CITYWIDE — When news broke Sunday that a team of Navy Seals killed America’s most wanted, Osama bin Laden, impromptu celebrations popped up across the nation.

Crowds gathered outside Ground Zero in New York and the White House, cheering and lofting signs into the air. Baseball fans in Philadelphia chanted “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” in the midst of a game against the New York Mets.

“It’s been a flag of failure that we didn’t get him since Tora Bora,” said Robert Farrell, a Navy veteran who served in the Persian Gulf. “With all the negative going on recently, I feel like I landed on the moon, and I remember landing on the moon!”

There were no reported gatherings in Santa Monica, perhaps because others share a more restrained satisfaction upon hearing that bin Laden had died.

“It made me uncomfortable, this notion that justice was done. That was one of the president’s lines,” said Murray Burk, of Santa Monica. “One man’s death does not bring justice to 3,000.”

The celebrations disturbed Burk’s wife, Mary Spata.

“My only strong feelings were that I was sorry to see people rallying around the death of one individual, because it’s not the most significant part of the war, for me,” Spata said.

Santa Monica City Council member Kevin McKeown had words of cautious optimism in the face of Sunday’s relevation.

“We must be careful to realize that terrorism was not embodied in a single individual, but we can hope this event, in concert with the democracy movements in the mid-East, allows us to reprioritize resources and bring home not only troops but billions of budget dollars we need here at home,” McKeown wrote in an e-mail. “We can choose healthcare not warfare, building a future through education and creating a green infrastructure to end our unhealthy dependence on foreign oil.”

That notion of bin Laden as just another target reflects his loss of relevance as a direct actor in the violent conflicts in the Middle East.

The Associated Press reported in 2009 comments made by then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who said, “Wherever he is, he’s in a deep hole. He does not have much impact on the organization, as best we can tell.”

According to the AP, that “hole” turned out to be a massive complex in a city two hours outside of Islamabad, but in terms of modern communication it might as well have been a cave.

For security purposes, there were no phone lines nor Internet access. bin Laden communicated through a courier, an individual who agents would eventually track to the compound.

Despite his relative isolation, bin Laden continued to be a powerful symbol within the militant Islamic community, said Edina Lekovic, director of policy and programming at the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which is located in Downtown Los Angeles.

It’s one figurehead the moderate Muslim community is glad to be rid of.

“We greeted the news with a huge sense of relief and gratitude,” Lekovic said. “We were ultimately able to bring him to justice.”

Bin Laden’s death closes one chapter of violence in the Middle East, just as another more hopeful one is beginning.

“The next chapter is the Arab Spring,” Lekovic said. “Al Qaida’s ideology has proven bankrupt, and been rejected by the Arab world at large. They have shown that they can use peaceful means to get the political change they’re looking for.”

Local law enforcement are on heightened alert for any possible backlash against bin Laden’s killing, although there are no apparent threats at this time, according to the Associated Press.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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