TheDC’s Jamie Weinstein: A great victory achieved, but global war on terror far from finished

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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In February 1949, during his American tour, Egyptian teacher and author Sayid Qutb entered George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. to have his tonsils taken out. While there, Qutb, who would go on to be one of the most important modern theorists of Islamism and a proponent of the type of offensive jihad practiced by terror groups like al-Qaeda, supposedly noticed celebrations going on in the streets outside.

As Lawrence Wright recounts in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,” when Qutb inquired into what the celebrations were for, he said he was told that Americans were jubilantly celebrating the assassination of Hasan al-Banna, the founder and leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. “Today the enemy of Christianity in the East was killed,” he reported the doctor as telling him.

This is almost certainly a delusion. Though the New York Times did report on the death of al-Banna, as Wright notes, it is hard to imagine that very many Americans had any idea of who al-Banna was or what he stood for. Even if they did, it is equally hard to imagine that they cared enough about him or Egyptian politics to cheer his demise in the streets of Washington.

But had Qutb been at the same hospital just over sixty years later, he very well may have heard jubilation in the streets over the death of a different leader. Sunday night’s announcement that Osama bin Laden had been brought to justice just shy of a decade after the attacks of September 11, 2001, brought revelers into Washington’s streets. They descended on the White House because, well, I suppose they didn’t know how else to respond to such fantastically shocking and unexpected news.

The front of the White House was filled with people, from former military personnel to current military personal to students to voyeurs simply there to watch the festivities, holding (or, in some cases, dressed in) American flags. I even saw a Gadsden flag present and Obama-Biden campaign paraphernalia could also be found. It was certainly a poor time to be the anti-colonialism, 9/11 truther who is always camped out in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave perpetually protesting America.

To state the obvious, the death of Osama bin Laden is welcome news. Nearly 10 years ago, his al-Qaeda organization perpetrated the greatest terror attack in world history on American soil, killing just under 3,000 people and destroying or causing great damage to symbols of American financial strength and military power. Despite a massive American military response, which took down the Taliban government in Afghanistan that hosted the terrorist leader, bin Laden remained a free man. That the United States was able to finally hunt him down and eliminate him all these many years later sends the important message, as Charles Krauthammer proffered, that no matter where America’s enemies hide, they will never be safe. No matter how long it takes, they will be ultimately brought to justice.

The raid also raises troubling questions, most notably over whether bin Laden was being protected by the Pakistani military? As Christopher Hitchens has noted, it is hard to imagine given the location he was found that bin Laden was not the “honored guest” of the Pakistani military. This has profound geostrategic implications.

But after praising the incredible skill and heroism of America’s fighting men and women, it is most important to remember the war on terror is not over. Though bin Laden is gone, the fight goes on. Jihadist aren’t going to pack up and go home now that their leader has been killed. Afghanistan isn’t going to suddenly transform into a new Atlantis. The hard slog remains. Maybe, over time, bin Laden’s death will lesson the appeal of Al-Qaeda, but this struggle was never about just one man. It is about an ideology. Though a great and important victory has been achieved, I am afraid a great threat to America persists and therefore the global war on terror is far from finished.