect Pakistan from perhaps being complicit in this assassination, Col. Macgregor?
MACGREGORWell, Diane, you're right. I mean, we just don't know.
MACGREGORAnd, in fact, the best history comes out anywheres between 20 and 50 years after the event.
HIRSHOr sometimes a couple of hundred, if you look at the reputation of John Adams.
HIRSHIt is true.
REHMWhat do you think, Michael Scheuer?
SCHEUERYou know, I don't know, Diane. I really don't. There's a lot of truth there, that the Pakistanis are duplicitous and look after their own interests, which I think is perfectly legitimate for them to do. I'm not sure the United States government is clever enough, especially the Congress, to be conducting a disinformation campaign. So I, you know -- I don't know. We're dependent on the Pakistanis. This thing is going to blow over. They're going to continue to get aid. And that's kind of the whole story, I think. They certainly are better allies than, for example, the Israelis. They've done far more for us in the last decade than anything the Israelis have ever done.
HIRSHWell, I don't know if I'd want to make that comparison, but it is true that they have killed a lot of terrorists, as John Brennan, the counterterrorism coordinator for Obama, said in that first briefing. And this is, again, part of the double game, and we do need them. We just simply have to keep pressuring them in the way we've been doing for the last 10 years.
MACGREGORWell, we need to be careful about this pressure. The presence of our forces in Afghanistan has really made it very, very difficult for the Pakistanis to simply hold their country together. They're dealing with tens of millions of people that hate us, hate our presence, hate out influence, and they're trying to contain that.
REHMCol. Douglas Macgregor, Michael Hirsh, Michael Scheuer, thank you all so much.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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