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Greetings, America. My Name is Osama bin Laden. [1999 Esquire Interview]
Esquire Magazine ^ | February 1999, Volume 131, Issue 2 | John Miller

Posted on 06/27/2003 2:32:59 AM PDT by risk

Esquire Magazine February 1999, Volume 131, Issue 2
     
  Greetings, America. My Name is Osama bin Laden.

By John Miller

A conversation with the most dangerous man in the world.

Editor's note: What follows is an article on Osama bin Laden that was published in the February 1999 issue of Esquire. It has not been updated. We have posted it here simply because it contains some unique background information on the lead suspect in the attack on America.

bin Laden


The gunfire started with a few shots, but in seconds it was thundering. On cue, dozens of Arab men began firing their rifles into the air when the headlights of the first four-wheel-drive vehicle crested the mountaintop. My right ear was pounding. I turned, expecting to see a cannon, but instead it was just a smiling boy—he might have been fifteen—and he was firing his machine gun an inch from my ear. I assumed that this was some kind of test, a rite of passage. He wanted to see fear. I'd been a reporter and a police official in New York. I'd heard my share of shots fired in anger. I just smiled at the kid and gently pushed the gun away. This was my way of saying, Nice try, but you didn't make me jump. No matter, the kid was right back an inch from my ear, firing away. Now it wasn't funny anymore. I glared at him, but let's face it, the little prick had an AK-47 with a thirty-round clip. How far could I get with hard eyes? One thing I learned in New York during the crack wars of the late eighties: Teenagers with machine guns are best not fucked with. So as I watched the man arrive and his loyal soldiers discharged their weapons in ecstasy, this kid was doing his best to make me deaf.

The mountaintop in southern Afghanistan was a long way from home, but in another way it wasn't. I was almost sure that night that the man I had come to meet, the man who was inspiring all this firepower, had pressed the buttons that blew up the World Trade Center in New York. Small world.

Just minutes before this explosive welcome, I had been told, "Mr. bin Laden will be here shortly." The tall bearded man with the elaborate turban had not introduced himself by name, but he seemed to be, for lack of a better title, Osama bin Laden's press secretary. "We have prepared a great welcome. Whenever he comes, there is always celebration."

Yellow trails from tracer bullets streaked at odd angles, crisscrossing the black, star-crowded skies. Fireworks shot up, and sparks fell like orange rain, evaporating before they hit the ground. As the gunfire continued, the motorcade of three four-wheel-drives crossed the flat dirt encampment.

Scores of bin Laden's most devout followers were here, all carrying Chinese- and Russian-made machine guns. Several were posted strategically with rocket-propelled grenades. For months, I had been trying to arrange an interview with the man. Now, two months before the destruction of U. S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by bin Laden's truck bombs, it was happening. It was after midnight on this mountaintop, and Osama bin Laden was not yet a household name in the United States. Still, a grand jury in New York had for a year been hearing evidence about his role as a key organizer and financier of anti-American terrorism. The FBI suspected that bin Laden—or at least bin Laden's money—had been behind everything from the World Trade Center bombing to the downing of American helicopters in Somalia to bombings that targeted American servicemen in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. And by now, bin Laden knew that his targets were beginning to wake up to the threat he posed.

That was the very reason I wanted to interview him, and the reason getting such an interview would not be a simple process. His public-relations apparatus is a sophisticated and complex network of agents and intermediaries. The first discussions took place in the old, ornate Jefferson Hotel in Washington. A couple of ABC News producers, Chris Isham and Len Tepper, brought me to meet with a trusted contact who had good connections among Islamic fundamentalists. Soon he sent word back: We would have to travel to London and meet with some of bin Laden's people. Bin Laden, it seems, has people all over. Two meetings, both in Tudor-style homes a half hour's drive from central London. We removed our shoes, drank cider and water, and made our intentions toward bin Laden known. We told his people we would raise the issues that concerned him, and "tell his side" and enough about his background so people would get a broader understanding of him.

"Instead of just pounding on the ‘terrorist on the mountain' theme," I told one of bin Laden's agents, "we could frame his issues about America in such a way that people might find his arguments reasonable."

The man smiled. "It may be better if he does not appear to be too reasonable," he said.


FROM LONDON, WE WERE TO MOVE on to Islamabad and await further instructions at the Marriott. We had made the first cut. After a day in the Pakistani capital, a man arrived and said his name was Akhtar. We would only ever know him as Akhtar. But during the next few weeks, he would become the most important person in our world, our passport, our safe passage. He was tall, maybe six two, thin and lanky, and he walked to an inaudible beat, with one hand crooked back, swinging slightly. A rolling strut, the walk of an urban black kid. Where he picked it up I never learned. Akhtar was Afghani and spoke almost no English and only a little Arabic—just enough so that our Iraqi translator, whom I'll call Ali, could understand him. Akhtar told Ali he would have to inspect us, our rooms, our gear. He was such a no-nonsense guy, it sometimes just made me want to laugh. A lesson: Something about being from New York or being American or, hell, being human makes one laugh at inappropriate times. Such as when in the presence of committed warriors whom your government has taken to calling terrorists. Good idea to check that impulse, within reason. Also, resist the urge to crack jokes, especially if your hosts aren't much for jokes.

When the knock came at my door early the next morning, it was a surprise. Akhtar and another man, a heavyset guy, came in. "They just want to see you," Ali explained as the two men carefully looked at me in my boxer shorts. They looked at my open suitcase on the bed stand. Akhtar and the other man looked in the bathroom. I was not sure what they were looking for. I assumed just telltale signs that we were CIA agents or something. The two men left for further negotiations in Ali's room. That night, Akhtar called Ali at the hotel.

"It is happening," Ali told me when he relayed Akhtar's instructions. "Be ready at 7:00 a.m., and be dressed like him."

Ali, cameraman Rick Bennett, and I immediately took a cab from the hotel to a run-down strip of stores and found the "Cash Departmental Store," where we each purchased a suit for about fifteen dollars. Rick went all out and got the vest. A suit was a knee-length shirt, baggy pants, and rope—the white cotton belt with fringe that would hold up the one-size-fits-all pants if you knew how to tie it. We suspected we were going to Afghanistan, but none of us had the necessary visas to get into Afghanistan or back into Pakistan. Akhtar told us that his "people" would handle everything.

The next morning, curt instructions: Get to the Islamabad airport. Before leaving, I dropped a copy of my police badge and "retired" ID card into a FedEx envelope to Robert Tucker, my lawyer in New York. The last thing I wanted bin Laden's people to find was my old badge. I could just hear myself trying to explain the police credentials: I swear, I was just a clerk. Really! In public relations! (Tucker later told me that when he got the badge and ID with no note, he assumed I'd been killed. "Then," he said, "I wondered if I could have your car.")

In time, Akhtar also showed up at the airport. He looked us over. I was wearing the light-brown baggy pants and the oversized shirt that I'd bought the day before. It seemed to be the uniform for millions in this region. The outfit, which was meant to make me blend in at the airport and on the road, was offset slightly by the white socks I wore under the sandals, the Armani prescription glasses, and the Cuban cigars I'd picked up in London. I wasn't fitting in. Rick and Ali wore the same outfit in light gray. Akhtar led us to the gate. We were traveling on sealed orders. As we boarded the plane, we were handed tickets. We were going to Peshawar, the pearl of Pakistan.

It was hazy when we got off the plane, very hazy. As you drive into Peshawar, smoke fills the air and sticks at the bottom of your throat. Something seemed to be burning almost everywhere—rubbish, wood, tires. We checked into the Hotel Grand, a 1950s Miami Beach art-deco affair located down an alley off the main road. Hotel security was a man in a green uniform who wore a red beret and carried a Chinese-made machine gun. The very friendly clerks who signed us in made note of the odd collection of nationalities—American, Canadian, Iraqi, and Pakistani—and they knew enough not to ask any of us what our business was in Peshawar. After we checked in, Akhtar strutted into the night, carrying the plastic bag that held his things.

I went out on the fifth-floor balcony to light up one of the Romeo y Julieta Churchills. Just what Peshawar needed: more smoke. I imagined what this sad, bustling city was like during the Afghan war, when it had been the staging area for the mujahideen. This place had been a world-class hotbed of militant organizers and recruiters, CIA operations officers, and KGB spies. Even now, it is the back office of the militant Islamic movement for the region. I looked out at the hovels and junkyards and watched the moon come up through the smoke.

