Before I get around to those two blogs I mentioned last time, circumstances dictate that I write something about the big news today: last night, US Navy SEALS were given clearance by the CIA and President Obama to conduct an assault on a fortified compound in Pakistan, in the process killing Al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden. It's been almost ten years since the 9/11/01 attacks that he inspired and celebrated, and one of the largest manhunts in history is over. Naturally, Facebook and Twitter lit up with commentary, most of it celebratory, with a small minority of muted reaction to the celebration of the death of another human.
While I'm not the type of person who celebrates the killings of others, I do celebrate justice. And this, I believe, is the closest we could have come to carrying out justice for this man and his thousands of victims. Had he been captured and sent to trial, he would have been given a platform to proclaim his warped and twisted views about war and Western culture. Had he been captured and given a military tribunal, his acolytes would carp about the secrecy of the trial and pronounce it a miscarriage of American justice. And if the pursuit for him ended with no success, he would be viewed as victorious over all the resources of military might and intelligence gathering that were used to hunt him down. A government has not only the right but the responsibility to protect its citizens and remove the clear threats of those who would kill them, and a man who has used his own fortune to raise armies, train them, and convince them that hijacking airplanes and blowing up office buildings is noble--that man must never be allowed to continue to be a threat, and his followers must never be allowed to think that he can get away with it. To do otherwise shows weakness that invites more misguided leaders to strike the innocent.
The current war has been an unusual one--we do not fight a government, but an idea. Our Civil War and World War II--combined--took less time for us to fight. As former President Bush noted early on, many of our successes have been kept secret, for to proclaim them would alert the enemy to our tactics. In such a conflict, those who have endured losses often have little assurance that we are winning, that their sacrifices were worth it. This event, hopefully, gives them that assurance.
As far as what it means to the current situation in Afghanistan, today has been a very normal day. The nature of the Al-Qaida terror network is such that there is very little centralized leadership, and bin Laden himself probably had little to do with the plans and activities of the insurgents here. His loss to them is symbolic more than strategic, though as a symbol his defeat is--we hope--a very powerful one. Just as we continue fighting to prevent dangerous men from filling the power vacuum left by the Soviets, then the Taliban, so we must continue fighting to prevent another, possibly more dangerous, idealogue from taking his place. My job here continues to be playing music to support and encourage our troops, and to train personnel in the Afghan National Army. And I expect that will continue to be my mission until my twelve-month tour is up. But I do hope that these events are a reminder to our allies and our enemies...we always get our man, and we don't stop until the job is done.