NEWS

Editorial: 'Justice' means those lost on 9-11 deserve to be remembered, not bin Laden

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Today we remember Chip Chan.

The Peoria, Ill., native would have been 33 years old now, likely successful in the world of high finance, perhaps living in Tokyo if he could have pulled himself away from his beloved New York, maybe coming back to Peoria to visit his folks a few times a year, pointing out how big the evergreen tree he planted as a third-grader - later transplanted - had gotten. No doubt he'd still call his mom every Saturday, coffee cup in hand, to rub in just how incredible the view was from whatever spectacular metropolis he found himself in.

Sadly, Chip was working as a bond trader for the financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor at 1 World Trade Center Tower in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001. It was a horrible day for all of us, but especially so for John and Julie Chan and their other five boys.

Near its anniversary seven years ago, asked about the man responsible for murdering her son and almost 3,000 others, Chip's mom pointedly responded that "we do not like to mention that name in this house."

We hope the mention of that name now brings the Chans a measure of closure, not that anything can replace what they and so many others lost.

All were in our thoughts Sunday as news emerged of the evil man who orchestrated the 9-11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, being killed by American special operations forces in a daring raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. "Justice has been done," said President Barack Obama. Few had such justice coming more. We trust the proof of our success is sound.

The headline in big type - "Bin Laden Dead" - took longer than many had anticipated, as we approach the 10th anniversary of a day seared into the U.S. psyche every bit as much as Pearl Harbor was for another generation 70 years ago. Then as now, America ultimately prevailed over those who, in the president's words, brought a war not of our choosing "to our shores ... with the senseless slaughter of our citizens."

This is no small achievement: Osama was the face of global terrorism, the man who had openly declared war on the United States, who had urged Muslims to kill Americans wherever they found them, who had his fingerprints on murderous acts well beyond 9-11, who had become a mythical figure critical to the recruitment of violent extremists. There's no denying that he was historically consequential, pushing the buttons that led to America's involvement in two costly wars and changing the way we conduct our lives, as anyone who flies knows. As long as he was alive, defying three consecutive presidents who'd put him in their cross-hairs, he remained a symbol of America's seeming impotence.

That has changed now. In death bin Laden is human again - so human he reportedly used a woman as a shield during the assault by Navy SEALs - which is a good thing for those misguided souls who might be tempted to view him as a hero or martyr, neither of which he is. Our intelligence was solid this time - so much so that it was thankfully acted upon without loss of American life - and it's a good thing that those who intend us harm recognize that. It's a good thing that our enemies appreciate that they cannot attack us without retaliation of the strongest sort, however long it takes. In short, America feels strong again, competent again, "reminded that as a nation there's nothing we can't do," said the president. Arguably that's what many Americans were cheering more than anything else.

They should temper some of that, in large part because it's premature. Indeed, it would be unwise and naive to believe this is the end of al-Qaida or the beginning of a new era of peaceful relations with the Arab world. In fact bin Laden's need to go underground had largely divorced him from the day-to-day operations of the borderless terrorist organization he'd founded, compromising his influence. With the Arab Spring, new leaders have emerged with new tactics. The names of Ayman al-Zawahri or Ansar al-Awlaki may not be as recognizeable to Americans, but that doesn't mean they're any less dangerous. In light of bin Laden's last location, it is fair to question just how much of an ally Pakistan - a large nation with nuclear weapons - is. Yemen seems an incubator of extremism. Expect alert levels to remain high.

President Obama was right Sunday night to be reserved in his tone, to state the events of earlier that day modestly and matter-of-factly, to speak directly to the families who paid the biggest price: "We have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores."

In time perhaps those who enabled the likes of Osama bin Laden will come to know that not just America but mankind is better off without him, that no nation deserving the description of "civilized" or religion worthy of the title can countenance the crimes of which he was guilty.

Peoria, Ill., Journal Star