McChrystal vs. Holder: Taking Bin Laden

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There are few things Washington media loves more than a public disagreement between high-ranking officials. So when top Afghanistan commander General Stanley McChrystal and Attorney General Eric Holder gave conflicting answers on a weighty but 100 percent hypothetical national security question, it became big news. On Tuesday, both were asked independently how Osama Bin Laden, if found, would be treated. Here's Holder when asked whether Bin Laden would be read his Miranda rights:

The possibility of capturing him alive is infinitesimal. He will be killed by us, or he will be killed by his own people so that he is not captured by us. We know that. ... The possibility simply does not exist.

Here's McChrystal answering a similar question:

If Osama bin Laden comes inside Afghanistan, which is the writ of my mandate, because I’m the ISAF commander here, we certainly would go after trying to capture him alive and bring him to justice. I think that is something that is understood by everyone.

Now here's Washington, losing its collective mind:

  • Holder 'Just Can't Win'  Spencer Ackerman shrugs, "Eric Holder just can’t win. Admittedly, the question of what to do with bin Laden has been sadly hypothetical since the al-Qaeda leader’s 2001 escape from Tora Bora. But it’s still surprising to hear two senior officials in the best positions to provide guidance give diametrically opposed answers."
  • Victory For McChrystal  The Weekly Standard's William Kristol declares it. "Unlike Attorney General Eric Holder, Stanley McChrystal is no fool," he writes. "Common sense from McChrystal. And another embarassment for Holder."
  • There's No Conflict Here  The American Prospect's Adam Serwer suggests the two statements aren't as mutually exclusive as they might look on first glance. He seethes, "This is the most idiotic controversy since Obama put mayonnaise or mustard on his burger or whatever. If Obama does get bin Laden alive, the GOP can whine about civilian trials all they want, no amount of raw-throated caterwauling from the GOP will be heard over the grateful cheers of the American people."
  • Who's Making The Calls?  Commentary's Jennifer Rubin huffs, "Obvious who you want making national-security calls." Presumably, she is referring to McChrystal.
  • Administration Reconciles  The Wall Street Journal reports, "The Justice Department says the two remarks aren’t in conflict. They say Holder wasn’t implying the military wouldn’t try to capture bin Laden alive but it is more likely than not that the U.S. would kill him or bin Laden’s own body guards would."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.