Osama bin Laden meets fitting fate

Guest Editorial
There is no overstating the impact that the Sept. 11 terror attacks had on the lives of all Americans. We knew people who died at Ground Zero, or escaped the horrible wreckage. The attacks led us into war.

The mastermind of those attacks, Osama bin Laden, is dead, just months before the 10th anniversary of that assault on our American pride and dignity. If it does not provide closure, bin Laden’s death does matter. An enemy, if not the evil cause he led, is defeated.

Bin Laden was a force for evil, who declared war on the United States using nothing more than a bastardized form of religion as his justification. It is easy to forget that before the Sept. 11 attacks, his al-Qaida network also caused the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors.

President Obama and the high-level leaders acted completely correctly to authorize the high-stakes raid Sunday that left bin Laden dead of a gunshot to the head. This was no time for diplomacy or for sharing precious secrets with even allies. The opportunity to apprehend, or kill, this murderer had to be seized.

Long after the relief felt after his death has faded, the lasting question is what it will mean. Our nation should make no pretense that the war on terror is over, or that we can relax our guard.

While our military and intelligence have cut off the head of the snake, the short-term threat is that some remnants of al-Qaida will organize attacks. Don’t expect to stop taking off shoes or going through invasive security the next time you travel by air.

More broadly, getting rid of bin Laden should lead to fresh questions about the way we are fighting for our nation’s safety abroad.

Bin Laden, effectively, was hiding in plain sight, not holed away in a mountain cave, but in a large compound right under the nose of Pakistan’s military. If Pakistani leaders were not aware of, or chose to ignore, his presence, what does that say for the wisdom of pumping $1.3 billion of our money into their government?

Some, no doubt, will view the weekend’s events as a step toward ending our military’s involvement in Afghanistan. The United States started fighting there 10 years ago because the Taliban provided safe haven to al-Qaida. The nation’s leadership is still not stable, and if the United States were to walk away, it would be naive to believe that terrorists wouldn’t be protected again.

The real legacy of bin Laden is that he and his followers have made the United States and the world less safe. Just as Pearl Harbor affronted our national pride, the Sept. 11 attacks stunned all Americans with the reality that we could be assaulted on our own soil. Today, we question a backpack left unattended in a public place. By necessity, our local police have plans in case of terrorism.

Our nation has shown, too, that evil will not go unpunished. The man whose agenda took too many lives himself will not live out his life plotting more harm. We have renewed respect for our intelligence networks, and we are in awe of the brave special forces who carried out this mission.

Osama bin Laden is dead. The world will not be free from terror, but it is better off without him.