Akhtar called the hotel in the morning and told us once again to get to the airport. And again, we were handed tickets in the waiting area. We walked across the tarmac to a prop plane headed for Bannu, in northern Pakistan. With each stop, our trip was taking us further back in time, each place getting more primitive in custom and lifestyle. Here, donkeys pulled carts, and men and women carried sacks hanging from sticks across their shoulders or baskets on top of their heads. In Bannu, we waited outside the tiny airport as vans and buses passed by. After an hour, a van packed with locals stopped, and an old man got out and greeted Akhtar. We all crammed into the van, which was already too crowded. We had been told not to speak. The other passengers already knew we were Westerners, but they didn't need to know that some of us were American.

The van drove for two hours. People got off; more people got on. At a village that was nothing more than mud huts and thatched roofs, a loud bang came from the roof of the van. A young man with a cloth bag tied to the end of a branch scampered off the roof and ran toward the huts. The van itself was the only sure reminder that we were not two thousand years in the past.

Minor revelation: For most Americans, me included, experience with the ancients is pretty much confined to the Bible. In the Bible is a world rife with plagues and pestilence, a world where things are worth killing and dying for, a world from a time before kill ratios and collateral damage and unacceptable levels of casualties. A world of huts. A world where there is no such thing as a losing battle. In modern America, we no longer have the stomach for endeavors that don't seem like sure bets, which can make things tricky when you're up against someone who doesn't give a damn, someone who is willing to risk everything, and gladly. At Bannu, it felt as if we were crossing over into that world, where the ancient texts aren't so ancient, where martyrs are made.

When the van reached a small town, we got into another van, which took us for another hour, farther north through mountains and barren valleys, stopping at the last town before a wilderness that leads to the Afghan border. The old man drove the van into the courtyard of a small house, and metal gates closed behind us. We were to remain unseen in this village. The old man said that this place had been a safe house for mujahideen fighters headed for the Afghan war. The walls were covered with pictures of tanks and grenades. A pair of loaded AK-47's hung from nails on the walls.

Akhtar brought in a stainless-steel bowl filled with meat on the bone, placed it on the floor, and invited us to eat. There was pita bread and Pepsi. We sat on the floor, eating with our hands. In two hours, we were on the road again, in the back of a covered Japanese pickup, our gear hidden under bags of flour. Near the Afghan border, the truck stopped.

Most of Afghanistan is controlled by the Taliban, a Muslim fundamentalist group that believes, among other things, that television is evil (a sentiment gaining popularity in the West) and that no living thing should be photographed or videotaped. So sneaking three American television journalists with camera equipment past a Taliban border checkpoint posed difficulties. Akhtar gave us the options: We could 1) don long black veils with narrow slits for eyes and cross into Afghanistan disguised as women, or 2) walk over the mountains under cover of darkness and hope to avoid the Taliban's patrols. Ali had strong feelings on the subject. "We are not women," he said indignantly. "We will not wear veils. We will walk, as men."

An hour into the journey, Ali was wheezing and barely able to continue. He had not mentioned his asthma. "I want to go back to truck and be woman now," he said before hauling himself up to walk again. I lagged behind with him while Rick and our two guides led the way. At one point, I noticed that the guides were holding hands. "Ali," I whispered as I nodded in their direction, "you didn't mention that this was a gay terrorist group." Ali, still very asthmatic, patiently explained that among Muslim men it is customary to hold hands while walking. It is a sign of respect and friendship. It is perfectly masculine. "Yeah," I said. "I was joking." A moment passed. We walked in silence, save for Ali's wheezing. "Would you hold my hand, Ali?" I asked. "No," he replied.

It was still dark when we finally made it into Afghanistan. A truck was waiting with our gear. We drove for several more hours, mostly through dry riverbeds, before we reached the first of bin Laden's three camps. We were stopped on a dirt road. Two of bin Laden's people confiscated our camera gear and drove away.

We stayed in a hut, sleeping on the floor, which was covered with brown and red flannel blankets. Pillows lined the walls. "You are not prisoners here; you are our guests," said one of bin Laden's aides. "Still, we would prefer it if you stayed inside. We don't want to advertise your presence."

