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Obama gets the tone pitch perfect as he announces Bin Laden’s death

Posted on 2 May 2011 | 6:05am

Barack Obama will have weighed every word carefully as he announced the successful operation to kill Osama Bin Laden. He will know that his statement in the White House will be played again and again on news bulletins around the world today. It was an announcement with one major fact in it – Bin Laden’s death – but with ramifications that would be felt around the world.

His tone was faultless; serious, sober, not a hint of triumphalism, a tribute to the forces who carried out the operation, with a warning that this was not the end of the story, and the important message that the West is not at war with Islam.

None of that could stop hundreds of Americans rushing to the White House to celebrate, some shouting ‘four more years’, seeing political mileage in the capture and killing of America’s Most Wanted. There may well be political benefits, but I suspect Obama would be the last to want that kind of reaction right now. 9/11, and Bin Laden’s role in it, are seared deep in the US psyche, across the admittedly bitter political divide. He got the tone right. Those shouting ‘four more years’ are not.

At this stage, unrurprisingly, the Western media are focusing on reaction here, but as the day develops the reactions of politicians and people in the Arab and Muslim world will have just as much significance. In the past, Al Qaida leaders, though none as senior as Bin Laden, have been taken out, and reprisals have followed. It is why David Cameron and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander have been sensible to point out the continuing need for vigilance.

Bin Laden is dead. But the terrorist groups he led and inspired are not, which is why Obama rightly eschewed triumphalism, and got the tone of his announcement spot on.

  • Stewart Cowan

    The evidence shows that 9/11 was an inside job. Bin Laden was not even wanted by the FBI for the atrocities. Bin Laden was a known CIA asset. He had been receiving treatment for kidney problems and probably died years ago and was kept on ice to be “killed” at the appropriate time. This would account for the fake, grainy bin Laden videos which appeared over time. Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007, said in an interview with David Frost that bin Laden had been murdered.

    Seriously, the man was not even wanted for the crimes. The FBI website says that he is wanted for… Murder of U.S. Nationals Outside the United States; Conspiracy to Murder U.S. Nationals Outside the United States; Attack on a Federal Facility Resulting in Death

    Not a mention of 9/11.

    As you say, there’s an election coming up and Obama is (or was) very unpopular.

    Last week his long form birth certificate finally appeared – after he said that it didn’t exist.

  • Robert

    ……and buried at sea so no one will know the location of the body.

    Was that wise?

    Surely it is fuel for nutty conspiracy theorists?

    • True, but what value in a Bin Laden grave becoming a shrine?

      The conspiracy theorists, to my mind, will find conspiracy in any scenario if they so wish (and they often do – witness the nonsense of the Birthers). Obama’s decisions on this one carry a maturity and gravitas that has been lacking from US politics for too long. Let the conspiracy theorists snipe all they want; the right call was made.

  • David Sindall

    Totally agree Alistair. This was a great display of restrained statesmanship which could only have been delivered by him (or possibly TB) with the same level of measured gravitas

  • Olli Issakainen

    Terrorism is a tactic. You cannot have a “war on terror”.
    The aim of terrorism is to create psychological climate of fear. The terrorists want to compensate for legitimate political power they do not possess.
    It is important to remember that STATES have been responsible for the most lethal instances of TERRORISM!
    And to what extent the CIA-funded arm of Afghan mujahideen created Osama bin Laden?
    Islamist terror is an old phenomenon. It has complex motives: cultural, political, social and religious.
    The West is partly responsible for terrorism as one cause of terrorism is colonisation.
    Terrorists include Green, Red (Russian nihilists/revolutionaires), Black (anarchists) and attention-seekers (Black September).
    In the 1970s we had Abu Nidal, Carlos the Jackal, the Baader-Meinhof gang and Japanese Red Army. Cold war battles were fought out by proxy.
    Sometimes horrible conditions cause some terrorists to act. Nelson Mandela joined the armed wing of ANC.
    Apartheid created huge obstacles to the majority.
    Terrorists are not always psychopats or criminals. Violence is not always for the sake of violence.
    Terrorism is a complex issue. We need to know the roots of it. And the nature of it.
    Britain has had its own relationship with Ireland. But that is another story.

    Ps. The US must now, of course, be ready for reprisals.

  • Burnellfamily

    At No 10 you were the master of striking the right note ( eg Princess Diana) in key speeches, and whoever wrote for Obama could have been one of your pupils.

  • Paul Hands

    You forgot to add to your blog … unlike George Bush

  • Colin Kingman

    It took your old mate Tony to be the first to remind people 9/11 was the biggest single loss of British life in a terror attack. I thought his statement was excellebnt. Hasnt lost his touch

  • Alan Jones

    Obama has a reputation for being indecisive on foreign policy, but looked and sounded like he had really led on this one. This is the stuff of future Hollywood movies

  • Jo Willcox

    Agree Obama’s speech pitch perfect. I hope OBL’s death brings some comfort to the families of 9/11.

    Also hope it all stops now, but it won’t because we’re part of the problem. Psychological fear of terrorism (not “terror”) must not drive foreign policy.

    No more senseless slaughter.

  • Gilliebc

    Stewart, just to say I support what you have written 100% Had this Bin Laden “story” come out a year ago, I too like the majority would have swallowed it hook, line and sinker. But not now. If anyone reading Stewart’s post or my comment in response to it has the slightest doubt about the official “story” then may I suggest you begin with a visit to “The Tap Blog” and see where that takes you. I’m not talking about “David Icke
    type stuff ” he has his own agenda and is best avoided imo.
    What I am talking about is the way the world has been organised and run for the last 100 years or so.
    No one is forcing anyone else to believe the alternative/true version imo.
    Personally, I don’t care one way or the other about those people who won’t or can’t cope with anything but the official line. But, I would simply say that the alternative/true version looked at alongside other historical events makes much more sense to me than what we are told and expected to believe these days!

