The end of bin Laden

May 2, 2011 12:43:41 PM PDT
True story: I woke up Sunday morning, thinking about what I would write this year for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Some of us are asked by our website peeps to pen a remembrance on the 9-11 anniversaries, and, given the landmark commemoration this September, I was starting to think about how to make this year's contribution different than prior years.

My mind quickly turned to my kids. My two oldest were 9 and 6 years old at the time, just starting the fall semester. Their reactions became like a parallel universe for me in 2001. My own fear - and it's a feeling I can conjure up in about 3 seconds - was muted around them, or at least I thought it was at the time. And I wondered then and in the following years how the specter of the terror attacks would affect them as they grew older. I remember my young son, printing out a wanted poster of Osama bin Laden - trying in his little-man-way to channel both his fear and his bravado. Dad, he'd ask with some regularity, did they catch Osama yet?

3,159 days later, as I rushed into work last night to report on the breaking news, I was able to tell him, yes, it appears they have finally caught Osama. Caught him, and killed him.

The actual assault - led by two teams of Navy SEALS - was pulled off with precision, save for the mechanical failure of one of the two helicopters. (The SEALS destroyed the chopper.) And there were 15,439 ways the mission could have gone wrong, which could have been a political disaster for one Barack Obama. But there were no major problems, no Americans killed or wounded, and the world's most wanted man dead. DNA reportedly proved it was indeed bin Laden - a man who, by the way, used one of his wives at the compound as a human shield during the assault. She was killed.

Bin Laden's body was buried at sea, we're told, with proper Muslim decorum and respect. And pictures of his body in existence - but not yet released. (Seems likely they'll have to release those pictures, to prove bin Laden's death, as they did with the deaths of Saddam Hussein and his two sons. On the other hand, if he was indeed shot in the head, it's likely the pictures are gruesome, and who knows what the response to that would be, among radical Muslims worldwide.)

The al Qaeda leader's death - hugely symbolic certainly to the families of the victims of Sept. 11 and to many Americans. We don't know how large it is operationally for al Qaeda because we don't really know how diminished Osama bin Laden's role was in the terror group. He has been on the run for nearly 10 years, not well medically, and with a $25 million price on his head. How much in command and control could he have been?

It will surprise no one if bin Laden's death sparks terrorist attacks. Perhaps small actions, perhaps larger ones. No surprise that security is stepped up at transportation hubs. No surprise that some will feel that numbing dread that they felt on that dark day in September, 2001; or felt as terror alerts popped up over the years.

That feeling came back, big time, when NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly raised the somber red flag today when he announced that, "We have to assume that among bin Laden's disciples are those who would like nothing better than to avenge his death by striking New York City again."

We don't expect a run on duct tape and Cipro, but there will undoubtedly be some who will feel the need to stock up.

The more intriguing development in all this is the role of Pakistan. Hard to believe that the two Navy choppers could have flown from southern Afghanistan into Pakistan, past a military base, and the Pakistanis not known this was happening. However, the White House insists the Pakistanis were not told of this beforehand.

Even harder to believe is that the Pakistanis weren't aware that Osama bin Laden was holed up in a huge mansion and compound just 35 miles outside Islamabad.

Hard to believe.

What happens now between the U.S. and Pakistan?

That is perhaps the most important issue going forward.

One other thought: The U.S. initially got the tip about bin Laden's courier at the compound from a detainee at Guantanamo Bay. We're told that the information came after some harsh interrogation - the same type that is widely criticized as unconstitutional and inhumane.

The detainee's information about the courier led to surveillance, which led to the location of bin Laden.

Could the U.S. have gotten this information any other way? Perhaps so.

I'm struck by all the things going on we don't know.

We'll have the latest on the killing of bin Laden - all aspects of it, tonight at 11.

We'll also have any other breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.


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