By Gracie Farrell
Osama bin Laden, known leader of the terrorist organization al-Qaida, was killed May 1 when a U.S. Navy SEALs team descended on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Nearly a decade after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, President Barack Obama announced “justice has been done” in his televised speech that same day.
“For over two decades, bin Laden has been Al Qaeda’s leader and symbol,” Obama said. “The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaida. But his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al-Qaida will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.”
According to a press briefing by senior administration officials at the White House, bin Laden was killed in a firefight and his body obtained. Within 24 hours of his death, bin Laden was buried at sea per Islamic traditions that call for a burial within 24 hours and require certain washings, prayers and wrappings. The president has received many questions regarding the decisions to bury the body at sea and not release photos of bin Laden’s body.
“It is a simple matter of respect,” said Sean Evans, associate professor of political science and chair of the political science department. “No matter how much we oppose Osama bin Laden, he is still a person designed in the image of God.”
Evans also said it is a modern practice to dispose of an enemy’s body at sea so as to not create a shrine to which people can return. The Russians spread Hitler’s ashes in a secret location within Germany so that no neo-Nazis could make pilgrimages to the spot.
During his announcement, Obama informed the world that, upon becoming president, he had made finding bin Laden one of the main focuses for the CIA. In August, the president was briefed on a lead. However, it was not until the week before May 1 that Obama felt enough information had been gathered to take action, he said. Orders were then given to go ahead with a targeted operation against the compound in Abbottaba. No Americans were harmed in the operation.
Bin Laden was found and killed by Navy SEALs Team 6. The SEALs is an elite, special operations force that get their name from the training they undergo to survive any environment. Obama visited Ft. Campbell, Ky., May 6 to privately thank members of the SEALs team involved in the operation. The Navy SEALs Team 6 was also presented with the Presidential Unit Citation, the highest honor that can be given to a unit.
Obama met with members of the raid that killed bin Laden the same day al-Qaida released a statement confirming their leader’s death, vowing to continue bin Laden’s work and promising to retaliate against America.
Hayley Tillman*, a graduate of Union, was with a non-governmental organization teaching English within Abbottabad and the surrounding area from 2008–2010.
Bin Laden may have lived in the region of Abbottabad for as long as seven years before his death, according to a statement from a senior Pakistani security official on Saturday — meaning Tillman lived in the same town as one of the FBI’s most wanted men for two years.
“I always joked about him being down the street,” Tillman said.
Tillman said while she worked in and around Abbottabad, plenty of jokes were told about bin Laden being in the area; however, she now wonders how much the people really knew.
Abbottabad is a rural area near Islamabad and is home to Kakul Military Academy, Pakistan’s top military training facility. Tillman referred to the town as more than a village but much less than the city it has been portrayed as in the news. However, terrorism is still on the minds of the people in Abbottabad and Pakistan in general, Tillman said.
“(The people of Pakistan) are just the same as us,” Tillman said. “When terrorist stuff goes on, they are worried about their kids — about their son in the military academy and about their daughter’s education.”
As far as the United States’ presence in their country, Tillman said the people of Pakistan want to believe that America can “fix everything.” However, a distrust of their current and past governments has corrupted their ability to trust what America is trying to do.
With the death of bin Laden, the question of withdrawing troops is being readdressed. Obama promised to begin withdrawing troops in the summer of 2011, but 52 percent of Americans would retain U.S. troops in Afghanistan to continue the work that needs to be done there, according to a Gallup Poll.
Evans said that while capturing bin Laden was one of the main goals, neither Iraq nor Afghanistan has been stabilized.
Obama’s presidential approval rating gained 6 points, reaching 52 percent, after bin Laden’s death, according to a Gallup Poll. A president’s support usually increases directly after major events such as bin Laden’s death, noted the poll. However, some speculate the boost in his poll numbers will also boost his chances of re-election.
The capture and death of bin Laden will add to Obama’s security credentials — something for which Republicans are usually known, Evans said. However, Evans expects discussions will soon return to issues such as the economy and debt-ceiling.
*Name changed to protect identity.