Osama bin Laden is dead. So what happens now?

I originally wrote this BEFORE the president’s announcement. As you can see, I’ve now updated it with the video…

Waiting for President Obama to make the announcement that Osama bin Laden is dead.

And wondering what happens now. I’ve wondered that for 10 years: If bin Laden is dead, what does it change? Does the struggle end? Of course not. He’s now a martyr. But it’s still a huge moment.

And what will the president tell us it means, as he sees it? This is so un-Obama — Under my leadership, we have killed our enemy — what will he say? And what will he tell us to expect next? What will he say HE intends to do?

What does this mean NOW, against the context of the turmoil, the rise of democracy, sweeping through the region?

If I were the president, I’m not sure what I would say. So I’m preparing to watch, and listen.

I expect you are, too.

If you’d like to react, here’s a place to do it…

66 thoughts on “Osama bin Laden is dead. So what happens now?

  1. Brad

    For everyone, the reaction will be different. For Anton Gunn, whose brother was killed on the USS Cole well before 9/11, it’s very personal:

    “I am so emotional right now! #OsamaBinLaden is DEAD! We got the evil man that killed my brother Cherone and his shipmates on the #USSCole!”

    … and…

    “After 11 years of pain & anguish for my family and many others, we finally have a small sense of closure and justice! #OsamaBinLaden DEAD!”

  2. Brad

    Those people outside the White House, singing the Star-Spangled Banner… what the?

    What do they think this is, a football game?

    This is a serious, sober, and dangerous moment, people. It’s not time to party.

    Do people really see the world in such simplistic terms?

    OK, sober, grim satisfaction at the accomplishment of long-deferred justice. But cheering and singing? What’s WITH these people? Do they not realize this is a deadly serious, grownup world, filled with complexity?

    I mean, let’s just start with his being found in a mansion outside Islamabad. Someone said our killing him there will increase tension in our relationship with Pakistan?

    Yeah, and the tension should start with us say, WTF was he doing their in the burbs outside your capital? We thought he was in those wild territories you say you can’t control.

    But of course, EVERY part of Pakistan is unstable and conflicted. This underlines that. If we really sent in boots on the ground to get him, that PROBABLY means some level of cooperation with somebody there, even as other well-placed people work against us.

    But I should shut up. I’m sitting here doing what I criticize 24/7 TV “news” for doing all the time — killing time speculating when they don’t know.

    And I don’t know. Not yet…

  3. Juan Caruso

    Now what? Ayman al-Zawahiri, the putative al-Qaeda leader, formally becomes the number one.

    Problem solved? hardly.

  4. Brad

    The people on CNN right now are trying to get in touch with the proper emotion for the moment.

    How about we get in touch with the right THOUGHT? The precisely right thought… that’s the trick at a moment like this.

  5. Brad

    OK, the president is starting with an eloquent nod to those shared national emotions.

    I’m looking forward to him being equally eloquent in telling us what it happens, and what it means going forward…

  6. Brad

    “We will be relentless…”

    “Justice has been done…”

    Wow, that was some operation. It WAS boots on the ground. With no US casualties. Our guys really got the job done.

    “We can do these things not because of wealth and power.. but because of who we are.”

    He did a good job of explaining, to anyone who needs to be told, why this action was just.

    … what a dramatic entrance and exit. Walking down that corridor completely alone, at the start and the end. Emphasizes the loneliness of command, even when one has such fantastic people to command.

  7. Mark Stewart

    Let’s feed him to the fish. And move on.

    This does not connect with 9/11 for me. It’s past tense; good to hear but that’s all.

  8. patrick

    This lady no FOX NEWS cell phone was ringing during their convo… Will we have gas again??

  9. Brad

    “His death does not mark the end of our effort.”

    I hope everybody heard that — especially those absurd, drunken (at least, I HOPE they have the excuse of being drunk) kids yelling outside the White House. SUCH a wrong note.

    Want to know how to act at such a moment? Obama got it exactly right. The crowd outside has it exactly wrong.

  10. Brad

    Ummm… I was just clicking around channels, and am I tripping, or is somebody on ETV talking about Beowulf?

