The Washington Post

Obama and Bush on Bin Laden: Two moments in time

With the killing of Osama bin Laden, the other bookend on this tragic era of American history is now in place. As news broke that the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon was dead, my mind immediately went to the images of the World Trade Center. First they were on fire. Then they collapsed. But their once unfathomable destruction is not the first bookend to my mind. It is this iconic speech by then-President George W. Bush on Sept. 14.

“I can hear you,” Bush said to the cheering first responders after one in the crowd said he couldn’t hear the president. “The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”

At 11:35 last night, the other bookend slipped into place. That’s when President Obama announced that bin Laden finally heard “all of us” in a nighttime raid that took just 40 minutes to complete but nearly a decade to execute. But the key line in the president’s address came seven minutes into his nine-minute address to the nation.

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“And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to Al Qaeda’s terror, justice has been done.”

Missteps and colossal mistakes have been made over the last decade in the pursuit of bin Laden and the overall global war on terror. But I’m grateful to the men and women in two administrations who worked day and night to keep this nation safe. More important, I’m most grateful to the men and women of the armed forces — and their families — whose sacrifices made last night’s announcement possible. We are most definitely not out of the woods in the fight against those who wish to do us harm. But the face of evil no longer stalks the earth. There is comfort in that.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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