It is being reported that Osama bin Laden is dead. Reports, while somewhat sketchy, say that he was killed a week ago and that his body was somehow acquired by the US which performed DNA testing, comparing the body's DNA to that of a Bin Laden relative to prove identity. UPDATE: President Obama says the operation was carried out on Sunday, not a week ago.
UPDATE: It is being reported that after verifying the identity of the body as Osama bin Laden, the military dumped bin Laden's body in the ocean so that there would be no land-based place for radical islamists to think of as a shrine. This strikes me as good thinking as long as they kept good enough proof of Osama's death. I wonder if the fish and crabs will find the body to taste bad. And I wonder if, under Islam, being torn into tiny bits by sea creatures means someone can't go to terrorist heaven.
Initially, the reports were that he was killed by a bomb or missile, but further updates suggest that he was killed in a "ground operation" in a mansion in Abbottabad, a city in the northwest frontier region of Pakistan. UPDATE: Fox News reports that the town Osama was in includes a major Pakistani Army presence and that for Bin Laden to have been living in a home in this town raises questions about what the Army knew or didn't know about who was sleeping under their noses.
I'm a little ashamed to admit that after my initial moments of joy at the news, a small part of me thought of the potential beneficial impact on Barack Obama's reelection chances as the dark cloud on the other side of the silver lining. (I was in the car when the news hit so couldn't cancel my offer on Intrade.com of Barack Obama's re-election chances at 62%. I had gotten "filled" on that order by the time I got home. I guess that proves that I wasn't the only one thinking about the domestic political implication of the news.)
But even with a president as bad as this, that's just too cynical.
It's unvarnished good news that bin Laden is dead.
So what happens now? How will the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which have been hedging their bets, to put it politely, react?
How will the "Arab street" react?
And, keeping in mind the reported near-miss against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi in a bombing which may have killed his son, how will Gaddafi and the Libyan rebels react?
Another thing which occurs to me: If the bin Laden story remains more or less as we've learned prior to Barack Obama's speech this (Sunday) evening, how does it impact the argument by President Obama to keep the US out of the Libyan operation and more broadly to lessen the use of (and apologize for) American power.
Obama just started speaking as I'm typing and he made it clear that Osama was killed in an American operation -- a fitting end to the worst terrorist in history.
Obama recounted 9/11 and war in Afghanistan, noting that bin Laden kept escaping.
Obama tried to take credit for this event by saying that he directed CIA Director Leon Panetta to capture or kill bin Laden.
Obama said that the tip actually came to the intelligence community in August but that it was not until now that he felt the information was certain enough to act on. (This information will probably lead to some interesting questions, i.e. Why did it 9 months to take him out following the first tip?)
Obama: "A small team of Americans carried out the operation... After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body."
Obama said that this is "the most significant achievement to date" in the fight against al Qaeda -- which may be true.
He then offered some of his usual and possibly sincere (but possibly not) rhetoric about how we didn't start this fight, how we'll be "relentless" in defense of our citizens and our allies, etc.
He closed by addressing those who lost loved ones on 9/11, suggesting we should "think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11". I'm sure he didn't think that when George W. Bush was president...but then as I said there will be time later to discuss the domestic political implications of tonight's tremendous news.
All that said, I thought Obama's tone was essentially reasonable, not overly jubilant, and essentially bipartisan. Better than usual for our campaigner-in-chief, but even he knows better than to campaign on a night like this.
One question raised by the death of Osama bin Laden is whether al Qaeda "prime" or offshoots will attempt terrorist acts more aggressively in the short term to fight back against the tremendous psychological blow against the organization as well as to wrangle for their own superiority within it.
Finally, I would note the crowds around the White House around midnight (Eastern time) chanting "USA", waving American flags, and cheering -- and compare that to the dancing in the streets we saw in the Palestinian Territories after the 9/11 attacks nearly a decade ago. Celebrating the death of a murderer versus celebrating murder. A stark contrast indeed.
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