The end of Osama bin Laden


With Sunday night’s announcement, President Obama concluded one of the most protracted, tense and unhappy periods in U.S. history. For a decade, the perpetrator of an atrocious attack on the American people eluded retribution. Now, finally, he is dead.

In disclosing Osama bin Laden’s death, the president was impeccably clear about America’s interests in the pursuit of this despicable enemy of the United States. Bin Laden, he said, had continued plotting attacks long after 9/11, and his death “marks the most significant achievement to date” in the effort to defeat Al Qaeda. This nation, Obama reminded his country and the world, “is not and never will be at war with Islam.” Indeed, Bin Laden’s victims included many Muslims; his death will save many more. The war in Afghanistan was aimed specifically against Bin Laden and his terrorist organization (along with the Taliban government that hosted him). That war is not over, but the snake is now severed from its head. And, in a tribute to the intelligence services that made this possible, Obama announced that “no Americans were harmed.”

Photos: Crowds celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death


Bin Laden’s death will not end terrorism, do away with Al Qaeda or conclude the global war that began after 9/11 because too many people in too many nations accept his delusion that the United States is implacably at odds with the values of Islam. But they are wrong to see America as their foe, and wrong to see Bin Laden as their hero.

Bin Laden’s death will create new tensions in U.S. diplomacy. Pakistan reportedly assisted in locating Bin Laden and thus in assassinating him. But relations with Pakistan are badly strained, and now the threat of retribution to that regime is real. Obama recognized it in his speech, and he must follow through with protection for those who helped protect U.S. interests and values.

As news of Bin Laden’s death was announced, crowds massed in Washington and at ground zero in New York. Fireworks sparkled in Los Angeles. It is difficult to join in a parade for an assassination, but Bin Laden deliberately established himself as a specific and particular enemy of this nation. Here is an excerpt from one of his blithering harangues: “We — with God’s help — call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.” Those are the words of a fanatic.

For weeks, the nation’s political discourse has been dominated by the silly and stupid. Donald Trump has challenged the president’s legitimacy, only to be humiliated by Obama’s provable birth certificate. Now, it is clear that while Obama was contesting that fatuous challenge to his leadership, he was simultaneously sifting intelligence of the most sensitive nature and authorizing an action of stupendous consequence.

Sunday night’s announcement should remind the nation that the presidency is not just an office to be contested and that American values are not merely empty words to be used as political rhetoric. Obama ordered the seizure of America’s most vile enemy, who resisted and was shot down. The world is better and safer for his death.