Maryland leaders react to bin Laden's death
Maryland leaders praised the U.S. raid in Pakistan that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, but members of the state's congressional delegation and other local officials on Monday tempered their optimism by cautioning that the war on terror is not over.
President Barack Obama announced late Sunday that a team of U.S. had killed bin Laden in a firefight Sunday. Gov. Martin O'Malley commended the military for the action.
“This closes a sad and tragic chapter in our country and our world’s history," O'Malley said in a statement released Monday. "This should be a day of reflection and prayer for a more peaceful future.”
While expressing hope that bin Laden's death would bring closure to the families of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, officials also said the threat of terrorism remains real and cautioned the public, in the words of Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, to remain vigilant to "confront the national security threats we face."
"That terrible day has been seared into our memory," the Southern Maryland Democrat, who serves as the House minority whip, said in a statement. "While the enormity of this moment cannot be overstated, we all recognize that the threat of terrorism still exists and we must remain vigilant."
That warning, sounded by lawmakers of both parties, came as the U.S. State Department issued a warning early Monday to citizens traveling and living abroad. Citizens in areas where bin Laden's death could cause anti-American violence, the statement said, were strongly encouraged to limit travel.
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a member of the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence, called bin Laden's death a "historic day for our country," but warned that terrorists will continue to harbor "predatory intent" toward the country.
"While bin Laden is dead, the hateful ideology he espouses will persist," Mikulski said in a statement. "Al Qaeda is a resilient operation."
She said the country must be vigilant and prepared.
Rep. Andy Harris, one of the state's two Republican members of the House, said Monday that bin Laden's death was "great news for the security of America, as well as for our troops at home and overseas who continue to protect us from terrorism every day."
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, praised the work of intelligence professionals who tracked bin Laden down.
"This is a great day for America," Ruppersberger said. "Bin Laden had the blood of thousands of people on his hands. Justice has now been done."
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett was the only Maryland lawmaker to point out the significance that bin Laden was located near a city in Pakistan with a major military presence, not along the Afghan border where some had suspected he was hiding out.
"Osama bin Laden’s death is a huge psychological victory for Americans," the Western Maryland Republican said in a statement. "However, the fact that Osama bin Laden had been living for months in a million dollar compound surrounded by Pakistani military facilities and personnel makes it clear that bin Laden’s death is not the end of the war against the United States and our allies by al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations."
"The death of Osama bin Laden is an important milestone in the fight against terrorism and a relief to millions of Americans and others around the world who have felt his murderous destruction," Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin said in a statement. "All Americans can feel safer knowing that bin Laden is dead, but we must remain vigilant in the continued fight against al-Qaida and any terrorists who seek to harm our nation."
Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, also a Democrat, said the "moment of justice" must be "tempered with caution," and noted that the nation's fight is with terrorism, not Islam.
"The pursuit of bin Laden has been only one part of our war on international terrorism — a war that has cost the lives of more than 6,000 American soldiers," Cummings said. "Though it took years, the death of Osama bin Laden shows the righteous might of our citizens and our military."
Rep. John Sarbanes called the effort "a significant blow" to Al Qaeda and said that "the demise of Osama bin Laden will help turn the page on a dark chapter for the families of the victims of 9/11, the American people, and people of good will everywhere. ”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen was scheduled to speak Monday at the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute in a lecture series named after a victim of the September 11 attacks.
"The death of Osama bin Laden represents a huge milestone for the United States in our fight against al-Qaeda and terrorists seeking to harm our country," the Montgomery County Democrat said in a statement. "The fight against al-Qaeda is far from over and we must remain vigilant, but yesterday the terrorist network lost its founder and leader."
On his Facebook page, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. credited Obama and also George W. Bush with bin Laden's death.
"I commend and congratulate President Obama, the United States intelligence communities, and the courageous and selfless men and women of the United States military for successfully completing the mission tasked by President George W. Bush on September 11, 2001," the Republican wrote. "His pledge to bring bin Laden to justice has been fulfilled and the world is better and safer for it."
Washington Mayor Vincent C. Gray said bin Laden's death would "not erase the pain nor diminish the threat of terror," but said he hoped "this service of justice brings some comfort to the families and friends of loved ones lost on September 11, 2001."