A few hours ago, I was on Facebook looking at pictures that my little brother's girlfriend had tagged me on. They were pictures of my brother and his fellow infantrymen. This was my first time seeing pictures of him with other soldiers. Out of the blue, I got a text from a friend of mine that said "Are you watching CNN? They said they got Osama bin Laden!" The question I asked almost immediately was "What does that mean for the troops?" His reply was exactly what I expected: "I don't know. They didn't say."
Of course, most Americans feel safer knowing that Bin Laden is no longer in the world. But for those of us who have family in the military, we are forced to wonder will conditions in the Middle East get worse now that Al-Qaida has lost Osama bin Laden, or will things finally start getting better (meaning less dangerous) for our soldiers? How much longer will the occupation in the east continue? Bin Laden's death affects them most of all, and because I have a family member who's in the armed forces, its something that I can't overlook.
Many of us have all heard the "theories" about what this war was really about. We've heard 9/11 was part of the American government's conspiracy to initiate a war against Iraq. We've heard that Osama bin Laden was being used as the fall guy to cover up the government's desire to start a war. We've heard that the war was really only about oil and controlling an area best suited for building a natural gas pipeline. At the risk of sounding insensitive, at this point, I no longer care about the reasons the war started or any lingering conspiracy theories. Lives were lost, worlds were shattered, and now that my little brother is in the Army, I care about one thing and one thing only:
In a perfect world, Osama's death would mean the beginning of the end of this decade long "War on Terror." The numbers of troops on Active Duty would decline, the Security Alert Level wouldn't be so damned orange and we would once again be able to fly with a real bottle of shampoo in our carry-on luggage. However, because this war has gone on for so long, it's difficult for me to believe that the death of one person, no matter how influential, is going to end this war. In fact, things might actually get even more heated due to the expected retaliation from Al-Qaida. And if that's true, then what are we all celebrating for? So many people seem to be thrilled with the fact that Bin Laden is dead, not considering the fact that this war is bigger than him. It's not only about "extremist Islamic views," ( I DO NOT hold all Muslims accountable for the actions of the extremists, just to be clear,) its about "terror" and "patriotism" and "freedom" and "our way of life" and all of these other terms that get tossed around in the media as a means of justifying why there is no end to this war in sight.
Osama bin Laden might be dead to us, but to our adversaries he just became a holy martyr. The small cells that Al-Qaida operates from could actually become MORE dangerous and reckless in the absence of central leadership. Now, many analysts are saying Bin Laden's death will likely result in the breakdown of the militant groups in the Middle East that are associated with Al-Qaida that took inspiration from Bin Laden's calls for attacks on the U.S., so that makes me feel somewhat optimistic. But before I can join in on celebrating the death of one of America's greatest foes, I first need to know how Bin Laden's death is going to affect our troops. That will determine what it actually means to me. Until then, I dedicate this song to everyone in the armed forces: