WASHINGTON — Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the most devastating attack on American soil in modern times and the most hunted man in the world, was killed in a firefight with United States forces in Pakistan on Sunday, President Obama announced.
In a dramatic late-night appearance in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Obama declared that “justice has been done” as he disclosed that American military and C.I.A. operatives had finally cornered Bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader who had eluded them for nearly a decade. American officials said Bin Laden resisted and was shot in the head. He was later buried at sea.
With the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden was elevated to the realm of evil in the American imagination once reserved for dictators like Hitler and Stalin.
In the decade since 9/11, many senior al Qaeda leaders and operatives have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere, yet still all of these countries remain fragile at best and collapsed at worst.
For Osama bin Laden's assassination to become a turning point rather than a Pyrrhic victory, the narrative of the event must be dramatically shifted away from rhetorical overtones about a "war of ideas" or "struggle for soul of Islam" towards a more neutral and universal appeal to a global rule of law.
The impact of bin Laden's death should be understood in the context of what has already been a very bad year for al Qaeda. During my recent work in the region, I have watched with hope as reform movements have produced a popular-resistance on the scale bin Laden had hoped but failed to inspire. Instead, the online generation left him on the sidelines. Holed up in a secret lair as they braved the fury of the streets, he seemed hopelessly out of date and out of touch.