Somehow I find it appropriate for my first Security Debrief contribution to comment on the death of Osama Bin Laden. Make no mistake about it; Bin Laden was a mass murderer of men, women and children. They were Muslims, Christians, Jews, Agnostics and Atheists. He really didn’t care about their religious on non-religious affiliations because he was a fanatic who only cared about world domination and political power.

When I saw the news that Bin Laden had been killed, many emotions ran through me but the one that seemed to dominate was relief. It had been a long time since 9-11, as well as the first attack on The World Trade Center in 1993. But the sense of relief pervaded because catching up with him had been a long time in coming and justice had finally prevailed.

I first heard Bin Laden’s name along with that of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in the weeks and months following the 1993 Trade Center attack. Back then, the FBI and the Intelligence Community were behind the curve and trying to understand who these men were and what they were all about. But the massive investigation and intelligence collection effort post-1993 made us understand that a new threat had emerged, that Bin Laden was a new kind of terrorist leader, and that it was our job to deal with this new threat with the resources at our disposal. It was not easy for us, given all of the other threats that were on our plates, the hours at work were unbelievable and our families suffered, but we understood that many other families had paid a much higher price because they had lost their loved ones. This knowledge drove us on every hour of every day. As the years unfolded, we were constantly confronted with new attacks, mostly abroad; however, each new attack in retrospect were warm ups for the 9-11 catastrophe. It was the Pearl Harbor of our generation.

The members of the Law Enforcement, Intelligence and the Military communities who over the past years have and are engaged in counterterrorism operations are incredibly dedicated individuals. Their sacrifices are real, they are constant and that is why the death of Bin Laden is so important to all of us who worked in some small way against him and his evil empire. His death is up there in significance with the deaths of Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin and other tyrants who reigned over the course of history. Bin Laden didn’t kill as many innocent people as these murderers did because he was not given the chance. Given the chance, he would have been as bad or worse.

When I served in the FBI’s Counterterrorism organization, I had the privilege of working with military counterterrorist units as part of some of the programs that I oversaw. I am sure that these units were the ones that caught up with Bin Laden. They were and are incredible national assets who plan, practice and execute the most difficult missions imaginable. My hat is off to them, and the country owes them and our entire military a debt that we can never repay.

Last but not least, President Obama and his National Security Staff made a gutsy call to send special operations units into Pakistan to get Bin Laden, and they were successful. This historical moment in time will never be forgotten. He cut off the head of the snake and everyone should be thankful that the President had the backbone to act decisively. In spite of reporting I have read that diminishes Bin Laden’s role in Al-Qaeda, I believe his death will prove to be a fatal blow that ultimately will result in the absolute defeat of the organization. I have never agreed with many of my colleagues who say that Bin Laden’s leadership of Al-Qaeda had waned. He was Al-Qaeda’s leader, symbol and major decision maker. He had to go, given the threat he personally posed to the world. I think a few questions remain. First, did the Pakistani military and intelligence services protect him? Second, are the Pakistani’s our friends or our enemies?

  • Jamie

    Mr. Blitzer, I appreciate your blog on this topic; however I disagree that our relationship with Pakistanis will ever be as simple as a black or white, friend vs. enemy scenario. In my studies and personal experiences, I have found that Pakistan has become a deeply fragmented country. Many of the people of Pakistan do not trust their government and the government struggles with severe issues of corruption and legitimacy. In fact, the country’s connection with Al-Qaeda, and the violence and turmoil that has ensued, has contributed to economic misfortune for Pakistan that further erodes the power of its leadership.

    It is giving Pakistani leadership too much credit to say that they actually have the capacity to be a true “enemy”. It is certain that, in many cases, Pakistan lacks the ability to squash those that wish to make the country an “enemy” of the world. Furthermore, Pakistan does not seem to have the power to protect those elements within Pakistan that are trying desperately to keep the country from spiraling into an irreversible decline into economic stagnation, extremism, and violence.

    It’s a precarious scenario, to say the least; however, I do not think that labeling Pakistan as a friend or enemy will benefit either country. It would, perhaps, be more productive to consider Pakistan as a government in great need of reform and stabilization. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.