Rest in peace, Osama bin Laden. And in death may you find the peace that in life you fought so vigorously against. May God be the judge of your soul, even as your deeds on earth have been judged by Men.
You were number one on the CIA’s most-wanted list even before 9/11, after which, of course you became a household name. The Afghan people suffered from your support for the Taliban regime, but the hunt was prolonged, and even as you managed to stay alive, the Al-Qaeda network was severed, and your influence waned. In the end, it had to come to this, and while the war on terror is not finished, your death is a fatal blow to the survival of your ideas.
As rejoicing broke out in Washington and New York last night, some people questioned: should we be rejoicing the death of a man? While a solemn respect for the dignity of human life – even that of bin Laden – is in order, my answer is yes. We should be rejoicing the end of a regime of terror, just as there was rejoicing at the end of WWII, or when the Berlin Wall came down. Barack Obama said in his address that Osama’s “demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity,” and I agree. In the long run, the world will be a better place for his death.
Thus Obama sums it up: “For over two decades, bin Laden has been Al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda.”
Politically, this is great news for Obama. He managed to pull off what George W never achieved, and his credentials as a warrior are thoroughly strengthened. Finally, the U.S. has good news to talk about. While much can happen in a year and a half, this will be remembered on Election Day in 2012.
On the other hand, history has moved on. Killing bin Laden was important, but it was the war of the last decade. The end of Al-Qaeda (if that be the result) also marks the end of terrorism as means for change in the Middle East. The uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, etc., are the new way. Finally, the man on the street is having his say. As Fareed Zakaria points out, America now needs to move from supporting dictatorships to democratic forces in the Middle East, as they have done previously in Asia and Latin America.
Obama also pointed out that “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.” People everywhere acknowledge that, and they are choosing another way. The death of Bin Laden may not bring peace right away (he still has some supporters left), but is an important milestone, marking a new way forward.