In the wake of hearing about the assassination of Osama bin Laden, several thoughts—sometimes conflicting—have surfaced while reflecting upon this event. Bear with me, it’s a bit longer than most.


The hard-lined justice seeker in me feels no compunction about the death of this man who planned and ordered the killing of thousands of civilians throughout the world, though obviously the victims of 9/11 hold a prominent place in my allegiances. While his death will not bring back any of the victims of his schemes, I hope that this form of closure—10 years in the making—can help bring some peace to the friends and family of those who lost their lives.

Historical Skepticism

While we may have killed this particular head of the hydra that is al Qaeda, I’m under no illusions that this will impede the terrorists’ ability or desire to carry out further attacks against their enemies. In fact, it could even spur more in the guise of retaliation, though I think the US forces were surprisingly and singularly impressive of how they dealt with his body. They balanced the traditions of Islam (burying the body within 24 hours) against the prevention of a tangible form for his martyrdom (it is now impossible to have a shrine containing his physical remains). In any case, continued attacks will have been carried out regardless of the death of this leader.

Further, this operational success comes at an opportune moment for US/Pakistan intelligence relations. In the aftermath of the recent killing of 2 Pakistani citizens by CIA agent Raymond Davis, Pakistan has called for full transparency regarding US covert operations within their borders. Now that Osama bin Laden was killed in a compound (built 5 years ago) a mere 700 yards from the Pakistani military academy, the US has regained some of its leverage, especially if Pakistan wants to continue to give credence to their desire to fight terrorism alongside their Western counterparts. Here’s President Obama’s not-so-subtle message to Pakistan: “They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al-Qaida and its affiliates.”

Disgust with Polarization

Again, the internet (well, the anonymity of the internet) brings out the best and the worst of our citizenry. On a day when there should be unity and relief that Osama bin Laden’s reign is over, there are people who simply use this as a platform for their ignorant ravings. Everything from ‘President Obama is a Muslim that needs to go next’ to ‘Osama is not really dead, where’s the body’ has surfaced in response. Never mind that there’s not a rational thought in such rants, but such comments beg the question: are we so polarized that we cannot come together for a moment in what is arguably a conclusion to the tragic events of 9/11?

Moral Dissonance

As I said above, although part of me is content that bin Laden has been killed, part of me wonders if that was the best way to resolve this episode? Would not trying him in a court of justice have facilitated our claims to the moral high ground? Should we be jubilant over the violent death of another human being, no matter how heinous their crimes? How are such celebrations different from the cheering our enemies do over the bodies of our soldiers? Chants of “USA, USA!” at Ground Zero and the White House smack of jingoistic fervor which can (and has) led to more bloodshed. Perhaps I’m over-analyzing such worries, though I don’t believe I am.

Journalistic Incredulity

Finally, is it really so hard to keep President Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden differentiated? Granted, most of the so-called gaffes (though not all) came from Fox News (and this isn’t the first time), but one has to question the professionalism of “journalists” during moments that will define a year if not a decade. Because it’s either a) an honest mistake and such journalist are “merely” inept, or b) it’s on purpose in order to further divide the nation and discredit the President in insidious ways e.g. a Fox News focus group believed that President Obama is a Muslim. In either case, we still need more accountability in the field of journalism.

In the end, I’m relieved that Osama bin Laden is no longer able to direct attacks against the US or any other country. I’m not particularly upset by the way the final operation was carried out, though the 10-year and future costs are worrisome. As I said before, I just hope the family and friends of all his victims find some peace as a result of his demise.