President Obama’s historic announcement late Sunday night that Osama bin Laden is dead represents a huge national security victory for the US and a milestone for this administration, bringing to a close the most relentless mission by US intelligence and military forces over the past 10 years.
Obama’s announcement, which came just before midnight, was grounds for celebration for a country still scarred by the attacks of September 11, 2001, producing a rare moment of national unity at a time of deep divisions on many domestic and foreign policy issues.
The spontaneous flag-waving crowds that gathered outside the White House, cheering and singing the national anthem and “God Bless America” were a small symbol of the emotional relief that swept across the country as the news broke late in the evening.
Bin Laden’s death will not end the threat posed by al Qaeda to the US and other parts of the world. But the demise of the person most responsible for the attacks on September 11, which killed about 3,000 people represents a major psychological setback to the terrorist organisation and a sizable boost for the president and the country.
“Justice has been done,” the president said in a televised statement to the nation.
There have been other victories over the past decade as US intelligence officials have pursued and killed other top members of the al Qaeda. But nothing compares in significance to the declaration Obama was able to make Sunday night. As the president put it, the killing of bin Laden marks “the most significant achievement to date in our efforts to defeat al Qaeda.”
The death of bin Laden will probably bring the country together.