For those of you saying that the bin Laden takedown was not an “Obama” win, you’re right. It was an American win. However, former President Bush, former Vice President Cheney, senators Graham and DeMint and even Rush Limbaugh have all congratulated Obama. He should be credited for maintaining the policies that continued the search and giving the order that resulted in Sunday night’s win for the American people.
I wrote those words on my personal Facebook page (www.facebook.com/martin.l.cahn) about 20 hours after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden was dead. It was in response to a number of posts by people criticizing the president for taking any credit for taking bin Laden out. They said it was the soldiers -- Navy SEALS, we learned later -- not Obama who should be praised.
This is a case when everyone involved should be thanked. Again, however, at a time when we should be coming together, there are those who would find any way to tear us apart. I am completely tired of such behavior. This country was united after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. We have been too divided since then. It is shameful that there are those bent on widening that division further.
Let’s move on.
Why do we celebrate the death of a man? We’re not, really. The spontaneous celebrations across the country were a long-delayed payback for ones held by extremists 10 years ago when the Twin Towers fell. What we’re really doing is celebrating the first of what should be a series of victories over hate and terrorism.
bin Laden was ultimately responsible for dozens of terrorist attacks on not just Americans, but people from just about every part of the world, including Muslims. His elimination offers us justice for scores of attacks that have killed thousands.
I would have been fine with his capture. bin Laden and most of the others killed were not armed. Unless President Obama decided to disclose specifics during his CBS “60 Minutes” interview last night, we’ll have to wait until the SEALS -- or JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command that oversaw the operation -- ever reveals what actually happened. Meanwhile, I think we have to give those SEALS the benefit of the doubt. They had to react to what they saw, heard and felt. Until we hear differently, I say job well done.
I’m not upset with bin Laden’s death. It saves us the circus of a trial and allowing him any attempt to be a living martyr. Several of my Facebook friends expressed fear al Qaeda will strike back in retaliation for bin Laden’s death. That would have happened if he had been killed eight years ago or two years from now. There would have been retaliation -- perhaps a rescue attempt -- if we had only captured and not killed him.
Operation Geronimo was a success for other reasons. The last thing I read before writing this column was that material gathered from the Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound indicated al Qaeda was planning train attacks on U.S. soil on the upcoming 10th anniversary of 9/11 this September. al Qaeda succeeded in attacking train hubs in Spain, London and India, so it’s not unrealistic to believe they would have tried here.
We hope that plan has been thwarted and perhaps others will be as well. Will that stop al Qaeda? Of course not, and neither does killing bin Laden. Ayman al-Zawahiri is still out there. al-Zawahiri is the man who’s really been running al Qaeda for years, according to some sources.
I’m not trying to be funny, but I’m hoping President Obama’s stunning announcement stunned al Qaeda. I can imagine them demoralized at the loss of their figurehead, frantically realizing that America is serious: they could be next.
Now, our allies, partners and, yes, enemies know we are committed to rooting out terrorists wherever they may be.
It is hard to believe, as Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan said, that no one in Pakistani intelligence knew bin Laden was in Abbottabad, so close to the capital. Either someone knew and looked the other way (or worse), or they are extraordinarily incompetent. While I will always call for support of any particular country’s people, it’s going to be a while before I can say the Pakistani government is a true U.S. partner.
As for Afghanistan, bin Laden’s death doesn’t seem to mean much. TIME Magazine put out a very interesting article titled “Afghanistan: Where even the Taliban don’t care about bin Laden.” There, it seems, the Taliban hold whatever anti-government power exists, not al Qaeda. It was from Afghanistan that the 9/11 attacks were coordinated, hence the decision to launch the War on Terrorism there in 2001. If anything, Afghans seem “vindicated” by the operation in Pakistan: it proved al Qaeda wasn’t being protected in Afghanistan. Their jubilation, however, was muted by the fact that bin Laden just isn’t relevant to them.
A hated man is gone and the world is better for it. Yet, America must continue to be vigilant -- al Qaeda has not been dismantled and may not be for some time. Am I being pessimistic?
Just the opposite. The fact that it took us nearly a decade to kill Osama bin Laden is proof that, someday, we will get them all. Someday, we will look back at Sunday, May 1, 2011, and remember that night as the beginning of the end of al Qaeda.
I’ll leave you with what the president said to New York City firefighters before he placed a wreath at Ground Zero during a silent ceremony Thursday: “When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say.”
No more optimistic words were ever said about America and its fight against terrorism.