hubert-williams_web.jpgBridgetown, Barbados —Some great successes are manifested in 20-year cycles and so it seems to be now as the United States and other Western powers celebrate the discovery and ruthless dispatch by American Special Forces of Al Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden, coincidentally with the historic social and political revolts in a number of influential Middle Eastern dictatorships:

In Egypt, revolution has toppled Hosni Mubarak after 32 years, strongman Muammar Gadaffi is tottering in Libya after four decades and what was begun in Tunisia has spread to also engulf Yemen, Syria, Algeria, Iran, Bahrain and Jordan.

These developments in the petroleum-producing Gulf states presage some of the most significant shifts in global political and economic power relationships since 20 years ago when the Soviet Union dramatically collapsed in 1991. 

At that time, the glory went to Republican President Ronald Reagan, whose hard-line anti-communism and rigid domestic economic policies based on unbridled capitalism and unrestrained free enterprise blunted the Soviet challenge, exposed the frailty of its collapsing economy and precipitated the break-up of the state-controlled monolith, to leave the U.S. as the world's sole superpower.

Emerging out of the highly costly and failed Soviet campaign following its invasion of Afghanistan, bin Laden and Al Qaeda rapidly developed into the world's supreme terrorist organization and began to target essentially American facilities, destroying diplomatic and naval facilities in Nairobi (Kenya), Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) and Yemen, with considerable loss of life, both American and host country nationals employed at the targeted facilities.

Bin Laden was behind the 1993 bombing of the lower level of the World Trade Center in which about seven people died and considerable distress created for thousands more who had to evacuate the smoke-filled building.

A great friend, Dennis Fisher, who worked on the 93rd floor with the Deloitte accounting giant, later recounted the horrendous experience of himself and colleagues following the bomb blast, of having to walk down the darkened stairway for more than two hours before reaching the ground floor.

The hands of bin Laden and Al Qaeda were also evident in the 2005 series of disastrous bombings on the London train and bus transport systems in which many people were killed or injured.

Given the numerous failed attempts over the years at capturing or killing bin Laden and the proximity of his final sanctuary in a major Pakistan government military facility, one might well say that once again it was proven, classically, by his example that the best place to hide is right within the bosom of one’s pursuers.

Everybody thought him barely surviving in some cave deep in the mountains bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan, while, really, he was existing in urban conditions of relative luxury.

Now, with the final dispatch on Sunday of the world’s most hunted terrorist, and much as Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush tried with all the security and military resources at their disposal to get bin Laden during their four terms (1992 to 2008), this time the glow will be all President Barack Obama's — and it should be bright enough to shine throughout his coming extremely challenging campaign for re-election in November 2012.  

As the President declared when announcing that bin Laden had been tracked down and killed in Pakistan, “This is a good day for America.” Indeed, it was a great day for Barack Obama.

It may well be that Time Magazine deserves a measure of praise for its prescience when, in a recent issue, it contrived through clever use of technology to place Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama on its cover with arms around each other.

Caribbean people’s immediate response to the bin Laden drama and other recent Obama successes is very likely to be: “Let Sarah Palin and Donald Trump put that in their pipes and smoke it.” 

The small English-speaking democracies in the Caribbean sea, Central America (Belize), and South America (Guyana) had reacted with anger and anguish when bin Laden's terrorists killed nearly 4,000 people and injured numerous thousands on Sept. 11, 2001. 

Recruited and trained by bin Laden, hijackers brazenly took over  four large U.S. commercial aircraft and crashed them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and, after an on-board struggle, a field in Pennsylvania. More than 20 Guyanese nationals were killed at the World Trade Center.

In a way, I too was involved from Barbados on that fateful Tuesday morning nearly 10 years ago.  Like hundreds of millions worldwide, I had watched in awe as the dramatic scenes unfolded on television. Our anguish was common but the impact of this incredible disaster was to become more personal. My American Airlines flight scheduled for Sept. 12, from Barbados to New York, was cancelled, like so many other flights across America and around the globe. 

One of my sisters, Walterine “Wendy” Sears, was halfway bound to New York from London, where she resides, when the British Airways flight turned around for its return to Heathrow Airport. Another sister, Frances “Jean” Griffith, who held a manager’s position with American Insurance Group (AIG) in a neighboring skyscraper, was among the dust-covered, panicked thousands running wildly from the disaster zone towards the relative safety of the Brooklyn bridge. 

But, for me, the truly unforgettable scenes that day were of innocent people trapped up high and jumping from the burning Towers. Four days afterwards, on the first New York-bound AA flight out of Barbados’ Grantley Adams International Airport, I did the initial draft of a tribute to those who jumped, to express my belief that all who jumped would not have done so out of fear or in panic or expecting to survive – but leapt away from the flames to ensure a body for their loved ones to mourn over and to bury.

A refined draft of the poem was later submitted to the U.S. Library of Congress which graciously acknowledged its receipt and said it would be included along with many others in the records.

Bin Laden's death is a triumph for the persistence of the American security services and, as suggested earlier, a great fillip for the administration in Washington. But vengeance is a terrorist's bedmate and increased Al Qaeda strikes of various types and in widely spread places could be expected to follow their leader's death.

One immediate consequence of the heightened security alert that must result is that airline passengers, particularly in the U.S., who feel current practices at airports to be more than slightly intrusive, and sometimes offensive of personal privacy, had better travel by bus, for, as the saying goes, they ain't seen nothing yet.