Impact of bin Laden’s death debated by NIU professors, students

By Danny Ciamprone & Felix Sarver

DeKALB | After a 10-year manhunt, the U.S. military and President Barack Obama confirmed Sunday night Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, had been killed in a firefight in northern Pakistan.

In a speech delivered shortly after the news broke, Obama said over the last 10 years the military has disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened homeland security.

“I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda,” Obama said. “Even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle and defeat his networks.”

Political science professor Daniel Kempton said the significance of bin Laden’s death will be debated amongst experts, but he believes his death is quite significant.

“Terrorist organizations are by nature groups that ask their followers to perform tasks that humans normally do not perceive as acceptable behavior,” Kempton said. “Most terrorist organizations are led by very charismatic leaders who can effectively persuade their followers that behavior, normally considered immoral, is somehow moral in this circumstance. bin Laden was such a man.”

Kempton said the death of bin Laden adds as a big psychological element against the war on terror by removing the symbolic leader of al Qaeda. He also said the biggest threat now is not coming from al Qaeda itself, but from al Qaeda-inspired groups, which are not formal parts of the network.

“The top target in the ‘war on terror’ are now more likely to by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, a leading al Qaeda official who helped with the operation planning of the 1998 Embassy bombings and the 9/11 attacks,” Kempton said. “He has long been considered the No. 2 man in al Qaeda.”

Kempton also mentioned Mullah Omar, who was a leader in the Taliban, and Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as major threats to America. Kempton does not believe the death of bin Laden will decrease the activity of the United States in the Middle East.

Christopher Jones, associate professor of political science and department chair, said bin Laden’s death is very important, especially in the post-9/11 era.

“The type of military operation that led to bin Laden’s death puts other terrorists on notice as to what the United States can do when it has reliable, actionable intelligence,” Jones said. “However, al Qaeda is a very diffuse organization with a presence in more than 60 countries. The organization has been dealt a blow, but it is still capable of acting.”

Tom Kuntz, president of the NIU College Democrats, said this is very important to the United States.

“It’s definitely important for the families who lost someone on 9/11,” Kuntz said. “It brings them closure, which is very important.”

Obama said in his speech Sunday night bin Laden’s death does not mark the end of the United State’s effort in the Middle East.

“There’s no doubt that Al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us,” Obama said. “We must, and we will, remain vigilant at home and abroad.”

Students reacted in a variety of ways to the news.

Senior marketing major Denise Paul said she thought the news of bin Laden’s death was just a rumor until she confirmed it.

“When I found out it was true, it was a bit of a relief,” Paul said. “I feel like it was a good thing but I feel like they might retaliate and just come here and try to start more stuff. It could be good, it could be bad.”

Senior English major Monica Ratiu said she thought the United States went to the Middle East while under the Bush administration due to false pretenses.

“[I was] surprised but not completely,” Ratiu said. “The fact that the Bush administration probably knew about this and didn’t say anything about it didn’t surprise [me]. I don’t know if I believe entirely what’s going on because there’s so many different people saying different things.”

Ratiu said she is unsure as to whether bin Laden’s death will have a positive or negative effect.

“I just think that everything is so chaotic,” Ratiu said. “Transition is never easy, so change is always slow. So I don’t really know.”

Calls to the NIU College Republicans were not returned by press time.