  • “Terrorism is a tactic”… on!

  • Keane Sinead

    I do not think that Prince William would agree i.e.Lady Di.But whom everyone should be applauding is Obama.Blair should not be given any attention over Obama’s triumph.

  • Dave Simons

    I think that’s a pretty good post, Olli – terrorism is indeed a complex issue. Yesterday’s terrorists are often today’s respectable politicians – as in Northern Ireland and Israel. Do we classify the French resistance as terrorists?
    In Northern Ireland in 1968/69 the violence came first from the Orange thugs who attacked peaceful non-sectarian civil rights marches. British troops based in Northern Ireland were deployed at Easter 1969 to make sure there was no trouble from the Orange Order during Catholic and Repubican commemorations of the Easter 1916 uprising, and British troops were sent from the mainland in July 1969 to protect Catholic ghettos from an Orange-orchestrated attack that could have led to pogroms. All this has been written up by British military top brass who served in Northern Ireland at the time. Yet the dominant line, especially promoted by Margaret Thatcher, would have us believe that the IRA, a near-defunct organisation which was revived by the troubles, was behind all the terrorism that ensued and responsible for all the deaths. That’s not to excuse any IRA terrorist attacks but to help to set the record straight. I was in London in the early 1970s and often travelled on the tube and walked about London streets in fear of being blown up by IRA bombs – like the one outside the Old Bailey in 1973.
    You are right Olli that states have been responsible for the most lethal instances of terrorism. In the short term though the situation we’re in now is that no matter how much we try to sympathise and empathise with the people who perpetrate acts of terrorism, we could be the next victims of the revenge attacks that we all expect after Bin Laden’s death.

  • Bob Cx28

    Have you ever seen Obama and Osama in the same room together?
    I rest my case.

  • Robert

    Precisely, Ian.

    It is the “Birthers” I half expect to morph into “Deathers” – fruitcakes who see that Obama stands to gain much kudos from this achievement so would do all they can to detract from it. In this case by challenging that Bin Laden could still be alive as, conveniently in their eyes, there is no body.

    i.e. the lack of a grave becomes the shrine at which **x **ws’s fantasists worship instead of the empty space they perceived to be the President’s birth certificate.

  • Gilliebc

    Further to my previous post, I’ve been very heartened tonight after a visit to the Telegraph blog site. There are many commenters on there who are not buying the official line on this story either. So for those people who rely on the heavily controlled and censored medium of TV to give them the news. Go and explore, before internet access is denied to us (for technical reasons, of course) The truth is out there.
    Conspiracy theorists no, truth seekers yes.

  • Olli Issakainen

    A connecting theme among conspiracy theorists appears to be New World Order (NWO).
    NWO refers to the emergence of an authoritarian one-world government. Secretive power elite with global agenda is said to be behind this.
    During the 20th century “new world order” (political) meant the creation of the UN, NATO, the Bretton Woods system and GATT.
    But stories about Freemasons, Illuminati and Jews were also spread.
    One writer traced the NWO conspiracy to the creation of the US Federal Reserve by international bankers.
    Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Round Table, Bilderberg Group, Trilateral Commission, IMF, World Bank, European Union (+euro), WTO, Pope, Club of Rome and Rhodes Trust are often mentioned in connection of NWO.
    Council on Foreign Relations is said to be a shadow cabinet.
    So, things are being controlled behind the scenes. And now NWO aims to even adopt a single global currency.
    The US intelligence community is claimed to be behind 9/11. More catastrophic terrorist incident in the future will complete the transformation to a police state.
    NWO is also being implemented by mass surveillance including RFID tagging via microchip implants.
    Conspiracy theorists accuse governments, corporations and mass media of manufacturing national consensus.
    Culture of fear is used for increased social control. And NWO will also be implemented by mind control.
    So, a totalitarian world government is said to be on the way. It will be controlled by the United Nations and a global central bank.
    Mass surveillance, state terror and propaganda will be used to maintain political power.
    Is any of this true? Well, time will tell…

  • Mike Bell

    With the financial cost of the so called war on terror estimated to run into trillions of dollars wouldn’t we have been better waging war on world poverty?

  • john

    This was definitely a “Kennedy” moment. We will all remember where we were the day we heard that this horrible man got his day.

  • Gilliebc

    Very informative post OI. Cleverly avoiding giving us even a hint of what your own opinion is on the issue! As far as I know, no one has been tagged yet though. That will probably begin with vulnerable eldery, for their own safety of course and will gradually extend to all of humanity under equally reasonably sounding reasons e.g. health and safety or something like that.
    Time indeed will tell. I take the view that for-warned is forearmed. Plus mans best laid plans often go very wrong.

  • I can see your point. But I feel that these fringe arguments are largely dependent on the media to shape, bring together, and then fuel.

    The irony of the proliferation of choice in media these days is that, instead of exposing ourselves to a wider range of opinions than before, we can in fact completely tailor the information we receive to match our beliefs, no matter how idiosyncratic they may be. With that in mind, I think it is interesting to see Beck & Limbaugh both accept that Bin Laden is dead. And I can’t see Trump even trying to disprove it – it would be, at this time, surely perceived as a major faux pas.

    So with the loudest voices of the nutjob community staying quiet, or openly supporting the President’s decisions, I’d be surprised if any “Deathers” movement posed anywhere near the discomfort to the US administration as the potential for a Bin Laden martyr’s shrine would.