  11. patrick

    i have a physical at MEPS tomorrow morning.. i cant imagine what the enviroment will be like when i arrive 5:30am…

  12. patrick

    yeah, pretty much. i honestly doubt anything will happen.. i mean, he was the one who led and organized everything terrorist related. people went to him when it came to who/what/when/how to kill.. am i right in any sense?? sure, there’re other people. but u just dont suddenly go from 1 major terrorist leader to another in a matter of 24hrs. nonetheless, i pray for this to be a smooth recovery process for us in america.

  13. Pat

    Reports from families of 911 victims acknowledge that it won’t bring their family members back but feel some satisfaction that he, as the mastermind, is gone. As to the revelers, there was some mention that it was good news to New Yorkers. The people in the bars are getting the news first. President Obama set the proper tone in his announcement. I think his use of “justice served” will be well received and understood internationally. It is where we should have been to start with. BBC is reporting it and has a full obituary already…
    for me, I am thankful we have brave men and women who risk their lives for our security. They deserve our loyalty and support and our continuous prayers.

  14. patrick

    they say al qaeda has franchised around the world hmm. generally, franchises revolve around 1 main establishment. the main establishment is dead 😀 so theoretically speaking, what franchises? lol

  15. Brad

    Patrick, I don’t know how much of a “leader” of anything bin Laden was for the last few years. Calling radical Islamism a decentralized, multilateral movement seems an extreme understatement — from al Qaeda to the Muslim Brotherhood to certain factions in Somalia to Hamas to the Mullahs in Iran to… well, it goes on and on. Sometimes it’s a twisted perversion of Islam. Sometimes it’s a geopolitical calculation. Sometimes it’s a general reaction against modernity. And that’s just talking motivation. Organizationally, you have all sorts of cells, movements, factions, even armies.

    It’s not like taking out a president or a prime minister or a general or the head of anything that conventionally organized…

  16. Brad

    I think I’m going to hit the sack myself. There will be much more known, and more comment on, in the morning…

  17. Brad Warthen

    One last comment… This was apparently a stunningly skillful and daring operation carried out by U.S. Navy Seals — a feat of arms with few modern parallels in recent history.

    I can’t think of such a dramatic, and successful, coup de main operation since the IDF’s raid on Entebbe in the 70s. And before that… I don’t know.

    It’s pretty amazing. Whatever else there is to say about this, there is a group of Americans who just did their jobs with incredible competence.

    Good night.

  18. Phillip

    my own random thoughts at 4 AM:

    1) more a symbolic piece of badly-needed good news for the entire nation, than an actual substantive change in our day-to-day national well-being or security. But it does dovetail nicely with the beginnings of evidently a very different chapter in Arab history that seems to be unfolding this spring across the region.

    2) I’m with you: how could this guy have been sitting safely in this mansion for 6 years, a house 8 times larger than all the ones around it, it what seems to be basically a suburb of the capital of a country that is purported to be our “ally”?

    3) Watch as dignified discussion of this, tasteful interviews with families of 9/11 victims, all degenerates rapidly on-air into discussion of how this all affects “the horse race” in 2012. This degeneration should be complete within, oh, about 3 days.

    4) I’ll second your 1:06 AM comment: we have to really salute the extreme bravery and precision and competence of the team that carried out this operation.

  19. Phillip

    best summation I’ve seen is Ross Douthat’s in NYT: “whatever blunders we make (and we have made many), however many advantages we squander (and there has been much squandering), and whatever quagmires we find ourselves lured into, our civilization is not fundamentally threatened by the utopian fantasy politics embodied by groups like Al Qaeda…They can strike us, they can wound us, they can kill us. They can goad us into tactical errors and strategic blunders. But they are not, and never will be, an existential threat.”

  20. bud

    Let’s not forget the tireless work the president did as commander in chief to bring this operation to a successful conclusion. It really does matter who our leader is. Thankfully we have someone competent in charge.

  21. Karen McLeod

    If I heard him aright, this operation was also carried out with the knowledge and approval of at least some Pakistani government officials. That is very good. As for why/how bin Laden could stay hidden in a luxury house in a Pakistani “burb,” the answer is, probably much more easily than he could in an isolated area or a small hovel, given the push to find him. I couldn’t have guaranteed that he wasn’t hiding out in a manse in a D.C. burb, and I doubt that any one else could have either. Money, technology, and comfort can allow one to stay hidden longer far better than cave creeping.

    I appreciate that Pres. Obama prefaced his remarks be restating that we were not at war with Islam (and he reminded folks that Mr. Bush said the same thing). I think that this statement was important for foreign listeners (and some of ours) to hear.

    Of course, the celebratory nature of the crowds outside was over the top; but that’s what people in a mob do, heterodyne emotional states until they’re way beyond appropriate. I’m just glad that they were happy mobs, and hope that none of them found anyone to turn on.

  22. Karen McLeod

    @Phil re: #3. I think we could do a pool on this (a news channel/time grid) if we get moving on it promptly. Oh, it’s 9:30 the next AM–probably too late.

  23. Ralph Hightower

    BREAKING NEWS: Osama Bin Laden is DEAD and Donald Trump now demands that The White House produce the Death Certificate.

    I’m overjoyed that bin Laden is dead. I hope its body became chum for the sharks.

  24. bud

    As a follow up to Ralph’s comment, this is probably not too far off the mark since Bin Laden was buried at sea. Who’s to say it wasn’t all faked to help boost the president’s approval ratings.

  25. Karen McLeod

    One can hope that they have sure, obvious proof that he’s dead; otherwise, someone’s sure to claim he’s not. After the silliness re: presidential citizenship in this country, I’m not sure what that would be. Maybe an affidavit from Satan himself?

  26. Brad

    Bud, we should all give President Obama full credit for playing his leadership role well. But don’t make the political mistake of thinking this happened because he is president. This is more about stellar work by nameless, ground-level people in our military and our much-maligned intelligence services.

    There is one sense in which Obama was a critical factor, though. It’s complicated. I think I’ll do a separate post about it…

  27. Steven Davis

    What bud doesn’t realize is that all Obama did was give the order to go in. He did none of the leg work, he was just given the choice of Yes or No as to go in when his military advisors presented their case to him.

  28. Bart

    Based on a MSNBC article, the link was found when the name of one of OBL’s trusted couriers was revealed in 2007. His trail has been followed since then and finally, tracked OBL to the compound in Pakistan and his presence there finally confirmed recently.

    Seems to me, the competence, leadership, and relentless pursuit by our intelligence community and the military is of prime importance, not Obama or Bush, in bringing about the end of a monster.

  29. Doug Ross

    This is how the “War” on Terror SHOULD be fought. Specific targets eliminated with precision using all our intelligence resources… not heavy handed “shock and awe” occupation that does more to goad the terrorists and aid their recruting efforts.

    Next stop for the Navy SEALS should be Libya. Tap, tap… and then onto the next dictator.

  30. Brad

    The paranoids may say what they like. And fear not; they will. But Osama is dead. As Clemenza said of Paulie Gatto, “You won’t see him no more.” and you won’t.

    As for burial at sea: I’m glad we don’t have his body. What were we going to do with it — drag it through the streets? Leave such barbarism to our enemies. We buried him within 24 hours in respect to Islamic law. And did it at sea so there would be no macabre shrine.

    Good call.

  31. Chris Oder

    Thanks for your early comments RE: celebrations. Was starting to think I was the only one thinking like you.

  32. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    NPR says that Al Qaeda is not a serious threat–just a few hundred zealots left–not that they can’t do a bit of trouble–they just can’t bring down western civilization –without our consent.

    I also felt a weird mix of triumph and sadness–USA Number One! and how sad that so many people died for nothing.

  33. bud

    But don’t make the political mistake of thinking this happened because he is president.

    Why not? If Bush had been president don’t you think the GOP loonies would be going nuts over this? Seriously folks the president deserves a fair amount of credit for seeing this thing through. Remember George W. let Obama get away and failed to get him on his watch. I find it so refreshing to have a competent, bright, hard-working leader in charge. He’s not rashly going in to places like Iran and Libya. Not sure why we still have troops in Iraq but otherwise Obama is doing an outstanding job keeping our foreign involvements to a minimum. I’ll go so far as to bet the troop buildup in Afghanistan played a role in the Bin Laden operation. Damn right I’m going to give the president credit. He deserves it.

  34. Brad

    Yep, if this had happened on Bush’s watch — which could have happened, given the right intel breaks, just as easily as on Obama’s — partisans on the right would want to give him credit. And they’d be just as wrong as you.

