A moment to breathe

By Abby Rhodes
September 9, 2011

Most Bradley students have grown up in a society forever changed by one tragic day that rocked the American psyche and the entire world’s sense of security. They may not recall wearing shoes through airport security checks or a time when the name Osama bin Laden was unfamiliar. Indeed, for much of their lives, our country has been at war. The Sept. 11 attacks by al-Qaida sparked a now decade-long conflict, the so-called global war on terror. Journalist and CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen believes that with the 10th anniversary of the attacks, it’s time to end that war.

Speaking to the Bradley community during a Sept. 8 lecture in the Michel Student Center, Bergen noted that al-Qaida’s ever-withering grip on the Muslim world, coupled with successful drone strikes on terrorist cells in Pakistan, indicates the world has changed for the better in the last 10 years.

“Osama bin Laden is dead, al-Qaida is being strategically defeated – if you can’t say it’s over with the death of bin Laden, when is it over?” Bergen asked. “There’s no reason to make this the longest war in history. I think this 10th anniversary is an opportunity to take a breath and ask, ‘Where are we?’”

Bergen argued that the lack of a repeat al-Qaida attack on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11 strikes indicates we’re living in a safer world and the tenor of recent uprisings in Arab countries demonstrates a push for democracy, not an allegiance to extremist ideals. “Watching thousands of hours of footage of the Arab spring, we didn’t see one sign being held in support of bin Laden. Muslims have rejected al-Qaida’s ideas and these uprisings are confirmation of al-Qaida’s irrelevance.”

One of the few people in the world who can attest to meeting with bin Laden face-to-face, Bergen explained that the late al-Qaida leader’s dictatorial command over the terrorist organization will contribute greatly to the group’s continued unraveling. With bin Laden dead, the organization is growing weaker and weaker.

Bergen’s career as a journalist and director of the national security studies program at the New America Foundation has taken him to the front lines of the war on terror. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and, more recently, Iraq, he has seen first-hand the impact of U.S. foreign policy under several administrations. Earlier this year he published the best-selling book “The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda.”

The lecture was sponsored by Bradley’s Intellectual and Cultural Activities Committee, which brings high-profile speakers to campus every semester to complement students’ classroom experience.