Skip to comments.Osama Examined
Posted on 09/17/2001 6:58:21 PM PDT by ppaul
Osama bin Laden sits atop the "most wanted" list of most Americans right now. But who is he, what motivates him, and how should Christians respond?
If there's one name on everyone's lips right now, it's the name of Osama bin Laden. In addition to being the chief suspect in last Tuesday's devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he's wanted in connection with several other terrorist acts, including:
the 1993 World Trade Center bombing
the 1993 ambush in Somalia that killed 18 U.S. troops;
the 1996 truck-bomb attack on Kobar Towers, a U.S. military
residence in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia;
the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania; and
the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.
He's also issued religious edicts declaring war on America and calling on "every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it."
But who exactly is bin Laden? Why does he hate America?
What follows is a briefing that answers these and other questions about the world's most wanted man.
Who is bin Laden?
Osama bin Laden was born in 1957, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He was the seventh son and one of fifty children born to Muhammad bin Laden, a self-made man who had risen from a poor laborer to owner of the largest construction firm in Saudi Arabia.
Young bin Laden seemed destined to follow in his father's footsteps. He studied management and economics at King Abdul Aziz University, one of the finest schools in Saudi Arabia. His father promised to set him up with a construction firm of his own which would benefit from the family's direct access to the royal family.
Nor was he particularly religious. According to biographer Yossef Bodansky, "Osama bin Laden started the 1970s as did many other sons of the affluent and well-connected breaking the strict Muslim lifestyle in Saudi Arabia and sojourns in cosmopolitan Beirut. While in high school and college, Osama visited Beirut often, frequenting flashy nightclubs and bars. He was a drinker and womanizer, which often got him into bar brawls."
However, in 1973, bin Laden's father underwent a religious transformation while rebuilding and refurbishing the two holiest mosques of Islam in Mecca and Medina. His newfound devotion began to rub off on Osama. He began reading Islamic literature and associating with some of the radical Islamic intellectuals (called "Islamists") at Aziz University.
The core of their message was that the "Islamic nation" lived in weakness and disgrace because Muslims had abandoned the precepts taught in the Quran and the Sunnah (the words and deeds of Muhammad and his companions). They blamed the West for subverting the morals of Muslims and corrupting and intimidating their leaders. Indeed, when the Lebanese civil war broke out in 1975, the Islamists said that the suffering of the Lebanese people was God's punishment for enticing Muslim youths to sin. Bin Laden was strongly influenced by these views.
By December 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, bin Laden was a dedicated Islamist and was eager to aid his fellow Muslims.
Recounting those days to Robert Fisk of the London Independent, he said, ''When the invasion of Afghanistan started, I was enraged and went there at once I arrived within days, before the end of 1979."
Bin Laden used his wealth, administration skills and construction know-how to build infrastructure and roads for the Afghan fighters. He also raised funds and recruited thousands of mujahideen ("holy warriors") throughout the Muslim world. As the war progressed, he took to the battlefield and gained an international reputation for his fearlessness under fire.
Hamza Mohammed, a Palestinian who fought alongside bin Laden, told Time reporter Scott Macleod, "He was a hero to us because he was always on the Front Line, always moving ahead of everyone else. He not only gave his money, but he also gave himself. He came down from his palace to live with the Afghan peasants and the Arab fighters. He cooked with them, ate with them, dug trenches with them. That was bin Laden's way."
After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, and their puppet regime toppled, bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia a national hero.
Why does he hate America?
Bin Laden seems to have been particularly influenced by two events.
The first event occurred near the end of the Afghan war. According to Yossef Bodansky, who is also director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, neighboring Pakistan was afraid of the international fighting force they had helped assemble in Afghanistan during the war. They knew they couldn't control the mujahideen, so they talked the mujahideen commanders into what the Pakistanis knew would be a disastrous assault on the city of Jalalabad.
"As a result," said Bodansky, "the Afghan resistance that had endured almost a decade of fighting the (Soviet) forces was so decimated, it could no longer constitute a viable fighting force. The road was open for (Pakistan) to organize and field its own 'mujahideen' force, now known as the Taliban."
