Tuesday, April 21, 2015

When You Think About It: How Osama bin Laden Changed The World

Photo AP/Words F LoBuono
May 2nd will mark four years since Navy Seal Team 6 located and killed the world's most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden. In a recent conversation with a friend, we both marveled how effective the attacks on 911 actually were. When you think about it, nineteen men, under bin Laden's direction, fundamentally changed not only American but the entire world.

First, there are the physical changes. Security procedures, particularly those involved with travel, have become a part of our lives in ways they never were before. We leave our homes for the airport to catch flights much earlier than we had to in the pre-911 days. This, of course, is do to the increased screening process that all passengers must endure. However, leaving earlier cannot necessarily spare us the long lines caused by this heightened security. Removing one's shoes to check for bombs, once virtually impossible to conceive of, is now a matter of routine. Then, if you're "lucky", you may be singled out for additional screening where you may be groped thoroughly enough to make a prostitute blush. Even how we drive has changed. Restrictions, particularly for trucks,  are in place on many roads and bridges that must be accounted for. For example, trucks are only allowed on the upper roadway of the world's busiest bridge, the George Washington. This new traffic pattern limits the options for both cars and trucks, often causing delays.

But, it's not just the physical changes that have affected our lives so dramatically. It is the emotional aspect, as well. The way we THINK has changed. A certain paranoia has invaded our psyches. We are constantly barraged with messages of caution. The latest campaign urges citizens: if you see something, say something. And, we are constantly reminded that when it comes to another attack on America, it's not "if" but "when". Heavily armed police personnel can be found on many street corners and at virtually every transportation hub. Where seeing a policeman with an automatic weapon was once a rarity, it is common place now. And, that paranoia has seeped into so many aspects of our lives. Our foreign policy is dictated by it. We spend more on our military than most of the other major world powers combined. Our Congress passed the "Patriot Act", an almost draconian measure to eaves drop on ordinary Americans under the guise of national security. Even the way we train our police has changed in the post 911 environment. So-called Community Policing training has been replaced with that of a paramilitary type. The friendly, neighborhood cop, twirling his police baton has been replaced by a burly type holding an M-16.

I wonder if bin Laden, even in his wildest dreams, could have conceived of how effective the 911 attacks truly were. He did far more than destroy two buildings, damage another, and murder thousands of people. So, when you think about it, he wanted to change the world - and he did. Forever.

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