It was a quarter past six on a quiet Wednesday evening when a missile launched by U.S. military forces shredded through an isolated and unassuming house in a remote region of Iraq, killing one of America's most feared enemies.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the ruthless al-Qaida leader in Iraq, whom the American government had placed a $25 million bounty on, poses no more threat to the United States.
His death means America's fighting sons and daughters overseas, as well as our families here at home, are safer. We should rejoice in knowing that a week ago, our leaders orchestrated an attack that ended the reign of someone with a pathological desire to kill Americans.
In a war becoming increasingly unpopular, and one that has produced routine reports of American casualties, news of al-Zarqawi's death came as welcome relief.
While it was a victory -- some have called his ouster the most significant removal of an enemy since the highly publicized capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003 -- it was a small one.
It is our belief that we should temper any optimism from his death by realizing that, in today's hostile and unstable world climate, swarms of other murderers -- people who are just as ruthless and capable as Zarqawi -- lie in wait. They are willing to take his place.
Credit the White House for setting a cautious example.
Shortly after news of Zarqawi's death broke, President Bush and his policy makers found little reason to chest thump. For an administration at the center of a barrage of criticisms because of the war, the terrorist leader's death provided ample opportunity for self-congratulation and a trumpeting of American military policies in the Middle East.
However, the President's men said little.
They championed the strike as a blow against terrorism. They said the it demonstrated to enemies across the globe that feared leaders could be tracked, found and eliminated.
What they did not do, was claim victory. What they did not do, was tell the public that they had nothing left to fear from extremists or foreign leaders.
Such statements or beliefs are not only short-sighted, they're also ill-conceived. Iran and North Korea, not to mention America's poster-child for villainy, Ossama bin Laden, still are out there and pose as dangerous a threat to American livelihood as ever before.
New terrorists, who want to do nothing but kill civilians, are born everyday. Weapons of mass destruction are becoming smaller and more difficult to detect. And it seems the stakes are constantly being raised: We build a better missile defense shield, and our enemies build a better missile.
The laundry list of threats is frightening.
When does the fear machine stop rolling? Where does it all end? Is it with a world at war? Does it happen with a nation, or nations, being obliterated? Does it come with American flags flying over Baghdad, Tehran and Pyongyang?
When answers to those questions are produced through peace instead of conflict, when Americans can celebrate a comfort in safety born not from the death of another person, but from the diplomacy and shared cooperation between countries, then there will be cause for celebration.
And, then and only then, will celebration be justified.