Anyone who has served in the military during the nearly ten years since 9/11 must feel a sense of closure with Bin Laden’s death. As Lindsay Wise writes in the Houston Chronicle “Bin Laden's death is a dramatic morale booster for those who served in the war on terror, now aptly dubbed The Long War.” The demise of Bin Laden marks an important victory to which all who served contributed in one way or another. A Marine who signed up just after 9/11 said this to me just after President Obama’s announcement: “It feels kind of like I can come home again,” but then, after a pause, “I guess we have a few more things to do.” An email was circulating around Stanford yesterday saying: “Congratulations to all Stanford veterans who laid the groundwork for this momentous occasion. Thank you for your service and your sacrifice.”
I think thanks are also due to the people who served in the financial front of the war on terror during these ten years—many in the United States Treasury. President Bush announced the terrorist asset freezing operation in the Rose Garden on September 24, 2001. It was before military actions in Afghanistan. It was the first shot in the war on terror. The announcement sent an important message to the terrorists and to the people at Treasury who were just entering to the fight. He said,
“Today, we have launched a strike on the financial foundation of the global terror network. Make no mistake about it, I’ve asked our military to be ready for a reason. But the American people must understand this war on terrorism will be fought on a variety of fronts, in different ways. The front lines will look different from the wars of the past….It is a war that is going to take a while. It is a war that will have many fronts. It is a war that will require the United States to use our influence in a variety of areas in order to win it. And one area is financial.”
Soon thereafter the G7 finance ministers released a statement pledging to work together to “freeze the funds and financial assets not only of the terrorist Usama bin Laden and his associates, but terrorists all over the world” setting off what turned out to be the most impressive effort in international coordination in the finance area in history. Soon financial intelligence networks were set up to get information about the terrorists, and new financial tools began to be used as a weapon against proliferation. To solidify these efforts a new position of Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence was created in 2004, and Stuart Levey was appointed to the position by President Bush. Stuart was asked to continue by President Obama, and only recently stepped down. Senator Kaufman’s praise on the Senate floor for Stuart and others in the Treasury shows why thanks are in order.