An Iowa native who spent three years researching the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks says he was surprised by the circumstances surrounding Osama bin Laden’s death. Terry McDermott is a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and author of the book “Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers – Who They Were, Why They Did It.”
McDermott says bin Laden’s location – in the suburbs of Islamabad rather than a rural area of Pakistan or Afghanistan – may be the most surprising detail of all. “I never thought he’d be in the middle of a city,” McDermott said. “And you wouldn’t think that this sort of military operation would be able to go get him. It was a huge risk, a huge gamble…because it could have easily have gone sideways.”
An elite crew of American forces stormed a compound in Islamabad and killed bin Laden, who was then buried at sea. The news of bin Laden’s death touched off rallies and celebrations from Ground Zero in New York to outside the White House to college campuses here in Iowa. McDermott says he was also surprised by Americans’ reactions.
“I’m astonished. I thought everybody had forgotten,” McDermott said. “To many people, it seems like ancient history when you talk to them about (the terrorist attacks) now.” Most Americans were unfamiliar with the name Osama bin Laden prior to September 11, 2001. Since then, the Al-Queda leader has become synonymous with terrorism. McDermott says all that attention likely elevated bin Laden to a “mythic” level.
“It’s been almost 10 full years since the event and bin Laden was identified virtually the first day as likely man behind it. So, there was a full threaded attempt to get him from that moment on,” McDermott said. McDermott is currently working on another terrorism-related book, this one focused on the hunt for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
By Jesse Gavin, KCNZ, Cedar Falls