Open Thread: U.S. Forces Find and Kill Osama Bin Laden

By Arturo R. García

A transcript of President Obama’s remarks from Sunday night is under the cut. But we’d also like to get your reaction to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, carried out during a U.S. military operation in Pakistan. Did you first hear the news on Twitter? Did you witness or take part in celebratory gatherings like the ones in Washington D.C. and New York City? What are your thoughts on those celebrations? What happens now, not just in America, but in the Middle East?


Good evening. 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.

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory — hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.

And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.

On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.

We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda — an organization headed by Osama Bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counter-terrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.

Yet Osama Bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of Bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama Bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama Bin Laden and took custody of his body.

For over two decades, Bin Laden has been Al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda.

Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where Bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to Bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, Bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.

So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to Al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

  • s seb

    My first reaction when I saw this was how insincere and unrehearsed Obama seemed at times. In a way I don’t feel like retribution fits Obama’s character. While the American people may have given the vibe that they wanted this man dead (I certainly didn’t want him killed in Pakistan during some covert ops thing but sentanced in a court of law) I have a hard time believing that this was Obama’s big plan.

    I mean really? Killing the man like this almost sounds like murder. I don’t know if you’ve seen the footage of the bin laden compound but the bloodsoaked floor is just grisly to see. We’re supposed to be the “better” country. We’re supposed to stand for a system of justice. State sponsored killing, when arranged by our commander in chief, and not necessarily reflective of the direct will of the people, but rather just guessed over… its just a murky mess of blood, death, and loose ends.

    According to the footage, Osama was shot in the head TWICE. as if once wasn’t enough. It just feels like these guys were out for blood, not necessarily justice, but more eye-for-an-eye style stuff, which ironically has more in common with SHARIA law than our system of government here in the United States.

    Basically, I’m deeply disappointed they didn’t bring the man back alive to US soil. And I’m deeply disappointed they hid away the body so quickly. How are we to believe he’s even dead? “just take my word for it.” Now I’m not saying they would have bothered to fake the mans death, but doing it the way they have, and hiding so much of what’s apart of this, it just makes people wonder, leaving way too much to imagination and leaving us all, citizens of the united states, employers of the President as well as our armed forces, completely clueless.

    Why CANT we see the photographs? And why couldn’t we see the body, or at least footage of it by a few networks. Why so much secrecy? How are we to know they even did the job right? It’s not as if government hasn’t lied before. Make it painfully obvious what has happened and stop beating around the bush with all this useless secrecy. The man is dead. So back that up with something more than just, “take my word for it.”

  • Kari

    I want to know what’s up with the Geronimo Code Name for bin Laden. Geronimo was no saint but he was definitely NOT a terrorist like bin Laden.

  • http://www.crunchyandchic.wordpress.com Zedster

    Just like killing the US president wouldn’t end all US military aggression worldwide, killing Osama Bin Laden doesn’t end Al Qaeda’s violent operations against the US and elsewhere.

  • MsGray

    I heard the news on Dutch radio yesterday morning, as I live in Holland, and thought I heard wrong because my Dutch sucks, but an hour later I heard it again this time with a clip from President Obama speaking and my first thought was “hey, my Dutch may not be that bad after all!” Then they played clips of people celebrating at Ground Zero and I went online and saw pictures, Facebook lit up with the news and all I could think of was “why are people celebrating like the US just won some major global athletic event??!”.

    I watched the news with clips of people across the seas celebrating, just as they are now, death after 9/11. The death of thousands of innocent people who’s only “sin” was perhaps that they got out of bed that morning to get where they needed to be. Of course you cannot compare Bin Laden to the 9/11 victims, I get that, and honestly, he had to go. He was evil and would have continued to be so until his dying day, so for the sake of everyone else on the planet, he didn’t need to be here. I also get that I don’t know what it’s like not feeling a sense of closure in the loss of a loved one in a terrorist attack. I respect the people who needed OBL dead to get that closure. I even cannot say for sure how I would feel in that same situation, but knowing myself as I do, his death would have done nothing for me because the loss would still be there. But….I respect the point of view.

    But, how is celebrating this death, in principle, different than celebrating all those deaths on 9/11 and every other terrorist attack before, and since then? Be glad he’s gone, of course, one less lunatic on the planet. But we should not reduce ourselves to the level of the people who celebrate death. Truth be told, these people blame “the west” for death and bloodshed in their countries as well. And whether you believe them to be right or wrong, that’s what they believe, that is the reason they celebrate successful terrorist attacks. In the same way many of us in “the West” blame Islam for all that is wrong in the world, for death and bloodshed. Who’s right and who’s wrong?

