There is a general mood of elation, it seems, that Bin Laden is dead. I do not share in that. I do not rejoice in his death.
It is a sad end to a chapter in a long, sad story, which is far from ended. This in not the end of Al Qaeda, nor the Taliban. In the 10 years since the hunt for Bin Laden got serious, he has had plenty of time, I am sure to encourage up dozens of new leaders. Maybe they will be effective, maybe ineffective. Does killing him change that? Does any of it buy back the wasted years and the wasted effort and the wasted money? Those who are rejoicing because they think some kind of justice is achieved will not find their grief lighter, I suspect. Pain is not such an easy transaction.
And in between 9/11 and May 2, 2011, how many thousands of Afghans have died in drone attacks, midnight raids, missile strikes, black prisons? How many soldiers from nations never concerned with all this have gone home in body bags, or deranged, removed, taken to a place from which they will never fully return. All their grief and that of all their families follows a different trajectory, unlinked to Bin Laden’s death, and one which will continue long past this day.
But seeing as Bin Laden is dead, and seeing as this somehow, for some people, legitimises all that has happened, can all the soldiers now go home? It’s over. It’s done. A demon is dead. The remnant Taliban are not, and never were a threat to the sovereignty of Western nations. They never had that ambition. Their agenda is surely a domestic issue, which most parties have agreed for years now, can only, ultimately addressed by the Afghan nation. Leave the Taliban to go legitimate or to go feral – they are doing it anyway – and go home, foreign soldiers. Your hunt for Bin Laden is over, and the real war, the war of ideologies, was never going to won with guns and bullets anyway.