Biggest moments of 2011 #1 Osama sleeps with the fishes
On May 1, 2011, with 18 purposeful steps, US president Barack Obama approached a lectern placed in the East Room of The White House. His 10 minute speech began with the statement: “Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people, and the world, that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children.”
The announcement followed a raid by Navy SEALS on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden had been living, despite the widespread assumption that he was holed up in a cave or remote village in Afghanistan.
Bin Laden’s body was then taken to Afghanistan for identification, after which he was quickly buried at sea.
There had been signs that something was afoot a day before the raid when Obama was in a spectacularly good mood at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Obama had been under pressure from Donald Trump and assorted nutters to release his birth certificate, proving he was born in the USA and therefore a valid president.
He joked that he would release more than his birth certificate - he’d give ‘em the birth video too! In fact he made joke after joke after joke. He was indeed in high spirits. The pres knew the death of bin Laden would be good for business.
By 4pm the next day, the raid was on. The president gathered with key advisors and senior staff in the White House Situation Room, in a meeting immortalised in a famous photo. The rest is history.
What happened next
Americans celebrated. Just as some in the Arab world had gathered to cheer after the horrors of 9/11, Americans were drawn to public places, especially The White House in Washington. Some saw the celebrations as over the top. Others viewed them as a natural upwelling of emotion after almost 10 intensely frustrating years, during which bin Laden occasionally taunted the West with Jihadist video messages.
Allegations soon surfaced over Pakistan’s culpability in shielding bin Laden, given his house was literally just down the road from the Pakistan Military Academy.
Back in America, President Obama enjoyed a huge surge in popularity in the polls. The ongoing domestic economic problems have since negated the Bin Laden effect somewhat. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the absence of an obvious Republican challenger, he’d have genuine reason to fear the 2012 election. As it is, he’s still probably good for two terms. At least, that’s what one comedian thinks (you have to watch this till the end).
What we learned
Bloodthirsty as it sounds, we learned that revenge can sometimes be sweet. This was especially the case in a year which was the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In a much more sober lesson, we learned that al-Qaeda ain’t going anywhere, bin Laden or no bin Laden.
How The Punch covered it
Extensively. We had all kinds of stoushes over whether the raid was “too American”, the celebrations too celebratory and god knows what else. We even wrote a story about all the Osama jokes on the net which had a rather amusing headline in its own right.
Not that the year’s biggest story was ultimately a laughing matter. Especially not when there are still Jihadist madmen in the world. At some point, as we continue to wage a fruitless war in Afghanistan, you have to say the West needs to do a better job of engaging with radical Islam - and they with us.
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