Several of bin Laden's soldiers were assigned to guard us. They slept in the hut next to ours. We washed from a bowl. Water came from a spigot just outside. An outhouse was up the hill. We spent our time reading or smoking and bullshitting with bin Laden's men, one of whom spoke pretty good English. We would eat with the soldiers. Bread, meat, tea. It was hot and dry. It had occurred to us that the interview might not be for days, or that after a few days we could be told that there would be no interview at all. That is the way these things go sometimes. Days of waiting, and then nothing. Most of that kind of waiting—for Castro or Qaddafi—is done in nice hotels. This was beginning to suck.


FINALLY, JUST AS I BEGAN TO LOSE TRACK OF TIME, we hit the road. An hour into this leg and, suddenly, gunfire. It was rapid-fire, from machine guns; I could see the muzzle flash through the tinted windows. It was coming from up the hill. Four short blasts, about thirty rounds, then another thirty from the opposite side of the road. My mind was racing. Several times during the three-hour drive between camps, men with guns had jumped out from both sides of the road and screamed in Arabic for the truck to halt, for the windows to come down. Those men were part of al Qaida, bin Laden's army. But now who was shooting at us? And why? Were we going to die? I was trying hard to duck my head between my legs, but with three of us stuck together across the backseat, there was no room to get our heads down. My stomach was in knots. Now I was really thinking: Fuck this. Now it's really not worth it. . . . bam bam bam bam . . . Why am I going to die to interview some asshole with radical views and a lot of money? . . . bam bam bam bam . . . For Christ's sake, I could have done that in New York. . . . bam bam bam bam . . . Then a second wave of thoughts flashed through my head: I was not hearing the sound of metal being hit. The shots were missing. Our guides were not ducking. If they were not worried, maybe this was okay. Slowly, I raised my head.

The shooters in the road were yelling for us to halt, to open the doors. The gunfire had been warning shots. For crying out fucking loud. Looking at their faces between the blinding beams of their flashlights, I could see they were very young, perhaps eighteen or nineteen. They had apparently not received the radio message from the last checkpoint that the boys from New York were coming up. It was a little cold out that night, but I was wiping sweat off my forehead. After a little tension and much talk, the driver settled the problem, and we were moving again. We passed one more checkpoint—without incident—before reaching the camp where bin Laden would meet us.

In the camp, generators were rumbling. The smell of gasoline was thick in the air. Rick Bennett was agitated because bin Laden's people had taken his camera days before, and it didn't look as though he was going to get it back. Now they wanted to give him another camera. A Panasonic home-video camera. Bennett had not come halfway around the world to shoot a home video. He wanted his $65,000 television camera back, and he wanted it back now! Just then, the gunfire erupted. Bin Laden's convoy arrived. Now the show that was being staged for us was in full tilt, and we had no camera with which to record it. Bin Laden's cameraman handed Bennett the Panasonic. Bennett started taping. That's when the kid started shooting in my ear. Then he ran alongside Bennett and was firing within an inch of his ear, too, as he walked backward with this crappy camera, taping bin Laden's arrival.


INTO THE DIN OF GUNFIRE, he walked quickly, surrounded by seven bodyguards. Each had an AK-47. Their eyes darted in every direction for any attacker. This was either merely theatrical or entirely pointless, because with hundreds of rounds being fired into the air, it would have been impossible to pinpoint an assassin. Take your pick. At bin Laden's side was his military commander, Muhammad Atef. Behind him, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Islamic Jihad, an Egyptian group that has merged with bin Laden's growing army. Bin Laden, with his simple white turban and long black beard, stood six three and was the tallest man in the group. Despite the chaos of the scene, his eyes were calm, fixed, and steady. He walked by me and ducked his head to step into a rectangular hut that had been set up for our meeting. One of his aides waved off the gunfire the way an emcee might quell a standing ovation. Everyone kept shooting. Somewhere, all these bullets were falling back down to the earth.

Osama bin Laden had made his entrance.

After his security detail crowded in behind him, I followed into the hut. Aside from his height, the first thing that struck me about bin Laden was his voice: It was soft and slightly high, with a raspy quality that gave it the texture and sound of an old uncle giving good advice. Bin Laden settled onto a bench covered with red cushions at the head of the long, rectangular room with clay walls painted white. Sitting down, he propped his own gun against the wall behind him. Twenty of his gunmen lined the benches on either side of the long room, leaning in, straining to hear whatever he might say. Bin Laden's clothes told the story of his entangled themes. He wore a green army field jacket with no insignia. Draped over the jacket was a gold shawl, and under the army jacket was the traditional Muslim clothing that made him look like me.