Bin Laden, who had participated in the assault, was appalled by the needless waste of dedicated fighters many of whom were his friends. He and his fellow Islamist commanders "concluded that they were victims of a U.S. conspiracy implemented through Pakistan. The United States, they reasoned, was committed to the defeat of the Islamist jihad in Afghanistan and anywhere else because the ascent of Islam was endangering its power and affluence."
The second event was the Gulf War.
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the Saudi royal family was struck with panic. Fearing their country would be the next target, they allowed the United States to base its military forces in Saudi Arabia.
To bin Laden and many other Muslims, this was an affront to Islam. America's corrupting influence was bad enough, but to let "infidel" troops "occupy" the Arabian peninsula, the "Land of the Two Holy Places," was unthinkable. He was even more outraged when some troops stayed behind after the war.
Because bin Laden was so popular, the royal family feared his influence. So when he eventually went public with his criticisms, they moved to shut him down. Bin Laden left with his family for Sudan. Not long afterward, the Saudi royal family stripped him of his citizenship.
What are his goals?
Bin Laden's stated goal is the ejection of Americans and westerners not only from the Arabian peninsula, but from the entire Muslim world. With western influences gone, and false "Muslim" leaders toppled, he hopes to unite the Muslim people under God's law, restoring the fortunes of Islam and paving the way for its global expansion.
His "spectacular terrorist strikes" have a threefold purpose. The first is payback. In his 1996 declaration of war on America, bin Laden stated, "It should not be hidden from you that the people of Islam had suffered from aggression, iniquity and injustice imposed on them by the Zionist-Crusaders alliance and their collaborators; to the extent that the Muslims' blood became the cheapest and their wealth as loot in the hands of the enemies. Their blood was spilled in Palestine and Iraq . . . ."
The second purpose a purpose that is part of the contemporary Islamist doctrine of jihad is pushing America out of the Muslim world by "instilling the fear of God" in them.
The third purpose is to encourage other Muslims to attack the United States by demonstrating that America is a "paper tiger."
In a 1998 interview with ABC reporter John Miller, bin Laden explained that after the mujahideens' victory in Afghanistan, they no longer considered any country invincible. They reasoned that if they could beat the Soviets in Afghanistan, they could also beat the Americans in Somalia.
"So, when they left Afghanistan, they went to Somalia and prepared themselves carefully for a long war," bin Ladin said. "They had thought that the Americans were like the Russians, so they trained and prepared. They were stunned when they discovered how low was the morale of the American soldier. . . . He was unable to endure the strikes that were dealt to his army, so he fled, and America had to stop all its bragging and all that noise it was making in the press after the Gulf War . . . ."
According to Bodansky, by launching such "spectacular" strikes, bin Laden hopes that others will come to see America in the same way.
So, what can I do?
The one thing any Christian can do is pray. Far from being a tactic of last resort, prayer can change things anywhere in the world even in the darkest corners of terrorist hideouts.
The second thing is to show Christian love to our Muslim neighbors. This is not only a duty for believers, but it also very practical. Muslim opinion is not uniformly in favor of bin Laden nor is it uniformly anti-American.
But bin Laden is confident that this will change.
"Every Muslim who sees discrimination begins to hate the Americans, the Jews and Christians," bin Laden said in a 1999 interview.
Indeed, the Egyptian intellectual, Sayyid Qutb, whose work underlies most contemporary Islamist ideology, including bin Laden's, was deeply wounded by his experiences in the United States. Those experiences put a nominal Muslim on the path to extremism.
Loving our Muslim neighbors, far from being simply a nice idea, is something that could literally change the world.
And our world could stand a good change.
Those conniving slimeballs. Now look what's happened. And Pakaistan is still trying to broker deals. We are dealing with a sordid band of murderous cutthroats all around. This ain't gonna be pretty friends.
Who cares, who cares, and with nuclear weapons.