by Sundar J.M. Brown
More than 10 years of waiting have paid off. DNA testing has confirmed that one of the bodies recovered at the site of a 1-week-prior U.S. drone-launched missile strike in Pakistan, is that of Osama bin Laden**. Ironically, bin Laden has been confirmed as not having been killed by the drone strike but, rather, killed by a surgical ground assault led by U.S. Special Operations units composed primarily of U.S. Navy SEALs. The SEAL team was assisted by members of the C.I.A.’s Special Activities Division, a paramilitary branch reserved for covert and highly sensitive field operations.
Osama bin Laden has long been a symbol of the “war on terror”, a war which, really, had- and still has- very little to do with only terrorism. The world’s political leaders have yet to come to grips with, and have yet to pronounce an effectively agreed-upon consensus on the war on terror’s specific purpose and intent.
Most have continued to say that bin Laden and al-Qaeda and its allies are focused on destroying America and its integral principles of freedom and democracy and equality, all the while proclaiming Islam as the preeminent, “religion of peace.” U.S. and U.S.-Allied military efforts have, factually, very little to do with any of those issues. The conflict stems, and continues to press forward, from the way in which the West, and the United States in particular, interacts with, and enacts foreign policy with respect to what Muslims identify as the “Islamic world.”
Osama bin Laden is most significant because he is the person who became the quintessential figurehead of jihadi mythological heroism, the modern-day Islamist’s Odysseus or Hercules. Beginning in 1988, he was the person who spearheaded the transition of al-Qaeda from a chaotic grassroots militia into a single charismatic man leading an organized, efficient, well-funded movement with legitimate political clout.
At what has now become a mature stage, 25+ years “in the business” and ten-plus years after the 9/11 strikes, during which al-Qaeda and its allies, supporters and affiliates have continued to pursue an ever-increasing agenda of terror campaigns, bin Laden’s death will do little to stop those acts, or even the threat of them. It is more likely, in fact, to produce a blowback effect in which a torrent of hyper-violent and agressive attacks against primarily Western targets, domestic and abroad, is felt.
Revenge, to those of al-Qaeda’s ilk, is a cherished concept, particularly revenge for one so cherished as bin Laden. Osama’s death at the hands of an avowed enemy will guarantee his being raised to the highest echelons of martyrdom. Who among the radical, or even the moderately devoted will not seek to avenge their fallen hero to inflict their own skewed version of justice on those responsible for martyring their terrible saint?
Operationally, al-Qaeda and company (perhaps best described as the most successful contemporary “terror franchise”) have been acting on their own volition, divorced of the concept of official leadership, for an extended period of time. They possess the resources to continue on as such and will certainly use bin Laden’s death at U.S. hands as justification to refresh and bolster their resources for the next wave of terror attacks. The fight is not only not over- it is very likely just beginning anew.
My strong, strong recommendation is that the U.S. and the international intelligence communities should urge, with a great sense of immediacy, their respective governments to put strong, pre-emptive security measures in place.
For now, the head has been removed from the body of the snake (an apt analogy considering the jihadi penchant for beheading) and that is a solid first step. That is more than many of us had ever hoped for and there is a certain relief and closure to be found, especially for the families of the victims of any of the bin-Laden led al-Qaeda terror operations.
It’s a taste of justice; but, somehow, it’s not enough.
Let us remain vigilant in our fight against Islamic extremism. The Islamists will most certainly remain vigilant in theirs.
-Sundar J.M. Brown, Editor
**Ed. Note: The drone strike referred to in the first paragraph was sourced from an earlier intelligence report. As shown by photos and video of the presently intact structure of the building , the originally referenced drone strike has now been understood to not have been launched against bin Laden’s Abottabad, Paksitan compound. Rather, as reported, Osama bin Laden was killed by a surgical ground assault led by U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command’s SEAL Team 6. The SEAL team was assisted by members of the C.I.A.’s Special Activities Division, a paramilitary branch reserved for covert and highly sensitive field operations.
This is a continuing report. Ongoing analysis and commentary are forthcoming.