Osama bin Laden is dead, and his body has been buried at sea by the U.S. government, some 10 years after he organized the 9/11 atrocity in New York.
His death in a Pakistan home isn’t just revenge for still-angry Americans, but it is also the decapitation of the Islamist movement, whose jihadis have regarded bin Laden as their undisputed leader.
The successful killing of bin Laden will likely spur anger in some Muslim countries, especially Pakistan, whose intelligence services have long helped Al Qaeda’s allies in Afghanistan, and are now taking some credit for bin Laden’s discovery and death.
The victory will also boost President Obama’s weak public ratings. Those ratings have taken a battering during the President’s leadership in the Libyan civil-war.
In a dramatic late-night statement, President Obama declared that U.S. soldiers raided Osama’s compound in Pakistan and recovered the body. “Justice has been done,” he declared, echoing President George W. Bush’s 2001 promise to bring bin Laden to justice.
The president took time to describe the killing as a victory against bin Laden’s Al Qaeda organization, and to remind Americans, like President George W. Bush before him, that America is not at war with Islam. “The U.S. has not and never will be at war with Islam…Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass-murderer of Muslims.”
The president also took time to remind listeners around the world that the U.S. attack was not an aggressive move. “The American people did not chose this fight. It came to our shores… after 10 years of service, struggle and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war.”
Many millions of Americans will cheer the victory — crowds were already cheering “USA! USA!” outside the White House last night at 11:12 p.m. last night.
The Saudi-born bin Laden built his Al Qaeda organization in the mountains of Afghanistan and in Sudan during the 1990s. His strategy was to attack the United States until it ended support of Middle East dictators, including Hosni Mubarak and the Saudi royal family. By attacking the “Great Satan,” bin Laden hoped the dictators would later be deposed by jihadi uprisings and a new Muslim empire — the Caliphate — would be established to restore Muslim theocracy to the Arab lands. The religious and military strategy was described in his 1998 statement, titled “Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders,” and his 1996 tract, “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places.”
His death won’t end his religious and political goal, which has both lost ground and gained ground since 2001.
The U.S. counterattacked by establishing ramshackle democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq — despite bitter and bloody opposition from bin Laden’s jihadis who believe that rule by citizens is incompatible with the religious rules in the Koran. In 2004, for example, bin Laden declared that “the most important and serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War, which the Crusader-Zionist coalition began against the Islamic nation… in the land of the two rivers [Iraq]. The world’s millstone [for grinding corn] and pillar is in Baghdad, the capital of the [historic] caliphate.”
In his White House statement, the president did not mention the Iraq campaign, which killed many of Al Qaeda’s leaders and deeply damaged the group’s reputation in the Muslim world, and which was won in 2007 when Iraq’s Muslim army, police and population – aided by U.S. forces – routed Al Qaeda’s Islamist claims, its jihadis and its allies from the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services.
The jihadis’ desperate and bloody attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan and other countries did much to frighten middle-class Muslims and reduce initially widespread support for bin Laden’s methods. Those attacks have included many suicide-bombs detonated in marketplaces and mosques that have killed thousands of Muslims.
But bin Laden’s theocratic allies in the Muslim Brotherhood believe they have made progress towards theocratic rule in Egypt and Turkey, and are hoping to soon gain power in Syria and Libya. Bin Laden’s immediate deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, quit the Muslim Brotherhood decades ago because he believed it would never gain power via peaceful methods, but the brotherhood is now set to gain a leading role in the Egypt’s elected post-Mubarak government.
Bin Laden’s place will likely be taken by his deputy, Zawahiri, but other clerics, such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi will likely gain more clout. Qaradawi is the ideological leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and has used his weekly talk-show on the Al Jazeera TV channel to repeatedly endorse jihad against U.S. and Israeli soldiers and civilians.