I think everyone’s world changed when it was announced May 1, that Osama bin Laden had been killed. There were celebrations: People all over the country crowded the streets, playing music and singing patriotic songs. Here in Columbus, people jumped in Mirror Lake, and on my street, people were honking horns, setting off firecrackers and blasting “Born in the USA.” Through all this celebration, I think that there are some important things that we all need to remember.
First, we won a battle – not a war. Killing bin Laden was a huge victory for our war efforts in the Middle East, but it’s not the end. Far from it, actually. There’s a huge risk that his death will spark anti-American sentiment in many parts of the world. There have already been protests decrying his death in Pakistan. We will continue to have military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq for a very, very long time. Keep in mind that we beat Germany and Japan in WWII and still have a military presence in both of those countries (albeit we are not an occupying force).
In that same vein, bin Laden was far from the only person keeping al-Qaida afloat. That’s not really how al-Qaida works. It goes something like this: If a starting player of a basketball team twists his ankle in the middle of a game, they don’t stop playing. They sub in another guy. Sure, he may not be as good as the first, but he’ll get the job done. That’s how al-Qaida is. Bin Laden may have been the most famous face of the organization, but he’s far from the only guy who’s able to get things done.
Finally, it’s important to remember that bin Laden was not the only person to die the other night. This was not a clean kill, with bin Laden getting picked off by a sniper 500 feet away, with just a single bullet. This was a nasty, messy fight in an average suburb, and there were other casualties. Among the casualties was allegedly a woman, who was being used as a human shield.
None of this is to say that bin Laden was a good guy. Even in death, he was risking and taking the lives of others. He has taken the lives of thousands, personally and through his plots, and he has forever changed the lives of millions more. My entire life, or at the very least those years when I was aware of politics, has been influenced by the terror this man wreaked. I can absolutely understand the way that some of my peers feel in celebrating his death. I, for one, am glad that this threat had been eliminated. But death is still death, and I simply cannot bring myself to shoot off firecrackers because someone is dead, especially since we still have a long road ahead of us.