Did U.S. use lessons from Israel’s Entebbe raid to prep for bin Laden killing?

In the mid-1990s, William McRaven, then a U.S. Navy SEAL, wrote a book about commando operations. Entitled “Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare: Theory and Practice” (Presidio Press), the book featured six case studies. One chapter was devoted to Entebbe, beginning with the lessons learned in the Israel Defense Forces as a whole, and in the Sayeret Matkal special operations unit in particular, after the failure to save the lives of 25 hostages in Ma’alot two years earlier. It included a discussion of Israeli intelligence gathering, decision-making processes, creation of the command and control system, personnel conflicts and the actual rescue operation in Entebbe Airport in Uganda, on July 4, 1976.

One of the slides McRaven subsequently used in lectures was a drawing of the old terminal building there, a sort of elderly relative of the intricate mock-up that McRaven – who is now relinquishing control of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in order to be promoted – used for preparing for last week’s targeted raid on Osama bin Laden.

The earliest document in Osama bin Laden’s FBI file, connected to Interpol case 1998/20232, contains an international arrest warrant issued, surprisingly, by the government of Libya. Muammar Gadhafi’s Justice Ministry declared that bin Laden and four of his associates were wanted for the murder of two German citizens in the Libyan city of Sirte in 1994, and for “illegal possession of firearms.” At the bottom of the page, Interpol has prominently added, whether at its own initiative or at Libya’s request, a declaration: The request for extradition of the suspects is relevant to all countries – excluding Israel. The FBI file notes that Theodore Katz, a federal judge in New York, signed an American arrest warrant, should bin Laden show his face (described in the document as having full beard and mustache, olive skin and no scars) in Manhattan. Back in 2000 the bounty offered for him was $5 million. Only after September 11, 2001, was the reward upped to $25 million, with another $2 million thrown into the pot by the American Airline Pilots Association.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Al-Qaida confirms death of Osama bin Laden

Al-Qaida has issued its first confirmation of Osama bin Laden’s death in an Internet statement posted on militant websites, dispelling doubts and conspiracy theories that the Islamist leader did not actually die.

Friday’s statement by the terror network says “holy warrior” bin Laden’s blood “will not be wasted” and it will continue attacking Americans and their allies.

Al-Qaida said in the online statement that bin Laden’s blood is “is more precious to us and to every Muslim than to be wasted in vain”.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

How should Jews respond to bin Laden's death?

When the news of Osama bin Laden’s death at U.S. hands hit the airwaves Sunday, America breathed a collective sigh of relief. Spontaneous celebrations broke out in front of the White House, as crowds gathered to wave the Stars and Stripes and chant their delight.

But how should Jews respond when an evil-doer meets his end?

There is no easy answer, leading rabbis say.

Even asking the question is very Jewish, writes Rabbi Tzvi Freeman on Chabad.org.

“It’s so typically Jewish to feel guilty about rejoicing,” he opined.

A number of prominent rabbis spoke to JTA on the subject, sharing their conflicted reactions borne of a tension within Jewish teaching itself.

“As the president said, justice was done,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. “Bin Laden was an evil man. He preyed on the weak. He killed in the name of God.”

“But,” the rabbi continued, “I was not comfortable with the celebrations. Thoughtful discussion and thoughtful remembrance of recent events are to be preferred to dancing in the streets.”

There are examples within Jewish tradition of celebrating an enemy’s death, of asking God for their destruction.

Consider the Purim story, where the Jews feasted after slaying those who were, admittedly, arming to slay them. Or God’s command to King Saul to obliterate the entire house of Amalek for its wicked ways: “Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (I Sam. 15: 2-3).

Conversely, one of the best-known rituals of the Passover seder is spilling 10 drops of wine when mentioning the Ten Plagues to symbolize a lessening of our own joy in the face of Egyptian suffering. In Sanhedrin 39b, God admonishes the angels for rejoicing when the Egyptian soldiers drown in the Red Sea, saying “The work of My hands is drowning in the sea, and you want to sing?”

