On Sunday, May 1, 2011, Osama bin Laden, terrorist and mass murderer, was killed in a targeted raid by American Special Forces at a compound near Abbottabad, Pakistan. To quote President Obama, "justice was done." It was, and it was a long time coming.
The death of bin Laden at the hands of American soldiers is a huge event, and in the past two days the coverage has been expansive. There will undoubtedly be exhaustive talk in the days and weeks ahead about the affects on Al Qaeda, the larger fight against terror, reactions in the Middle East and the rest of the world. I'm not a foreign affairs expert, and I won't pretend to have any special insights into what this event means, but I do feel compelled to share some of my initial thoughts:
- America has waited almost ten years for this result. I remember clearly thinking in the weeks, months, and then years after 9/11 that bin Laden must surely be found and brought to justice. But so very frustratingly, he wasn't. When the news broke on Sunday I was shocked. After all this time the thought of finding bin Laden, let alone swiftly eliminating him, had faded from my mind. I doubt my reaction was unique. I was gratified but not overjoyed by the news. Again, I doubt my reaction was unique.
- I'm glad that bin Laden was killed outright in this operation. I hate the thought of a long public trial where bin Laden may have been afforded a venue to preach to his followers and continue his "holy war" against the United States and the Western World. Further, I'm glad his body was buried at sea, leaving no martyr's grave site.
- As always with shadowy missions like this, there has been doubt or skepticism expressed by some about the authenticity of bin Laden's death. Some want more proof than has so far been provided. Perhaps additional documentation will become available, but there is no doubt that the operation and results are authentic and have been thoroughly verified.
- Isn't truth more remarkable than fiction? This operation was something out of a movie, a long-term CIA intelligence mission resulting a highly precise operation against the world's most wanted man carried out by an ultra elite unit of special forces soldiers. The culminating events followed in real-time by high ranking military and civilian leaders half-a-world away. This story must be made into a movie. I hope that if it is, the filmmakers stick to the facts; I guarantee it would make for fascinating viewing.
- I find it highly suspicious that our "allies" in Pakistan were entirely unaware of the bin Laden living in a large mansion, in a sizable city, in the immediate vicinity of the Pakistan Military Academy, and only 30 miles from that nation's capital, Islamabad. I doubt my suspicions are unfounded.
- Someone will take over the leadership of Al Qaeda. Perhaps that person, or persons, will be a capable, motivated leader. I hope not. I hope that Al Qaeda will prove to be irrevocably undermined by the demise of bin Laden. I hope dispatching the most visible face of international terrorism will dampen the energy that fuels the hatred, violence, and destruction that the civilized world despises. I hope this is another in a long series of successes in the War on Terror.
Back on the evening of September 11, 2001, I wrote a few emotionally charged words on the shocking events we all experienced. I only reread these words after hearing the news of bin Laden's death, which perhaps brings some measure of closure to that terrible day. It's interesting to quote these words, the thoughts of a 20-year-old undergrad, in the light of all that has happened (good and bad) since that wrenching time. I remember writing with righteous fury, and it reads that way (it's good to see that my writing has improved), but perhaps mixed in with the irony and indignation is a bit of truth:
"There are those who see in the American nation, decadence and greed. A nation full of unearned wealth, a nation of faithless exploiters...whose only mission in life is the fulfillment of...myopic desires.They see in this country the cause of all the ills they experience...of all the anguish of the poor, and the hopelessness of war.They see us as a nation of fools intent on spiritual destruction, on hedonistic desires, ignorant of the misery of the masses, and blind to the path of righteousness.They’re wrong...America is today, and will be in the future...a country where all is possible and freedom is more than a hollow axiom.We live in a nation of unequaled acceptance, where despite all claims to the contrary, men are judged on merit and ability...a place where creed, or religion...are not insuperable obstacles to great success...a place where hope still has some meaning.-Conroy, 9/11/01
Today was a terrible day; the forces of ignorance and evil have struck at the heart of all that America stands for.Great buildings brought down, confidence shaken, and fear cultivated. But these forces fail to understand that this nation is not so vulnerable, that while today was a shock and a tragedy, the real tragedy is theirs.America will not fall, America will not die...America is good...the goal for which...successful...hopeful...nations strive.Those who struck today are the real victims of this tragedy, by striking out at America they have sealed their own fate...they have forced this great nation to seek out the responsible parties and governments, to find, corner, and kill them.Make no mistake, today was an act of war, and from this day forth no quarter will be granted...those whose act today has appalled the world, you have violated the rules of civilization and as a result we will divorce ourselves of those rules in hunting you down and destroying all that you stand for.You are proof that evil...does exist in this world and...must be fought with utmost vigor and absolute and unflagging determination. Tragedy strikes all the time, some times the scale is very small and personal, often it is larger and more unsettling, and very rarely it seems to knock the very foundation from under us.Despite the magnitude and audacity and hatred of today’s act we must all remember that it was an act of weakness, of cowards, and it is an event that we will recover from, and from which retribution will be swift and complete..."