May 09, 2011

Name: Major Dan
Returned from: Afghanistan

"We will be relentless in our defense of our citizens and our friends and allies," President Obama said. "And on nights like this one, we can say to families who lost loved ones to al Qaeda's terror: justice has been done."

First, and most importantly: Bravo Zulu ("well done," for those not of the sea services) and thank you to the Navy SEALS, CIA operators and whoever else took part in, planned and gathered intelligence for the risky covert operation which delivered this enemy of civilization to justice.

The "BIH" in this post's title is in place of the traditional RIP (Rest in Peace). I'm using it as shorthand for "Burn in Hell." If you think for a moment of the nearly 3,000 victims of September 11, the sailors of the USS Cole and possibly the families of the Khobar Towers, the hundreds killed in the embassy bombings in Africa, the thousands killed by the Taliban under his financing, the 2,340 service members of 28 nations killed in Afghanistan since 2001, and the 140,000 or so service members there now, half a world from their families (not to mention the thousands of civilians for which I don't have the numbers) -- it was really just one incredibly wealthy, warmongering, murderous Wahhabi "prince" responsible for setting it all in motion.

This is unusual terrain for a writer who tries to relate firsthand experiences, or at least sound off only on that about which he may know something insightful, but as much as everyone who cares about peace and justice has wanted to see Osama's demise for the past decade or more, I remain convinced that this development is mainly symbolic. That does NOT mean that I dismiss its significance for that reason. The symbolism that he embodied is still very powerful, and perhaps he was more involved still in al-Qaeda operations than we guessed.

I mean to say that from the perspective of one who has deployed to Afghanistan twice over the past five years, bin Laden has not been relevant to operations there. He certainly was on my mind back in the aftermath of 9-11-2001, when I lived in the vicinity of New York City as it reeled and then rapidly recovered from the attacks. And understandably, those in the Fire Department, the Police Department, and the Port Authority Police who were there -- not to mention, anyone at all who lost loved ones that day -- would have thought of the cretin more often.

In short, he may have been why we were there in the first place, but he did not define what we were doing there...not for the past nine years, anyway. 

Operation Enduring Freedom, for all intents and purposes, ceased being about catching Osama bin Laden sometime after his escape at Tora Bora in December of 2001. Fun fact: It was largely because of that particular complex that our nation's talking heads smugly parroted the notion that he was hiding in a cave ever since -- while most reasonable analysts have concluded for years was that bin Laden was in a safe house somewhere, and most likely in Pakistan.

And OBL was really never a topic of conversation among those of us serving even near the border, which made it all the more absurd when some visiting journalists would claim to understand an operation and its environment, only to go on camera or go to print immediately speculating about Osama's location as if it had anything to do with the mission at hand. Now that he's been taken out in the mansion he called his hiding place, we can quit wondering about his health and whereabouts, and maybe -- just maybe -- focus on clarifying what we seek to accomplish in Afghanistan and how we can best go about it.

Today I got to sleep in, then bike for hours into Colorado mountains, then watch my Mets (finally) take out the Phillies after 14 exhausting innings, and during the game, hear the news that bin Laden is dead. My comrades still in Afghanistan go about their business, as do the tens of thousands on patrol in deadly environments each day. I wish the big news meant that we can declare "Victory!" and call 'em all back pronto. But again, this fight hasn't been about him since its earliest days. Still... Good riddance, ruthless murderer. And keep working to secure a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, brave men and women of the Coalition, and brave Afghans who seek a better future.

"Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims." -- President Obama



Thank you to all our troops, especially our brave Special Operations soldiers who were able to carry out this dangerous mission.

A Salute to our Troops:

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