Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Barack Obama: Bin Laden is dead, justice has been done

Ralitsa Kovacheva, May 3, 2011

“Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.”

With these words US President Barack Obama announced the death of American enemy No.1 for the past ten years. The president said that shortly after taking office he had directed Leon Panetta*, the then director of the CIA, “to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda”. Last August, the president has received intelligence about a possible lead to bin Laden. And on May 1 2011 he ordered an operation to be conducted against a bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, an affluent suburb of Pakistani capital Islamabad. A small team of U.S. military attacked the compound, Osama bin Laden was killed in the firefight and there were no casualties on the American side. The US forces took custody of his body. (Later it was reported that the body was buried in the sea according to Islamic tradition).

The BBC reported details of the attack, citing a senior US military source. The long search for bin Laden ended in only 40 minutes, a "surgical" operation carried out by a small military team. During the firefight bin Laden and three other people were killed, including one of his sons. There were no casualties on the American side; one helicopter was lost due to a technical failure. The Americans were shocked by the scale and complexity of the compound used by bin Laden. The house was surrounded by high and thick walls, it was several times larger than the other houses in the area and was estimated to be worth several million dollars, although it was not equipped with a telephone or Internet connection.

President Obama stressed that counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan was very important and helped find bin Laden's compound. He repeated that the United States “is not – and never will be – at war with Islam”: “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.“ Recalling the victims of the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2001, President Obama concluded: “Justice has been done”.

The BBC recalled that Osama bin Laden was born in 1957 in Saudi Arabia as the 17th out of 52 children of the multimillionaire and construction entrepreneur Mohamed bin Laden. The 1980s war in Afghanistan appeared to be crucial for his fate, as young Osama went there to fight aside the mujahideen against the Soviet Union. “Intelligence experts believe that the US Central Intelligence Agency played an active role in arming and training the mujahideen, including Bin Laden.” His hatred was redirected to the US during the Gulf War war against Iraq in 1991, when 300,000 US troops, including women, were based in Saudi Arabia. In 1994, he was deprived of his citizenship and bin Laden went to Afghanistan again, where he controlled and financed the establishment of a terrorist network. He inherited a huge fortune from his father and has increased it through worldwide investments on the financial markets.

In 1998 Bin Laden issued a "fatwa", declaring Jihad on Jews and Crusaders and stating that killing Americans and their allies was a duty of every Muslim. Then there were the attacks against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania where 224 people were killed and over 5,000 were injured. Bin Laden entered the FBI's “most wanted” list with 25 million dollars prize for his head. After a series of attacks, behind which the long arm of bin Laden could be seen, the dramatic shift came with 9/11. Then four planes were hijacked, two of which smashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the third – into the Pentagon and the fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 people died.

Then was the war in Afghanistan. The US troops will start withdrawing from there in July this year. The NATO forces will continue to assist local authorities in maintaining order, even after the transitional period ended in 2014.

Many determined the war in Afghanistan as a failure for the US exactly because of the lack of success in combating Al Qaeda and bin Laden. Therefore the killing of terrorist No. 1 is a major political victory for Barack Obama, especially at a time when he is attempting for a second term. But what will be the response of Al Qaeda? The first task of the US State Department after the announcement of the assassination of bin Laden, was to warn Americans worldwide “to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations” because of the "enhanced potential for anti-American violence".

*Last week the White House made a key reshuffle - the head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, was appointed Secretary of Defense replacing Robert Gates and the intelligence Agency was entrusted to Gen. David Petraeus