Osama bin Laden has a firm handshake. We exchanged pleasantries in the polite but stilted manner one uses when speaking through a translator. His aides had insisted the day before that I give them a list of my questions in writing. As bin Laden was getting settled, one of them said to me, "I have very good news. Mr. bin Laden will answer each of your questions." Then he added that bin Laden's answers would not be translated on the spot. "You can take the tape to New York and have them translate it there."

"If the answers are not translated now, how can I ask follow-up questions?" I asked bin Laden's man.

"Oh, that will not be a problem," he told me. "There will be no follow-up questions."

At this point, Rick, using stronger terms than one might want to with alleged terrorists, demanded his camera back. Suddenly, all his equipment reappeared.

Looking to break the ice, I said to the translator, "Tell Mr. bin Laden that for a guy who comes from a family known for building roads, he could sure use a better driveway up this mountain." Okay, so admittedly it wasn't much of a joke, but bin Laden's interpreter appeared stricken. "No, no, no," I said, "don't translate, never mind," waving off the remark. "It's okay," I said, trying to prevent an international incident. Not funny. Sorry. Jesus.

There was another problem. As I continued my lame attempts at small talk, flies kept landing on bin Laden's face and white turban. Sensing that this was undercutting their leader's dignity, his aides asked bin Laden and the gunmen in the room to step outside so that they might spray.

A few minutes later, in a cloud of insecticide, we began.


OSAMA BIN MUHAMMAD BIN AWAD BIN LADEN was born forty-one years ago in Saudi Arabia, one of twenty sons of wealthy construction magnate Muhammad bin Laden. The kingdom's Bin Laden Group is a $5 billion concern. The family's close ties to the Saudi royal family made it easy to get huge government contracts to build roads through the cities and deserts. It is likely that Osama bin Laden would have gone to school, settled in London, and focused on living comfortably—if history hadn't intervened.

On December 25, 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Bin Laden, then twenty-two, left for the fighting immediately. When he arrived, he wasted no time. Spending his money, he financed the recruitment, transportation, and arming of thousands of Palestinians, Tunisians, Somalians, Egyptians, Saudis, and Pakistanis to fight the Russians.

Bin Laden brought in his own bulldozers and dump trucks. Grizzled mujahideen fighters still tell of the young man who rode the bulldozers himself, digging trenches on the front lines. The men who follow bin Laden have all heard the stories, and they pass them on to the younger men. By his own account, he was in the thick of the action. He says he got the rifle he carries now in hand-to-hand combat.

"We went through vicious battles with the Russians," bin Laden told me. "The Russians are known for their brutality. They used poison gases against us. I was subjected to this. We lost many fighters. But we were able to deter many commando attacks, unlike anything before."

I asked him why a man of wealth, from a powerful family, had gone to Afghanistan to live in trenches and fight the Russian invaders on the front lines.

"It is hard for one to understand if the person does not understand Islam," he said, patiently explaining his interpretation of Islam for a citizen of his sworn enemy. "During the days of jihad, thousands of young men who were well-off financially left the Arabian Peninsula and other areas and joined the fighting. Hundreds of them were killed in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya."

Of course, by the time of our meeting, the enemy had shifted. The Soviet Union no longer existed. The enemy was us. And when I asked bin Laden if he was worried about being captured in an American raid, he quickly dismissed the possibility, turning instead to the reasons he hates the United States.

"The American imposes himself on everyone. Americans accuse our children in Palestine of being terrorists—those children, who have no weapons and have not even reached maturity. At the same time, Americans defend a country, the state of the Jews, that has a policy to destroy the future of these children.

