Obama tells of lonely bin Laden decision

2012-05-02 17:39

Washington - US President Barack Obama described the lonely decision he made to mount a Navy SEAL raid to kill Osama bin Laden and called the daring escapade the "most important single day" of his tenure.

In an interview to be broadcast later on Wednesday, Obama talked about the nerve jangling moments he endured as he watched the operation, the cloak of secrecy that enveloped it and the moment he saw a photo of the dead al-Qaeda leader.

"I did choose the risk," Obama told NBC News anchor Brian Williams, in the latest episode of a nearly week-long commemoration of the anniversary of the bin Laden killing.

Obama spoke to Williams in the secure Situation Room in the White House basement, where top officials gathered to watch the raid unfold on a screen, and which was the site of an iconic photograph seen around the world.

Republicans have accused Obama of inappropriately celebrating the anniversary as he seeks to bolster his standing ahead of his reelection fight.

He spoke about how the operation was planned and conducted in utmost secrecy, and how he did not share knowledge of it with many of his staff, or even First Lady Michelle Obama.

"Even a breath of this in the press could have chased bin Laden away," Obama said. "We didn't know at that point whether there might be underground tunnels coming out of that compound that would allow him to escape," he said.

Other top officials told how Obama solicited final recommendations about the operation, before going away to make a final decision himself on whether to move on bin Laden's suspect hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

"It was never contentious because I think everybody understood both the pros and cons of the action," Obama said in the interview to be broadcast a day after he made a secretive trip to Afghanistan on the bin Laden anniversary.

"People who were advocating action understood that if this did not work, if we proved to be wrong, there would be severe geopolitical consequences.

"Most importantly, we might be putting our brave Navy SEALs in danger."

Good call

The president said he collected the conflicting recommendations of his war cabinet before going back to the White House residence to have dinner with his family and retire to his study.

"Well, there is no doubt that you don't sleep as much that evening as you do on a normal night," he said. "I stayed up late and I woke up early."

The next day, he told his subordinates that he had decided to go ahead with the raid.

"You have some serenity in knowing that you've made the best possible decision that you can and, you know, in that situation you just, you do some praying," Obama said.

Members of the war cabinet discussed the moment in interviews when they saw one of the helicopters carrying the Navy SEALS drop over the wall of the compound in a crash landing.

"That helicopter didn't make it to the right spot and everyone went, like, ‘Whoa,'" said Vice President Joe Biden, in an interview to be broadcast on the NBC Rock Center.

Obama said that the only thing he was thinking about was "I really want to get those guys back home safe."

"I want to make sure that the decision I've made has not resulted in them putting their lives at risk in vain, and if I got that part of it right, if I could look myself in the mirror and say as commander in chief I made a good call."

After the SEAL team flew back to a base in Afghanistan, they transmitted photos of the dead al-Qaeda leader, clearly showing he had been shot in the head during the raid.

"I think it's wrong to say that I did a high five, because you have a picture of a dead body and, you know, there's I think regardless of who it is, you always have to be sober about death.

"But understanding the satisfaction for the American people, what it would mean for 9/11 families... I think there was a deep-seated satisfaction for the country at that moment."

  • Squeegee - 2012-05-02 18:03

    Poor little President. You would think he lead the raid himself.

      Douglas - 2012-05-02 22:50

      No, he just authorised it. And in so doing, put his entire career and reputation at stake. What have you done lately that was of any note, I wonder?

      Fred - 2012-05-02 23:31

      Oh please, Douglas, name me one president of the USA that would not have opted for the raid had they been in Obama's position. There is nothing great or special about him or his decision.

      Mattewis - 2012-05-03 06:55

      I'm not so sure this was ALL Obama's decision. Since the "Saving private Lynch" scandal, America is becoming more & more of a poorly run propaganda machine IMO. Obama is being accused by the very SEALs who performed the operation for abusing special forces operators to further his political career. Hollywood came to the White House with Reagan, and it has never left since!

      Gieljam - 2012-05-03 09:19

      Ya to take out so to speak a relative can be daunting mean to say obama osama (boosama) very close indeed..

  • Hasani P - 2012-05-02 18:21

    It does confirm that to be recognize as the best president in America your hands should have some kind of human blood. If you do not wage a war against a weaker non eurpean country you have no beterr place in American History.What a shame to this sinful world

      Fred - 2012-05-02 18:45

      Wage a war against a weaker non-European country? Come on. This is such sn obvious pseudo-victim mindset. The US was attacked. You've forgotten this. It would not be in Afghanistan at all had that not happened.

      Wikus Erasmus - 2012-05-02 18:49

      And to be the greatest taliban leader you need to stain your hands in as much innocent blood as possible... hmm...

      Gieljam - 2012-05-03 09:16

      much less blood on his hands than Boosama and his followers had.

  • chris.greenland.9 - 2012-05-02 18:22

    Now please read and digest ---- -

  • Gieljam - 2012-05-02 18:28

    Mr President with the pay and status comes the responsibility you can be glad it wasn't a Nuclear bomb decision ...............

  • Ted - 2012-05-02 20:39

    Most forum participants are just lucky to be able to type and have a computer. The same chaps who say Pres. Zuma is responsible for the rot in the homeland are saying Pres.Obama is not responsible for the death of Osama bin Laden. He could simply not have approved looking at diplomacy and all that. I assure you, if there is anything that the present government will do by chance (like the hypothesis about evolution), and do it right, we will still condemn it! Oh my despicable double edged lifemates! Give credit when its due. It may be the serial killer Sithole, but he is the worst killer that we have ever had outside the apartheid govt. Its not positive but its credited. Growing up is a job within the self. This forum is a canvas for grownups who want to share thoughts and constructive ideas, its not a catwalk for a beauty contest of the irrational.

