Wayne LaPierre: The Face of Today’s Conservative Movement

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

wayne lapierre unhinged

Last Friday, one week to the day after the horrible mass killing at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, the National Rifle Association (“NRA”) ended its self-imposed media blackout when the organization’s President, Wayne LaPierre, held a press conference to discuss the tragedy.  Given that the NRA has long been the problem when it comes to the US’s gun violence problem, it should come as no surprise that LaPierre specifically refused to support any form of gun safety legislation. Instead, LaPierre blamed the media and gun control advocates for the epidemic of gun violence in our nation, and proposed putting armed guards in every school as the “solution” to this problem.

Many commentators expressed surprise and dismay at the NRA’s extreme stand.  But they should not have been surprised, as the positions espoused by LaPierre were not only par for the course for the NRA, but also fully consistent with the dangerous black-and-white, us vs. them world view that is endemic in much of today’s conservative movement.  It is a view that ignores gray areas, dismisses potential solutions, and inherently leads to conflict and violence.  And it is a view that must be overcome if we are to achieve a more peaceful and stable society and world.

The dystopian view of our society offered by the NRA is well-defined by the following excerpt from LaPierre’s press conference:

The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school he’s already identified at this very moment?

How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame — from a national media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall attention and sense of identity that they crave — while provoking others to try to make their mark?

A dozen more killers? A hundred? More? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill? And the fact is, that wouldn’t even begin to address the much larger and more lethal criminal class: Killers, robbers, rapists and drug gang members who have spread like cancer in every community in this country. Meanwhile, federal gun prosecutions have decreased by 40% — to the lowest levels in a decade.

So now, due to a declining willingness to prosecute dangerous criminals, violent crime is increasing again for the first time in 19 years! Add another hurricane, terrorist attack or some other natural or man-made disaster, and you’ve got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization.

Or, as LaPierre explained more succinctly on Meet the Press, his views on the issue of gun violence can be summed up by the claim that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  If the sentiment behind this statement sounds familiar, it should, as it is the same one that has largely motivated the “war on terror” response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.   Soon after those attacks, then President George W. Bush infamously framed the war on terror as “either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.”   Other Republicans and conservatives have been even more explicit in what was behind the approach to the “war on terror,” describing it in terms of a “clash of civilizations.” While the contexts are different, the approach taken towards both gun violence and terrorism by the conservative movement is largely the same – the problem is bad violent people and the solution is stopping such people with violence of our own.

Now, there is a kernel of truth in the black-and-white view. It cannot be disputed that there are bad and violent people in the world and that sometimes either police or military force are necessary to prevent such people from causing serious harm.  But that view also far too frequently blinds people to the the nuances that characterize many situations and the existence of numerous other potential solutions that can minimize or even entirely avoid violence and bloodshed.  In fact, with regards to both gun violence and the”war on terror,” experience shows that the black-and-white world view taken by many conservatives has been an utter disaster.

In the realm of foreign policy and national security, this black-and-white world view resulted in an unnecessary war in Iraq, launched on false pretenses, that led to the death of thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the wasting of nearly $1 trillion, and the frittering away of our international leadership role.  And by portraying the world as filled with bad guys who must be stopped at all cost, our society has accepted the dismantling of civil liberties here at home (that, unfortunately, has largely continued under President Obama) under the theory that suspects in a diffuse “war on terror” are not entitled to basic protections of the Bill of Rights.

The black-and-white world view as espoused by LaPierre and the NRA has been similarly disastrous when it comes to the topic of guns, as it has made our nation unable to act in the face of an epidemic of gun violence.  Even as guns claim more than 11,000 lives every year and mass killings such as the one at Sandy Hook occur regularly, we have so brought into the false notion of needing guns to be able to protect ourselves from violent perpetrators that we  have been unable to take common sense steps such as reinstating the assault weapon ban, fixing the gun checks system, closing the gun show loophole, banning ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds, and making it easier for police to trace guns that are used in a crime and to revoke the licenses of corrupt gun dealers.

