(As usual, the arrangement with the syndicatoirs means these columns appear here at least a week after their newspaper release. This was written right after Osama biin Laden's death)
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FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2011
THE TERRORISM WAR TRIUMPH, THE POLITICAL WAR MOMENTARY PAUSE
BY BOB FRANKEN
“Justice has been done” said President Barack Obama, as he dramatically announced the death, finally, of Osama Bin Laden, who was shot down in a meticulously planned effort by a U.S. special operations unit at his compound in Pakistan. The troops became national heroes for executing their violent and dangerous mission -- a mission that had been unaccomplished for nearly 10 years, during which hopes of retribution had been frustrated.
Let's be honest: Sometimes revenge is the best revenge. So the national celebration was immediate, with spontaneous crowds gathering to cheer outside the White House, at ground zero and around the country, even overseas.
The political impact will take time to evolve.
Obviously, Obama gets a huge boost, after all the opposition accusations that he has been too timid against terrorism. Although bin Laden roamed free during the administration of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney often has made the charge that Obama was soft on terrorism, complaining, for instance, “President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war.” Now, Bush, Cheney's ostensible boss, is calling the dispatch of bin Laden a “momentous achievement.”
The administration made sure we knew Obama had personally approved the raid and participated in months of planning. After all, how many times have we been confronted with reminders by American extremists and opportunists that “Obama” and “Osama” sound alike? Their relentless intolerance has taken many forms, the “Birther” obscenity being just one of them. They're the hateful manifestations of “He's not one of us.”
No one from the White House would explicitly acknowledge that this triumph, in the face of such vitriol, gave him any added satisfaction. That would be bad form, but it certainly would be understandable if there was some private gloating going on.
Instead, they could bask in the cheers as the No. 1 U.S. abomination had been rubbed out, relieving an intense collective need for payback, one that has festered in the decade since the 9/11 attacks.
Yes, the Republicans will join Democrats with their statements of what amount to congratulations -- they have little choice. Sarah Palin weighed in on Facebook:
“God bless all the brave men and women in our military and our intelligence services who contributed to carrying out the successful mission to bring bin Laden to justice and who laid the groundwork over the years to make this victory possible.” Some of the less grudging from the opposition even decided to magnanimously include Obama. Mitt Romney offered “Congratulations to our intelligence community, our military, our president.” Mike Huckabee went in a different direction, an entirely different one when he said “Welcome to Hell, Mr. Bin Laden.”
Those in the GOP resistance know full well they have plenty of time for this glow to wear off, plenty of time for their conspiracy theorists to move into action. It's a dead solid lock they are readying plans to raise skepticism about the fact that bin Laden was buried quickly at sea not in deference to religious sensitivities but as a sinister plot to hide the fact that it was not really him or that this villain was not really dead. They might become known as the “Deathers.” Whatever they're called, they will emerge from the ooze. Guaranteed.
We do, after all, have more than a year to go before the next election, and they'll find ways to question this triumph over monstrosity.
For now, however, the unparanoid can celebrate this singular success even as Obama warns that the death does not mark the end of the danger. “There's no doubt,” he declared, “that al-Qaida will continue to pursue attacks against us.”
If anything, this will heat up the war on terrorism. But for a brief moment, the political wars have a cease-fire. It won't last long.
© 2011 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.