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Abbottabad is a city of 90,000 considered a suburb of Islamabad. The neighborhood where the mansion was located was upscale — home to many retired Pakistani military officers. It is not known how long bin Laden had been hiding there. It is believed he was chased out of hiding places in the rugged Northwest Frontier Provinces due to the deadly success of drone strikes that were very controversial in Pakistan but proved very effective at taking out high value al-Qaeda targets in the mountainous regions of the country.
Thousands of jubilant Americans gravitated to the White House chanting, “USA, USA” and waving numerous American flags. Their reaction is no doubt being repeated everywhere in the United States as a wave of unadulterated joy is sweeping the country. A great psychological weight seems to have been lifted from America’s citizenry, as news of the death of the taunting, cold blooded killer spreads.
Many thousands more gathered at Ground Zero in New York, singing “God Bless America” and waving flags. But the reaction there was understandably muted as many stood silently, alone with their thoughts, remembering an impossibly bright September day that ended in fire, and smoke, and death.
At a time of economic despair and uncertainty, a time of doubting our abilities to overcome obstacles and questioning our national greatness, the death of Osama bin Laden temporarily, at least, has lifted nation’s spirits and reminded us who we are and of what we are capable.
But it is important to remember that bin Laden’s death is more a symbolic statement — a clear marker on the long road to victory over Islamic extremism. He was a symbol of Islamic hatred toward the United States and the march of modernity that is being so fiercely resisted by the remnants of al-Qaeda, their franchises around the world, the Taliban, and other Islamic terrorist groups from Hamas, to Hezballah, to the Muslim Brotherhood. It is a blow to their self-esteem and their belief in the ultimate victory of their cause. That he should be shot down in a brilliant operation carried out by the American military only pours salt in their wounds.
Of course, with every victory in this war comes the realization that the enemy will seek to retaliate as quickly and as brutally as they can. The State Department has issued a travel warning, telling Americans abroad that there is an “enhanced potential for anti-American violence” in many areas where al-Qaeda garnered sympathy.
President Obama called former President Bush and gave him the good news. Bush issued a statementcalling the event a “momentous achievement” that “marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.”
More of this story will no doubt come out in the days and weeks ahead. But the epochal news that Osama bin Laden is dead will be a defining moment in the War on Terror and an event that serves to remind us that we can accomplish any goal as long as we put our minds to it.
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