woman celebrates in front of white house_311 reuters.
(photo credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
WASHINGTON – The US capital enjoyed a rare day of political unity Monday, as Republicans and Democrats joined in welcoming the death of Osama bin Laden, and praising the Obama administration for its role in completing a mission 10 years in the making.
In a city often rife with partisan divisions on even the most trivial topics – and currently embroiled in a divisive deficit debate – politicians found common ground on a major national security triumph, that recalled the national solidarity following the September 11 attacks.
“Families who lost loved ones at the hands of bin Laden and his terrorist organization have grieved for far too long, and this sends a signal that America will not tolerate terrorism in any form,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican.
“I commend President Obama, who has followed the vigilance of President Bush in bringing bin Laden to justice,” he continued. “While this is no doubt a major event in our battle against terrorism, we will not relent in our fight against terror and our efforts to keep America safe and secure.”
Former vice president Dick Cheney, who has frequently criticized Obama on national security issues since leaving office, also congratulated the current president for his actions.
He continued by warning, “Al Qaeda remains a dangerous enemy. Though bin Laden is dead, the war goes on. We must remain vigilant, especially now ... Today, the message our forces have sent is clear – if you attack the United States, we will find you and bring you to justice.”
In addition to their positive words for Obama, Republicans were more likely than their Democratic counterparts to also praise former president George W. Bush for his role in laying the groundwork for hunting down bin Laden, a central objective of his presidency.
Bush, for his part, released a short statement after Obama called to give him the news Sunday night about bin Laden’s death, in which he congratulated his successor and American forces who completed the job.
“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,” Bush said. “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, under whose tenure bin Laden first attacked American targets, also weighed in.
“This is a profoundly important moment – not just for the families of those who lost their lives on 9/11 and in al-Qaida’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,” he said.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, called bin Laden’s death “a turning point” in the fight against terrorism.
“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,” he said. “It took close to 10 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.”
At the same time, bin Laden’s elimination raises many policy questions
that Congress will be sure to examine in the coming days and weeks.
Chief among them will be the issue of America’s relationship with
Pakistan, given that bin Laden had been hiding there for some time.
While Congress has been divided over spending issues, many members are
lining up to call for stricter scrutiny or reduction of funds to
Islamabad, depending on the extent of its awareness of bin Laden’s
whereabouts. The US believes the compound in which he was living had
been constructed as long ago as 2005.
“This tells us once again that, unfortunately, Pakistan is at times
playing a double game, and that’s very troubling to me,” said Republican
Senator Susan Collins of Maine. “We clearly need to keep the pressure
on Pakistan, and one way to do that is to put strings attached to the
tremendous amount of military aid that we give the country.”