May 05, 2011

The following op-ed was published in the Union Leader on May 5, 2011.

THIS WEEK, Americans everywhere bore witness to an extraordinary and historic event. Once again, thousands of Americans spontaneously gathered in Washington, D.C., and at ground zero in New York City. This time — nearly 10 years after the horrible and tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 — it was not an occasion for mourning and sadness but for relief, hope and renewal.

Osama bin Laden is dead.

All of us will remember where we were when we heard those words. The American people had waited nearly 10 years for justice. Now it had arrived.

I commend the Obama administration for bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.

The President made the capture or killing of bin Laden his top priority in the war against al-Qaida, and his administration ultimately accomplished what many thought could not be done.

Osama bin Laden’s death is a monumental triumph for U.S. national security interests and a testament to the quality and unrelenting resolve of the men and women of America’s intelligence, military and counter-terrorism establishment. America’s national security leaders showed incredible determination, competence and patience in meticulously following this intelligence to its successful conclusion.

The real heroes of this day are the Special Operations forces who carried out the dramatic and dangerous attack on our enemies thousands of miles from the safety and security of home. With amazing courage and incredible professionalism, American troops — as they have done time and time again — risked it all to make our country safer. The men and women of our armed forces have sacrificed so much in this struggle against terrorism. Today is yet another testament to their unyielding patriotism and courage. They deserve our nation’s deepest gratitude.

Despite the incredible success of this latest operation, we need to remember that the battle against terrorism and our extremist enemies is far from over. Bin Laden’s perverse and evil ideology does not end with his demise.

Unfortunately, the struggle will continue.

Immediately following the news of Bin Laden’s death, we saw the Pakistani Taliban call for revenge attacks against the U.S., and American facilities around the world are on heightened alert. We can expect attempts at retaliation and retribution as a degraded al-Qaida struggles to reassert itself. There is still much work to be done to secure our great nation.

We cannot be complacent at this time. Now, as al-Qaida is off-balance, the U.S. should continue to aggressively attack and pursue al-Qaida operatives around the world.

Homeland Security officials need to remain vigilant in protecting the American people. U.S. intelligence agencies should press to ensure that al-Qaida’s likely new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is pursued with the same vigilance as his predecessor.

Americans everywhere need to remain alert in the face of this persistent terrorist threat.

My colleagues and I on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be taking up these critical questions in the coming weeks with a series of hearings on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The justice served on Osama bin Laden reminds those that would sow violence and terrorism what end ultimately awaits them.

Today, everyone knows what we stand against. But we also need to remind the world what we stand for. In moving forward, America needs to be equally clear of our dedication to peace and progress, of our commitment to a world free of tyranny and oppression.

This event takes on added significance in the wider context of the upheaval we are seeing throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Although the final chapter of the so-called “Arab Spring” has not yet been written — and a peaceful ending is hardly guaranteed — it may turn out to be the most dramatic transformation in our world since the fall of the Soviet Union. As millions of disaffected and disillusioned citizens continue to take to the streets demanding their voices be heard, the peaceful and inclusive nature of these protests is a striking departure from the fanatical ideology of violence that has been the hallmark of al-Qaida.

This is a time of relief, hope, and renewal — but not a time for relaxation. There are simply too many terrorist threats to Americans to lower our guard. Rather, this should be a time for all of us to remember the unity we felt as Americans on 9/11, to honor the victims of that terrible tragedy and to once again proudly remember that when we act as one people, the United States will rise above any challenge that comes before us.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, represents New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate.