Let’s keep in mind that this was symbolic, largely. On September 12th, 2001, the nation (if not most of the world) was united behind the desire to stomp this cockroach out of existence. Osama bin Laden was the beginning of the “war on terror”, and hunting him down was the anchor that held the entire endeavor in place.
Over the years, the lack of focus on bin Laden, in particular Dubya’s rather blase attitude toward the guy, indicated that the enterprise had no real focus. As the years stretched on, the facts that bin Laden was running free and the site of the twin towers was still an empty hole in the ground left the nation with the feeling that we’d been forgotten. Like our trauma had been used just as a launching pad for people in power to get us into a war that they wanted, ignoring the one that was waged against us. Stories of Tora Bora and the like didn’t help this impression.
We didn’t spend a trillion dollars and ten years “hunting down one man”, and that’s just the problem. Pathetically little effort was put into the hunt in about nine of the past ten years. Once the word “Iraq” happened, bin Laden was just let go. If anything, his death, and more importantly the announcement that we still had intelligence looking for him and people to go after him, was a re-focusing. Barack Obama’s announcement was just as much a moment to tell us that, yes, we do actually care about justice for 9/11.
For the last nine-plus years, Osama Bin Laden has been a shadow hanging over us. We weren’t afraid of him, per se, but the fact remained that the main who organized the biggest single attack on United States soil was free and largely un-hunted. He could release tapes to the world, and point his finger to tell both sympathizers and enemies that he pulled off a strike and got off scot free for it. Take a moment to imagine the thought process of Al Qaeda sympathizers seeing the world’s most notorious terrorist telling the world that you can kill a few thousand Americans and never be brought to justice for it.
Undoubtedly for various reasons people are going to find reasons to take political potshots, but when the New York Post’s headline just says “got him!”, that indicates that most of us can simply celebrate the fact that we can close this chapter. Bin Laden is dead, no longer can he leer over us as a reminder for what was forgotten and abandoned. It took a decade, but that doesn’t diminish the enormity of what’s happened.