Well, it took nearly 10 years, but we did it: Our military forces have killed and captured the undisputed leader of a transnational terrorist army committed to our destruction. Yes, Osama bin Laden is dead.
Of course, for all practical intents and purposes, bin Laden has been dead for some time. He’s been operationally neutered and forced to hide in distant, underground caves without any real ability to communicate or to exercise command and control.
Still, the psychological effects of bin Laden’s confirmed death cannot be overstated. He loomed large in the Islamist imagination. And the fact that the United States seemed unable to kill or capture him for so long emboldened our enemies and instilled fear and apprehension in our friends and allies.
I saw this firsthand while serving as a Marine in Iraq in 2003. Not infrequently, Iraqis would ask me about bin Laden. “Where was he?” they asked. “Why couldn’t the mighty United States of America defeat him?”
Thus to some Iraqis — and not only Iraqis, but to many ordinary Muslims throughout the Middle East and North Africa — bin Laden took on an almost mythical status. He was viewed as a sort of Jesse James figure — as a wily and rebellious outlaw who cunningly and miraculously defied the awesome military might of the United States of America.
This gave bin Laden and the Islamists tremendous political power, despite their manifest military weakness. And so it is that bin Laden’s death, likewise, will strike a tremendous blow against America’s enemies: Because the message that has been sent now to everyone worldwide is clear and devastating: The United States won’t quit, and the United States will not be defeated.
Oh, it might take the Americans some time to get their bearings; it might take some time for them to turn things around and to win. But make no mistake: those Americans are unrelenting and indomitable. And if you rain destruction down upon them, they will kill you and all those who are allied with you — maybe not right away, but in time. You can count on it. So act accordingly.
Tonight we pay tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States, and especially our fighting men who engage in ground combat: because they are the ones who killed and captured bin Laden.
But we also pay tribute to the American spirit, which demonstrated once again, to both ourselves and the world, that the United States truly is the indispensable nation, the guardian of justice, and the champion of what is right. It was so 235 years ago; it is true today; and, God willing, it will be true a century from now. God bless America.