The terrorist Osama bin Laden is dead, NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell reports. The United States has bin Laden's body, NBC is reporting, and he is dead as the result of an American action in Pakistan Afghanistan (or Pakistan -- this point is not clear) Abbottabad, Pakistan.
"We could be turning to a new phase," Richart Engel is saying on TV. With democracy and the push for democracy taking root across the Middle East, bin Laden had become "despicable" in the region, he says. And now the U.S. seems to have gotten the man sought by two presidents, in Pakistan, where he'd taken shelter. This so happens to be the eighth anniversary of President George W. Bush donning that flight suit and proclaiming "mission accomplished."
President Bush led the nation into war in Afghanistan to get bin Laden and to break up the Afghan government that had given him a base for the 9-11 attacks. Mr. Bush then led the nation into war in Iraq under several discredited rationales. American troops continue to sacrifice their lives in both countries. After failing to catch bin Laden in Afghanistan, the U.S. expanded into what amounts to a third, undeclared war in Pakistan, run by the CIA. NBC reports that bin Laden was not killed by a drone strike, but rather a Special Ops action that had been months in the making. NBC reports that bin Laden was shot in the head during a firefight at a specially built compound. The ground fighting lasted less than 40 minutes. Details remain scant -- one helicopter was reportedly lost and a woman used as a human shield was killed.
A small crowd of 50 or so people has gathered outside the White House, singing the national anthem and cheering. President Obama is expected to speak momentarily.
"Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts," President Obama said, opening with a remembrance of 9-11. He says that since then, we've removed the Taliban government that supported bin Laden and captured scores of terrorists. He says he directed CIA chief Leon Panetta to make capturing or killing bin Laden the top priority. Last August, Mr. Obama says, he was briefed on a lead that bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan. Last week, he believed the United States had enough information to act. Today, the U.S. struck the compound, and killed bin Ladin. "Over the years, I have repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where he was," Mr. Obama said. He added, "On nights like this one, we can say to families who have lost loved ones to Al Qaeda's terror: Justice has been done."
Among the many official statements to come tonight from elected leaders is one from former President Bush. He writes in part, "No matter how long it takes, justice will be done."
And this from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose primary election was scheduled for 9-11 and interrupted by the attacks: "The killing of Osama bin Laden does not lessen the suffering that New Yorkers and Americans experienced at his hands, but it is a critically important victory for our nation -- and a tribute to the millions of men and women in our armed forces and elsewhere who have fought so hard for our nation."
Rachel just tweeted, "In DC. People streaming on foot toward the WH. Car horns honking and much shouting. People hopping out of cabs in the middle of traffic. Guy on a bike just passed me with a US flag cape. Happy scrum in front of the White House -- USA! USA! Chants. One adorable very drunk guy yelling '10 Years!!'" In New York, the twitters are showing signs of people heading out for Ground Zero and Times Square.