Minutes after President Barack Obama broke the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, official statements from some of the globe’s leading authorities started to enter the public airwaves. Most of the remarks, some by former presidents, some by congressional leaders, some by prime ministers, were generally similar in tone and substance: congratulations to the American armed forces and intelligence community for a job well done. The unified response to the killing showed how important bringing bin Laden to justice had become.
Former President George W. Bush: “Earlier this evening, President Obama called to inform me that American forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the Al Qaeda network that attacked America on September 11, 2001. I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission. They have our everlasting gratitude. This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.
Former President Bill Clinton: “This is a profoundly important moment not just for the families of those who lost their lives on 9/11 and in Al Qaeda’s other attacks but for people all over the world who want to build a common future of peace, freedom, and cooperation for our children. I congratulate the president, the national-security team and the members of our armed forces on bringing Osama bin Laden to justice after more than a decade of murderous Al Qaeda attacks.”
Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York: “This is a thunderous strike for justice for the thousands of my fellow New Yorkers — and citizens from all over the world — who were murdered on 9/11. It took close to ten years, but the world’s most wanted terrorist has finally met his deserved fate. New York’s heart is still broken from the tragedy of 9/11 but this at least brings some measure of closure and consolation to the victims and their families. This is a massive accomplishment for the countless military and intelligence personnel who have been urgently dedicated to this task for the past decade. Because bin Laden’s evil dogma has poisoned the minds of so many others, we cannot let up in the War on Terror. This successful mission sends a definitive message to those who would test the resolve of the people of the United States of America: do not doubt our resolve; if you do us harm, we will find you, we will mete out justice, and we will prevail.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel: “a resounding triumph for justice, freedom and the values shared by all democratic nations fighting shoulder to shoulder in determination against terrorism.”
Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom: “This news will be welcomed right across our country. Of course, it does not mark the end of the threat we face from extremist terrorism. Indeed, we will have to be particularly vigilant in the weeks ahead.”
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan: “For years we have said that the fight against terrorism is not in Afghan villages and houses. It is in safe havens, and today that was shown to be true.”
Saudi Arabia’s State News Agency: “An official source expressed the hope of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia that the elimination of the leader of the terrorist Al Qaeda organization would be a step toward supporting international efforts aimed at fighting terrorism.
Not to be outdone, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab world’s most potent political organization, issued its own remarks about the bin Laden killing, praising the terrorist leader’s death as a new chapter in Arab history and a defeat for the violent extremist ideology that Al Qaeda espouses.
The Muslim Brotherhood has long opposed Al Qaeda’s violent tactics, including its disregard for killing innocent Muslims, as well as its black and white, us versus them outlook on world affairs.
The mood, however, was not all celebratory. As expected, jihadist websites were doing their usual clamoring about a western conspiracy aimed at degrading Muslims worldwide. Some questioned whether bin Laden was actually dead, citing other instances of his death in the past as false and misleading. Others used the forums to recount bin Laden’s history as a humble and pious Muslim who stood up to the United States, a country they categorize as the epicenter of all things morally deplorable.
But Al Qaeda and the Salafi jihadist community were not the only parties upset about the killing. Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of Hamas, expressed to reporters his deep opposition to bin Laden’s assassination.
We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs. We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior.
Haniyeh’s comments are a bit surprising, not only because Hamas is battling its own Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip, but also because Hamas’ political leadership has long disagreed with Al Qaeda about tactics and ideology. The global jihadist narrative of Al Qaeda has largely been branded by Hamas officials as unnecessary and unrealistic. Indeed, the very core of its ideology contradicts Hamas’ nationalistic agenda, which is concentrated on defeating Israel and liberating Palestinian lands from the occupation.
Haniyeh’s denouncement also goes against the official line of the Muslim Brotherhood to which Hamas belongs.
Perhaps Haniyeh is trying to differentiate himself, and his organization, from the Palestinian Authority, which is seen by Palestinians as far more pro-Western in its policies and preferential to negotiations with Israel. One Palestinian analyst, Hani Habib, has suggested that this is Hamas’ way of appeasing its Salafist challengers and getting on their good side.
Whatever the case, it’s an odd statement for Haniyeh to be making, coming a day after his group signed a reconciliation accord and power-sharing agreement with Fatah. A bad public relations stunt by Hamas but still a bad day for Osama and his followers.