    What I give Obama credit for is continuity and sober responsibility — for some of the very things about him that disappoint you. Given the opportunity, he did exactly what Bush, and McCain, and Clinton (I think — I’m a little uncertain about Clinton, who had a serious aversion to boots on the ground, preferring cruise missiles), Bush Sr., Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Jerry Ford, Nixon, and on back would have done.

    I give Obama credit for NOT abandoning US security responsibilities in the world. I give him particular credit for his aggressive posture toward pursuing our enemies into Pakistan. More about that in a separate post.

    And I give him credit for performing his leadership function of explaining it to the nation — something he IS better at than Bush, although Bush occasionally read a halfway decent speech hitting the right points, too (just not nearly often enough).

    But this is mostly a triumph for the military and intelligence people who usually labor in obscurity. They brought us to this point, as they would have done under any other president in my lifetime given the right circumstances. And the president gave the “go” as any other president would likely have done, and this president rose well to the occasion of telling the nation about it, and hitting the right points.

    But the astounding thing is that this coup de main was carried out so effectively, right smack in the middle of Pakistan. And it was the intel folks and the people on the ground primarily, their flight crews, all the communications, logistics and other people directly involved, who pulled off the miracle.

  35. bud

    Sorry Brad but I just don’t agree on minimizing the president’s role. He didn’t do the planning or intel but his level of involvement WAS important. Things can go wrong with these types of operations as exemplified by the failed hostage rescue attempt on Jimmy Carter’s watch. I like Carter on most things but his micro-managing probably did a diservice to that operation. And just at 9-11 itself. There was a failure by the president to charge of a situation when the right intelligence was available. Going back to World War II the president played a major role in the decision to use the atomic bomb. In Korea Truman didn’t like what he saw and fired McArthur. Let’s wait to all the facts come out on this operation but I’m willing to bet the president played a much larger role than the naysayers give him credit for.

  36. Karen McLeod

    Brad, you are correct in giving the credit to the unnamed people in our intelligence and our military for getting the work done. But someone had to give the order. Mr. Obama came through well. He made sure of his intel (as sure as one can be), making sure that he knew what it was, not what he wanted it to be. He didn’t go in there with a major invasion. We really don’t need war with Pakistan if we have a choice. He also chose to do it as a covert op, with a specific target, thus ensuring that whoever was in that compound was taken out, without a bunch of “collateral damage” (what a noxious term for killing people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.)

    I think Mr. Obama deserves some credit for arranging for binLaden’s demise in such a way as to encourage our would be allies in the middle east without inciting further violence.

  37. Brad

    Who’s a naysayer!?!?!? I’m applauding like crazy. But I am most certainly rejecting the idea that this happened BECAUSE Obama was president. That’s ridiculous. You wouldn’t accept such an assertion if this intel break had happened on Bush’s watch, and you’d be RIGHT.

    The president did his job and did it well, but this did NOT happen BECAUSE of him.

    Karen, seriously come on: “someone had to give the order”… can you think of a president in your lifetime who would not have?

    “He made sure of his intel” — who wouldn’t have? Who would have wanted to go without all the operational intelligence available?

    “He didn’t go in there with a major invasion.” Who would have? NOBODY. There was no way that ANY president in my lifetime would have invaded THIS country under THESE circumstances. To make a comparison between this and Iraq goes FAR beyond apples and oranges. It’s like apples and some food product from another planet. One has to completely misunderstand the two situations to conflate them.

    Your comment about “collateral damage” is, I suppose, a fling at Bill Clinton, who vastly preferred cruise missiles to boots on the ground. The way to be MOST careful about protecting civilians is to put your own people most at risk, which we did in this case. It’s a testament to their skill that they took the initiative so totally that they got it done without US casualties.

    But there WAS collateral damage — a woman killed and others wounded. That’s war.

  38. Bob

    Celebrating death in battle is wrong. When war is declared (as bin Laden did), you live with the consequences of that choice, including death. True warriors do not celebrate death; we celebrate victory. We have won a battle; the war against extremism continues.

  39. bud

    “He made sure of his intel” — who wouldn’t have?


    Are you freakin kidding me? Give me a break. That is just about the most astonishing thing that’s ever been posted on this blog. Seriously you are kidding aren’t you? Have you forgotten the whole (drum roll) Iraq debacle?

