The death of Osama bin Laden will bring neither an end to the war against terror nor closure to the thousands of families whose kin died horrible deaths on Sept. 11, 2001, nor to those who have lost loved ones challenging his evil on the battleground since then. But there is a palpable sense of relief — and yes, of justice — that an elusive embodiment of evil has been dealt with, finally.
The war against terrorism will undoubtedly continue, as will the security measures needed to defend innocent people against acts of hatred. But bin Laden’s demise allows America for the first time since 9/11, a renewed perspective to move forward, one free of the extremist leader.
More than 3,000 men, women and children were killed that day in 2001 in the World Trade Center towers, in Flight 93’s crash in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. Families in Hawaii and across America lost loved ones, and since then, relatives of at least 284 military members from Hawaii or based in the state have mourned lives lost in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
President Barack Obama announced on Sunday the heroic attack by American troops that ended the life of al-Qaida’s leader. It remains to be seen whether bin Laden’s leadership in recent years was more symbolic than operational, whether he will be regarded by his gullible followers as a martyr or be irreplaceable in devising acts of inhumanity. It is hoped fervently that the damage to al-Qaida is enduring and fatal. Documents gathered from the place of his demise may shed light on the extent of his recent activities.
Obama promised during his 2008 presidential campaign that he intended to pursue bin Laden, with or without Pakistani permission if that brought American troops into that country. Indeed, the Pakistan government "had no idea" who was engaged in a military operation at the large compound in the city of Abbottabad, only an hour’s drive from the capital of Islamabad, said John O. Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser.
While it is difficult to imagine that the Pakistan government was unaware that bin Laden had been living in the compound, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised "continued cooperation" of the Pakistanis. It remains to wonder if Pakistan had given a blind eye to bin Laden not unlike the safe haven, albeit out of sight, that bin Laden had been afforded by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Obama emphasized in his speech Sunday that Americans are not at war with Islam. "Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader," Obama said. "He was a mass murderer" who "slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity."
Unfortunately, even without bin Laden’s participation, versions of al-Qaida remain in places like Mali, Mauritania and Yemen, where American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki uses the Internet to lure disturbed people such as Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood into acts of violence. The loose network of terrorism continues to pose a threat to civilized countries.
Sen. Daniel Akaka is right in warning that America "must not lose sight of the many national security challenges that still confront us." Those security measures at airports and elsewhere were annoying in the months following 9/11 but have become almost normal and routine.
But remember: "The American people did not choose this fight," Obama declared. "It came to our shores and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens." Recalling the horror of 9/11 in the context of bin Laden’s death is not cause for flamboyant jubilation — but it does evoke a somber sense of rightness. Much has changed for the worse in this world in the past decade — but perseverance has finally brought bin Laden’s end, and with it, the promise of change for the better. For now, as Obama so aptly said, "Justice has been done."