Editorial: Another day to remember
ě… The United States will focus its military and counterintelligence powers on tracking down the extremists who were behind the attack and those who harbored and abetted them. It should be implacable in its determination to find those who orchestrated this murderous attack and bring them to justice.î
It has been almost a decade since those words appeared in a Salisbury Post editorial of Sept. 12, 2001, the day after terrorist attacks claimed nearly 3,000 lives on American soil.
Little could anyone have guessed then how much our determination would be tested in the coming years. Little did we know the false trails justice might go down before bringing to ground Osama bin Laden, founder of al-Qaida and the mastermind behind the attacks.
Many other terrorist operatives have been killed or captured since then, including 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, currently held at Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed in Iraq in 2006. But bin Ladenís ability to elude capture ó including a narrow escape in Afghanistan in 2002 ó had deprived the United States of a key goal with symbolic as well as strategic importance. While his minions attended to the details, bin Laden remained terrorist-in-chief, hectoring his holy warriors to continue slaughtering Americans. Periodically appearing in videos broadcast to the world, he was the ghostly face of an often invisible enemy.
Bin Ladenís death isnít the end of the war on terror. Short term, it may incite more attempts at retributive attacks. It is a turning point. While Americans never lost faith in the military and intelligence forces involved in this battle, bin Ladenís survival was a bitter reminder of unfinished business ó a mission not yet accomplished. No matter how many attacks were thwarted, how many terror cells unearthed, his survival was salt in a nationís collective wounds. The fact that he continued to live while innocents died was an affront to decency as well as justice. His aura of invincibility, even as Afghanistan and then Iraq fell, was also a powerful marketing tool in the recruiting of young jihadists.
Now, thanks to a heroic and brilliantly executed operation inside Pakistan ó planned by special forces and ordered by President Obama ó bin Laden lies at the bottom of the ocean, a fitting end for one who plumbed the depths of evil.
Closure is an overused word. Yet while bin Ladenís death doesnít signal the end of al-Qaida, it does provide a deeply satisfying close to one chapter. It wonít bring back innocent civilians and fallen troops nor will it soak up a single tear shed by those who mourn them. It isnít a final victory, but it is a promise kept and justice resolutely delivered.