20 minutes of suspense… how I learned the death of O Ben Laden

I imagine many in Europe learned of the death of Oussama Ben Laden Monday morning, via internet or on the radio as they woke up. On the other side of the Atlantic, it was different. Late on Sunday evening, news outlets started announcing an imminent statement by US President B. Obama, without any further indication of the topic. Those kind of declaration are extremely rare, as far as I remember the last such statement was just after attacks on Libya begun, and even for this one, the president had to be pressured to get to the podium. More over, the week had been good for Mr Obama : he releases his long form birth certificate during the week (which rebutted all the conspiracy theories about him not being not a natural American citizen) and made quite a show at the white house correspondents dinner over the weekend.

In a word: a late statement meant something being was going on ! There was no way to guess what that would be about, but it was clear that it would be a shocking news; for the simple reason that nothing was expected at all. The president was joking about D Trump’s hair style just the day before, operations in Libya were continuing with minimum US involvement, … nothing in the known news could help us to guess what breaking news could be important to deserve a late weekend statement. Even worse: news outlets did not had any clue neither for a time. It is at least 20 minutes later (a time lapse close to forever in this time of instant news) that the first tentative announcement, based on unnamed sources of course, of Ben Laden death appeared…

Of course, by the time B. Obama took the stand, everybody already knew but there was a time of uncertainty and doubt. A very strong feeling of “what’s-going-on-?” that is hard to describe.

If this is to be – and trust me, it will – a defining moment of Obama’s presidency, let us all remember how he behaved the days before. How nothing appeared on his face as this critical and dangerous operation was already under way. One really need to have a lot of self-control, confidence and a clear head to be able to take such a risk and while waiting anxiously for the operation to take place, go by his usual business in front of the camera. Good job, Mr President.


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