It is right for LaPierre’s belligerent performance at last week’s press conference to be pilloried as offensive and out-of-touch.  But let’s also keep in mind that LaPierre’s speech offered a look into the mindset of the wider conservative movement that is trapped in a bubble of black-and-white, us vs. them thinking.  Bursting that bubble and bringing a dose of common sense focused on evaluating a full range of causes and solutions to not only gun violence but a wide range of domestic and international issues is critical to ensuring that we do not continue repeating the mistakes of the pass and, instead, move forward toward a less violent society.

How the Media Propagates Fake Conservative Controversies

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Continuing their strategies of capitalizing politically from 9/11 and of riling up their base with fake controversies, conservative activists have ginned up outraged over the purported exclusion of clergy from the 9/11 commemoration in New York City and the alleged exclusion of Christians from the Washington National Cathedral 9/11 commemoration in DC.  Normally, we here at Winning Progressive would not cover this right-wing non-troversy, as we do not want to amplify the efforts of conservative activists to raise more money off of 9/11.  However, we feel it useful to address the New York Times article discussing this issue – entitled “Omitting Clergy at 9/11 Ceremony Prompts Protest” – as it is a textbook example of how the media propagates  right wing talking points and controversies.

The article in question is basically a conservative opinion piece masquerading as shoddy journalism.  Key flaws include the following:

First, the article treats the controversy as being factually based rather than simply a “controversy” ginned up by conservative activists.

For example, the article talks of clergy being “omitted” from or “not included” in this year’s 9/11 commemoration.  But this year’s commemoration was consistent with every previous official city commemoration.  The event consisted of family members of the victims of 9/11 reading the names of those who were killed, interspersed with moments of silence at the time that each World Trade Center tower was struck and fell, and also for when the Pentagon was struck and Flight 93 crashed.  In other words, the ceremony is about the people and families who were victimized on 9/11, not a religious event.  Portraying such an event as a religious controversy has nothing to do with the facts, and everything to do with the desire of conservative activists to find controversies where there are none.  The article makes some reference to actual facts, but does so in the he-said, she-said style that provides the reader with little way to know what the truth is.

As for the Washington National Cathedral commemoration, the three days of events involved an interfaith benediction that was run by the Episcopal Church, held at a synagogue, and included leaders from the Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim faiths.  The real objections of the Christian conservatives is not that Christians were excluded, as they were not.   Instead, it is that Christianity was being represented by a branch of the faith that they do not agree with, rather than by, for example, Southern Baptists.  The article mentions this distinction towards the end, but only after providing the clear idea, unsupported by the facts, that clergy, and especially conservative Christian clergy, are being excluded from 9/11 commemoration ceremonies.

In addition to questionable coverage of the facts, the NYT article parrots the flawed contention that there used to be little controversy over the role of religion in public life:

The second Sunday after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, New York clergy members of many faiths joined elected officials at Yankee Stadium in a city-sponsored memorial ceremony that melded the sacred and the secular, replete with flags, prayers and tears.

Ten years later, any consensus that existed about the appropriate role of religion in public ceremonies marking a monumental American trauma has fallen apart.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has come under attack by some religious and political leaders for not including clergy members as speakers at Sunday’s official ceremony at ground zero on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

. . . .

In a nation of unprecedented religious diversity, the United States once managed to navigate religion in public life with relatively generic acknowledgments of the sacred — a tradition often referred to as civil religion.

Ten years ago, the event at Yankee Stadium and a prayer service at Washington National Cathedral attended by President George W. Bush were conducted in that tradition, and they were held with no controversy to speak of. But now, Professor Wolfe said, “the civil religion, those informal kinds of agreements, can’t work if everyone is going to be litigious.”

This is utter nonsense.  The article’s framing plays into the conservatives’ attempts to pretend that religion was not a problematic issue in the US until people purportedly started trying to exclude Christian conservatives. But that suggestion has virtually no basis in reality.  The reporter seems to have forgotten that less than a year ago conservatives created a religious controversy when they tried to prevent a Muslim community center from being built in the site of a former Burlington Coat Factory in lower Manhattan.  And the purported acceptance of “civil religion” in the US ignores the long history of religious faiths of all stripes, often aided by organizations like the ACLU, having to struggle to get even their basic religious freedoms acknowledged.

