This morning, the local news informed me that Osama bin Laden is dead. The first announcement came late last night, when the president told the world that, in a target operation, a small unit of U.S. Navy SEALs raided bin Laden's holdout in Pakistan. The leader of Al Qaeda was shot and killed, and his body, taken into custody by the U.S. military, was buried at sea.
When I heard the news, the first thought that occurred to me was, "Good." But my mind did not stop there.
Let get one thing out of the way before I continue my ponderings. I think that getting rid of bin Laden was a good thing. I'm not comfortable with and take no joy in the fact that he was killed. The killing of another person is never a good thing, no matter how justified, no matter what good may follow. The snuffing out of a life should not be celebrated. To do so, in my opinion, robs us of our humanity. Yet at the same time, this comes into conflict with the relief felt that the leader of a vast terrorist organization is gone.
Back to my musings. I thought for a moment about the announcement and the implications of the event. Of course, the very nature of the whole operation (who was involved, the claims made, the handling of it) lends itself to conspiracy mongering. The body was quickly disposed of at sea. "How convenient," would go a conspiracy-oriented mindset. Such thinking may give us a sense of power, the juvenile "I know something you don't know" glee stemming from a possibly misplaced sense of superiority.
Don't get me wrong, it's reasonable to ask, "Why take such rapid action to dispose of the body? And why by sea?" But for now, for the average person, it's a useless question. We have no means of determining the answers. We cannot go to the scene, verify the accounts. So, we need to make assumptions. We need to take the word of others as valid and, at least in some degree, truthful. It is reasonable to accept as true, at least for the moment, that bin Laden is dead.
What does that mean? There is almost certainly going to be a hell of a lot of political fallout from this. Some people rejoicing and the standing of the U.S. going up in certain regions. Others crying foul, with a corresponding slide in regard for this country.
Certainly, I would expect the Pakistani government to be, shall we say, a wee bit miffed at this. Our military engaged in operations on their sovereign soil, apparently without their knowledge or go ahead. That will have ramifications for relations between our countries. It could also be viewed as a similarly unacceptable act by other nations who already may have a somewhat negative view of us. The coming weeks and months will be a very tense time for international politics, to say the least.
This also creates a void in the terrorist organization. It is important to remember, Al Qaeda is still there. Only now, there will be new leadership stepping in. Whoever fills that void may turn out to be more skilled and clever than bin Laden. They may also be so inept as to lead to the eradication of the network as a whole. The reality will probably be somewhere in between. We can only hope that whoever takes over is less than competent. And regardless of who takes over, we can expect some manner of retaliation, but that would come even if bin Laden had merely been taken alive, rather than killed. To many of his supporters, he has been martyred.
To be certain, this is a momentous event and one that will be recorded in the history books. It is guaranteed that the days ahead will be very interesting ones, for better or worse.
As I said before, I am glad that bin Laden has been neutralized, though without joy at his death. I am relieved that he will not be able to wreak havoc, to plot and kill innocent people just trying to live their lives. Yet I am also filled with a sense of foreboding. We shall see what the future holds.
Edited to Add: Just thought I should add, that I my opinions come from a perspective of not having been directly affected by bin Laden. I don't personally know anyone who was killed as a result of his numerous plots. That said, I can at least get where the desire to rejoice over his death comes from. Musician Tim Minchin said it quite well in a pair of tweets, when someone asked him what there wasn't to celebrate about: