It happens every time I re-enter the United States. The nice customs agents smile at me, ask how my trip was, and, as if you can hear the needle scratch on the record, they say: "There’s a stamp in your passport to Pakistan. Have you been there?" Yes, I tell them. (For how else would that stamp get there, pray tell?) I have been to Pakistan; I have lived in Pakistan.
I traveled to Pakistan in 2007, living in Karachi mostly and spending some time in Islamabad, where the American Embassy is located. I was there adopting my son. My husband is of Indian-Pakistani descent, and when adopting, he wanted us to adopt a child from Pakistan, after he saw the devastation first hand when he volunteered as a surgeon there after the earthquake years before. He also wanted someone of his own heritage. [See photos of reactions to Osama bin Laden's death.]
I mention this as a preface to my comments about the assassination of Osama bin Laden so that you know that I don’t just speak about this region, this country, and these people as a bystander; I was among them.
On Sunday night after taking our children out for the day, I received a phone call from the executive producer of my radio show, and my first instinct was: "Why is he bothering me on a Sunday night?" When I picked up the phone, he asked if I had heard what happened, and then he told me that Osama bin Laden was dead, killed by American special forces.
I told my husband. We were both in shock. Joyous. Curious. We turned on the television. I saw people gathering outside of the White House to give the president a thumbs up, to thank him, singing our national anthem. I saw people at Ground Zero gather and cry tears of joy, rather than tears of sadness. No towers were falling, no bodies were being buried—except bin Laden’s. We were united again, if only for a short time. It was refreshing to see.
Osama bin Laden was a man who took pleasure in the pain and death of innocent men, women, and children, whether Christians, Jews, or even Muslims. Osama bin Laden perverted the religion of Islam and its worshippers so the world perceived this religion of peace as one of violence, innocent everyday people as terrorists. His death is a victory for America, for the victims of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks at the hands of al Qaeda, and for the world.
For those who question whether President Obama is a true leader, I think you have your answer. The president used a small special task force to carry out this mission. A man facing re-election who put politics aside and risked it all, knowing that bin Laden might not have even been in the compound when he gave the command to enter. A gutsy move, even some Republicans agree. [See a transcript of Obama's speech on bin Laden death.]
The man we saw speaking on the television was our commander in chief. And there will be no question as to whether he can command. We must give props where they’re due: to our president, our incredible CIA, Leon Panetta, our military, the special armed forces, and even the government of Pakistan and the residents of the surrounding area, who stayed indoors and kept their lights off as requested.
The chances of this being bin Laden were 60 percent, experts say. The president was the one who requested that the special forces start rehearsing their attack. The entire operation took 40 minutes to take out a man responsible for ordering the murder of thousands.
The president once again spoke of our enemy being terrorists, not Islam or the Muslim people, and he is right. I tire of people speaking of how much Pakistan and its people hate us. It’s simply not true. When I lived there, the people were fascinated by Americans, loved Americans, and even feared Americans. When the driver dropped me off at the airport as I left Pakistan for home, he told me: "God bless you and your family, Leslie, God Bless America. Please ask Mr. Bush not to bomb us." For those who ask, "Does the world hate us?" Today, they do not. Instead of seeing news footage in Pakistan—or any other Muslim nation—of people burning the American flag and chanting "down with America," we see the American flag being waved and cheers of Allah (God) bless America.
And as for the politicians? I would imagine that any potential GOP presidential candidate’s mouth dropped when he or she heard the news. I mean, who wants to run against a hero? How do you top that? All the president’s campaign slogan has to say is: "I made the call to take out bin Laden and succeeded. Questions?" I believe this will be an easy re-election for the president. He will go down as a legend: Nobel Peace Prize winner, the first African-American biracial president in this nation, and the man who ordered the hit on Osama bin Laden, the world’s number one terrorist, and perhaps most hated man. [See a slide show of six potential terrorist targets.]
For now, we can sleep tight. The bogeyman’s no longer under our beds, America. We’ll plan safety measures, as undoubtedly bin Laden’s cronies will retaliate by attacking Americans both here and abroad, and we’re ready. We’re in Obama’s hands, and that’s good enough for me.
Oh, and for those of you who were wondering why he didn’t produce his long-form birth certificate sooner? I hear he was pretty busy. Something about taking out a terrorist?