Bay Area members of Congress praised President Barack Obama and military personnel on Monday for the bold attack that killed Osama bin Laden, even as most said the terrorist leader's death is yet another sign it's time to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, was Congress' lone vote against authorizing military force against terrorists on Sept. 14, 2001, three days after al-Qaida -- under bin Laden's leadership -- unleashed the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil, saying the authorization was a blank check for war without end.
Lee said her initial reaction to news of bin Laden's death was "like everyone, a sigh of relief. Here you have the head of an organization that has killed so many people, in our country and around the world."
But even as she commended Obama and those involved with planning and executing the effort to hunt down bin Laden, Lee said it's time to start reappraising "smart security and how you address the root causes of terrorism." Among Congress' loudest and most persistent voices for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Lee hopes bin Laden's death with further that goal.
"I've been talking to people, and even those who weren't quite sure are starting to say 'yes,' " she said. "If you look at the dollars, and the human sacrifices of our young men and women, and the economic realities this development should provide the impetus to begin a serious withdrawal in July."
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in a phone interview she was "so happy and relieved" by news of bin Laden's death because, "I voted to go after him 10 years ago and it has just been so hard. I know how much President Obama wanted this, too, from the first day he took office."
With so many lives lost on Sept. 11 and since, "it's never going to ease the pain of that, but it's a closure, it's a message that we don't give up -- justice is a necessary part of our lives here in America," she said.
"This is a man who bragged about what he did and was openly planning more attacks. I can't imagine anyone in the world being able to rationalize why we shouldn't have done this."
But Boxer, too, advocates withdrawal from Afghanistan. "My belief is that we did what we said we would do, we are training them to take care of their own country," she said. "You can have these elite troops do what they do without having this enormous footprint over there."
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said his gut reaction was that bin Laden's death is "fantastic" after all the world has endured at his hands. "This was such an important event to take place for our country, our citizens, people who lost loved ones as a result -- even before 9/11 and on 9/11," he said.
Miller noted that the original U.S. military mission in Afghanistan was "to get him and take out the infrastructure and the training camps we had, and we accomplished much of that, but then someone made the decision to stay."
This tightly targeted operation, in contrast, "was based upon international cooperation, smart intelligence, smart people reacting to that intelligence with patience to secure the goal they wanted," he said. "And at the end of the day, the president had to make the call, and he did, and we're all grateful."
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said he's "delighted."
"Bin Laden was a terrorist and the most wanted man. Congratulations to President Obama, the operations team and the intelligence team that tracked him down," he said, noting the effort underscores that the U.S. can "focus like a laser and succeed against Al Qaeda, wherever they happen to be."
But now that bin Laden is dead, he said, Obama must immediately diminish the role the U.S. military plays in Afghanistan and greatly reduce the number of troops in that country. Garamendi also harbors some concern about reprisals.
"The killing of bin Laden will certainly increase the threat of reprisal," he said. "We'll have to deal with that by quickly combing through intelligence reports against al-Qaida."
Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said her initial thought was "thank God, what a relief, and I still feel that way today."
As she offered kudos to President Obama, the intelligence community and the military for making it happen, she voiced caution, too. "Al-Qaida, we know, is entrepreneurial, they are in many different areas, they always prey on weak or failing states. So Osama bin Laden's death by no means says al-Qaida is over."
She said she believes the President soon will reiterate his commitment to drawing down U.S. troops in Afghanistan, even as her constituents keep asking why we're building new roads and schools there but not here. "The American people know very well the costliness of war, first to life and limb and then to our treasury."
Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, issued a statement congratulating President Obama, the armed services and intelligence community. McNerney said he was at home in Pleasanton on Sunday, and heard the news of bin Laden's death from his son, Michael, a reserve officer in the Air Force who joined because of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"Americans who have lost loved ones or have been wounded fighting for our great country can now rest easier knowing bin Laden is dead," McNerney said. "This is a significant victory in the war against terror. This does not, however, mean the end of the threat from al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations. We must remain vigilant and continue our efforts to fight terrorism and protect our citizens at home and abroad."
Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, e-mailed a statement saying bin Laden "was a mass murderer and the world will not miss him. However, we cannot forget that a more peaceful and just world must be our ultimate goal. This will not be achieved through violent means or military might. Bin Laden's death is also a clear reminder that it is time to end the war in Afghanistan. American efforts should be spent encouraging the wellspring of peaceful, democratic uprisings in oppressed nations, not waging endless wars."
Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, issued a statement calling bin Laden's death "a pivotal moment in our nation's history and in Barack Obama's legacy as president, one that carries with it the opportunity to bring much-needed closure to the thousands of families who lost loved ones on 9/11, as well as the opportunity to bring much-needed closure to the war in Afghanistan.
"The attacks orchestrated by Osama bin Laden are what took us to Afghanistan in the first place; now, given his death, which occurred under President Obama's mandate, we have an opportunity to draw down our presence and ultimately transform the way in which we are waging this war," Honda wrote. "Bin Laden's death reminds us that when tackling threats to U.S. security by actors who are increasingly agile, mobile and amorphous, a heavy military, air and navy footprint is not only ineffective in dealing with guerilla-like warfare but also financially unsustainable.
"The way forward, then, is to recognize that policing, intelligence and negotiations -- all critically underfunded and underdeveloped in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- are what work best in undermining and dismantling threats of this nature," he wrote.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, posted to her Facebook page that bin Laden "has finally been brought to justice."
"This is a moment to remember those lost in that horrific attack and their families who can finally experience some closure," she wrote. "I would also like to thank the U.S. personnel responsible for bin Laden's demise. The president, our military, and the intelligence community have proven once again why the United States is the greatest country in the world."
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, issued a news release saying bin Laden had "wreaked untold havoc in our country and around the world. Tonight, we should take a moment to remember all those who died at his hand. I hope this news provides some peace and closure to the thousands of people who lost loved ones on 9/11, and in other attacks masterminded by bin Laden."