AFTER OSAMA: Agreeing to Disagree on his Death


In the last couple of weeks there has been a veritable never ending news cycle about the take down of Sept. 11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden. And while popular opinion is swaying back and forth on how and if he is really dead; there are infinite views on whether President Barack Obama handled this issue of national security correctly.

“Bin Laden was a sworn enemy of the United States and a danger to everyone in it. He was a man who called for the murder of any American anywhere on Earth,” said Kentria Arkansas, a 31-year-old homemaker from The Colony, Texas. “As a Black woman, I completely agree with President Obama’s handle on terrorism. Not just because of my race but this man is central to the president’s goal of defeating al Qaeda.”

Ironically for a man held responsible for killing thousands of innocent people around the world there is seemingly the same number of opinions on how he was killed and the subject of President Obama and terrorism. Many described the president as “bold” and some simply said he did what any good leader would do. But one thing was certain on the Obama and terrorism front; one word was sure to follow … risk.

“I think the president handled it well. He took a few chances especially when it was a good opportunity that the information could’ve been incorrect,” said Renato De Los Santos Texas District 3 Director for the League of United Latin American Citizens. “He handled it very decisively, exactly the way I think a president should.”

Last August, Obama was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden.  He said in his May 1 address, that the information was far from certain, and “it took many months to run this thread to ground.”  For many this was confirmation that Obama and terrorism meant chiefly the elimination of its major contributor.

“It’s a team thing and as team leader he definitely made the right calls. And people want to give him credit he deserves,” said Walter Borges, University of North Texas at Dallas political science professor. “It’s one of the few occasions where the president gets some credit … as it relates to the military—yes, he is the Commander-in-Chief.”

Despite jabs at the United States’ past inability to locate bin Laden there can be no denial that this incident is a monumental occasion for the Obama administration. For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, as he continued to plot attacks against the U.S. and its allies.

“The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date. That’s just how Obama does it! I support my president 100 percent,” said Tracey Newman, 38 from Arlington, Va. “I know it’s not all over but Obama has done in one term for terrorism what Bush couldn’t do in eight years!”

            Even before the president stepped into the White House it was noted in the media that Obama and terrorism meant in no uncertain terms his resolve to capture and eliminate this threat to the American people.

“I think capturing or killing bin Laden is a critical aspect of stamping out al Qaeda,” said the president-elect in a 2008 interview with CBS News. “He is not just a symbol.  He is also the operational leader of an organization planning attacks against the U.S.” 

Defying the desires of skeptics who wonder whether the Sept. 11 mastermind was really killed by an elite team of Navy Seals, President Obama decided that it’s for the greater good of counterterrorism, that the grisly photos will remain under lock and key. “We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies,” Obama declared in a televised interview.

“I don’t believe it man,” said Patrick Wash, a 34 year-old African American welder from Dallas. “The government is always making up [expletive]. I want to see the pictures.”

But as time passed and more evidentiary conjecture came from other parties outside the White House many Americans saw the wisdom in the Obama administration’s actions. 

“He made a good decision by not releasing the photo,” said Santos. “I think we need to settle and move past this. Then when al Qaeda confirmed that he was no longer with us—it was confirmation enough for me.”

But before al Qaeda confirmed bin Laden’s demise the pundits readily equipped themselves with sound bites in direct opposition to the president. And the announcement that bin Laden was given a proper burial at sea in accordance with Islamic and Muslim tradition only emboldened their outcries. 

“We are at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam to engage in their destructive acts,” said President Obama. “One of the things that I most admired about President Bush was after 9/11, him being crystal-clear about the fact that we were not at war with Islam. … And I was so proud of the country rallying around that idea, that notion that we are not going to be divided by religion; we’re not going to be divided by ethnicity.  We are all Americans.  We stand together against those who would try to do us harm.”

Johnson is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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