America reacts to Osama bin Laden death

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Chants of “USA, USA” spread like wildfire Sunday night as Americans learned Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaida terrorist organization responsible for the Sept. 11  attacks on American soil, had been killed by U.S. forces.

His death was the result of almost 10 years of searching and intelligence work, as well as a specific lead to a hideout location discovered by the government in mid-February.

U.S. officials said the lead pointed toward a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden was thought to reside. The belief stemmed from intelligence analysis about the $1 million custom-built compound, which had 18-foot high walls, two security gates and no phone or Internet.

The knowledge was kept secret, but President Barack Obama chaired five National Security Council meetings during March and April. The final meeting was last Thursday, one day before he ordered the mission which resulted in the al-Qaida mastermind’s death.

The military operation began when two dozen troops from Navy SEAL Team Six, a top military counter-terrorist unit, entered the hideout in Abbottabad, according to U.S. officials. After 40 minutes of firefight, during which bin Laden was killed, the troops left by helicopter.

Four others in the compound were also killed, one of them identified as bin Laden’s son.

In a short speech confirming bin Laden’s death, Obama referred to a sense of unity that prevailed on Sept. 11. He said although that unity has frayed at times, the day’s achievement was a testament to the greatness and determination of the American people.

“Tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to,” he said. “That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.”

He also noted, however, the war on terrorism is far from over.

This idea was expanded upon on Monday morning when initial celebrations turned to questions surrounding details and thoughts of what happens next.

Jeffrey Drope, an assistant professor of political science at Marquette, said although many Americans sense a feeling of victory, there is also a feeling of unease. He said bin Laden’s death does not solve more systematic problems.

“U.S.-Pakistani relations may be even more awkward in the short to medium term,” he said. “It’s not clear what the relationship was between the two countries for the operation, and I’m certain we will not know for a long time.”

Drope also commented on al-Qaida retaliation, which is a fear many Americans have considered.

“I can only imagine the U.S. has significantly increased security at U.S. military bases and diplomatic missions,” he said. “There is a possibility of retaliation, but it will be difficult to distinguish a retaliatory attack from one that would have happened at some point anyway.”

An example of this was seen in posts made online by one senior al-Qaida ideologue who went by the name of Assad Jihad2. The individual posted a eulogy for bin Laden on numerous websites, according to Al-Jazeera, an Arabic-language news network. He also promised to “avenge the killing of the Sheik of Islam.”

Al-Jazeera also noted the Pakistani Taliban threatened attacks against government leaders, including Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani army and the United States.

Other questions centered around bin Laden’s burial at sea.

Many Muslims adhere to the tradition that bodies should be buried within one day. Drope suggested the burial may have been done for strategic purposes.

He said the “burial at sea” could be removed from physical reality to ensure no place would be symbolic of bin Laden’s death.

“There was no grisly display of the body that might have provoked severe reactions,” Drope said. “I’m sure this was all by careful design.”

Bin Laden’s death will slightly change the U.S. government’s focus from the past 10 years. Yet there is a specific group of people it will affect even more: soldiers and those in training.

Cadet Michael Ploetz, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and ROTC member, said bin Laden’s death came as a great victory for all members of the United States Military, as well as cadets.

He also said he and many of his fellow cadets joined the military in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, and it is important to remember that thousands of men and women dedicated the last 10 years of their lives to make bin Laden’s capture a reality.

“As a cadet, this victory serves as a great motivator,” Ploetz said. “However, the job is not done and our soldiers are still over there fighting to protect the people of Afghanistan … the mission hasn’t changed.”

The statements made by Cadet Michael Ploetz are of his own opinion, not of the United States Army, WI National Guard or Marquette army ROTC.

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