Osama Bin Laden is dead. Those are the words we’ve all wanted to hear. I know it is un-Christian of me to celebrate the death of someone, but the President’s announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s death in the East Room of the White House was one of those high-five moments in life I will have to explain to God when my time comes. Something tells me God will give me a pass on this one.
For as happy as we may be to cheer the demise one of the world’s great mass murderers, there is every reason for us to be cautious and concerned. Bin Laden may have been one man who met his end courtesy of a bullet from one of America’s finest, but as an iconic figure, he has inspired countless individuals who believe in his perverse message and the murderous means to carry it out. The need for vigilance cannot be underestimated here.
Just because U.S. forces put Bin Laden on a faster track to Hell does not mean you get to keep your shoes on or skip through security screening measures before you board a plane. We cannot afford to forget what a small group of committed and inspired individuals are capable of doing. Of late, I’ve begun to think that too many people have forgotten what 19 people can accomplish in just over 90 minutes to change our world and our national lives forever.
There are more of than a few people around the world, and probably in the United States as well, who will feel even more emboldened to martyr themselves in response to bin Laden’s death. Some may choose to be a lone-wolf actor and undertake their mission of revenge in some notable and newsworthy fashion. A few others might find inspiration to join together as the July 7 bombers did in London several years back and carry out their murderous mission during rush-hour on a mass transit system.
There are innumerable ways people can chose to respond to the news of bin Laden’s death, and that is why we as a nation cannot afford to rollback our actions or attitudes in protecting our homeland. We have to remain alert and adaptive to this environment because there is no going back to the world that bin Laden unleashed upon us. We can and should appropriately acknowledge the occasion of “taking care” of one of the world’s most wanted. The President’s eloquent remarks did that, but vigilance is the eternal price we must pay to protect the liberties we as a nation cherish and that is a cost that has no end.
In acknowledging the magnitude of the moment and the announcement of bin Laden’s death, it also goes without saying where the credit is due. The intelligence community that was so vilified for not connecting the dots prior to the 9/11 attack made the biggest possible comeback by plotting the very dots that led U.S. forces to deliver justice in a swift and effective manner.
This was a methodical, tactical strike taken with great risk, not just to the forces that executed it (and Bin Laden), but diplomatically and politically as well. We will spend months if not years debating what Pakistani intelligence knew or didn’t know about this operation, as well as the fact bin Laden was lounging in the outer suburbs of Islamabad with cable TV and running water and not in a cave, as we all were made to believe.
The politics of this situation are also immeasurable. Outside the White House amongst cheering crowds yelling “USA!” were vintage campaign signs being held up by supporters of the President’s successful 2008 campaign, as well as those who supported the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign. There will be strategic jockeying by every political camp to make sure everyone gets their share of the political credit for rendering ultimate justice. That is completely understandable. Credit is certainly due to Presidents Obama and Bush for the pursuit of bin Laden and establishing the mechanisms (intelligence and military) that got the job done. In the end, that is the only metric that matters, but one thing is for sure, the president’s actions may find Donald Trump on mute for a day or two (and that is another thing worthy of celebration).
But the president, his national security team, including the intelligence and military members that own America’s “In-Box” for four years, deserve the “atta-boys” that are coming their way. This happened on their watch, and it is undeniable how this plays into the President’s re-election hopes. This is as big a “get” as you can possibly muster, and how it is played will tell us an awful lot about this president as a leader and as a politician. Obama’s abilities on both fronts have been questioned of late for a range of reasons, but in addressing the cause of one of America’s greatest wounds, he has set a path that reminds our nation’s friends (and particularly, our enemies) that we will finish the job, no matter where it takes us or how long.
In this country, we do believe in liberty and justice for all, and we’ll send those who attack us on an expedited course to Hell when afforded the opportunity to do so. That message was delivered last week in Pakistan with great efficiency, and I can’t help but think there are a few people sleeping less soundly than they were before. Despite the comfort that message and feeling may bring to me, we cannot afford to slumber back into our pre-9/11 lives. Bin Laden took that world and the lives of many with him nearly 10 years ago.
There’s a lot he will have to answer to his maker for but in going forward from this moment, we are all answerable to one another in being vigilant in protecting those we love; defending the rights that are ours and safeguarding our homeland from those forces (evil as well as natural) that can do it harm. That’s the message that I take away from bin Laden’s demise, and I hope you do too.