"We are sure of our victory against the Americans and the Jews as promised by the Prophet: Judgment day shall not come until the Muslim fights the Jew, where the Jew will hide behind trees and stones, and the tree and the stone will speak and say, ‘Muslim, behind me is a Jew. Come and kill him.' "

Bin Laden never raises his voice, and to listen to his untranslated answers, one could imagine that he was talking about something that did not much concern him. Nonchalant. He does not smile. He continued, looking down at his hands as if he were reading invisible notes. "Your situation with Muslims in Palestine is shameful—if there is any shame left in America. Houses were demolished over the heads of children. Also, by the testimony of relief workers in Iraq, the American-led sanctions resulted in the death of more than one million Iraqi children. All of this is done in the name of American interests. We believe that the biggest thieves in the world and the terrorists are the Americans. The only way for us to fend off these assaults is to use similar means. We do not worry about American opinion or the fact that they place prices on our heads. We as Muslims believe our fate is set."

His interview technique was formidable. Aside from the advantage of not allowing for simultaneous translation, bin Laden's approach to questions could have been taught by an American public-relations adviser: First, get out your message. Then, if you like, answer the question.

Bin Laden believes that the United States, which was so heavily involved in supporting the Afghan rebels, misses the profound point of that exercise: Through sheer will, even superpowers can be defeated.

"There is a lesson to learn from this for he who wishes to learn," he said. "The Soviet Union entered Afghanistan in the last week of 1979, and with Allah's help their flag was folded a few years later and thrown in the trash, and there was nothing left to call the Soviet Union."

The war changed bin Laden. "It cleared from Muslim minds the myth of superpowers," he said. He was blooded, a hero among militant Muslims, with perhaps three thousand men waiting to follow him. But follow him where, into what battle? Many of these men had not been home for years. By then, fighting was all some of them knew. And there were huge stockpiles of weapons and grenades and rocket launchers, many of them bought for the mujahideen rebels by the CIA.

In December 1992, bin Laden found the battle he'd been waiting for. The United States was leading a UN-sanctioned rescue mission into Somalia. In the midst of a famine, the country's government had completely broken down, and warring tribes—largely Muslim—had cut off relief efforts by humanitarian groups. Somalians were starving to death in cities and villages, and the U. S., which had moved quickly to rescue oil-rich Kuwait, had come under mounting criticism for doing nothing.

When the Marines landed in the last days of 1992, bin Laden sent in his own soldiers, armed with AK-47's and rocket launchers. Soon, using the techniques they had perfected against the Russians, they were shooting down American helicopters. The gruesome pictures of the body of a young army ranger being dragged naked through the streets by cheering crowds flashed around the world. The yearlong American rescue mission for starving Somalians went from humanitarian effort to quagmire in just three weeks. Another superpower humiliated. Another bin Laden victory.

"After leaving Afghanistan, the Muslim fighters headed for Somalia and prepared for a long battle, thinking that the Americans were like the Russians," bin Laden said. "The youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers and realized more than before that the American soldier was a paper tiger and after a few blows ran in defeat. And America forgot all the hoopla and media propaganda . . . about being the world leader and the leader of the New World Order, and after a few blows they forgot about this title and left, dragging their corpses and their shameful defeat."

I asked bin Laden why he would kill American soldiers whose work was to restore order and allow for the distribution of food.

"Why should we believe that was the true reason America was there?" he replied. "Everywhere else they went where Muslims lived, all they did was kill children and occupy Muslim land."

During the two days I had waited at the camp for bin Laden, some of his fighters sat on the floor of our hut and told war stories. One soldier, with a big grin, told of slitting the throats of three American soldiers in Somalia.

When I asked bin Laden about this, he said, "When this took place, I was in the Sudan, but this great defeat pleased me very much, the way it pleases all Muslims."

The Somalia operation, in some ways, made bin Laden. During the Afghan war, the CIA had been very aware of him (although the agency now insists it never "controlled" him), but in Somalia, bin Laden had taken a swing at the biggest kid in the school yard and given him a black eye. The next fight, a few weeks later, would begin with a sucker punch.

It was snowing in New York on February 26, 1993, when a massive truck bomb exploded at the World Trade Center, tearing through three levels of the building's underground garage, basement, and foundation. At the time, I was a reporter for NBC. As I walked through the scene, I saw a cop I knew from an antiterrorist unit. Initial reports were that it had been a gas explosion or a transformer that blew up. "They're not saying this now," he warned, "but this was a bomb. Too big to be a car, probably a truck on the lower level of the garage. There just isn't anything down there that could blow up and make a hole this big."

