Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Few Thoughts on bin Laden

One of the best books I read this past year had nothing to do with China. It was Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll.

This book, obviously, has some resonance right now.

Hearing the accounts of the US elite forces swarming bin Laden's compound brought to mind a very memorable passage of Ghost Wars. It was another time, in 1999, when the US had bin Laden its sights.

From page 445:


Pick up the book to see how and why the US missed getting bin Laden at that time. Fascinating stuff.

Like nearly every American, Sunday night was an memorable experience for me. I was actually getting ready to go to bed early after a long weekend when I started seeing messages on Twitter talking about "a big press speech from Obama in the next few minutes."

Before I read anything else, I said to Qian, "I think we just killed bin Laden." A few minutes later, Twitter started blowing up with rumors that it the US had, in fact, killed bin Laden. And then a few minutes after that, every major news network began reporting that bin Laden was dead.

My stomach was buzzing and I got a wave of energy taking me later into the night. I definitely wasn't going to bed early.

Obama's speech (that he wrote himself) was incredible. He said everything that needed to be said. I was/am so proud to have him as my president.

Hearing the news of Osama's death was a great relief. I didn't feel the need to take to the streets and chant "USA" or anything, but I was most satisfied upon hearing the news. I would've cracked open a couple of the Boulevard Beers in my fridge had I not had to get up at 6:45 the next morning.

Americans know that burying Osama bin Laden under the Arabian Sea is not a silver bullet to end all Islamic extremism or terrorism or hatred directed towards the US. But it was an important event.

Al Qaeda, an organization already appearing to be on the decline, now has to have its first change of leadership at the top. The Arab Spring has already shown that Al Qaeda's promotion of death and destruction is not resonating like it was a decade ago. I'm cautiously optimistic that bin Laden's death will make the organization irrelevant.

9/11/2001 was during the third week of my freshman year of college. I'm smack dab in the middle of the US' "9/11 generation." The terrorism on US soil on 9/11 did not affect me 1/1,000,000th as much as it did thousands upon thousands of other Americans. But even in the midwestern US, far away from New York and Washington and Pennsylvania, I was rocked by 9/11 big-time.

Just as I hope bin Laden's death marks the end of Al Qaeda's influence, I hope that it symbolically marks the end of a really difficult era for the United States of America and its people.

Time will tell whether my hopes become reality.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've read that account in the 9/11 report and it's pretty fascinating stuff.

A few weeks back I felt like I was going out on a bit of a limb when I said Obama wasn't getting a fair shake and that I basically thought he would end up being the greatest president in my lifetime. Hopefully he can continue to progress that way.

The right, as usual, are finding ways to attack him for 'taking too much credit' blah blah blah... he has made constant reference to the team that carried this out and quite frankly, from everything I have read from sources close to all this, Obama was very hands on and deserves a lot of credit. Commander in Chief, damn straight he is.

How silly are all the birthers and Donald Trump looking right now. Looking back at the joke, at the correspondents dinner, Obama made comparing Donald Trump's decision to fire Gary Busey over Meatloaf as the same type of stuff that keeps him up at night seems like an incredible zing and possible strategic move in hindsight, since, all of the planning and stuff was going down at the same time. Good luck beating this guy in 2012.

The news truly felt like more of a 'relief' than anything to me as well. It did feel like the world became a nicer place, but I was a bit put off with all the over the top celebrating. It kinda came across as bloodlust to me, and bloodlust is what the terrorists are all about. I've always thought it would be nice if we could truly be above all that, but hey, humans are humans. Celebrating this is certainly different from the celebrating in the streets we have seen from extremists when innocent people have perished.