He’s dead. The United States killed him.
Last night, President Obama announced that, following a lead that first reached his ears in August, he ordered a Navy Seals team to kill Bin Laden. When they reached his compound (which you can see on Google Maps), in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad, about 40 miles north of the capital, Islamabad, a firefight ensued and Bin Laden was killed (among other things, he was shot in the head), along with an adult son of his and a couple others at his mansion. No Americans were harmed. The United States got his body, which was “handled in accordance with Islamic practice and traditions.” In the end, following DNA confirmation, he was literally put out to sea.
“Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader,” Obama said. “He was a mass murderer of Muslims.” For a fuller tick-tock of how this came to be, read Laura Rozen. The Times reports that the intelligence began through detective work when U.S. officials learned of a trusted Bin Laden courier from inmates at Guantánamo Bay four years ago.
Consequences, there’ll be a few. Strategically, it is presumably a big morale boost to, well, us, and a bummer to, um, them. One presumes there will also be a renewed focus on the cooperation—or lack thereof—between the United States and Pakistan when it comes to fighting al-Qaida. Obama devoted a full paragraph of his speech to that country, saying, “Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al-Qaida and its affiliates.” But this was a gloss: The United States didn’t even inform Pakistan of the operation in its own country beforehand. This doesn’t so much raise serious issues about Pakistan, since those issues were already there, but it will slingshot them back into the forefront of American popular consciousness. Anyway, it would certainly stretch the bounds of credulity to suggest that Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence service was unaware of the abnormally tall, familiar-looking Arab dude living in a mansion 40 miles north of the capital during all these months. Dexter Filkins has a quick, must-read take on this.
Although the presidential election is nearly exactly 18 months away, it is difficult not to see this helping the incumbent at least somewhat. And why shouldn’t it? Throughout the general election campaign, to the tsk-tsking of his opponents (whose leader, President George W. Bush, had said he had given up on finding bin Laden), Obama had resolutely vowed that, if president, he would kill Bin Laden. Mission accomplished. (UPDATE: Dan Klein writes in to remind me that, during the campaign, John McCain pledged not to chase bin Laden into Pakistan.)
Now is the time for this, from last night’s Mets-Phillies game in Philadelphia: