An American perspective: Osama’s death is not Obama’s victory

Published: May 3, 2011

Bin Laden’s death has most likely earned him general brownie points, but unless Obama can fix the economy and troops out of Afghanistan by November 2012, no American is going to be thinking about Bin Laden when casting a vote.

When Osama bin Laden was killed, I was at a dinner party given by an award-winning author, munching on sweetbread and chatting up brilliant filmmaker, writer and activist types. Though I’m in the country where Bin Laden was tracked and killed, for me the news ironically came from America. I read about his death in an email from Mississippi shortly after waking.

My American friends are bombarding my Facebook wall – “What’s it like to be there right now?” Honestly, I feel happy, scared and fairly apathetic. As I rode to work,  I watched Defense pass outside my window—the mosque, the goats, the  high rise construction site, the Pakistan State Oil station I see at least twice a day—and thought, ‘this is what a world without Osama bin Laden looks like.’ And I felt unaffected.

I wonder too—what’s it like here, what will it be like a week from now, a month from now, a year from now? What will Osama’s death mean for al Qaeda, for the organization’s past and future victims, for American foreign policy and for those living in regions affected by American foreign policy? What does this mean for Pakistanis, Afghans, North Africans, Americans abroad?

Al Qaeda seems to be keeping mum, but according to Al Jeerza ,websites produced by al Qaeda sympathisers are treating the death-reports as credible and expressing gratitude that Bin Laden was not taken alive, to be tortured and humiliated.

Pundits from both Arabic and Western news outfits seem to consider bin Laden little more than a figurehead. He may be mourned by his followers, but the general consensus is that al Qaeda is a complicated, diasporic organisation with many centers, and that Bin Laden’s death won’t serve to discourage acts of terrorism.

And while American forces may have entered Afghanistan to procure Bin Laden—and even that is debatable— Bin Laden has little to do with America’s continued presence there. I can’t speak for all Americans, but as I understand the situation, we are still in Afghanistan because we’ve aggravated an already messy situation, we don’t know how to fix things and we don’t think we can, in good conscious, pull out. Killing Bin Laden may boost the morale of American troops, but I doubt it will affect much else in Afghanistan, except to possibly boost acts of terrorism in the short term.

Preventing terrorism on US soil is in our Afghanistan-justification cocktail somewhere. I hate to sound so cynical, but I’m not sure if our troops have been effective on that front, either. We haven’t had any major acts of terrorism on American soil in a decade, this much is true. But it’s also true that thousands more Americans have died fighting the War on Terror than in the 9/11 attacks, to say nothing of the Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani soldiers and civilians who have been “sacrificed” to the cause.

Reuter reports Bin Laden’s burial at sea, which seem a bit hasty and thin. Maybe this is to prevent followers from attempting to steal the body or turning his grave into a shrine?

Obama was able to accomplish what Bush probably considered his own fated mission, but I’m not sure it’s going to win Obama new long-term fans. The commentators who are convinced that Obama has now sealed the 2012 election have obviously spent little time in the South in the past two years.

In the red-blooded, red-voting South, there’s a history of racial, religious and political prejudice that predates the War on Terror by centuries.  I’m sure bin Laden’s capture is being viewed not as Obama’s accomplishment, but as the end result of tactics established under Bush’s command. Obama can toss around August 2010 as much as he wants, but many of the white, regularly voting Southern US views Obama as an institutional pawn constructing America-the-welfare-state at best and at worst, as a foreign-born Muslim who pretends to uphold the Christian ideals America was founded upon while stealing the presidency from an actual American citizen.

In his address to the American people, Obama diplomatically noted Pakistan’s cooperation in a successful mission, but there are conflicting reports as to whether or not Pakistani intelligence was actually informed of or involved in the operation.  The Pakistani government most likely fears retaliation from al Qaeda or other militants, and coming off a week of political violence and inexplicable blasts targeting Navy personnel, in Karachi alone, the Pakistani government is wise to remain silent.

Even if Pakistanis are happy about Bin Laden’s death, if America launched a military attack on Pakistani soil without the blessing of the Pakistani government, it’s not going to do much to boost America’s image among the Pakistani people.

As for Obama’s image, Bin Laden’s death has most likely earned him general brownie points, but unless he can fix the economy and get us out of Afghanistan by November 2012, no American is going to be thinking about Bin Laden when they cast their vote.


Cheree Franco

A graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School and fellow for The Express Tribune. She writes about art and culture for Juxtapoz magazine and blogs at

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Abu Bakr Agha

    Absolutely true about the Obama situation, however i’m not so sure if the Pakistani security forces didn’t take credit to avoid retaliation. Even if they were not involved at all, any retaliation from Osama’s supporters would be directed towards the Pakistani forces – the closest ‘ally’ to the U.S for them to attack. Close meaning in the sense of distance of course.

    Osama dead is of course much needed closure to a lot of Americans and every supporter of peace in the world breathes a sigh of relief at the least on the news of his death. The loser in the way events have unfolded is unfortunately Pakistan. Firstly being in the U.S i can tell you first hand everyone here wants to know what bin Laden was doing in a mansion in the middle of a city, 80 miles away from the capital of a U.S ally. secondly the operation seems to have been a violation of sovereignty – Pakistani forces should have conducted it and U.S troops should not have been roaming on our soil, thirdly there will definitely be backlash by the militant groups and that spells grave danger for major cities in Pakistan, especially compounds of any sort of security forces. There is a clear element of fear in the subconscious of every Pakistani at the moment. I myself can’t help but be afraid of travelling to Islamabad from Chicago in a week.

    Nothing has changed for Obama, nothing has changed for the war on terror and things have gotten worse for Pakistan (security wise and ties with the US wise). Innocent people will continue to die as collateral damage, and operations in Afghanistan and Waziristan will continue. In the end some people just feel a little happier, but as far as progress in this mission the U.S is concerned, zilch. Many people in the U.S are celebrating and many people in Pakistan are afraid and praying – and you cannot blame either of them.Recommend

  • Samantha N

    Yea… kinna but still most of them are white and southeees Recommend

  • Wasio Ali Khan Abbasi

    I agree with your viewpoint. Obama can take the credit for getting rid of OBL during his tenure but unless he fixes the problems US is going through, put a stop to dollar decline, pull troops out of Afghanistan and make a solid plan for economic revival, the next elections will not be much of a success for him.Recommend

  • Habiba Younis

    A very candid analysis, keep writing!!!Recommend

  • parvez

    This is the first really good analysis covering most issues on this and related subjects. Recommend

  • John

    I think it is time for you to come home. You have been living there too long and not interacting with the real world outside.

    Obama and his team set out a policy even before his primary win, openly declared it, only to be criticized by many, and he proved them all wrong at the end.

    Economy is not as bad as in PAK, in case if you bother to read the Federal Reserve Bank numbers. Crysler made first quarter profit, US treasury made money in bail out, no loss to tax payers. Healthcare bill a foul ball, but he will come out of it.

    I see him win in reelection, but not in land slide. Ohio and Wisconsin are for democrats and they are key to white house. Republicans screwed up with restrictions on union in the recently enacted laws in these states.

    Osama is a bonus point.

    As for republican candidates, they have none yet, not for this term, except Sara Palin and I am sure even you won’t cast your vote for a cup of tea.

    Osama’s death is not Obama’s victory. It is US victory in war, but not in battle. Everyone wants to join the party, including PAK! Recommend

  • Asim

    It would have been a source of serious embarrassment for the US to exit Afghanistan without killing Bin Laden, who had allegedly masterminded the 9/11 attacks on the United States and they had been using him and have been really busy for th…e last ten years or so in state terrorism by killing millions of Afghanis and Pakistanis (dont forget, none of the alleged 9/11 masterminds or implementers were Afghanis or Pakistanis) and secondly for the last couple of years OBL has been of no use to Americans so it was the right time to eliminate him and if we look at the big picture this was the right time to score points against Pakistan as these days ISI and CIA relations are not that great.

    Not only this I have doubts over the whole story, the DNA test was done on the Navy ship. So lets see…US ships are equipped with a DNA lab and their Navy can get DNA results in less then 24hrs but their military can’t find a man on dialysis who’s been living in the same place for 10years? Seriously?!?!?Recommend

  • cheree

    John, just to clarify…I didn’t say those are MY views on Obama, I said those are many people’s views…Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    I think its “THE MOST BALANCED” blog on the subject. Its good to see rationalism winning. Thanks Cheree Franco !!.

    and just ignore John…stay here as much as you like. Recommend

  • Maleeha Khan

    good write up!Recommend