  • Ask - 2012-05-02 20:48

    Shame; he should have spoken to someone...

  • Kobus - 2012-05-02 21:54

    Shame. Cry me a river. It must be so tough at the top and well paid also hence this little tear jerker story to gain votes. What an ... President :(

  • Douglas - 2012-05-02 22:54

    Obama rocks!

      Fred - 2012-05-02 23:59

      That may be so, but what the USA needs is a president that can lead.

      Fred - 2012-05-03 00:13

      Hi Fred :)

      cyanideandhappiness - 2012-05-03 09:10

      Sorry Douglas, but Obama does not rock. He's one of the greatest liars I have ever seen! Before he was elected, he promised to stop using signing statements to implement policies, yet he continued Bush's disgusting practise throughout his career! He promised to repeal the Patriot Act and stop warrant-less wire-tapping, which is a violation of the US constitution, but alas, no! He promised to pull out of Iraq by 31 March 2009, yet they are still there. He promised he wouldn't raise taxes on those making less than 250,000 per year, but did so anyway. He promised to close Guantanamo Bay within a year of election, yet it is still open. He also chaired the UN Security Council, which is a direct violation of his sworn duty, which only allows for him to hold one position and it is treasonous to hold any other position in politics or business. That guy is an ass, and you are a fool to respect him. Want more?

  • aiazmir - 2012-05-02 23:17

    This is very disturbing. If you take the principle involved (I agree with ProJustico), the US entered a foreign country illegally, murdered a man who was presumed guilty without a trial, dumped his body in the ocean, to the manic applause of US citizens. Unfortunately, there is more evidence to suggest that the US government was complicit in 9/11. For instance, take the implosion of building 5 on 9/11. How was it possible to implode this biulding a few hours after the aircraft flew into the 2 adjoining buildings. It takes months of planning to implode a 25 storey building. Yet they imploded building 5 within hours of the other buildings collapsing. How is this possible? Not even superman could do that.

      Fred - 2012-05-02 23:53

      Please refrain from calling yourself An Observer because that name is very misleading. Osama accepted responsibility for 9/11 so it means he (Osama) said he (Osama)is guilty and who are we to call him a liar. Do not forget how those palestinians rejoiced at the news of 9/11.

      Fred - 2012-05-02 23:54

      What's disturbing is that you believe that nonsense and live your life as if it were true. Osama Bin Laden declared war on the US. Not once, many times, as did his underlings, most of whom are now dead. An example of this is in the interview Peter Bergen did with him in 1997. And he and theybfollowed this up with action, before 9/11 and on 9/11. Therefore, the rules of war apply, not the criminal justice system. Point one. I watched the towers and buildings go down. They went down from the force of impact from the planes, and the secondary and tertiary forces from the collapse of the towers themselves. Point two. The force is unimaginable, such was its volume and impact. This is a simplified but true description of the event. If you want to put yourself on the lunatic fringe of humanity, that's your choice of course. But understand, you're going to have very little real impact on moving the world forward to a better place. Point three, and final point.

  • Sibusiso - 2012-05-02 23:23

    Mr president I think my neighbour is responsible for the car accident that killed my family plus he is muslim, I'm thinking of killing him without him standing for trial, by this time next year I will be celebrating his death. Please don't tell me ill be committing crime, I'm doing exactly what you did, I'm fighting terror

      Fred - 2012-05-02 23:56

      Wow, what an intellectual giant!!! I stand in awe!

      Fred - 2012-05-02 23:56

      A superficial and wrong understanding of the event. The rules of war apply, not the criminal justice system.

  • Dylan Dario Sciarappa - 2012-05-03 08:45

    Fred you are clearly the person mislead. The official report stated that the buildings collapsed due to intense FIRE

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-05-03 08:58

      Dylan, Can I make a deal with you ? I 'admit' that 9/11 was caused by some disgruntled NFL members, and than you STOP your endless booooring BS about 9/11 Deal ??

      Fred - 2012-05-03 13:36

      And the FIRE was a result of a cigarette butt. Wow! The plot thickens!!! If only those terrorists that hi-jacked the planes never smoked the Twin Towers would still be standing.

  • DJPJVS - 2012-05-03 09:33

    Thank you MR President to show us how Japan should have coped with Little Boy and Fat Man

  • gailcarolynhayes - 2012-05-03 11:37

    This is part of his position as it would be had he just practised law. What springs to my mind is how Bin Laden was living a quiet and hidden life with his family while being quite unfazed about what he had unleashed on those around him and who were still acting on his jihad mentality and killing innocent people all over the world. He may have been living modestly but as long as his menace existed there would be followers who hated HIS enemies more than they loved their own families and those of totally innocent people worldwide whom they were prepared to kill in brutal kamikaze attacks on Bin Laden's orders. Conspiracy theories abound regarding who was responsible for 9/11 but it was that single act which changed the world forever. Gaddafi and all other despots who have gone since then were directly attributable to fundamentalism from selfish loveless people. America was wrong to go into Iraq after non-existent WMD because the world disagreed and could see that there weren't any unless they only had two brain cells. Wouter Basson warned that if they did so there would be chaos there for a long time because sadly the dictator there was only one strong enough to keep differing groups from each others throats.

  • curbylee1 - 2012-05-03 13:14

    I am not commenting on the story, rather the rants of people that think he/ she knows what happening in the world. Obama killed Osama, but that did not change the world. It did change some perception though that the world is more safe. Why would ppl be debating whether he's dead or not. Does it mean anything !!!!! No it does not, some South African children is still going to bed hungry. Some is still being raped and abused by people close to them. Some are still used as soldiers...Comment on that..

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