“I don’t think we ‘celebrate’ a death,” explained Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the professional association of Conservative clergy.

In the case of bin Laden there is, she said, “a sense of relief, an affirmation of God’s justice has been carried out.” Such an event, however, “is a time for sobriety, not celebration.”

Nevertheless, Schonfeld added, one needs to distinguish between an ideal, religiously inspired response and the reality of human nature.

“Sept. 11 was a day of tremendous trauma,” she said, and the raucous street celebrations can be viewed as a kind of catharsis. “What we’re seeing is a reminder of how personally people were affected. It’s an understandable human response that we as Jews are blessed to elevate to a Jewish response.”

Rabbi Basil Herring, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America, the professional association for Orthodox clergy, also distinguished between the ideal and the real.

“In an ideal world, we serve God because we want to do His will, not because he rewards us or we fear punishment,” he said. “But we’re human, we’re not angels. We live in a world where people need reinforcement, need a sense that it’s all worth it in the end.”

The Jewish way is not to gloat, Herring said. It is appropriate to rejoice when evil doers get their just reward, but the rejoicing should be because we are witnessing God’s power and justice. It shouldn’t come, he said, from “a self-satisfied smug sense of ‘Yes, I’ve been proven right.’

“It’s an affirmation that God is not just an abstract idea, a Creator, but part of our lives,” Herring continued. “God cares. God loves us. That’s an essential article of our faith, that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. We rejoice because our faith is borne out.”

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a Jewish Renewal rabbi and director of Philadelphia’s Shalom Center, said he would have preferred that the Navy SEALS had brought bin Laden back to the United States to stand trial.

Just as Israeli agents didn’t kill Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann when they found him in Argentina a half-century ago, but tried him in Jerusalem to expose the true horror of the Holocaust and give its victims a chance to speak their truth, so would putting bin Laden on trial have been an opportunity to uncover the real face of al-Qaida, he said.

“That would have been an extraordinary act in support of upholding the values we claim make us different,” Waskow said.

Pointing to the story of Moses, Waskow quotes the Midrash as saying that one reason Moses was not permitted to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land was because in his youth he killed an Egyptian overseer without permitting him a trial.

Trying bin Laden “would have been messy,” Waskow acknowledged, “but in the long run I’m sure it would have been better.”

Senior Pakistan official: U.S. shot bin Laden in cold blood

A senior Pakistani security official said U.S. troops killed Osama bin Laden in “cold blood,” fuelling a global controversy and straining a vital relationship Washington was trying to repair on Thursday.

And Pakistan’s army, in its first comment since Monday’s raid, threatened to halt cooperation with its military sponsor if it repeated what it called a violation of sovereignty.

But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington was still anxious to maintain its alliance with Islamabad.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Jon Stewart on the bin Laden photo debate

Video courtesy of Comedy Central.

The Osama postmortem

Evaluating the responses to the US action against Osama bin Laden is an important element in understanding who the West’s true enemies really are.

There have been four significant voices speaking out against the killing of bin Laden.

The most obvious voice is that of the Taliban. The most vociferous belongs to Hamas, followed by a very significant group of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and finally, as one would expect, Iran.

All four groups are united in their claim that the United States overstepped its role and violated international law. They describe the action as a premeditated cold blooded murder. They call the attack on bin Laden an attack on all believing Muslims.

The skepticism that the Taliban are displaying over whether or not bin Laden is in fact and truly even dead is sincere. The Taliban want more evidence and on Wednesday they issued a statement saying that there is no real evidence of his death. But honestly, even had the entire event been broadcast live these ‘believers’ would not acknowledge what was being shown. The Taliban are true believers. They believe that Osama bin Laden was their great leader and they believe that the West, especially the United States, is the devil.