Next, the NYT article features a lack of balanced coverage, with seven paragraphs of text and quotes from conservatives at the Family Research Council, Fox News, Rudy Giuliani, and this divisive statement from Richard Landes of the Southern Baptist Convention:

The planned ceremony only proved that New York was the “epicenter of secularism,” out of step with the rest of America.  “We’re not France,” he said. “Mr. Bloomberg is pretending we’re a secular society, and we are not.”

By contrast, a total of one paragraph was dedicated to faith leaders who do not object to New York City’s 9/11 commemoration:

Some prominent religious leaders, including Timothy M. Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, have said they were not troubled by the format for the commemoration at ground zero.

Finally, the article includes a bit of conservative religious bigotry that, amazingly, is quoted without comment:

The controversy was fueled this week on Fox News when Gretchen Carlson, co-host of “Fox and Friends,” said that because of “political correctness,” the cathedral had included “fringe groups” like Buddhist nuns in the prayer service, but not Baptists.

“We’re going to have a Buddhist nun, which we didn’t even know existed,” she said.

An article seeking to educate its readers would have noted that there are two to four million Buddhists in the US and that nuns have played a role in Buddhism since almost its founding.  While it is not surprising that a Fox New commentator would be ignorant of those facts, the New York Times should not be helping to spread that ignorance.

If you’d like to help make sure the New York Times stops amplifying fake conservative controversies, contact the paper’s Public Editor and the reporter who wrote this story, and urge them to provide balanced coverage that educates their readers about what is actually going on, rather than simply parroting the latest right-wing outrage of the day.

Weekend Reading List

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

For this weekend’s reading list, we have essays lamenting our nation’s failure to raise its political discourse after 9/11 and calling on us to feel empathy for innocent people who die in conflicts throughout the world, a reminder about the prison uprising that happened at Attica 40 years ago this weekend, how a recent federal court ruling on health care reform bodes well for the law being upheld, how school “reform” advocates are missing the boat, and how the failure to focus on economic recovery in the wake of World War I helped create the societal conditions that led to World War II.

If you have any feedback on these articles, or would like to recommend an article for next weekend’s reading list, please let us know at Winning Progressive’s Facebook page

9/11: What Didn’t Change - an essay discussing and lamenting the fact that we did not use 9/11 as an opportunity to lift up the quality of political discourse in America

Grief and Empathy in New York City - an essay written soon after the 9/11 attacks about the grief and empathy we rightly felt for the people who died in those attacks should also extend to innocent people who die in conflicts throughout the world

After the Attica Uprising - on the 40th anniversary of the largest prison uprising in US history, a discussion of how inhumane treatment and protests continue to occur in prisons across the country

Latest Health Care Ruling a Double Win for Obama – an analysis of the recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to dismiss two challenges to health care reform on jurisdictional grounds, which could provide the Supreme Court with a way out of having to rule on the merits of the legislation

School “Reform”: A Failing Grade - a review by noted school “reform” critic Diane Ravitch of a book trumpeting the efforts of the school “reform” movement and of a second book arguing that the real problems with our education system lie in the fact that our society is willing to allow so many children in the US live in poverty

Keynes, Schumpeter, and the Great Post-War Mistake - an interesting essay discussing how the failure of the US and Europe to focus on economic recovery in the wake of World War I set the stage for the societal conditions that culminated in World War II

On the Death of bin Laden

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

(By Mark Bridger, cross-posted at That Mans Scope blog)

I’ve been thinking a lot about Osama bin Laden in the past few days. I wanted to write something about the celebrations of his death, since I felt much of it was unseemly. Yet, I myself am glad that he is no more, as his life was one of violence and murder directed at not only his enemies but at many innocents who happened to surround his enemies. His claim that his faith justified this bloodshed was, of course, directly in the mainstream of religiously inspired violence that has flowed down through recorded history.

At the same time, he and his major enemies, the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R., are bound together in a kind of triangle of dualities whose pairings raise some of the most fundamental questions of morality: ends and means, evil and innocence, faith and cynicism.

It all starts with the cold war, the political and military division of the world into “East” and “West”, and the Manichean division of the world into “Good” and “Evil”. There is no doubt of the cruelty of Stalin and his successors, but the U.S. side also installed and supported numerous bloody dictators in South and Central America. And of course the nuclear and thermonuclear arsenals of both sides made “Mutual Assured Destruction” a very real possibility for decades.

In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, shortly after the Islamic revolution in Iran deposed the Shah (a U.S. puppet himself) and installed Ayatollah Khomeini, a theocratic tyrant.

At this point Osama bin Laden, who had been studying radical Islamic theology in Saudi Arabia, moved to Pakistan and started to assemble the jihadists who would become the anti-Soviet mujahideen in Afghanistan and later al-Qaeda. As the scion of a Saudi family made wealthy through its construction company, he was able to use his business connections and organizational skills to create an effective military force to attack the Soviets across the border.

Also around this time the U.S., through the CIA, made contact with the mujahideen. Steve Coll, reporting in the Washington Post, writes:

“In March 1985, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 166,…[which] authorize[d] stepped-up covert military aid to the mujahideen, and it made clear that the secret Afghan war had a new goal: to defeat Soviet troops in Afghanistan through covert action and encourage a Soviet withdrawal. The new covert U.S. assistance began with a dramatic increase in arms supplies — a steady rise to 65,000 tons annually by 1987, … as well as a “ceaseless stream” of CIA and Pentagon specialists who traveled to the secret headquarters of Pakistan’s ISI on the main road near Rawalpindi, Pakistan. There the CIA specialists met with Pakistani intelligence officers to help plan operations for the Afghan rebels.

These supplies were merged with those provided by Osama and others, and used by the mujahideen to kill Soviet troops. Money to buy more arms was also provided by the drug (heroin) trade. Charles Cogan, former CIA director in Afhanistan, writes:

“Our main mission was to do as much damage as possible to the Soviets. We didn’t really have the resources or the time to devote to an investigation of the drug trade,’… `I don’t think that we need to apologize for this. Every situation has its fallout…. There was fallout in terms of drugs, yes. But the main objective was accomplished. The Soviets left Afghanistan.

Basically, over the next few decades, and especially after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the mujahideen moved on to other countries including Macedonia, Chechnya and the Balkans. In Afghanistan they morphed into the Taliban and, still using support supplied covertly by the CIA, established a severe and brutal rule — one that the U.S. publicly denounced only years later.

Thus, when it suited the needs of the U.S., Osama bin Laden and his jihadists received cash and arms to wage terror on the Soviets. The Chechen rebels, among others, are actively terrorizing Russians through bombings in major cities. It is likely that they are still using some equipment and arms provided by the CIA.

Thus, in the 1980s Osama bin Laden was being supported by the CIA to do to the Soviets what he would later do to us.

Meanwhile, the U.S. was sending more and more technical and military support to prop up the corrupt regime in Saudi Arabia, which had (and maybe still has) the largest proven oil reserves in the world. The presence of “infidel” troops in the holy cities of Medina and Mecca caused Osama to transfer his attention from the departed Soviets to his previous benefactors: the U.S. His strict Wahabi version of Islam caused him to redirect his jihadi efforts against American troops and Americans in general. This led to a series of terrorist attacks against U.S. troops and civilians throughout the world: in Sudan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Yemen (U.S.S. Cole). He formed al-Qaeda and set up its training camps in Afghanistan, then under Taliban control.

These efforts culminated in the attacks of September 11, 2001.

At this time the Bush administration was already looking for a pretense to attack the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq: the timing couldn’t have been better for them. (A good account of this can be found in Against All Enemies, a best-selling book by Richard Clark, national security adviser to Reagan, Bush senior, Clinton and the junior Bush).

Of course, the U.S. had not been sitting idly by. When Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, with little initial discouragement from Bush Sr., the U.S. launched an attack on Iraq, sometimes referred to as the “First Gulf War.” This was all about oil. The result was a massive defeat for Saddam and the slaughter of perhaps 100,000 poorly trained and conscripted or reluctant Iraqi troops at the hands of the very hi-tech U.S. army. No American had been threatened by Saddam previous to this undeclared war, and American casualties were very light. The American invasion stopped short of Baghdad. Many felt that Bush Sr. didn’t want a populist government to arise if Saddam were toppled at that time; the U.S. had been playing off Iraq against Iran ever since the Shah was deposed.

In any case, the pretext of 9/11 enabled G.W. Bush, in the face of massive domestic and international popular opposition, to invade Iraq and overthrow America’s sometime ally Saddam Hussein. Heavy U.S. bombing destroyed much of Iraq’s infrastructure (water, power, transportation) and opened a hornet’s nest of partisan and religious violence. This has resulted in at least 100,000 civilian (non-combatant) documented deaths. Most of these were from terrorist activity, but many resulted from errant U.S. ordinance — the so-called “collateral damage”.

Thus, two needless wars produced over 200,000 unnecessary deaths in Iraq alone; thousands more have died in Afghanistan: most also from terrorist activity, but also thousands from collateral damage from American bombs and drones.

By contrast, about 3000 died in NY on 9/11. Several thousand American soldiers have been killed and many more thousands wounded. The late Osama bin Laden had a lot of blood on his hands, but so do we and the Soviets and the various murderous despots that we, the Russians, and the terrorists supported and opposed at various times.

So, while it is good that Osama has been “neutralized”, it is hardly a cause for much self-congratulatory celebration. There has been too much killing and enough blame to go around.

(Our President seems to be a generally peace-loving person, who favors humanistic government policies; so, if anything else is good about Osama bin Laden’s death, it is that it strengthens Obama’s political standing.)

In balance, then, quiet reflection seems to me to be the best stance at this time.

(Most information about Osama bin Laden’s history was gleaned from articles in The Boston Globe and CRG (Centre for Research on Globalisation).

Obama Administration Bring Mass Murderer Osama Bin Laden to Justice

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

When President Obama was elected in November 2008, he vowed a more intense focus than the previous Administration had taken on targeting Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.  As the Washington Post reported shortly after the election:

Obama, advisers said, plans to intensify the U.S. military and intelligence focus on al-Qaeda and bin Laden. Intelligence officials say the search is already as intensive as ever, even as they emphasize that the decentralized al-Qaeda network would remain a threat without him. Bush administration officials have publicly played down the importance of a single individual in the broad sweep of their anti-terrorism offensive.

Similarly, on September 11, 2009, President Obama stated:

Let us renew our resolve against those who perpetrated this barbaric act and who plot against us still. In defense of our nation we will never waver; in pursuit of Al Qaeda and its extremist allies, we will never falter.

Yesterday, our President kept that vow, as a special forces operation ordered by the President found Osama Bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  Bin Laden was killed in a firefight during the raid.  The monster who masterminded the death of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001 and scores of other people throughout the world has finally been brought to justice!

Last night, President Obama gave a speech announcing the death of Bin Laden. The speech was classic Obama – measured, classy, and focused on the larger significance of the issue at hand.   High points of the speech included Obama’s tribute to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11, praise to the soldiers and intelligence officers who carried out this mission, explanation that the defense of our nation continues on, and emphasis that we are not engaged in a war against Islam.

Much more information will undoubtedly come out over the next few days about how Bin Laden was found and about what his death means for our national security policies.  We here at Winning Progressive hope that this development will enable us to expeditiously bring our troops home from Afghanistan and that we will be able to tone down some of the over-the-top anti-terrorism efforts we have engaged in here at home.  For now, however, we can all take a moment to celebrate this great victory.

. . . . . . . . . .

Remarks by the President on Osama Bin Laden

East Room

11:35 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening.  Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history.  The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory — hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.

And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world.  The empty seat at the dinner table.  Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father.  Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace.  Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.

On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together.  We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood.  We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country.  On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.

We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice.  We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda — an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe.  And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort.  We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense.  In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support.  And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.

Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan.  Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden.  It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground.  I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan.  And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability.  No Americans were harmed.  They took care to avoid civilian casualties.  After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies.  The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.

Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort.  There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us.  We must –- and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam.  I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam.  Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.  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.

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was.  That is what we’ve done.  But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.  Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts.  They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations.  And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The American people did not choose this fight.  It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens.  After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war.  These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.

So Americans understand the costs of war.  Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed.  We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies.  We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror:  Justice has been done.

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome.  The American people do not see their work, nor know their names.  But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.  And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11.  I know that it has, at times, frayed.  Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.

The cause of securing our country is not complete.  But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to.  That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are:  one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you.  May God bless you.  And may God bless the United States of America.