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Obama's Gift to McRaven After Bin Laden Raid: Tape Measure

Ex-president, retired Navy admiral who led raid 10 years ago that killed al-Qaeda chief revisit mission
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2021 12:19 PM CDT

(Newser) – This weekend marks the 10-year anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, and two key players at the center of it all sat down this week to talk about the mission. Monday's conversation between former President Obama and retired Navy Adm. William McRaven was recorded by the Obama Foundation at the former's DC office, where the two men relived the "bittersweet nature of one of the most consequential missions in US military history," per the Washington Post. Details:

  • The war: It was obviously a relief and a triumph to finally take down the al-Qaeda leader, a full decade after the 9/11 attacks he masterminded, but that moment is still impossible to separate from "two decades of war that, in Obama's words, had produced outcomes everyone knew to be 'ambiguous at best.'"

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  • Obama's odd gift to McRaven: Two weeks before the Obama-McRaven sit-down, McRaven chatted with the Post about the raid, noting that when it came time to ID bin Laden's body, he had a young Navy SEAL lie down next to the remains so he could estimate the deceased's height. McRaven said when he relayed that anecdote to Obama via a videoconference, the president paused for a moment, then said: "OK, Bill, let me get this straight. We had $65 million for a helicopter [to raid the compound] and you didn't have $10 for a tape measure?" Obama later gifted McRaven a tape measure.
  • American reaction: Gallup recalls its polling on public attitudes in the days after the raid. Nearly 80% of Americans thought it was important to the US that bin Laden was killed, though nearly a third of respondents thought it would've been better if he'd been brought back to the US alive.
  • The Situation Room pic: The History Channel takes a look back at photographer Pete Souza's "defining historic moment" showing Obama and his core staff, including then-VP Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, watching the raid unfold on a live feed.
  • Oral history: Many in that famous photo have contributed to a new oral history by Politico, which tells "the full story of how, and why, America's top security officials decided to pull the trigger that night in May." "I'd never been involved in anything as secret as ... this," National Security Agency official Jon Darby says.
  • Bin Laden's stash: The History Channel also revisits the "nine unexpected things" that the Navy SEALs found in the al-Qaeda leader's compound. Among them: Disney films like Ice Age and Cars.
  • 'Scapegoat': AFP has a story on Shakeel Afridi, the Pakistani physician who helped the CIA pinpoint bin Laden's location. "Dismissed as a traitor in Pakistan but lauded as a hero by the United States," Afridi remains in solitary confinement in a Punjab prison. "He is being kept in prison now only to teach every Pakistani a lesson not to cooperate with a Western intelligence agency," a former Pakistani ambassador says.
(Read more Barack Obama stories.)

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