Hillary’s Stretch on the Bin Laden Raid

National security experts contend former secretary of state deserves little credit for 2011 operation

During the vice presidential debate Tuesday, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine repeatedly turned to what Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton regards as a signature accomplishment — killing Osama bin Laden.

Kaine invoked the late al-Qaida leader’s name a half-dozen times during his debate with Republican Mike Pence.

“For her to take credit for that is to say that she should get credit for showing up to work. She had nothing to do with it.”

“Under Secretary Clinton’s leadership, she was part of the national team, public safety team that went after and revived the dormant hunt against bin Laden and wiped him off the face of the Earth,” he said.

Clinton was in the Situation Room as commandos stormed bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan in 2011. An iconic photograph proves it. And by most accounts, she added her voice to those arguing in favor of the strike. But counter-terrorism experts said it is difficult to identify any other meaningful contribution she made to the effort.

“For her to take credit for that is to say that she should get credit for showing up to work,” said Fred Fleitz, who was a senior staff member with the House Intelligence Committee at the time. “She had nothing to do with it.”

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Fleitz, now the senior vice president for policy and programs at the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, said Clinton deserves some credit for not siding with Obama’s left-wing aides who counseled against the bin Laden raid. But he added that Clinton had nothing to do with the intelligence-gathering effort that pointed to bin Laden’s whereabouts or the military operation that resulted in his death, and although she may have advised Obama, it ultimately was the president’s call.

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Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, paraphrased an old proverb: “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.” Victory has a lot of mothers, too, he wrote in an email to LifeZette.

“The capture and execution of Osama bin Laden stands out as a rare tactical success by the Obama administration and so, not surprisingly, has been milked for over five years for political benefit,” he wrote.

In her book, “Hard Decisions,” Clinton wrote about pressing Pakistan for cooperation on finding out where bin Laden was hiding. And she depicted herself as battling administration officials concerned about wounding Pakistan’s national honor.

“Maybe it was the pent-up frustration from dealing with too much double-talk and deception from certain quarters in Pakistan, or the still-searing memories of the smoking pile in Lower Manhattan, but there was no way I was going to let the United States miss our best chance at bin Laden since we lost him at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in 2001,” she wrote.

She also spoke during her primary campaign against Sen. Bernie Sanders of making “really tough decisions,” telling an Iowa State University crowd that “there was nothing at all preordained about what the outcome [of the raid] would be … I was asked to be among the very small group of advisers asked to weigh in.”

Pipes suggested that Clinton could plausibly have claimed credit if she had negotiated with Pakistan for permission to send the Navy SEAL unit. But Pipes noted that Obama chose to bypass the Pakistani government altogether.

“As the operation was done without consulting the Pakistani government, which strenuously objected to the raid, it’s difficult to see what role Hillary Clinton could have played in it beyond lobbying the president to undertake it or not,” he wrote. “Therefore, this cannot count as a Hillary accomplishment.”

Clinton critics took issue with some of Kaine’s other national security pronouncements. Fleitz said he “laughed out loud” when Kaine claimed the threat of terrorism has receded.

Fletiz also criticized Kaine for insinuating that the Israeli government backs the Obama’s administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. The senator cited Gadi Eizenkot, the Israeli army chief of staff, who has called the accord a “historic turning point.”

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But Fleitz said the view of the Israeli government is unchanged from when Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu denounced it last year.

“That was an outright deception,” he said.

Pipes agreed.

“A number of Israeli security figures, predominantly retired, have endorsed it,” he wrote. “But they are private citizens. The government of Israel has strenuously and unequivocally opposed it.”

Pence ridiculed Kaine’s assertion in real time Tuesday night.

“You wouldn’t necessarily know that,” he said, adding, “I know you boycotted Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech when he came before the Congress.”

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