Obama gets Osama: one less boogeyman, but will a new one emerge?


When you’re told to stand by for breaking news from the White House on a Sunday night, you know you’re not about to get a standard garden-variety press release.

What could possibly interrupt a night reserved for watching America’s masterpiece theatre–that conniving Star Jones on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Maybe a presidential Asian Pacific American Heritage Month greeting to kick off May?

No, this was bigger than even that.

It was so big, not even the president could control the news.

So by the time he said the words, “I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children,” it was somewhat anti-climactic.

Osama was dead since early afternoon, but Obama had already been scooped.

Who needs multiple sources when you have a million of them on Twitter?

Before the official address, Geraldo on Fox was going crazy, high-fiving a studio guest. On the Twitterverse jokes were already flying about Trump, or the Republicans, demanding the “long-form” death certificate. Ding-dong the news was out. (One of the few things we didn’t know that was revealed late Monday, bin Laden’s U.S. code name: Geronimo. If I were a Native American, I’d surely resent that. I think someone in the military deserves some diversity training for that one.)

The speech didn’t have many details except the important political ones. Obama, the bounty hunter, had promised to get his man (remember?), and by golly he did, making the order himself. One surprise: bin Laden wasn’t in some cave somewhere roughing it, but in a luxury compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The Pakistanis? In the dark.

But beyond the political claims that emphasized how this one action alone makes Obama’s administration (who among the GOP can touch him now?), my ears really perked when the president said these words: “We must also reaffirm that the United States is not–and will never be–at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.”


That’s what really needs reminding. Not who promised to do what. Although, while we’re at it, it is important to get your target right. Look at how George Bush went after Iraq and Saddam. It was scapegoating at the highest level. The U.S. started a massive war when all we needed was a Jack Bauer-type police action.

So it’s important to be reminded that bin Laden was just a symbol, and did not represent a people.

In nearly ten years of the U.S. searching for a phantom boogeyman, Americans have been too often willing to scapegoat and blame anyone with a foreign name, a turban, or a Koran.

Sure, 9/11 changed all our lives. But unless you are of South Asian descent or from a Muslim background, you can’t imagine the terror of being an innocent wrongfully stopped, detained, or harassed. There has been way too much of that in America.

And now, just like the families of all the victims who died on 9/11, they are celebrating today.

To many of them, bin Laden was the man who hijacked Islam and perpetrated more crimes toward Muslims than any other people. But do you think they were out there with the enthusiastic young people who took to the streets on May Day with their flags and pro-USA chanting?

Not unless the president’s words about not being at war with Islam really sinks in.

I already have my doubts of what really will change with bin Laden’s death. He survived a manhunt 10 years.

That’s almost as long as the real killers in the O.J. case.

But no one dared turn in OBL for a bounty. And not a peep or a tweet to out him while in Pakistan. That says bin Laden still has his supporters .

The terrorism threat did not die this weekend.

We just lost the boogeyman we all knew and loved to hate.

It always was oddly comforting to know bin Laden was somewhere. It lulled us into a false sense of security. If he were in a cave, could he really hurt us? Many of us had even put the day-to-day worries of terrorism out of our minds and were living our lives on Sunday night without a care.

But now as all the memories of 9/11 come rushing back with a vengeance, the closure the news provides is limited as we wait to see if and when a new boogeyman fills the void.


Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.
read Emil's bio