All of the news channels on TV are fixed upon the news that Bin Laden is dead. The paper's site has the news, and my phone has been ringing all evening with calls from colleagues and mates who just want to talk about his being killed.
A quick check of the wire provides the details -- or rather the details that have been released so far. A SPEC-OPS team of Navy Seals went in, they took out Bin Laden and his bodyguards, and in that well-planned, well-executed raid has rid the world of a man who is clearly a threat to all.
What does his death mean? That is the question that everyone is asking.
The question I keep getting asked is, what do you think this will mean?
I confess, I have given this a lot of thought and not just in the last few hours -- I have been pondering this for much of the past decade. To understand what it means really comes down to asking the question -- who was Bin Laden?
The easy answer is that he was a leader -- perhaps not THE leader -- of a terrorist organization that has had tremendous luck and success in its attacks. People tend to forget that Bin Laden was not just responsible for planning and funding 9/11, he also masterminded attacks on a US Marine Barracks, two US Embassy Compounds, the U.S.S. Cole, the bombong of subway trains in the UK, the bombing of a train and bus in Spain, and those are just the attacks we know for sure he orchestrated.
There is speculation that the Philippine Bomb Cell, and a dozen small attacks all over the world were his operations. The thing is, nobody knows for sure -- or if they do, they are not talking.
The question is who was he? The easy answer was that he was an intelligent and charismatic man who was able to attract other smart -- if misguided -- men to him, who helped him plan and carry out attacks against the west. He was a wealthy man who used his wealth to fund the terrorist operations that were executed in his name.
The news that he is dead is good news. But his death is not on the same level as the death of Hitler -- because Bin Laden's mission does not die with him. It is important to remember that.
The months after 9/11
When it came out that Bin Laden may have been responsible for 9/11 it was disturbing that the government could not get their hands on him. It was not until 2004 that he officially accepted the responsibility for the attack, admitting on camera that it was his operation.
After 2004, when it was an established fact that Bin Laden was behind the attacks, the failure of the government to bring him to justice was disturbing. By 2008 I began to wonder if the man was still alive -- he had stopped making his monthly videos and no new photos were appearing.
Then I recall the fact that the part of the world he was thought to be hiding in was a low-tech environment, which makes it a lot harder to gather intelligence. Add to that the fact that he was in an area that was full of people who wanted to protect him, and it gets a lot easier to understand how he could have not been captured.
But that does not explain the fact that Pakistan -- a nation that is supposed to be a cooperating partner with the US and that accepts large amounts of aid from the US -- has been harboring the man for at least the last 6 years and never said word one to the US about where the man was.
The house -- sorry -- the mansion -- that Bin Laden was killed in was not just some old house, it was a mansion Bin Laden paid to have built almost six years ago. A mansion he lived in the whole time. I will never believe that the Pakistani government did not know that he was there...
A Future Without Bin Laden
With any luck his death will at least derail the currently planned operations of his organization. With any luck the US Government will continue to pursue his lieutenants and the infrastructure of his organization -- because the death of Bin Laden is not enough.
The fanaticism of the men who followed him is powerful enough to make it almost a certainty that they will retaliate for this. Hopefully not with great success.
Is it OK to feel good about the death of a man? In this case, yeah, it is.