Last night at 11:30pm Eastern time, President Barack H. Obama announced that almost ten years after al Qaeda attacked the United States, its leader Osama bin Laden had been located and killed. There will be much time and many blog posts for analyzing the consequences of this act but for today I wanted to highlight the positive.
When we count the folks killed in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, the four hijacked airliners and the still ongoing war in Afghanistan that followed we are looking at thousands of families who have suffered an unspeakable loss. While it is true that many al Qaeda operatives have been captured or killed since September 11, 2001, none of them carried the symbolic impact of Osama bin Laden. No matter what successes we might have achieved over the years, there was always this nagging feeling that the man most responsible for our misery got away with murder. With bin Laden’s death, this contingent of the perpetually mourning may finally reach some sense of closure. For the war widows and children, there may now be some sense that their loved one did not die in vain.
On my Internet radio show last night I wondered aloud what this might mean for the Bush legacy. After a night’s reflection and some reporting from the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, at least for now I come to a positive conclusion. First, Ignatius reports that the intelligence that put us on the labyrinthine trail to Osama was first obtained by the Bush administration between 2002 and 2004. So on a very practical level, bringing bin Laden to justice was an accomplishment for both Bush and Obama.
On a more emotional note, as I watched the coverage last night, I could not help but remember Bush in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy promising that justice would be done.
Last night, Obama and our courageous Navy SEALs delivered justice not only for the thousands of grieving but also for the man who was our leader at the time of the attacks. If I allow my mind to go bipartisan for a moment, I can picture Barack’s phone conversation with Bush last night going something like this:
George, this is Barack. Osama bin Laden is dead. You can rest easy now. Your work is done and your goal was accomplished.