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Spare us from second guessers 05-13-2011

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Column by Jim Flynn

          Senator John McCain’s support of President Obama’s decision not to release pictures of the death and burial of Osama bin Laden was prompt and correct. McCain’s experiences as a prisoner of war and as a member of the Armed Services Committee have honed a mature attitude about defense and security matters.

Would that all members of Congress were similarly experienced. Some are unable to restrain application of their political prejudices to every subject – from national security to cow flatulence. Hot air is a congressional staple.

Two key Congress people displayed sense and maturity. The chairpersons of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Cal.) supported Mr. Obama’s refusal to publicize the pictures.

On the other hand, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said the president should show the photo as a warning to others who may be seeking America’s destruction. “No pussy-footing around,” she said. “No politicking, no drama. It’s part of the mission.” Mrs. Palin is a veteran of the annual Alaska caribou campaign.

Similarly, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an Air Force veteran, termed Mr. Obama’s decision a mistake. He said “I know bin Laden is dead, but the best way to protect and defend our interests overseas is to prove that fact to the rest of the world.” The president’s response was that the pictures aren’t going to make any difference and could incite unrest.

The deluge of political chatter and media blather ignores an important concern for the men who carried out the mission to get bin Laden. Like the writers of our Declaration of Independence, on every mission SEALS (Sea Air and Land Service) pledge their lives and their sacred honor to the nation and to each other.

Those who are entrusted with high level security information and responsibility for sensitive missions live with a reality of the severe consequences of being captured.

During the cold war (1945-1960) the Russian KGB and the East German Intelligence Service (STASI) had the names of many of our intelligence people - civilian and military.

Today, Chinese and Pakistani intelligence agencies are among the largest information gatherers in the world. Around the clock they’re sniffing for information about U.S. plans and the people who execute them. That’s why SEALS and members of similar units deserve our best efforts to safeguard their identities.

Unfortunately the media have difficulty letting go of a story as big as finding Osama bin Laden. In addition a few political pundits and people with causes persist with naïve suggestions that bin Laden should have been captured and put to trial before the world.

The SEALS were under fire from the moment they set foot in the bin Laden compound. Naïve idealists would have had them stop for a chat with each hostile they encountered, during which time bin Laden would likely have destroyed important intelligence and executed an escape plan.

As a nation we should be quietly grateful for the anonymous SEALS who executed the bin Laden mission and survived to resume their vigilant preparedness to serve again when called.