If anyone deserved to get a bullet between the eyes, it was Osama bin Laden. A master of death and mass terrorism, a man responsible for the loss of more than 3,000 innocent lives on 9/11, he got what he deserved on Sunday when U.S. Special Forces soldiers helicoptered into his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and took down the al-Qaida mastermind during a brief firefight.
And yet for some reason I don’t feel like celebrating.
Many did. Dozens gathered at the gates of the White House and at Ground Zero Sunday night to shout “USA! USA!” I was certainly amazed as President Obama addressed the nation, and I watched his talk with great interest. I marveled at the success of the operation. But I didn’t celebrate.
A headline in Tuesday’s Billings Gazette declared that the United States “rejoiced” at bin Laden’s death. I didn’t find myself rejoicing in the wake of this killer’s death. His death cannot bring back the thousands he killed.
Rather, I felt, simply, that justice was done, and I am grateful that our nation pursued this mass murderer until he got what was comin’ to him.
But I didn’t rejoice. Our lives have changed since 9/11. We are more fearful since that day, wondering when the next strike will take place. The joy of traveling has been replaced by the drudgery of having to disrobe at airport security and sometimes find ourselves mauled in a sometimes embarrassing way.
We worry about whether the next attack will be nuclear, we fear as our civil rights are hit in the crossfire of terrorism prevention efforts and we wonder, achingly, why “they” hate us.
Life simply is not the same. We are a more nervous, sadder, less confident nation.
And yet if Sunday’s raid did one thing it showed us all that America is still willing to fight and fight hard for what is right and good and to protect our citizens from terrorists whose number one goal in life is to kill Americans. That is an uplifting, if not joyful, feeling.
I don’t care whether bin Laden was armed or not when he was shot, or whether the Pakistanis knew about the operation or whether the killing will give Barack Obama a boost in his presidential approval rating. This isn’t a matter of politics in any way, shape or form. It’s about justice and, for those who lost friends or loved ones on 9/11, it’s about some measure of closure.
The political windbags on talk radio and cable news have been blathering all week about who should get the credit for finding and killing Osama bin Laden and pursing the war on terror. Republicans say it wouldn’t have happened without the efforts of the Bush Administration, while Democrats are flocking to pat President Obama on the back.
But let’s give credit where credit is due. Bin Laden’s demise would not have happened without the diligence, determination, planning, teamwork, operational precision and sheer guts of our intelligence services and Special Forces who got the tips, followed the leads, penetrated the secrecy, planned the mission and carried it out.
Are we safer now? Perhaps a little. But the battle is far from over. Some are saying “mission accomplished!” but the war on terror has a long way to go and, if anything, Americans must be even more vigilant than before.
But thanks to the Navy SEALs of Team Six, there is one less evil man in the world. A feeling of elation? No. But I do feel, somehow…satisfaction. And pride.
But as thousands continue to die in violence round the world, there can be no real joy.
By David Peck