Justice at last for bin Laden

To people across the world, it may have seemed odd — even a bit crass — for crowds of mostly young Americans to take to the streets to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden.

But not when you consider that the terrorist mastermind has loomed as an elusive bogeyman to an entire generation since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. America was profoundly changed — our sense of security shattered, our place in the world undermined and our civil rights redefined. Many lost hope he would ever be found, despite his occasional video taunts,

So the impromptu Sunday-night celebrations provided temporary relief from the anxiety of our ever-vigilance. And it also was welcome affirmation that — after a long recession and dragged-out wars — America can do something right.

The Obama administration's coordination of intelligence, law enforcement and the military pulled off a precise strike at the Pakistani compound where bin Laden was staying. That buffers the U.S. appeal as a powerful ally to democratic movements spreading across the Middle East. President Barack Obama, in his Sunday night speech announcing the death, stressed that bin Laden was not a Muslim leader but a "mass murderer of Muslims."

Many nations have issued statements of support for our unilateral action. Already the dollar is stronger on world markets. Everybody loves a winner.

Of course, we have not won the "war on terror;" a new mastermind could arise and, even if not, some twisted soul on a suicide mission could hit a U.S. target.

Still, the killing will disrupt al-Qaida since new members pledge loyalty directly to bin Laden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a group from the National Conference of Editorial Writers Monday. And faced with an example of U.S. perseverance, the Taliban also could now see the wisdom of joining the political process in Afghanistan, she said.

Back in this country, we hope bin Laden's death means that, despite some recent proposals from military officials, U.S. troops soon will leave Afghanistan as planned.

We went there to find bin Laden, a justified mission sidetracked by an ill-conceived war in Iraq. The sooner we can pull out, the more we can direct money and ideas toward domestic battles such as for job creation, energy independence, educational success and affordable health care.

That really would be worth celebrating.