Nerves of Steel
Late Tuesday night, the news broke on Twitter that President Obama had ordered the rescue of two hostages being held captive by pirates in Somalia:
“Last night U.S. Special Operations Forces conducted, by order of the President of the United States, a successful mission in Somalia to rescue two individuals taken hostage on October 25, 2011,” Panetta said in a statement Wednesday.
Jessica Buchanan, 32, an American aid worker, and her Danish colleague, Poul Thisted, were both rescued. The two employees of a Danish aid group were kidnapped at gunpoint by a suspected Somali criminal gang in northern Somalia in October.
Both of the freed hostages are safe, and arrangements are being made for their return home, Panetta said. Nine suspected members of the group holding them were killed in the operation. No U.S. commandos were injured in the operation.
And here’s the White House statement:
On Monday, I authorized an operation to rescue Jessica Buchanan, an American citizen who was kidnapped and held against her will for three months in Somalia. Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our Special Operations Forces, yesterday Jessica Buchanan was rescued and she is on her way home. As Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder of the troops who carried out this mission, and the dedicated professionals who supported their efforts.
Jessica Buchanan was selflessly serving her fellow human beings when she was taken hostage by criminals and pirates who showed no regard for her health and well-being. Last night I spoke with Jessica Buchanan’s father and told him that all Americans have Jessica in our thoughts and prayers, and give thanks that she will soon be reunited with her family. The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will spare no effort to secure the safety of our citizens and to bring their captors to justice. This is yet another message to the world that the United States of America will stand strongly against any threats to our people.
As our own roadkillrefugee put it: Obama could have exploited the SEAL rescue to great effect during prime time SOTU last night, but declined. Well done.
As with the killing of Osama bin Laden, President Obama took a huge risk that could have been politically disastrous. Imagine if something had gone wrong? Think Jimmy Carter’s attempted rescue of the 52 hostages in Tehran back in 1980.
Of course the usual suspects are scrambling to find a way to criticize President Obama. As of yet, it is unclear what their angle is. Marcy Wheeler has made some confusing statements on Twitter that had President Obama mentioned the Somali rescue, it would have somehow detracted from his ability to “exploit the Seal Team 6 killing of OBL” (whatever that means.)
I gather that there will be complaints that the rescue was a political calculation taken to coincide with the SOTU, to give the president an approval bump. While that is certainly a cynical view, it’s also nonsense considering President Obama had no way of pre-determining how the rescue mission would play out.
Ultimately, it just feels like the “puritopians” will attempt to create out of whole cloth anti-Obama memes which will, in all likelihood, end up becoming the narrative Republicans use to avoid praising the President while heaping praise on the SEALs.
And, I suspect, we’ll see a post from the Salon blogger that manages to chalk this hostage rescue up to yet another display of the lawlessness of the Obama administration. (And my friend Shoq seems to be of the same mind.)
Sometimes this strained effort to create hysteria where there should be none seems more pathological than political.