They thought we were weak. They thought we would not come after them and hunt them down. They thought we were too soft for a long war in difficult terrain. They thought all we might do is lob some cruise missiles at them or drop a few smart bombs. They thought they could get away with it.
How wrong Al Qaeda leaders were. How wrong are most terrorist groups when it comes to their assessment of America and Americans. They simply don't understand us.
Even on September 11th the terrorists should have learned that Americans are not weak. The fourth airplane, attempting to get back to Washington D.C., was fought over by the passengers. Several brave Americans fought to the death to prevent the terrorists from obtaining their objective. And they think Americans are soft? The men and women on Flight 93 were not America's Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) commandos of the U.S. Navy or the Green Berets of the Army. They were ordinary Americans who do extraordinary things when they need to.
Immediately after the September 11th attacks President George W. Bush was pushing the Taliban "government" to turn over the terrorists. We used our allies to help communicate the message when British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed Parliament saying to the Taliban, "Give up the terrorists or give up power." Mullah Mohammad Omar responded with a long list of demands -- diplomatic recognition as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, economic aid, and others. President Bush would have nothing to do with it.
They thought we were weak. How surprised they were when only three weeks later American planes were bombing targets in Afghanistan. How surprised they must have been when American Soldiers were attacking their positions with their Northern Alliance allies. How quickly they withdrew from Kabul and other Afghan cities when American troops on horseback attacked and seized most of their key locations, their "strongpoints."
They thought we were soft. But Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar ran. They took off to save their own skins. "Warriors for Allah?" Spare me. They didn't stand and fight it out with the American Solders, Sailors, and Marines. They didn't stay and endure the bombing by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine jets, or the attacks by Marine and Army helicopters. They ran for their lives. Warriors fight, and if need be, they die. These people are not warriors. They are cowards.
American forces invaded Iraq and seized Baghdad in three weeks' time. The Iraqi leader fled, and Saddam Hussein was found hiding in a hole on a farm. How courageous of him. He had a pistol with him and he could have shot it out with the American Green Berets who found him. But he didn't. He surrendered without firing a shot. His own people hung him for his crimes. But America was the weak country in his mind.
Al Qaeda formed a group in Iraq in order to attack Americans there also. They were somewhat successful with their car bombs and other courageous tactics. Some of that courage included using children to attack Soldiers and Marines with grenades and women to smuggle their weapons past American check points. One Soldier told me of shooting a six year old who was wearing a suicide vest. But American female Soldiers and Marines searched the Iraqi women and foiled their efforts.
Abu Musab Al Zarqawi became the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. He successfully evaded American troops for a number of months. We knew who he was, and we had some good information about him, but tracking a single person in a country of 25 million is not as easy as it seems. One night, when Zarqawi was peacefully resting in the home of his spiritual leader, his world lit up like the Fourth of July. Two 500 pound bombs destroyed the place. In an instant his world was shattered. Zarqawi lived just long enough to be pulled from the rubble to see American Soldiers put him on a litter and take him away.
Zarqawi died as a result of a big explosion. His once peaceful moment was shattered by the Air Force. Much like what a hijacked airliner did to the people in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. There is something very satisfying knowing that his life ended very much like what his organization dished out to innocent Americans that Tuesday morning.
There is something very, very satisfying about knowing that the last thing he saw was an American GI. I hope the Soldier told him, "We got you, asshole."
Osama bin Laden was living a peaceful and quiet life in Pakistan. He had a nice house, a nice safe place to hide within, and no need to ever leave his little fortress. I suspect he thought he had it made. "They can't find me here. I got away with it and will die quietly in my sleep late some night." Then the sound of helicopters -- then gunfire. Imagine what shock went through bin Laden's feeble mind when he realized the Americans were there, that they had found him, that the weak, soft, lazy Americans were in his compound. Then the door was broken in, and bin Laden was face to face with an American SEAL team member. I'm sure it took only an instant before he realized he was about to die. And only another instant for the SEAL to know it was time to shoot, not time to "negotiate."
Reports say bin Laden was shot practically right between the eyes. There is no mistaking that was intentional -- it was a well placed shot that hit exactly where the shooter wanted the bullet to go. With the M-4 rifle and the tumbling effect of the round it fires, it is very likely much of bin Laden's head was torn away as the round exited his sorry excuse for a brain. The last thing Osama bin Laden saw was an American Special Operator, in his own house, exacting revenge for the dastardly attacks he perpetrated on America. Again, there is something very, very satisfying in knowing that the last thing he saw was an American, rough and tumble, ready to rumble and ready to kill anybody who got in his way.
And they thought America was weak.
TJ Woodard served 25 years in the United States Army, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.