For Hamas and Islamists in East Jerusalem, the logic of their outcry makes sense. Bin Laden was their hero. Bin Laden challenged the US and the West. Bin Laden fought for the Muslim cause. For Hamas the demise of Bin Laden is a vehicle to garner supporters. For Hamas, the death of bin Laden is an opportunity. The murder of their hero at the hands of infidels is an opportunity to teach and to draw passive supporters and donors and fighters from al Qaeda into their stable. Now the leaders of Hamas can thrust themselves into the limelight as the center of Muslim activism challenging the established Western norm.

But why has Iran been critical of the demise of bin Laden?

Iran was a target of bin Laden. Iran and Osama bin Laden were sworn enemies. For bin Laden Iran represented religious heresy. Iranians were worse than non-believers, they believed in and follow the tenets of a misreading of the Prophet Mohamed.

So why is Iran upset by the demise of Osama bin Laden?

They are upset for the same reason that the Taliban, Hamas and segments of Palestinian East Jerusalem are upset. It is the reason that unites Muslim radicals around the world who wish to usurp the role of the United States as the preeminent cultural and economic and military power in the world.

The Machiavelli dictum is correct, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

These terrorists and terrorist supporters and terrorist wannabes have one thing in common. They despise US dominance and US values. They particularly resent the Western value of equality which includes equal rights for women and religious pluralism. They cannot comprehend the principle that suggests that you can agree to disagree and then leave it at that—and not take the further step and kill the person you disagree with.

Like Osama bin Laden, Iran, Hamas and other Islamists are united in their hatred of the West. What unites them is stronger than what separates them. We must be stronger than them all.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. His latest book is “Thugs: How History’s Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder” (Thomas Nelson).

Obama decides not to release photos of bin Laden’s body

U.S. President Barack Obama has decided not to release photos of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden dead, U.S. television networks said on Wednesday.

“We discussed this internally, did DNA sampling. It was important for us the photos won’t become a propaganda tool,” Obama said, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney.

“We don’t use this staff as a trophy that’s not who we are. Given the graphic nature of these pictures, it could be used for incitement members of my national security team agreed,” he said.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

CIA director: U.S. was concerned Pakistan may ‘alert targets’ before bin Laden operation

U.S. officials were concerned that Pakistan could jeopardize the Osama bin Laden operation and “might alert the targets,” CIA Director Leon Panetta said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile Pakistan’s president denied on Tuesday that his government may have sheltered a bin Laden but admitted that his security forces were left out of a U.S. operation to kill the al Qaida chief.

The revelation that bin Laden had holed up in a luxury compound in the military garrison town of Abbottabad, possibly for five to six years, prompted many U.S. lawmakers to demand a review of the billions of dollars in aid Washington gives to nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

U.S.: Bin Laden was not armed during assault on compound

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was not armed when U.S. special forces stormed his compound in Pakistan but he did resist before he was shot, White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday.

Carney said also that the White House is evaluating the possibility of releasing photos of the al-Qaida leader’s body. He said there are concerns that publication of the photos could be inflammatory in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

“It could be inflammatory, we take this into account”, Carney said about the pictures, which he described as “gruesome.”

Read more at Haaretz.com.

State slams Hamas mourning of bin Laden

The Obama administration slammed as “outrageous” Hamas’ condemnation of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

“It goes without saying bin Laden was a murderer and a terrorist,” Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman told reporters. “He ordered the killings of thousands of innocent men, women and children, and many of whom were Muslim.”

Hamas had lauded the terrorist leader as a martyr in the wake of this weekend’s U.S. operation in Pakistan that killed him.

The Obama administration has expressed its dismay about last week’s reconciliation between Hamas, the terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority, but has stopped short of saying it will cut off the P.A.

Mahmoud Abbas, the P.A. president, welcomed the action against bin Laden.

Hideout of Osama bin Laden

Hideout of Osama bin Laden, the location of his death, in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Complete video footage from Obama’s announcement of bin Laden’s death [VIDEO]

U.S. believes it can now destroy al-Qaida after killing bin Laden

The United States will aim to destroy al-Qaida’s central organization now that its leader Osama bin Laden has been killed and its capabilities degraded by U.S. operations, a top White House adviser said on Tuesday.

