Quotes: A Year After Bin Laden's Death, What Do Homeland Security Experts Really Think of Our Safety?
Tonight at 9p/12a ET, Sean Hannity sits down with a panel of experts to discuss the one-year anniversary of bin Laden's death and whether President Obama has politicized and used it as a weapon in his re-election campaign.
The Insider caught up with a few of Hannity's guests in the green room to find out what they think of how the president's handled the anniversary, and whether they believe the U.S. is really any safer now that bin Laden's gone. Check out what they had to say, and tune in to Hannity tonight at 9p/12a ET for more.
A year after bin Laden’s death, is the U.S. any safer?
Lt. Colonel Oliver North: “Well there’s no doubt that every time you kill a terrorist, it doesn’t have to be bin Laden, you’re safer because it’s one more terrorist off the game board that’s not going to be able to do something to you. But I think we’ve also learned that just because bin Laden is dead does not mean that the war on terror is over. Notwithstanding what the administration has said — it really isn’t. The terrorists have a vote in this and they’ve not ended the war, and so I think it’s a little bit premature for the administration to be up there jumping up and down, thumping their chest that we’re all that much safer just because this one guy is gone. Radical Islamic terrorism has not gone away.”
Brandon Webb, former Navy SEAL and author of The Red Circle: “The U.S. has to be really careful about re-celebrating the death of Usama bin Laden, because when you look at the consequences of celebration, it really stokes the fire of radical Islam throughout the world. So, I just think we should be really focused on the fact that that was a win, but now let’s focus on guys like Hafiz Saeed, the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Pakistan, whose head we just put a $10 million bounty on. There are still dangerous groups in the world and LeT has morphed into something that makes Al Qaeda look like a bunch of Girl Scouts selling cookies outside the super market.”
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Dr. Steven Bucci, former assistant Secretary of Defense: “Saying we’re any safer is kind of an odd question…I mean are there still dangers out there? Yes. Is there still a terrorist threat? Absolutely. Just killing bin Laden did not eliminate that. I’m glad we got him, and that was a monumental accomplishment, particularly for the young men that went in to harm’s way to get him, but was it that big a milestone as far as changing the threat level of the U.S.? No. There are still a lot of very competent Al Qaeda affiliates out there that are just as dangerous now as they were before we got bin Laden, in some cases maybe more so because they’re a little more motivated because we got their boss. There’s still a lot of danger out there, and we need to be diligent about it, not cavalier. I think releasing the documents they did today was a bad idea, it sort of gave away the farm as to what we knew and what we’d gotten from that raid, and that’s just not a good policy.”
Debra Burlingame: “Yes, I think we are safer. We have a national security infrastructure in place that I think people can disagree or agree on -- we can debate over whether it needs to be tweaked here or there, but I think in terms of an imminent threat, we’re better off than we were on September 10. But the threat has morphed and changed and will continue to do so, so we’re always only one attack away from a real disaster, a real catastrophic loss.”
Lt. Colonel Tony Shaffer: “Fundamentally, the work that was started with the bin Laden death should have been continued rapidly. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy of Bin Laden who was really the operations manager of Al Qaeda before bin Laden’s assassination remains at large one year later. So, you have to ask yourself why haven’t we picked up his deputy who is now the leader of Al Qaeda. So, fundamentally this indicates to me that the network has not been dismantled to the level where it should if it’s going to actually be less able to mount attacks against us and our western allies.”
Chuck Pfarrer, Former Navy SEAL and author of SEAL Target Geronimo: “Well, one of the elephants in the room was announcing the operation within hours of it happening. There was a ton of intelligence brought off the target -- none of it could be actuated because the raid was announced so quickly. There was a complete danger in losing control of the narrative when the raid was announced. There were four different versions – he was armed, he was not, 45 minute firefight, etc. Here we are a year later and we’re spiking the football again and it completely demonstrates the difference between being a politician and being a statesman.”
How do you think the White House has handled the first anniversary of Bin Laden’s death?
