Bin Laden's Legacy: The Reign of Terror Remains

The news that Bin Laden is dead sent throngs of Americans into the streets, hooting and hollering like Super Bowl revelers.

Such a reaction is understandable given the tedious hunt our military has conducted. We should applaud them and their families for the sacrifices they have made, that they continue to make. It is through their relentless efforts, their unwavering commitment to duty, their love of country and each other that this particular mission has been accomplished.

Certainly the families of those slain in that Pennsylvania field, that Virginia military complex, and those New York City twin towers on 9-11 have earned the right to raise their hands in jubilation that the man who masterminded the slaughter of their loved ones has now met a justifiable end.

There are some who are rejoicing because they believe that the death of Bin Laden will usher the world into a new era of peace. In an interview with CNN, Peter Bergen said that Bin Laden’s death is huge. “Killing Bin Laden is the end of the war on terror,” Bergen declared.

But here, in this household, the news of Bin Laden’s death was not met with fists pumps or high fives. The news laid me out flat. Forehead to the floor.

Praying. Weeping. More praying.

Yes. I’m grateful that our military has stopped Bin Laden. If there is one thing I understand completely it is the sacrifices our nation’s military have made. It was for them and their families I prayed. Because if there was ever a time when our military and their families needed our prayers, it is now. Bergen might think that Bin Laden’s death represents an end on the War on Terror, but I can assure you that he is wrong.

While Obama was announcing Bin Laden’s death, our nation’s military bases were put on a heightened security status. Retaliation is a given. Anyone who thinks otherwise does not understand what we are up against.

A War on Terror is not about capturing people and killing them. It’s about capturing the heart of a people and changing it. Until we understand that, we can’t possibly defeat it.

Bin Laden’s death, while justified, doesn’t mark the end to the reign on terror. In fact, it could very well serve as a fire-starter, building animosity against us. It’s easy enough to mark Bin Laden up as a nut job. Whacked. Three bricks shy of a load. It’s tougher to consider that a boy who had been raised in a good home – a home where faith was preached and practiced, a home where education was encouraged  and lauded, a home where charity was instilled and cultivated – grew up to hate so much. But then, again, we only have to look at Virginia Tech or Columbine to find our own homegrown terrorists.

Yes, there is a collective sigh of relief we share over the death of Bin Laden. One more evil man stopped dead in his tracks. But once this frat party ends, we are still faced with the unanswered questions: Why did Bin Laden hate us so? What were the reasons he wanted to harm us? Was it our values and the faith we tout so frequently, as some have suggested? Or our hypocrisy that fueled his wrath towards us? Is there a better, more productive way to diffuse the wrath of terrorists, a way that won’t require the lives of thousands of troops, and the loss of limbs and brain function to hundreds of thousands of others?

Because if there isn’t, it seems to me that Bin Laden’s death will not usher in a new era of prolonged peace. Instead, it will only ensure there will be more slaughter to follow as those seeking to avenge his death follow our lead, as we sought to avenge the deaths of those lost on 9-11.

This isn’t the way to peace. This is tit-for-tat retribution. And as relieved as the families of 9-11 may be, it will not bring back their loved ones. The death of one terrorist, no matter how mighty, will not put an end to the nightmares they endure daily. Nor does it ensure that other Americans won’t share their same fate someday soon. We can’t turn back the clock. Bin Laden’s legacy is that the terror lives on –in our hearts and at our airports. Our world will never feel as safe as it did prior to 9-11.

I hope once all this revelry ends, you’ll join me in prayer for our troops, for our nation, and for the pursuit of peace that provides understanding.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of After the Flag has been Folded, Wm. Morrow.

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  • Well said, Karen. I am a former soldier who was stationed in West Germany, near the E German border, constantly warned that any time I went off-base, I was being watched by the Baader-Meinhof Gang (Red Army Faction). I love my country. I usually vote Republican. I like patriotism.

    That said, I was saddened last night as I saw tweet after comment after Facebook post from my fellow believers, pumping their fists. I was saddened when I saw college kids in front of the White House chanting “USA! USA!” and “F___ Bin Laden!!”

    I am, today, saddened that so many think this will put an and to anything. I am saddened that professing Christians are rejoining that OBL is, as one put it “roasting in hell”. Setting aside Rob Bell’s ideas that OBL might be getting a 2nd chance right about now, why would any Christians rejoice that someone is in hell? I am frustrated and amazed, in a bad way, that someone would want that for anyone, even Bin Laden. I’ve been wrestling with a bunch of emotions over the last 18 hours, and most of them have been based on how unpleasant the reaction of fellow Christians has been.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Christian or not, I’m saddened by this behavior. Grieved, deeply. Praying, heavily. Thinking it will only fuel the fire.

  • I couldn’t agree more. My concerns are that this is going to cause even more hatred and animosity toward America. I worry about future attacks against the US. I too pray for peace and our troops on a daily basis. These men and their families have sacrificed so much for our country.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Amen, Gary.

  • Well said, my friend. Praying with you.

    • Peg Willis

      Yeah. What Jeanne said. (!!!!!)

  • Eddie

    I agree with you. Peter Bergen is not in touch with reality if he thinks the war with terrorists is over. They will not be defeated on the battle field. You can’t even tell who the enemy is in most cases. No doubt, the world is a better place without Bin Laden, but his death may come at a very high cost and did not solve the problem of terrorists.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Eddie: That is the problem — a war on terror is not like the Battle at Vicksburg. We don’t just march in, kill some folks and declare ourselves successful. It’s a war about world views, not about territory. The enemy doesn’t show up in a uniform, swords drawn. We don’t even know who we are fighting.

  • As someone who is of the generation that was in the streets last night (I was a freshman in college on 9-11) I think that we need to take a long hard look at what last night tells us about ourselves and my generation.

    Overwhelmingly the people that were in the streets last night were young people. People who have lived a large chunk of their lives in a state of constant and perpetual preemptive war.

    Much has been made of the fact that the burden of fighting this war hasn’t been evenly spread across the country due to an all volunteer Army, and to a large extent that is true. But as a working class kid from the South, I know few people who haven’t known someone who was deployed in this war, and I think that that is a safe bet. This has still been a conflict that has been borne by my generation.

    I have said for years that we have yet to come to terms with what a decade of Bush Doctrine foreign policy has done to my generation, with how we see the world.

    I think that last night is a glimpse into that. It is time for some soul searching and some serious thought.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias


      You are right in that it appears the majority of people in the streets were young people. Likely Georgetown young people — not those from the more battered parts of DC. But in regards to your comment about these young people who have lived a large chunk of their lives in a state of constant and perpetual preemptive war, how does that differ from young people who lived in a constant state of war during Hitler’s reign, or during Vietnam when they had the draft hanging over their heads?

      Every young generation thinks they are special. That’s half their problem — their myopic perspective. It’s like New Yorkers who think 9-11 is their personal battle. Such a perspective marginalizes people and our history.

      I am from the South, working class, and I think at one time your comments about who bore the burden of war would have been urban blacks and rural southerners. But not in this war. Today our military is much more diverse. Hispanics are the rural Southerners and urban blacks of yesteryear.

      But, yes, the burden of protecting falls on few. Few willing. And I suspect those who were cheering at the gates last night would have been staging a helluva fight had they’d been subjected to a draft in order to bring about the death of Bin Laden. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I see it.

      I don’t agree that the cheering had anything to do with Bush politics. I think it had a lot to do with being entitled, myopic, narcissistic Americans.

      With a tad too much of nationalistic fervor thrown in.

  • Don

    Well said,
    From my little stand point in this world I can’t get out of my head and my heart this lil notion: I am a follower of Christ period. I am hearing such false ideals being pontificated by many many of the same. Bin Laden made a choice to wage war and that choice cost him his life period. Those that would dare to jump out of a plane without a parachute have no one to blame of the outcome. While I follow Christ and His message and deeds, I cannot help but see how far off humanity is by deGodding God and becoming their own god the god that determines by their own views what is right and what is wrong.
    The hypocrisy of Radical Islam by killing people that do not follow their radical views is by itself totally the point, they kill people that disagree period. They wage war against those that disagree. While those of us that Follow Christ would never put a gun to people’s head and tell them to follow. Yet, we that follow Christ somehow have become the hated. I don’t get it?
    I don’t rejoice in the death of Bin Laden, but I do believe in Romans 1, 2 and 3 as the truth that all mankind is fallen and totally depraved. The answer is found in what we just celebrated, (Easter) not in deeds, not in philosophy and not in anything less than the Risen Savior. Whatever Rob Bell believes, what ever the “new legalism” says (social justice for transformation) is not, nor will it be the answer. The answer is found in the “Power of the Gospel” The Gospel changes lives from the inside out. I am not sorry I didn’t weep over the loss of this man’s life. I am sorry that many love to cry over this man’s choice to wage war, while allowing millions of babies to be murdered. I’m sorry that 11-12 million Jews were executed by a murderous, godless man and followers of Christ can’t see that mankind outside of the grace of God is helpless. I’m sorry that many followers of Christ have left behind the power of the gospel believing that somehow we can create heaven here on earth. I weep over what is happening to this generation believing in people to do the work that only God can do. I’m not afraid of the “terrorists”, I’m afraid of those of us that will have to stand together as those that actually believe that Christ is the answer.
    Psalm 40

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Don: I was with you until you got into Rob Bell, Jews and unborn babies. You lost me in that last graph.

      • Don

        simply this: the need to know of where heaven or where hell is a non essential…(Rob Bell)
        the truth that a man kills people (Bin Ladden)
        the idea that people kill babies (abortion)
        the idea that Jews were killed (Hitler)
        points me to a much sadder issue of the man bin ladden being killed.
        I see all the quoting of scripture and all that is going on over this murderers death and I see, feel a much greater disaster– that is all.

  • Angella

    Thanks, Karen, for a solid look at what this event really means. A friend of mine asked an interesting question: remember Hydra?

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Troubling questions we haven’t yet begun to address.

  • Penny Byrd

    Very well written, Karen. Your a good one. As a Christian, I am relieved that he has been “taken” out, but I am not rejoicing. Haven’t yet arrived as perfect yet!

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Thanks, Penny.

  • Different chapter in a very long book. We look for oversimplified solutions and come up short when, in hindsight, we see they didn’t work.

    Appreciate your encouragement to humble, prayerful response to a dreadfully serious situation.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Oversimplified solutions. Yes, exactly.

  • Samantha Clough

    Thank you Karen. I’ve been troubled all day by the responses of others to this event. Your words have given my solace and direction. I believe only in praying for the healing of all will we see an end to such madness.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      We’d best be praying some wisdom rise up from the masses. Generations of kids raised on terror and Jersey Shore doesn’t bode well for our future.

      • Samantha Clough

        Wisdom and maybe a whole lot of humility. All things to pray for in abundance.

  • Debbie

    Someone posted a picture on facebook of the Statue of Liberty holding the head of Osama…I cried.

    John F Kennedy said some amazing things in his time and it seems that some people believe if you shoot a man the masses will forget his words and deeds…psycologists call that magical thinking and it seems many in the world are under its spell.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Debbie: I’m crying with you. Trust me. I am.

  • Noreen Doloughy

    Thanks, Karen. I remember vividly being baffled by how much hate was spewing out of people after 9/11–today that feeling came back today all too strongly. I’m worried for my friends who “look Middle Eastern” the same way I was back then. I’m scared we’ll be dealing with retaliation–and hate crimes.

  • I keep thinking of my late friend Jack’s words: “Once you have killed other human beings, it can be hard to ever think of yourself as a moral person again.” So I’ve been praying for those who train and do this work on our behalf. Most of us don’t begin to understand what it is we have asked of them. It certainly doesn’t call for cheering. The piece below expresses a compilation in what I have seen between a previous generation and those that follow.

    Living Remains

    “Grandpa, were you in the war?”
    question rarely asked by sons and daughters
    of their Dads.
    Mamas often warned them not to
    Mostly, they just somehow knew.
    Sons and daughters may not ask
    unlike the way that grandkids do…

    He who talks of it openly most days
    has likely never seen it
    never carried sounds of rounds,
    sweaty smell of fear,
    bloody mud beneath his fingernails, or else
    He has a mission to see that others never do
    Mission to unpack the things old warriors carry still
    In Grandpa bellies, feelings in the gut that never feel
    more than the age of twenty
    inside a body graying now on every edge.

    “Grandpa, were you. . .”
    If I say “yes”, what will you do?
    If I concede these keys to me, where will you drive me to?
    What will we do when we arrive there, will we ever?
    And will we ever leave?

    In places overgrown with trees and vines,
    grasses taller than a man
    where annual floods bring fields of rice to bloom
    They are finding them in bits
    and pieces, remains of stories never told
    Lives that filled their quotas long ago

    I may have let the jungle grow awhile
    Because there are human remains in earth
    and me
    remains in heart and mind and memory
    Remains of war live on forever, so they are forever
    living remains
    And in these things, all things
    Living remains for us to do.

    “Grandpa, Grandma, were you in the war?
    Was war inside of you?”

    You tell me so. You tell me true.
    While living remains for you.

    © 2010 by Roger D. Fuchs, Portland, OR 97230-6151. All Rights reserved. 018011