It's been a long time since we had some good news in the global war on terrorism, which explains, in part, the spontaneous patriotic demonstrations that took place in the hours following President Barak Obama's dramatic announcement that U.S. special forces had killed the terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
We remember the scenes of people in the Mideast cheering and jeering and burning the U.S. flag after 9/11. So it was appropriate that Americans would gather to cheer and wave the American flag after the death of bin Laden.
We needed this.
A White House spokesperson called it "the gutsiest call" he'd ever seen a president make, but Obama made the right call in how this should be handled.
A missile or bomb strike may have accomplished the same thing -- and been safer -- but using a special operations team to go in and get him made our revenge a man-to-man conflict. It wasn't about technological superiority, a souless killing by a missile launched from the sky. An American serviceman faced him down, looked him in the eye -- and shot him dead. In the last moments of his despicable life, he met the human face of our revenge. The man who killed him (believed to be a U.S. Navy Seal although it may be a long time before we know his name) was the executioner of a justice long denied.
He, and the other members of his team, and the unknown intelligence analysts and field agents who tracked bin Laden down, are heroes.
Our revenge was not unnecessarily brutal, either. We did not drag his body through the street and mutilate it, as we've seen happen to Americans who have fallen in the bloodbaths that bin Laden launched. Instead, having achieved our justice, we granted his body the right of a proper Islamic burial, and did so at sea, so there would be no shrine for his followers to mark. Even this was handled well.
Perhaps more importantly, by taking the riskier approach of using ground forces, we were able to seize a priceless trove of documents and data on al Qaeda and its organization and operations. This, in the long run, may actually be even more important than bin Laden's death, itself. All around the world you can hear the rat-like scutter of al Qaeda operatives fleeing to what they hope are safe houses as they hide from our retribution.
Only a fool would believe bin Laden's death is an end to the war against terrorists. We had bottled him up pretty tightly for many years. As a result, al Qaeda was forced to become decentralized. There are command cells all over the world that are planning operations against us and the rest of the western world. They no longer need to wait on bin Laden's approval to send out their action team cells. The next few months could be particularly dangerous here and in Europe.
But with the information we now have, you can bet more special operations teams from McDill AFB in Florida (the home of the Joint Special Operations Command where our nation's most elite units are gathered), are already preparing to move against those terrorist command cells. It may very well become a race to see which happens first. Can we smash those cells before they can execute more terrorist operations?
By the very nature of the conflict, it's a very tough job. We may not get them all -- yet.
But in the long run, we believe this marks the beginning of the end for al Qaeda.
The terrorists now understand that we will never give up. Their days are numbered and their own belief in their invincibility has been shaken to its very foundations.
It was a bad day for the terrorists.
It was a good day for America.