    And what does this solve. Ok, one less terrorist on the planet. One down…..many, Many, MANY more to go and the planet is just going to keep breeding them…trust! And who is to say we did not just, as we say where I’m from, “raise the hornet’s nest”?

    I remember watching a special about two families in Gaza, one Muslim the other Jewish and one of the daughters in the Jewish family was killed in a suicide bombing where the daughter of the Muslim family was the bomber and so also killed. They tried to get them to communicate and neither would budge. And one of the members of the Muslim family said something to the effect that this Jihad, this does not end, Jihad is for always. Which said to me, no matter how long it takes and how many die, until the objective (whatever that is) is achieved, attacks will continue. So the death of OBL changes nothing. People who believe it’s their way or no way……you can’t change that thinking. Islam, Jewish, Christian, Athiest, Pro-life doesn’t matter. It’s chronic.

    And I agree with some of the other posters, this may infact have ascended OBL to the level of martyr in the eyes of some folk. Which is a shame.

    By the way on the radio here, they’re playing clips of people using Obama and Osama interchangably in announcing OBL’s death….what is that about?

    President Obama did superbly, I commend him also for being clear that the war was not on Islam.

    I could not find the right words to express all my thoughts and feelings about the whole thing until I read this article a friend posted on FB. It’s like the dude was inside my head. I really could not have put it better. So I share the link:

    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/05/02/osama_and_chants_of_usa

    I hope you can get to the article. It is worth the read.

    Sorry for the long post :)

  • Natalie Jeanniot

    Call me heartless, but I’m actually happy he’s dead and I don’t feel a twinge of guilt about it.

  • http://profiles.google.com/brianjkoscuiszka Brian Koscuiszka

    I was watching “The Celebrity Apprentice” and gave the Prez an air-pound for timing the cut in to preempt the boardroom. I couldn’t guess when they first ran the scroll about the President planning to address the nation at about 10:30 on a Sunday night. I couldn’t figure out what it could possibly be that would justify that timing and assumed it had to be something to do with Libya. When the NBC news anchor scooped him, I was genuinely shocked. Not sure how I feel about the whole situation, but I know I was not comfortable with the celebrating. Visceral reactions are what they are; but getting drunk and swatting beach balls to me was just morbid and gross.

    By the way, did you hear about the local guy who Tweeted the whole thing, having no idea what was going on? Badass.

  • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

    His death should give the US an ample opportunity to completely withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan now (that also means leaving behind nothing, no enduring bases, CIA, private contractors). This is as good a time as any to draw down so it must be taken up immediately. Otherwise perpetuating a destabilizing presence in these regions will only render his killing futile.

    • AnnieD

      I think his killing was probably more of a propaganda victory in the US than a tactical victory in the War on Terror. As I understand, Osama was a figurehead in an organisation where each cell was detached from the others, and central command had relatively little effect on their operations. The largely symbolic victory may be offset by entirely by his martyrdom.

      • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

        You’re right about each cell being detached…right now if Al-Qaeda does try to exact revenge the place where that revenge is most likely to emanate from is Yemen not AfPak region. So now just staying in AfPak region and Iraq won’t mean in going after Al-Qaeda since it’s such a diffuse organization. Also withdrawing the troops and deploying them to protect America itself may be the best way to stop any revenge attacks from occurring.

  • http://molecularshyness.wordpress.com jen*

    I just think it’s interesting to observe the responses to the event. Some folks are ecstatic, some people thank the president, others only thank W.

    I agree with Rishona – bin Laden was just a man. He’s symbolic, but ultimately just a man. I don’t see that this will actually change much, but I certainly won’t miss him.

  • http://soyluv.wordpress.com/ soyluv

    I’m not sure I feel. I know I am a little bit relieved for the current administration & comforted that the victims’ family members who needed this “closure”, got some. But, other than that, I don’t really feel elation. I feel more ambivalent overall but I don’t see how things could have panned out otherwise. I don’t need pictures either–I buy the official word but lots of folks are already clamoring for hard evidence. I’m also glad that his body received Islamic rites for burial and was afforded a gesture towards his recognized humanity, and respect for his religious beliefs and not just the face of terrorism, desecrated and dumped somewhere. Not quite sure if and when that “proof” of anything is released, if it will be a productive idea.

  • Anonymous

    It’s true that this man was responsible for the deaths of thousands of men, women and children. But so are we ever seen we started these three military campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. And it seems like we’re in Pakistan now. So in the grand scheme of things I don’t know what this has accomplished. I don’t care if the man is actually dead. There is no reason to celebtrate. People are still dying, there is still Islamophobia, there will be more children without parents, some people still think Obama is neither a citizen not a legitimate president and the list goes on. So somebody better be keeping some numbers cause I don’t see how this has changed anything. If anything it could be more strategic. As in, this helps Obama look good for 2012. Not that he’d need this to look good given how oogly the Republican and Tea Party competition looks.