Lt. Colonel Oliver North: “Politicians always hype their accomplishments, whether it’s deserved or not. This is his only accomplishment. Even though he didn’t do it—all he did was say, ‘Ok, you guys go carry out the mission you planned.’ He’s got to cite this as something he’s done. What we ought to be doing—and I say we at Fox, who are analysts and hosts of shows like I am, what we ought to be looking at is how hass our national security been affected by Obama broadly. And I would tell you that we’re in much more serious difficulty today than we were 3 and a half years ago. If you just look at what they’re hyping today, and that is the document trove that came out of bin Laden’s hideout, it turns out had the White House not made such a big chest-thumping announcement, they might have been able to go to those phone numbers and find other bad guys besides Bin Laden, but they were so anxious to take credit that that opportunity was missed.”
Dr. Steven Bucci, former assistant Secretary of Defense: “I think it’s unsurprising that they’re using it as an accomplishment. I mean if it had gone badly, the president would have taken all of the blame, so he’s the guy in charge when it happened, so he’s entitled to take some credit for it. I think some of his operatives are silly when they say things like nothing else was done until they got there and made this a priority. That’s ludicrous. Getting bin Laden has been the number one priority since September 12, 2001 and has never changed from that, so I kind of take offense at people who say kind of ridiculous things like that. But the fact that the president is saying ‘Hey, I got him on my watch,’ well he did. He made the right call when he sent those guys in to get him when they had the intelligence, so he at least can claim that. Does that give him sort of all-powerful credentials? I don’t think so.”
Debra Burlingame: “I think it’s been one of the most shameful, disgraceful examples of partisan politics that I’ve seen in my lifetime. The 9/11 attacks were an attack on the entire country. There was nothing political about the way we viewed it or our response to it. President Bush was criticized if he even hinted of political advantage in the days of 9/11, but it appears to me, the president has treated it as something that he owns and only he owns. It’s been distressful for me and for other 9/11 family members. Bin Laden killed Republicans and conservatives too. But beyond that, I just think it’s low-class and I think it hurts the country and diminishes the presidency.”
Lt. Colonel Tony Shaffer: “The White House has done a brilliant job of drawing attention to itself without giving credit where credit was due. I went back and did a review of a number of World War II documents where statements were made by presidential level leaders. Let's take for example, Harry Truman – Harry Truman did a statement after dropping the A-bomb, not once did he use the word “I,” except to say “I will go to Congress and ask for a commission to put oversight on nuclear weapons.” He never took personal credit for anything relating to the dropping of the bombs since he had nothing directly to do with development of the weapon. So to me, the fact that we have so much “I” coming from the White House indicates that there’s a complete loss of perspective on who did the work, why they did the work and the fact that the war on Al Qaeda started long before this White House came to power.”
Given your unique perspective as a former Navy SEAL, what did think about the president’s announcement from Afghanistan on Wednesday and what it means for the way forward for the country?
Brandon Webb, former Navy SEAL and author of The Red Circle: “What concerns me, and something that I’m not hearing from the current administration is there’s this big strategic treaty, but no one is saying what the strategy is. That’s been an issue for me personally over the past decade. There has been no clear, strategic objective laid on the table for Afghanistan. You ask anyone on the street, including in the White House, what the strategy is and you’ll get a bunch of different answers. So, I think that’s great – you get this big speech about how we’re going to do this turnover and we’re working on this strategic relationship, so let’s put it on the table in simple terms so the American citizens can understand what that is. And also so the war fighter overseas can understand, because the situation is like you have football players on field that don’t know which way to run to score a touchdown if they don’t know what the plan is.”
Chuck Pfarrer, Former Navy SEAL and author of SEAL Target Geronimo: “Well, it should have been a two-stop trip. He should have stopped in Pakistan because Pakistan is the problem. The main circuit cable of our problems in Afghanistan wind through Pakistan. It’s not in the Pakistanis interest to have a prosperous, democratic, functioning Afghanistan when they see that as an open door to India. So, the Afghanistan problem can’t be solved without solving the problems in Pakistan and they are manifold.”