He had been a figurehead for nearly two decades. To his supporters, he was an idealist and idol, one who fought for what he believed in. To his opponents, he was a mad man, the mass murderer responsible for the deaths of thousands. Regardless of his stature, there is no doubt that when Osama bin Laden was gunned down in his compound by American forces, the world stood in shock.
The realization became prevalent upon President Barack Obama’s confirmation speech Sunday night. Within a matter of minutes, the country roared with celebration.
For over 10 years, bin Laden had been the most wanted man by U.S. intelligence. Beginning in the 1990s, a series of attacks were carried out against several U.S. targets, often either businesses or military establishments. In 1998, a video message that displayed bin Laden attacking the U.S. was considered to be a declaration of war. Attacks proceeded to be carried out in East Africa and on the U.S. battleship, the U.S.S. Cole. All of these events were prevalent to bin Laden’s cause, but none of these proved to be his finest hour.
On the clear morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon brought bin Laden to the top of America’s priority list for terrorism.
The hunt began not long after the attacks, when President George W. Bush declared the “War on Terror.”
The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 led to the removal of the Taliban government, a staunch backer of bin Laden’s al-Qaida network. For a time, the U.S. Army’s efforts were successful in minimizing the terrorist organization in the Afghan-Pakistani region. Al-Qaida began to experience a resurgence in the mid-2000s, and as a result, permanent success in the region for the U.S. appeared to be difficult.
While the United States was fighting to maintain order in Afghanistan and keep al-Qaida at bay, bin Laden managed to successfully evade several attempts to be captured. In the early part of the War on Terror, he faced many close calls but managed to escape every time. Gradually, speculation about his possible death became common.
Reports appeared a few times stating his death, only to be proven false each time. Dismayed at the failure to capture the top terrorist, Obama wanted his demise carried out.
This was made clear in his speech following the operation when the president said, “Shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al-Qaida, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle and defeat his network.”
In time, this proved to be beneficial.
The final hunt began after U.S. intelligence received word that the whereabouts were possibly known. According to the president, he first learned of the bin Laden’s whereabouts in the late summer of 2010.
Regarding this newfound information, the president said, “After years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.”
Under the president’s orders, six elite Navy Seals were sent in to the compound believed to be housing Osama bin Laden, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, about 40 miles away from the capital, Islamabad.
The operation proved to be tense for the administration, which followed the operation as it occurred. Things appeared to be hectic at first, when a malfunction of one of the Seals’ helicopters caused it to crash.
Despite this event, the highly equipped Navy Seals managed to go on undetected. Within the hour, the Seals managed to locate bin Laden, engage in small firefight, and finally fire the shots that eliminated the existence of the most wanted man. Also killed was a woman who was used as a human shield, along with three other men, one of whom was believed to be bin Laden’s son.
Less than a day later, bin Laden’s body was laid to rest at sea. This practice was held within the custom of bin Laden’s Muslim faith, which includes that the body be buried within twenty-four hours. In the U.S., Americans were informed that the president needed to make an urgent statement. The announcement was a definitive sigh of relief for a country that seemed to have had nothing but bad news in recent months. At 11:30 p.m. Obama announced that an operation had been conducted successfully resulting in the slaying of bin Laden.
The president continued his statement, implying to the American people that the long years of waiting to bring justice to the Sept. 11 attacks had finally ended. The President expressed the sorrows that many families experienced following that day.
Finally, he made a plea for the unity that existed following the attacks to return to the American citizens.
As the president spoke, celebrations sprouted throughout Washington, along with other parts of the country.
Often, the chants in the backgrounds were, “USA, USA.” This was prevalent on the campus of John Carroll University, which is generally reserved in tone on a late Sunday night. Several students gathered and celebrated anyway they could.
Freshman Kevin Mawby said, “This is a great period in American history and we are living it. This is an incredible feat for our military efforts and all of the boys fighting for us so we can celebrate this victory. USA!”