The death of Osama bin Laden does not close the war on terror, but it does end a major battle in that war. When such a battle ends, the dead must be counted, and mourned.
Think of the casualties of bin Laden and what springs to mind are the nearly 3,000 people killed on Sept. 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and on the planes. That's natural, because the image of those deaths has become one of our strongest shared memories, and the memory of those victims has become emblematic of an attack against our nation and our spirit.
But we can blame bin Laden for more casualties than just those from his attacks -- on 9/11, in Bali, on the USS Cole and against embassies. The 5,885 American military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan died as a result of bin Laden's attacks on the United States. Although their sacrifices have been honored by our nation, these men and women are not always remembered with the same reverence as the direct victims of 9/11.
Serving in the all-volunteer U.S. military is an extraordinary commitment, particularly in wartime, and one nearly as daunting for the families of those who serve as the combatants. Debates about how the conflict in Afghanistan has been conducted or how wise the invasion of Iraq was are political arguments that have nothing to do with honoring those who soldier for us, and we sometimes forget that.
And tallying bin Laden's carnage still does not end there. The enemy combatants and civilians killed by U.S. forces in these conflicts are his victims, too. They would not be dead were it not for the attacks of 9/11, and their families and nations should curse bin Laden as much as we do.
Many Americans will now begin to turn the page on 9/11. The grieving spouses, parents and orphans, though, will never be able to. Some may have been gladdened by bin Laden's demise, but the news won't repair any damage. As things stand now, it won't even stop the tally of fresh death to blame him for.