On this, the one year anniversary of the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, it is worth reflecting upon how the signature success in America’s ten-year plus war on terrorism was achieved. His compound was reportedly raided early May 2, 2011 Pakistan time, or May 1, U.S. time.
America’s finest young men and women, primarily at the CIA and NSA, and within the U.S. military’s special operations community -- jointly working for over a decade -- tirelessly, relentlessly, and doggedly pursued the leader of al-Qa’ida, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
There was no rest, no break, no let up, never a moment when they collectively thought it could not be accomplished. From the immediate moments after 9/11/2001, the men and women charged with finding Bin Laden and exacting vengeance for the attacks on America pursued their target without respite.
Never once did these intelligence and military professionals doubt that they would find, kill, or capture Bin Ladin, nor that America’s dead would be avenged. Even while accepting ridicule and derision over their past failures, both real and exaggerated, the CIA operatives and analysts involved never let it get to them, and continued to tirelessly go after the organization that had dared attack their homeland.
Pestering voices, from both politicians and the media, naysayers and pundits, failed to deter them from their goal. They always knew the importance of the work they were doing, and they kept at it fiercely. The fight was as much theirs as anyone’s. They were doing it for their families, their country, and for their honor. The same can be said for those at the NSA.
The same is also true of the men and women of the special operations community, who, despite a relentless and grueling deployment schedule, and suffering numerous casualties and deaths in both Iraq and Afghanistan, also drove on fearlessly and with unbowed determination. They prepared, trained, and rehearsed for the raid that would finally come.
They also pursued their own leads over the ten years that followed 9/11, honed their craft, and systematically degraded al-Qa’ida’s ability to attack America. They took the fight to those that had killed their countrymen, punishing them for the attacks not only on 9/11, but also for those on America’s embassies in East Africa, and on the U.S.S. Cole.
More so than any politicians or political appointees, who might be tempted to tout the role they played in reforming the Agency, or pushing the military to find Bin Laden, the men and women in the field and at headquarters buildings in North Carolina, Maryland, northern and eastern Virginia, and Washington, DC -- most between the ages of 25 and 40, and most career military and civil servants -- deserve credit for the victory.
They did not need to be told to find Bin Laden. They did not need motivation from the political leadership. They carried the fire of the American public in their hearts. They are the American public, its sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters.
They just needed the political will and the resources from their national leadership, and for the ruling class in Washington, DC, to stay out of their way. It would only take time, but they knew they would succeed. And so they did. We owe them thanks. They are us.