Last night President Obama announced that Bin Laden was killed in a gunfight in Pakistan. The New York Times reports Qaeda Leader Killed by U.S. Forces, Found in Raid on Mansion; Buried at Sea

In a dramatic late-night appearance in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Obama declared that “justice has been done” as he disclosed that American military and C.I.A. operatives had finally cornered Bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader who had eluded them for nearly a decade. American officials said Bin Laden resisted and was shot in the head. He was later buried at sea.

The news touched off an extraordinary outpouring of emotion as crowds gathered outside the White House, in Times Square and at the Ground Zero site, waving American flags, cheering, shouting, laughing and chanting, “U.S.A., U.S.A.!” In New York City, crowds sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Throughout downtown Washington, drivers honked horns deep into the night.

How much his death will affect Al Qaeda itself remains unclear. For years, as they failed to find him, American leaders have said that he was more symbolically important than operationally significant because he was on the run and hindered in any meaningful leadership role. And yet, he remained the most potent face of terrorism around the world and some of those who played down his role in recent years nonetheless celebrated his death.

Given Bin Laden’s status among radicals, the American government braced for possible retaliation. A senior Pentagon official said late Sunday that military bases in the United States and around the world were ordered to a higher state of readiness. The State Department issued a worldwide travel warning, urging Americans in volatile areas “to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations.”

The strike could exacerbate deep tensions with Pakistan, which has periodically bristled at American counterterrorism efforts even as Bin Laden evidently found safe refuge on its territory for nearly a decade.

When the end came for Bin Laden, he was found not in the remote tribal areas along the Pakistani-Afghan border where he has long been presumed to be sheltered, but in a massive compound about an hour’s drive north from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. He was hiding in the medium-sized city of Abbottabad, home to a large Pakistani military base and a military academy of the Pakistani Army.

The house at the end of a narrow dirt road was roughly eight times larger than other homes in the area, but had no telephone or Internet connections. When American operatives converged on the house on Sunday, Bin Laden “resisted the assault force” and was killed in the middle of an intense gun battle, a senior administration official said, but details were still sketchy early Monday morning.

Al Qaeda sympathizers reacted with disbelief, anger and in some cases talk of retribution. On a Web site considered an outlet for Al Qaeda messages, forum administrators deleted posts by users announcing Bin Laden’s death and demanded that members wait until the news was confirmed by Al Qaeda sources, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that monitors radicals.

“Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims,” Mr. Obama said. “Indeed, Al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.”

Full Text of President’s Speech

CBS News has the Full text of Obama’s speech on bin Laden’s death

On its home page the New York Times has a Series of 20 Images following the announcement. Here are a few of them.

Symbolic Victory

In many ways this is nothing but a symbolic victory, representing a failure of US politics and priorities as much as a triumph. The US could have and should have killed Bin Laden a decade ago.

Instead we invaded Iraq because Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said “Iraq has More Targets”.

Thus we wasted trillions of dollars fighting a war that should never have been fought, letting the mastermind of 911 escape.

US policy was so misguided that some misguided conspiracy theorists asked Did We Let Osama Get Away on Purpose?

The New York Times reported this weekend that we sent in 36 U.S. Special Forces troops to get Osama bin Laden when we knew he was in Tora Bora. By contrast, we sent nearly 150,000 soldiers to get Saddam Hussein. In case you’re keeping count at home, we got Saddam and we didn’t get Osama. What does that tell you about this administration’s priorities? This goes beyond incompetence. If you send only 36 soldiers to get somebody in the middle of Afghanistan, it means you don’t want to get him.

It gets worse. The piece in the Sunday New York Times Magazine also says there was an American commander with 4,000 marines standing by within striking distance. Brig. Gen. James N. Mattis requested permission to join the fight. He was denied.

Why wouldn’t you want to send in whatever we have at our disposal to get the guy who attacked us on 9/11? Why would you care so little about the person who actually attacked this country and so much about someone like Saddam who had no role in attacking us?

Occam’s Razor

Most of you know that I am not a believer in most conspiracy theories. Instead I am a big fan of Occam’s Razor which suggests the simplest explanation is most likely the correct one.

In this case, government arrogance, misplaced priorities, revenge, oil, and stupidity are right at the top of the list of possible explanations for dropping the ball on Bin Laden.

Boost to the Stock Market?

Equity futures are green and commodity futures slightly negative except for silver which was hammered earlier for 12% but has now recovered nearly half. See Silver Plunges 12%, What’s Going On? for a discussion.

Will the death of Bin Laden propel the market higher? No, it won’t. After 10 years, Bin Laden is for all practical purposes irrelevant to the equity markets.

Should the market advance from here, it will be because of a triumph of liquidity over common sense, signifying the pool of greater fools has not yet run out.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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