Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan on Sunday, was a son of the Saudi elite whose radical, violent campaign to recreate a seventh-century Muslim empire redefined the threat of terrorism for the 21st century.
With the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Bin Laden was elevated to the realm of evil in the American imagination once reserved for dictators like Hitler and Stalin. He was a new national enemy, his face on wanted posters, gloating on videotape, taunting the United States and Western civilization.
“Do you want bin Laden dead?” a reporter asked President George W. Bush six days after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“I want him — I want justice,” the president answered. “And there’s an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’ ”
It took nearly a decade before that quest finally ended in Pakistan with the death of Bin Laden during a confrontation with American forces who attacked a compound where officials said he had been hiding.