America has struck a blow against terrorism

By Carl Levin

Guest Columnist

At 10 o’clock on a Sunday night I was in the terminal at Detroit Metro Airport. I had gone through the usual airport security drills – shoes off, liquids in plastic bags, and all the other inconveniences designed to keep us safe. And it was in December 2009 that a would-be terrorist sought to bomb an airliner as it landed in Detroit.

So I was surrounded by reminders large and small of how the threat of terrorism has affected our lives when Defense Secretary Gates called me with the momentous news that our forces had succeeded in raiding a compound in Pakistan and killing Osama bin Laden.

A few hours later, my wife Barbara and I joined a different scene: thousands of cheering young people waving American flags and singing patriotic songs in the early morning darkness outside of the White House, part of an outpouring of relief and emotion across the nation.

In the wake of this news, we should first turn to those who still carry the grief and loss of that September morning about 10 years ago, to those who have lost loved ones in the fight against terror in the years since, and to those who carry wounds of body, mind or spirit from that war.

The death of Osama bin Laden cannot bring back the lives lost to his monstrous acts. But it can, I hope, bring some measure of relief from those losses.

And we should turn with thanks and admiration to the men and women of our armed forces and the intelligence community. For them and their families, the last decade has been one of long separations, uncertainty and danger. And yet, time and time again, they have answered their nation’s call with courage, with competence and with skill. They have once again earned our utmost gratitude.

We also should commend President Obama for his courage and for his care in ordering the military mission to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.

With his bold decision, and with the heroism and skill of our military and intelligence professionals, our nation struck a tremendous blow not just against a single, depraved individual, but against the hateful ideology that he espoused. Let there be no mistake, al Qaeda is weaker today. Its leader is dead, and so is the myth surrounding him. The mystique of Osama bin Laden has been punctured.

The victory over hate-inspired terrorism is not yet complete. Our successful mission against bin Laden will no doubt lead al Qaeda’s remaining leaders to issue calls for retaliation. It is critical that our intelligence and military strength continue to seek out the remnants of al Qaeda.

The threat may be diminished, but it remains.

This is an effort worthy not just of this nation, but of all nations. And that is why it is important that we find answers to the significant questions raised by the news from Sunday night. Thirty-five miles from the Pakistani capital, and a comfortable walk from the Pakistani military’s most important academy, al Qaeda appears to have built a massive complex as the dedicated hiding place for Osama bin Laden.

The American people, who have provided billions of dollars of aid to the Pakistani government, deserve to know whether elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services or local officials knew of bin Laden’s location over the five years or so he was there, and if they claim they did not know, how that could possibly be the case. Just as importantly, the Pakistani people deserve these answers.

So it is urgent that the Pakistani government get answers to the questions about what its military and intelligence agencies and local officials knew, and share the answers to those questions with the world and with their own people, so that we can continue this fight together.

Carl Levin is the senior U.S. senator from Michigan.