Schmidt: bin Laden was ‘truly evil’

Published 9:39 pm Monday, May 2, 2011

“Cutting off a snake’s head.”

That’s how retired Marine Corps. Col. John Schmidt described the impact of the death of Osama bin Laden on the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

“He was indeed the unifying voice and force, I think, for all the extremists,” said Schmidt, who now serves as senior vice chancellor at Troy University. “It’s kind of analogous to cutting off a snake’s head. When you cut off it’s head, the body of the snake eventually withers. I think the militants and any extremist group, whether it’s Al Qaeda, Taliban or any of the terrorist groups, will probably wither for a while because of the death of Osama.”

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Bin Laden, the elusive terror mastermind behind the deadly 9-11 attacks on the United States, was killed Sunday by Navy SEALs in an intense firefight at his compound in Pakistan., was hunted down based on information first gleaned years ago from detainees at secret CIA prison sites in Eastern Europe, officials disclosed Monday. The U.S. said a DNA match proved his identity, and millions of Americans rejoiced.

“There truly is evil in the world,” Schmidt said. “And, he was evil.”

Schmidt said although terrorist forces like Al Qaeda may experience some internal chaos due to the death of its leader, it does not necessarily mean the end of terrorism. And even on Monday, extremists around the world declared their commitment to carrying on the jihad against Americans. An al-Qaida spokesman, in vowing vengeance against America, called him a martyr,

“I think what we’re going to see is that it will, for the terrorist or extremist, give them a sense of vulnerability,” Schmidt said. “Our special operations did a masterful job.”

As the story unfolded late Sunday night and early Monday, Americans learned how the CIA and other agencies worked together to track bin Laden. Information received from detainees at Guantanamo Bay led to the nickname of a courier, who was bin Laden’s only contact with the outside world. Four years of work went into finding and tracking that courier, until bin Laden was located in a compound in Pakistan. A nighttime raid led by the Navy SEALS on Sunday resulted in the death of five members of the bin Laden’s support network, including the terrorist.

Schmidt said the intelligence the Special Forces team received was “good” and the operation itself should let terrorist groups throughout the world know they could also be vulnerable to these elite forces.

“In the long-run, getting a guy like Osama, whom we have been trying to get in the last 10 years, is powerful,” Schmidt said. “It’s certainly a morale booster for all the troops both in Afghanistan and those still in Iraq, as well as for anybody that wears a uniform right now. It’s certainly a good rallying cry and shows bravery of the special operations forces that went in there to get him.”

As a former Marine Corps officer, Schmidt said he is very proud of the military for their sacrifice and “masterful” execution of the operation leading to the removal of Al Qaeda leadership.

Schmidt said he would caution anyone who may think the war on terror is over, but at the same time believes a powerful message was sent to the enemy.

“While this is a short-term victory, I think in the longer-term we’re still going to see terrorism continue,” Schmidt said. “However, I would say that if you’re a terrorist, then that’s a pretty powerful statement we sent on Sunday—that you are vulnerable.”

With the news still fresh on everyone’s mind, speculation as to the “ripple effect” Sunday’s special operations will have on the terrorist, extremist, communities has already begun.

“You’re always going to have somebody come to the forefront to take a leadership role,” Schmidt said, in reference to Bin Laden’s death. “We have seen that in Hamas, and I’ve seen it over the years in many of these extremist groups. Somebody is going to come to the forefront to assume a leadership role. I think one of these terrorist groups will try to find a ‘soft spot’ to retaliate.”

Schmidt said the most probable spot for any retaliatory efforts would most likely be at an embassy somewhere.

“That’s always a possibility,” Schmidt said. “They’ll see Osama as a martyr and try to retaliate somehow, so I think we’re going to have to keep our guards up.”