Shortly after the twin towers of the World Trade Center came down, the air refueling tankers stationed at Fairchild Air Base went up. The KC-135 tankers formed a vital “air bridge” to Afghanistan when reigning Taliban forces refused to turn over or cooperate in the capture of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the terrorism attacks on U.S. soil.
A new war was on, but it was a battle unlike any the United States had ever waged. We soon discovered that it wasn’t good enough to win battles, capture territory and depose leaders. As long as bin Laden was on the loose, the heart of darkness had a fearsome pulse. By the time he was killed, his loathsome ideology had metastasized.
It’s difficult to overstate how much the Sept. 11 attack changed the world. It led to one war – and arguably two – that is still under way. It has changed how we travel. It has forced the surrender of some freedom for improved security. It has driven a wedge between Americans over the proper ways to respond and the very definition of patriotism.
A bullet to bin Laden’s head won’t suddenly change things, but there is solace in knowing that he has been dispatched to whatever hell he must face. “Justice has been served,” said President Obama, and there is comfort in that, particularly among those who were directly affected on Sept. 11, 2001.
The message delivered by the military is unmistakable. If you attack the United States, you have nowhere to hide. Reprisal is just a matter of time. While commanders-in-chief change, the nation’s resolve does not.
This is not a partisan moment. It is an American moment.
The rallies at ground zero in Manhattan have produced powerful images, but it’s important to note that Muslims and Arab Americans are also waving American flags.
As Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida told Reuters, “We were also victims of bin Laden’s ideology of hate. The man hijacked our religion, committed crimes in the name of our religion and caused the greatest damage to the American Muslim community and Islam.”
In the weeks and months that follow, we will have many important questions to answer.
What does this mean for our relations with Pakistan, where bin Laden was able to hide for so long? How does his death alter the course in Afghanistan and in the war on terror? What can we expect from radical Islam in the form of retaliation?
These are important questions, but for now let’s pause to take pride in our nation’s resolve.