  40. don w

    While we’re at it, give credit to JFK for having the foresight to form the Seals in 1962.

  41. Mike F.

    The president who hires competent people and establishes teamwork gets credit for their success.

    Rumsfeld? Porter Goss at CIA? No teamwork there. No success, either.

  42. Doug Ross

    Based on Bush’s performance on utilizing intelligence in the past, had he been President when this happened he would have been on TV last night explaining why the Navy SEALS had executed a camel in Mongolia.

  43. Mark Stewart

    So can we begin to more realistically assess Pakistan now?

    Or maybe that was the bigger message that Obama IS responsible for with the insertion of a Seal Team to target bin Laden: Pakistani sovereignty could not be respected because the Pakistani’s themselves had so corrupted that basic premise of statehood.

  44. Steven Davis

    @bud – Part of the reason he wasn’t caught before is because we were relaying plans to the Pakistani government who were relaying it to Bin Laden. It’s difficult not to get caught when the enemy is telling you when and where they’re going to be. This time we went in without telling anyone and guess what… he was there.

  45. Brad

    Bob Amundsen, that was very well said, sir.

    Folks, Don W is my Dad. He served with some Seals in Vietnam — when their existence was stll secret.

  46. Karen McLeod

    No, Brad. I’m not saying that this happened because Mr. Obama is prez. I’m saying that as prez, he made the decisions that gave this mission a good chance to be successful. Bombing the place was considered. He rejected that. Good. There would have been a great risk of collateral damage if bombs had been dropped on a populated burb. In addition, with bombs, you can’t be sure to kill the person you want, where as a bullet thru a person’s head is pretty specific. As I understand it, the woman who was killed was being used as a shield by one of binLaden’s men (how brave!). That makes her their collateral damage in my book. The others were fighters, maybe. At least it wasn’t an unsuspecting family in another house. And good intel? If you haven’t heard by now which intel Bush chose to use, when there were conflicting reports, well…no use arguing at this point.

  47. Steven Davis

    The only people I’m going to congratulate is Seal Team 6. Those sitting in an air conditioned situation room are nothing more than spectators.

  48. Bart

    History lesson: After our intelligence community was emasculated and emaciated, reliable, boots on the ground intel was practically non-existent and we had to depend on other countries to supply us with even the most basic intel on anything outside our borders and activities of terrorists.

    Yes, once again repeating the same old tired argument, the intel on Iraq was flawed and ultimately, proved to be false. However, and all too many are prone to conveniently forget, Clinton and many prominent Democrats were privy to the same intel Bush was and they arrived at the same conclusion.

    In a July 22, 2003 interview on Larry King Live, Clinton made the following statement: “People can quarrel with whether we should have more troops in Afghanistan or internationalize Iraq or whatever, but it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons.”

    If nothing else was accomplished by going into Iraq, it was to “NOT” rely on intel until it was confirmed, vetted, and reconfirmed. So, Obama did the right thing by waiting until the intel was thoroughly vetted and confirmed. As sitting president, he could not follow any other course of action once he was satisfied it was valid and Bin Laden was in the compound.

    Damn, ya think it is possible for some to dismount their ideological high horses for a few minutes and allow the country to celebrate a victory without partisan politicizing it to hell and back?

  49. Burl Burlingame

    Clinton tried to nail OBL but waited too long for conclusive intelligence, and he slipped away. Whatever happened on the ground, it’s always the commander’s Go or No-Go decision. There’s some evidence that the hunt for OBL got very focussed after Obama came on board.

  50. Kathy

    Congratulations to our whole nation, the Seals, the intel people who worked on this, and President Obama. One of the main lessons I think our leaders should draw from this is that we need a strong CIA and that we need to give robust support to the Seals, Rangers, Special Forces, etc. It’s an extremely dangerous world regardless of who is president or who is on the “most wanted” list.

  51. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    FWIW, if we hadn’t lost most of our Arab translators to DADT,we might have done this sooner, I understand.

  52. Brad

    You ARE making a joke there, right? I mean, exaggerating a liberal talking point for ironic effect? Right?

  53. Doug Ross

    From the AP story:

    “One of the dead was Osama bin Laden, done in by a double tap — boom, boom — to the left side of his face. “

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