Last night as I turned on the TV to watch the late news at 10 pm I was surprised to see national correspondents talking about the death of Osama Bin Laden. About a half an hour later the President announced that indeed, Osama Bin Laden was killed. Based on good intelligence information US Special Forces had been given the green light by the President Obama to attack his stronghold in Pakistan. They did. And they got him. Bin Laden’s body is in US hands.
The President made special note of the fact that getting Bin Laden was a top US foreign policy priority for his administration. He was quite eloquent last night in reminding us of what Bin Laden did on September 11th of almost 10 years ago. He also reminded us about that moment 10 years ago when we -the people of the United States - were united in our feelings of outrage at being attacked by Bin Laden’s Al Qaida… and the patriotism brought out in even the most jaded among us. Left-right; Democrat-Republican; Jew-Christian… we were all united that day. We were all Americans – one nation under God. Hanna Sacks Bais Yaakov raised the American flag that day and it has been flying in front of the school ever since.
I remember thinking that finally, the world will know via this horrific event what radical fundementalist Islam is all about - the Islam of Hamas and Hezbollah. Finally people will understand Israel’s perspective and know what it is up against. And why it needs to take the security measures it does. There was no better demonstration of the kind of suicide attacks against Israel than what happened in the US on that day. But alas it has not turned out that way. Israel has as many detractors today as it had then, if not more. So much for 9/11 changing hearts and minds about Israel. If that didn’t do it nothing will.
In the first days after 9/11, George Bush’s Presidency was defined. He was moved like few others by that day and made it his life’s mission to fight a war on terror – terror that Bin Laden had then brought to American shores. Two wars resulted from that. First Afghanistan, then Iraq. One of the goals of then President Bush was to cut off the head of Al Qaida and to capture or kill Bin Laden.
That proved to be an elusive goal. The fact is that the unity of those first days after 9/11 dissipated rather quickly into a cacophony of criticism by the left of just about all of George Bush’s foreign policy decisions that stemmed from that day. But now 10 years later under his successor, President Obama, that goal was achieved.
My hat is truly off to the President and to the US Special Forces that got the job done – without a single American casualty. Just like the people of the United States were united in sorrow and pain on 9/11, so too are we united now in joy. Spontaneous celebrations broke out all over the country. Most notably crowds gathered at ‘ground zero’ where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood (see photo above). Watching all the celebrations this morning was quite a sight.
What does all this mean? Well anything positive that unites the country this way is a good thing. And one cannot deny the symbolism of killing the man most responsible for the death and destruction of 9/11. Indeed as the President has said justice has been done.
I hate to dampen all the euphoria, but from my perspective - aside from the symbolism of his death - I’m not sure this changes anything. Are we more secure now than we were yesterday? I doubt it. The dangers of Islamic fundamentalist terror and carnage still exist. Are these fundamentalists demoralized by Bin Laden’s death? I doubt that too. They probably see him as a glorious martyr for ‘the cause’ and are perhaps more motivated than ever – and dedicated to carry on his legacy of death and destruction for the sake of Islam. And certainly the hatred of Jews by Arab Muslims has not been changed one iota.
Al Qaida still exists. And so do tons of other ‘Al Qaidas’ whose Islamist, jihadist goals are to destroy the American way of life and replace it with an Islamist one. Not to mention their extreme hatred of Jews and desire to destroy Israel. Hamas and Hezbollah are still dedicated to that goal. That has certainly not changed. Nor will the hatred of Israel by the Arab in the street change. Nor will the demands upon Israel by the world change. Settlements will still be an issue. And there is the reconciliation of Fatah and Hamas. That’s not going to change because Osama Bin Laden was killed. Iran is still going to pursue nuclear weapons. And its leader Ahmadinejad is as determined as ever to wipe Israel off the map.
Bin Laden’s death has zero effect on any of that.
I wish we could have gotten Bin Laden sooner. It would have meant more. Other than an occasional recording with some dire warnings of future death and destruction - which never happened – or his symbolic value - I’m not even sure he has been much of a factor in the terror carried out since 9/11.
As a symbol he still exists, perhaps more so now than before he was killed. Martyrdom has high value to Islamists. Ask the mothers of suicide bombers who jump for joy when their sons have martyred themselves that way in Israel. Or the Islamist mothers who handed out candies to children in the street upon hearing of 9/11… or most recently upon hearing of the mass murder of a religious Jewish family in Itamar.
I guess the bottom line for me is, yes, let us celebrate this victory and give the President, the intelligence community, and the US Special Forces who carried out this mission the credit they deserve. And let us not forget to credit former President Bush who first made getting Bin Laden a priority. Let us feel good about this moment. Let us stay united as Americans. But let us not lose perspective. Let us not think the danger is over. It is still there. We cannot afford to let our guard down. The United States must continue to remain vigilant in its resolve to fight Jihadist terror. Unfortunately that did not die with Bin Laden.