Since the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, al-Qaida has spawned affiliated groups in the Middle East and North Africa and inspired attacks by so-called home-grown militants in Europe and the United States.

But White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said bin Laden’s death was the latest in a series of U.S. operations that have delivered “severe body blows” to al-Qaida’s central network in Pakistan and Afghanistan over the past year.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

U.S. officials: DNA evidence proves Osama bin Laden is dead

DNA evidence has proven with 99.9 percent confidence that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is dead, two officials in U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration said Monday.

The officials did not immediately say where or how the testing was done but the test explains why Obama was confident to announce to the world on Sunday night that the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 had been killed in a U.S. helicopter raid on a mansion near the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

The initial DNA results show a “very confident match” to bin Laden, giving “high confirmation” that it was bin Laden killed in the raid in Pakistan, one of the officials said.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Hamas slams killing of ‘holy warrior’ Osama bin Laden

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on Monday condemned the killing by U.S. forces of Osama bin Laden and mourned him as an “Arab holy warrior.”

“We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood,” Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, told reporters.

Though he noted doctrinal differences between bin Laden’s al-Qaida and Hamas, Haniyeh said: “We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs.”

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Standing at the White House following news that Osama bin Laden was killed

Back at the hotel after a moving video celebrating 50 years of the Religious Action Center and an inspiring speech by Vice President Al Gore, news broke that U.S. Forces had killed Osama bin Laden. We paused briefly to digest the information and to watch CNN. Suddenly our congregants grabbed us to go to the White House, where people were gathering to celebrate.

The mood outside the White House was exuberant.  As we watched the crowd swell from a few hundred to thousands, people belted out “God Bless America,” waved American flags from perches up in trees, and chanted “USA, USA” with passion usually reserved for sports games. Some wrapped themselves in red, white, and blue; one character dressed like Spiderman climbed a lamppost.  Unlike the organized rallies we have attended on the Mall, this gathering was spontaneous in nature, organic in its explosive expansion, and compelling in the outbursts of youthful patriotism.  Cars honked, people cheered loudly, and the streets filled with a sense of unity.  Kindness permeated the packed crowds; people said, “Excuse me” and “I’m sorry,” as they squeezed past one another.

In the midst of the celebration, we were struck by many emotions. Grateful to be American. Pride in our Armed Forces. Relief that Osama bin Laden, the purveyor of murder and his cynically murderous twisting of religion, will no longer be able to spread his deadly ideology.  But we wondered, should we have been standing in silence, holding candles, reflecting upon the terrible loss of life – at 9/11, in the wars in Afganistan and Iraq, and in other battles to defend American lives?

We wondered how our friends in New York City were reacting. More specifically, our hearts turned to our friend, whose husband died in the Twin Towers, leaving her with young children.  Would this give her solace? A sense of justice? Some closure?  Or would this renew her emptiness and bitterness? 

All told, this was a unique, inspiring outpouring of patriotism and unity.  We felt fortunate to be in our nation’s capitol witnessing this historic gathering. As we turned to leave, we noticed a man standing near the White House fence, waving a framed picture and a U.S. flag folded into a triangle.  From the distance, the picture appeared to be of his loved one killed on 9/11; the flag, a cherished reminder of his service to our country. And cheers went up everywhere.

Posted on rabbipaul.blogspot.com.

U.S. had no choice but to kill bin Laden, says U.S. defense official

The United States has no choice but to kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden during the raid on his hideout in Pakistan, President Barack Obama’s top counter terrorism adviser said Monday.

“We certainly were preparing to the possibility to capture him. If we had an opportunity to take him alive we would have done it‬,” John Brennan said. The minutes passed like days and the president was very concerned about the security of our personnel. It was very intense. And finally we were informed about the results there was a sigh of relief‬.”

Bin Laden was killed in a U.S. helicopter raid on a mansion compound near the Pakistani capital Islamabad, ending a long worldwide hunt for the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Read more at Haaretz.com.