A good obituary

Published 6:40 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2011

As I heard the news Monday morning that UBL had been killed in Pakistan, I’ll have to be honest. It might have been the newness of the morning and the early time, but I was perplexed. As per usual, I did not have the audio turned up where I could hear the talking.

I saw the celebrating crowds on the television and the signs of “USA! USA!” and I wondered what great, international sporting event had I missed? I saw the scrolling type underneath the video and the message that UBL had been killed.

Part of my confusion came from the spelling, UBL. I thought Usama Bin Laden’s first name was Osama. I thought his name began with an “O.” I also have to admit that the infamous murderer’s name and person had slipped from my everyday consciousness. I had forgotten him I’m sorry to say.

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I had not forgotten what had happened on that day in September of 2001. Sept. 11, 2001, is one of those days that will always be remembered by those of us who are of an age to remember tragic dates. As FDR had said about Dec. 7, 1941, it was a date that will live in infamy.

Our language has incorporated the date of the bombing of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 as simply “9-11.” That’s all that has to be said.

I awakened on Monday morning of this week to a television screen of whooping and hollering and American flags being hoisted by so many and then I heard the great news. “Usama Bin Laden had been found and killed.” I was surprised and stunned.

It was hard to figure out just how to take the news. I’m not accustomed to applauding death and seeing it celebrated in such unabashed ways. There is no doubt in my mind and spirit that UBL was very deserving of death, even a violent one as he had experienced. He was a fiend and I’m not sorry for feeling that way, but, at the same time, it’s a little bit weird.

I searched for an expression that might fit and found one in the writings of Mark Twain. He said, “I have never wished anyone dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” That’s pretty close, although I am sure that I did wish Mr. Bin Laden a premature death.

He might have been relegated to one of my mind’s back bins, but thankfully the important minds of America had not forgotten Osama bin Laden. Those were the minds that kept hunting the dangerous snake. This year will be the 10th anniversary of that greatest of his terrorist attacks and I wonder if he had had a good night’s sleep in those 10 years.

A few days after the 9-11 attacks, then President George W. Bush spoke to the Congress of the United States of America and said, “We will not tire, we will not falter, we will not fail.” Sometimes, I wondered whether or not we would find the world’s most sought-after criminal.

Our current President Barack Obama had vowed, during the 2008 presidential campaign “we will kill bin Laden.” I am not sure any of us felt that those words were anything but political rhetoric. I am thankful that he meant what he said.

I am also thankful and in awe of the successful operation conducted by Navy Seal Team 6. Some of you might have read recaps of the operation; I did in The Washington Post. A comment posted by another reader said that it sounded like something out of a Tom Clancy novel.

Clancy is an American novelist known for his technologically detailed spy stories. He has sold millions of books of which I have read none, so I can’t compare this operation that got bin Laden with any of his books. But, I am familiar with James Bond as a fictional character and the happenings of this raid on bin Laden’s compound are a movie just waiting to be made.

What just happened in Pakistan Sunday night, however, was not fiction. It was a real encounter between brave and keenly trained specialists and a very sinister leader of murderers. Their victims, just the Americans, number in the thousands and their terror have cost trillions of dollars to combat. This was real life.

In this real life story it seems that America has finally won one. I am not saying that we have been on a losing streak, but a renewal in confidence for our capabilities will probably be an outcome. And it should be.

We should be proud of the efforts of so many people who, throughout the last 10 years have kept their eye on the prize. It has taken a longer time and much more effort than we might have thought. I felt like that old saying “you can run, but you can’t hide” would have come into play much earlier. With today’s technologies and a supposedly worldwide search how long could one man remain at large?

As it turned out, he might have had some help. That could end up being very troublesome for the country in which he was finally found and killed.

Most bin Laden hunters were thinking remote hills and caves and how could anyone scour every mountain and mole hill in the world. In the end, he was found in a comfortable compound in a military city in Pakistan. The compound seemed to have been built five or six years ago. It was no cave and was in plain sight.

Pakistan claimed to have had no knowledge of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. Supposedly, we had been paying billions of dollars to that government for assistance in finding the founder of Al-Qaeda. Yet, he was found in a suburb of their capital city. I would say to Pakistan about the same thing Ricky Ricardo said to Lucy, “You got some ‘splainin’ to do.”

That’s for another day, though. For now, just let me enjoy this good obituary.