The reports have been a bit conflicting on just how he died, however. Initially, reports stated he had been killed by a drone attack last week, and that they had kept his body to determine through DNA analysis that it was indeed him.
Obama's statement to the nation, though, claimed that he had (reaffirmed) the order to the CIA to get bin Laden (Bush initially gave the order), and that bin Laden was killed yesterday. Now we are told it was a Navy Seal who took him down, on a mission aided by CIA intel, as well as information gleamed from Khalid Sheik Muhammad at Gitmo. Apparently, the Pakistanis aided the US in this mission as well.
Following are excerpts of Obama's remarks on this historic event (and I am glad he was finally able to use the word, "terrorist," since it was one he and his Administration have worked hard not to use. Ahem.):
"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 (emphasis mine - you knew it was coming, right?), 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 counterterrorism 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.
I admit, while watching this, I was waiting for Obama to say, "I just returned from Pakistan where I, personally, took out Osama bin Laden, with the help of our military. And you thought George Bush was a cowboy. He doesn't have anything on me." Sorry, but there were just a few too many "I"'s in there for someone who has downplayed the whole issue of terrorism.
Yes, he gave the command to proceed, which is good. Yet many are acting as if this is showing great leadership on his part, while to me, it seems like a no-brainer. I mean, really - have our expectations of him sunk so low that the opportunity to take out this mastermind of terror is seen as a sign of "leadership"? Wow.
Back to the comments:
"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.
Hillary Clinton just made the point that bin Laden killed many Muslims, too, just as Obama did, and that bin Laden had made threats against Pakistanis themselves. One can make of that what one will...
More from Obama:
[snip] "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.[snip]
There is a bit more to this speech, and you can click here to read it.
Can I just say, though, listening and watching Obama last night really puts a lie to the meme that he is such a great speaker. He isn't. His speech was stilted and halting, with a number of mistakes as he read the teleprompter. It was blatantly clear that he was - you could watch his eyes move.
I am confused as to why they chose to bury bin Laden at sea, and so quickly. I would have thought they would want to perform an autopsy, recover the bullet that killed him, see if he really was ill, all of that. So that choice is interesting to me. Why the rush to dispose of him? Oh, wait - here is why - it is in keeping with Islamic tradition.
Huh? Okay, so Obama makes it crystal clear that bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. However, we do know he was the leader of Al Qaeda, a Muslim organization, but alright. Interesting distinction Obama (and Clinton) are making here. Still,we finally get this mass murderer, we have his body, and we forgo obtaining some answers to uphold his religious tradition? Wow. What do you think about that? Is it an attempt to stave off more attacks?
If so, that is a bit misguided. We KNOW there will be reprisals from Al Qaeda as a result,as Leon Panetta has acknowledged we can expect. Honestly, these people are bound and determined to get us anyway, so taking out this one man who has caused so much damage to our great nation is a reason to be thankful, even if one abhors violence, or killing for any reason.
Bringing justice to this man who has done so much damage to our nation as a result of the tireless efforts of our intelligence community and our highly trained military, is a good day. Thanks to all of those who have worked to this end, though it is not an end to the war on terrorism. Bin Laden may be gone, but there are others out there wishing us harm. Our military and intelligence officers continue to have their work cut out for them, regardless of Obama taking the credit for this, it belongs, IMHO, to those who were on the ground. Well done.
There is a video I want to share with you. It is an impromptu celebration at Ground Zero after learning of bin Laden's demise. This pretty much says it all, though there are many good videos out there of interviews with family members of those lost on 9/11, and first responders. I urge you to take a look and listen when you have time. Until then, I leave you with this:
UPDATE: A few of you have been kind enough to provide links regarding why Osama bin Laden was buried at sea. Here are the pertinent facts:
[snip] The official described the procedure to NBC News as follows:
* The deceased's body was washed and then placed in a white sheet.
* The body was placed in a weighted bag.
* A military officer read prepared religious remarks that were translated into Arabic by a native speaker.
* After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased's body eased into the sea from the USS Carl Vinson.
The rites sparked a debate about Islamic customs, with some Muslim clerics calling the procedure humiliating and others saying it was proper.
A U.S. official said that the burial decision was made after concluding that it would have been difficult to find a country willing to accept the remains. There also was speculation about worry that a grave site could have become a rallying point for militants.
President Barack Obama said the remains had been handled in accordance with Islamic custom, which requires speedy burial. [snip]
Okay, so there weren't a lot of countries willing to accept his body. There is cremation, after all.
And how do you feel that so much care was taken to prepare his body according to Islamic tradition? Wow...