Last night, shortly after hearing that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by US forces, I hopped on facebook and flippantly made a comment about how his death doesn't help Pablo Sandoval's wrist. Sarcasm and humor at the dawn of history, or something like that. It's been nearly ten years since 9/11 and nearly 13 years since the attacks on US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. In that time, and particularly after 9/11, Bin Laden became the face of global terror. There was a time in my life where he was the most feared and hated man in the world. That he survived the months immediately after 9/11, as the collective western world attempted to bring him to justice, remains remarkable. It was briefly possible to believe that the war of terror was a war on something other than a transferable idea. Of course, I should have been smarter. Terror is abstract and ambiguous. Terror isn't symmetrical. Removing the Taliban from Afghanistan has made us safer, centralizing intelligence has made us safer, restricting funding to terrorist groups has made us safer, killing Bin Laden has made us safer and increased awareness and security has made us safer. But yet, we will never be completely safe. Bin Laden's death will only embolden the al-Qaeda cells in Yemen, Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan, amongst other countries of the world. Terrorism is a cancer that only spreads and like cancer, it only takes one cell to cause damage, one little cell to start the whole thing over again. And when did it start? When did someone decide that asymmetrical warfare was worth trying? Think back and go further and you'll see it never 'started' and look forward and you'll see that it'll never be 'finished.' Osama Bin Laden's death doesn't change anything. As an enemy he was already neutralized, as a leader he was of minimal value. But his death did bring to some amount of closure. The bogeyman is dead and we were able to chant and wave flags, the bogeyman is dead and one cycle has come to a close. The bogeyman remains, always, in the shadows, ready and waiting for the next opportunity to strike again. It's a peculiar kind of calculus. The costs and damage from 9/11 far exceed the costs and damages inflicted against America on that day. The trillions of dollars spent, the thousands of military causalities, the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, the erosion of our civil liberties, the military misadventures around the world and the economic decline of the American empire can all be traced to our heavy handed response.
Our reactions were exactly as Bin Laden planned.
He got what he wanted.
He is gone, but he changed America like few Americans ever could.
Are we safer? Are we better?