Success, it has been said, has a thousand fathers, while failure is an orphan. And so it is with the special military mission earlier this year that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.
Many have claimed credit. No doubt some of them deserve it, while for others this is an opportunity for self aggrandizement.
The movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” which opens today in limited release, puts its own mark on the operation, and suggests that a covert CIA operative, a woman still employed by the CIA in undercover work, should be given much of the credit for planning that operation.
Many in the CIA do not like that kind of publicity. Supposedly the CIA employee has been passed over for a promotion because of her access to moviemakers and the stories she has provided on background to support the film.
She, in turn, seems to be rather angry, though still unidentified publicly.
Hollywood has a flimsy record when it comes to presenting historical fact. Facts are rarely so neat and complete as a movie plot, yet too often — as was the case with the recent film “Argo” — heavily sugared truths are accepted by the audience as plain oatmeal fact.
Whether the “Zero Dark Thirty” rendition of events is true, no one can say. A veil of secrecy hangs over this operation, and probably will for decades to come. If the truth of exactly what happened ever comes out, it will likely be when many of the participants are old and gray.
Such is the nature of military operations. Don’t forget the concerns expressed this past fall over a book published by a former Navy SEAL who allegedly participated in the planning and execution of that operation. At one point there were threats to prosecute that man for leaking classified information in his book.
So our question is: Who gets the glory for a successful special forces operation?
The correct answer should be that many in the American armed forces, using patient and successful intelligence operations and solid military planning and execution, ended the life of a brutal killer.
The hunt for bin Laden lasted more than a decade, and there is no doubt that many men and women in various branches of the federal government contributed to that effort, in large and small ways. Let’s give them the credit and not try to blindly pick out the ones who “stood out” in such efforts. In particular no politician should gain standing for such a long and broad effort by likely hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of people.
Instead let’s simply acknowledge that our government brought a real enemy to America to justice. America won that round in our longstanding attempts to defend against radicals. We don’t need to pick individual winners and losers for the glory.