  • AndreaPlaid

    I’m deeply conflicted about bin Laden’s killing. Yes, I’m relieved that getting the man has been resolved and am glad that the man’s death serves as some sort of closure who have lost loved one during 9/11 and in the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan that have been (questionably) tied to finding bin Laden and al Qada. But I can’t get all hepped up about our killing the man and running the streets in schadenfreude. What’s keeping me from rejoicing is how this is going to affect brown and black people: are those who are Muslim or “look that way” to those who harbor Islamophobia going to suffer at their hands. And will our troops be able to come home now that the US got her man, especially out of Iraq since we didn’t need to be there in the first place?

    • nina

      “What’s keeping me from rejoicing is how this is going to affect brown and black people: are those who are Muslim or “look that way” to those who harbor Islamophobia going to suffer at their hands.”

      I agree with this worry, but I also want to point out that there were plenty of black and brown people among bin Laden’s victims too. The statements from Kenya and Iraq, for example, both pointed out that they had suffered civilian attacks by al Qaeda.

    • Brandon
  • http://mclicious.wordpress.com/ McLicious

    Thank you for posting the transcript. I found out via everybody’s Facebook statuses, and while I went to the BBC and NYTimes to find out more, I didn’t get to hear Obama’s speech. I’m glad he reiterated that it’s not a war against Islam, though I doubt anyone who needs to hear that will listen. I do have a huge problem with celebrating the death of any human being, but I’ve come to think that I have a great deal of privilege that enables me to think so. I just posted about it on my blog.

  • http://www.rishonan.net/home Rishona Campbell

    I loved the President’s speech. I am relieved that Osama Bin Laden is no longer a threat. However I hesitate to celebrate. Not even a week ago, at the end of Passover, I was sitting in synagogue when the Rabbi admonished us not to rejoice at the suffering of our enemies (linking in the analogy of G-d chastising the angels celebration when the Egyptians were drowning in the sea). Yes, the Children of Israel rejoiced…but at being delivered. We need to rejoice in our eventual triumph in the face of terror…not just the death of a man. Also, keep in mind…Osama Bin Laden was just a man. He wasn’t something supernatural or from the netherworld. Therefore we need to keep in mind that this just goes to show how badly and easily a human soul can digress into hate; and what that hate can do to all of us.

    I am also glad the President Obama openly stated that we are not at war with Islam. It is about time that a President stands up a says something about the outright bigotry that goes on right under our noses. About time!

  • Anonymous

    Random thoughts:

    My mom and my two brothers were happy and elated, but I remain skeptical until I see pictures. It may not be in good taste to celebrate one’s demise, and I can’t help but feel that things must be more complicated than they seem.

    Meanwhile, my older brother wonders whether the Pakistani president (or prime minister?) may be in danger, since, according to him, he was the one who allowed the attack to commence.

    Maybe it’s because I’m a pessimist in general, or perhaps it’s because I have a Playstation Network account and it’s only a matter of time before someone does something with my personal info (I had a identity theft scare with ClickandBuy just this Saturday, and I’ve just canceled my debit card this morning), super-Nigerian-ific name and all, and perhaps it’s because we’re still in Afghanistan and Iraq, but I’m going to hold off the flag-waving. I won’t begrudge those who will, though.

    • Anonymous

      Well, it looks like the Pakistani info I had was wrong. Bah. Sorry for that. I don’t like being a gossip-monger.

      But, then, I heard another rumor from Wikileaks that Al-Qaeda was planning on setting off nukes or dirty bombs in the event of Bin Laden being captured or meeting his demise, so that could be our next big worry.

      I’m a bit weirded out by how quickly he was whacked. First shot down, then cleaned up, robed up, and then, put into the sea. So we don’t have much of an evidence of a body except for whatever the State claims, and then, they claim DNA evidence and all that…?

      I’m not saying there’s a conspiracy, or that, they should do what the Bush administration did with Uday and Qusay Hussein: show their naked, dead bodies to the media, but.. I don’t know. I guess I find the secrecy a bit odd. It is likely a bit needed, so that no one would have an image to rally around, but still odd.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kaila.heard Kaila Heard

    I first read about the news from someone’s twitter feed.
    Compared to the other big political news three years ago when Obama was elected, my neighborhood was pretty quiet.
    I haven’t any random conversations with strangers about it, yet, either.

    I can understand because
    1. I don’t quite believe it. I’m waiting for a new video to pop up at any moment of Osama denouncing America. Again.
    2. And this changes what exactly? At this point, this feels like win that only provides morale at home and maybe abroad. Although, I’ve already seen two news articles warning Americans that we should expect retaliation.