I didn’t get the news of Osama bin Laden’s demise at the hands of Navy SEALs until Monday morning, so when I did listen to the president’s address it had already been sliced and diced into the best soundbites. What jumped out immediately: “Justice has been done.”
To me this wasn’t simply an appropriate rhetorical coda to Obama’s remarks. It also completed a couplet begun almost ten years ago by his predecessor, George W. Bush. Shortly after bin Laden killed over three thousand people in lower Manhattan, Bush promised Congress and the nation that we would “bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies.” Personally, I am pleased the special forces who invaded Obama’s compound in Abbottabad chose the latter option and not the former.
John Brennan was quick to point out that the mission was to take bin Laden alive, but after what this administration has put us through on the proposed venues for Khalid Sheik Mohammad’s trial I’ll take a kill shot over a court martial any day. For most of us, bin Laden was a bad guy of mythological proportions who deserved that unique brand of eye-for-an-eye American frontier justice doled out on the streets of Tombstone or in front of the Biograph Theater in Chicago. The black hat is toes up. Roll credits.
Of course, in succumbing to this tempting scenario I play right into the hands of both the Clinton and Obama administrations, who have tried since the early 1990s to convince us that the so-called War on Terror was not so much a military operation as it was a criminal enterprise. Thus al-Qaeda was really a gang of outliers and rogues preying off the society they supposedly had been organized to protect. And the model employed by federal and local law enforcement to bring down organized crime families in this country requires taking out the bosses — or as I am sure you have heard more than once, “cutting off the head of the snake.” This can be a very effective technique against individuals like John Gotti or the Clanton brothers, but is woefully inadequate when you are combating an ideology.
Don’t get me wrong. Al-Qaeda has sustained a serious body blow and the Obama administration is to be commended for actually delivering on a promise made by both Bush and Clinton. But as I listened to the president and then the chorus of pundits that followed, I couldn’t help recalling another famous phrase designed to reassure the home front:
Ladies and gentlemen, we got him.
So said Paul Bremer, the American provisional authority in Iraq. Saddam Hussein had just been found in a hidey-hole in Tikrit by another elite team of American troopers and most of us wanted to believe that without their leader the enemy would give up and go home. That was December of 2003. Four years later, Senator Harry Reid was declaring the war in Iraq lost and newly elected Senator Barack Obama was opposing the troop surge in Anbar Province.
Hopefully, what President Obama and Congress and all of us still watching at home are finally waking up to is that the Middle East has been in a state of ideological warfare which predates all of its past leaders and will still rage long after its present leaders are gone. To the dedicated Islamists that are consolidating political power from Tunisia to Turkey, this struggle has never been conceived as a two-hour John Wayne movie. It is Dar-al-Harb vs. Dar-al-Islam, a holy war still going strong after fourteen hundred years.
This is why I, unlike many of my former colleagues in talk radio, am not ruminating about whether photos of the dead Osama should be released to the public, or what the Pakistani government knew and when they knew it. I want to know what the people in Cairo think, because the war we are really fighting has been headquartered there since last October when Mohammed Badie — the new Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood — called for renewed jihad against the West and Israel.
Consider recent events, none of which have anything to do with the timely death of Osama bin Laden and everything to do with restoring Islamic hegemony first to the Middle East and then throughout the world.