May 2011


Students will:

  • Consider the impact of Osama bin Laden’s death on different groups of people.
  • Juxtapose the ideas of Osama bin Laden and the Arab Spring.
  • Discuss the status and future of U.S. counterterrorism policy.


Handout – The Impact of Osama bin Laden’s Death

1. Considering Historical Context

Ask students about the death of Osama bin Laden. Where was he killed? By whom? Why is his death significant? In what ways has the pursuit of Osama bin Laden affected U.S. foreign policy since September 11, 2001?

2. Exploring Perspectives

Distribute “The Impact of Osama bin Laden’s Death” and show students the following video:

What is the significance of the death of Osama bin Laden? [David B. Edwards – 3:51]

While watching the video, students should record Professor Edwards’ views on the significance of Osama bin Laden’s death for different groups on the handout.

After the video is finished, divide students into groups of three or four. Assign each group one of the three perspectives Professor Edwards discusses (people in the United States, people in Afghanistan, and jihadis) or let groups choose for themselves. Each group should draw a political cartoon expressing the views of their assigned group about the significance of Osama bin Laden’s death.

3. Considering the Significance of Osama bin Laden’s Death

After about ten minutes, have groups share their cartoons with the class. According to Professor Edwards, what difference has the death of Osama bin Laden made to different groups? Why does Professor Edwards say the results of the Arab Spring—the protests and revolts for democracy taking place across North Africa and the Middle East—are so important in determining how Osama bin Laden is thought about and remembered in that region? How do students think the death of Osama bin Laden will be viewed in the United States in ten or twenty years’ time? What future events might affect how he is remembered?

Do students agree with Professor Edwards’ assessment? Why or why not? Have students heard similar or different opinions in the news or from their families about the effects of Osama bin Laden’s death? What additional sources or information would students want in order to better understand how different groups have been affected?

Do students feel safer now that Osama bin Laden is dead? Has the threat of terrorism from al Qaeda changed? Do students think U.S. policy should change? Why or why not?

Photo-Syriana 2011. Creative Commons Attribution.

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