Six people were killed, and more than a thousand were injured. It was the first major international terrorist attack on U. S. soil. Within weeks, the FBI had tracked down four of the bombers, a collection of militant Muslims, most of whom had fought in Afghanistan and had become followers of a blind sheik in Jersey City named Omar Abdel Rahman. The organizer of the bombing plot, Ramzi Yousef, boarded a plane at Kennedy airport a few hours after the explosion and escaped.

In New York, the FBI had been given two mandates: Find the rest of the bombers, and find out whom they are working for. The agents began the tedious job of tracing bank accounts that Yousef had been using to buy the components of the huge bomb. The money trail led from a Jersey City bank where Yousef had used an ATM card to Detroit to London to Pakistan and finally to Afghanistan. FBI agents and New York detectives on the Joint Terrorist Task Force debated: Was it the Iranians? The Iraqis? The Libyans? The consensus among the detectives was that Ramzi Yousef was an intelligence operative working for some hostile foreign power. But instead, investigators have since uncovered a series of connections between Yousef and groups funded by an individual, Osama bin Laden.

But bin Laden denied to me that he was behind the bombing and claimed he didn't know Ramzi Yousef. "Unfortunately," he said with a wave of his hand, "I did not know him before the incident."

Next, Ramzi Yousef was seen in Manila with another of bin Laden's associates, Afghan war hero Wali Khan Amin Shah. They were busy planning to blow up a dozen American jetliners over the Pacific. Once again, Yousef had no job but seemed to have plenty of money to finance his plans. The FBI finally caught up to him on February 7, 1995, in Pakistan. He was living in a very pleasant guesthouse called the Su Casa house in Islamabad. It was one of the many guesthouses that bin Laden had set up to quarter his fighters.

Government sources say that Khan is now cooperating with the FBI. The sources tell me that Khan had been very busy moving around the world, setting various bin Laden plans into motion. He told the agents he went to mail drops and fax machines to receive coded instructions from bin Laden's bases in the Sudan and Afghanistan and that he was in Manila to set up training camps for terrorists when he was ordered to survey the routes that President Clinton would be using during an official state visit to the Philippines.

Last winter, Khan, wearing a bright-orange jumpsuit, sat in a closed room in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan, patiently explaining to the feds that the mercury found in his apartment in Manila was not for bomb making but was rather to be placed inside the bullets that would be used to shoot President Clinton. "That way," Khan said, "if the shot didn't kill him, he would die by poisoning."

Sitting in the hut on bin Laden's mountain in Afghanistan, I asked bin Laden if he had tried to kill Clinton. "As I said, every action elicits a similar reaction," he explained. "What does Clinton expect from those that he killed, assaulting their children and mothers?" But he was quick to sidestep the question of his culpability, very careful not to implicate himself. He wasn't in Somalia, but he liked what he saw. He didn't blow up American bases in Saudi Arabia, but those who did are martyrs. He didn't pay for the World Trade Center bombing or the plot to kill Clinton, but they were good ideas.

For the future, bin Laden told me his first priority is to get the American military out of Saudi Arabia, the holiest of lands in Islam. "Every day the Americans delay their departure, they will receive a new corpse."

Already, U. S. forces have been dealt devastating blows there. Nineteen servicemen were killed in the 1996 bombing of the air-force barracks in Dhahran, and five U. S. military personnel were killed in a similar bombing in Riyadh in 1995. Investigators believe bin Laden is tied at some level to both attacks. Bin Laden said that the American military would leave Saudi Arabia, regardless of the fact that the Saudi royal family welcomes the American presence. "It does not make a difference if the government wants you to stay or leave. You will leave when the youth send you in wooden boxes and coffins. And you will carry in them the bodies of American troops and civilians. This is when you will leave."

Civilians?

"We do not differentiate between those dressed in military uniforms and civilians; they are all targets in this fatwa." Bin Laden argued that American outrage at attacks on American civilians constitutes a great double standard.

Bin Laden believes that what we consider to be terrorism is just the amount of violence required to get the attention of the American people. His aim is to get Americans to consider whether continued support of Israel is worth the bloodshed he promises.

"So we tell the Americans as people," bin Laden said softly, "and we tell the mothers of soldiers and American mothers in general that if they value their lives and the lives of their children, to find a nationalistic government that will look after their interests and not the interests of the Jews. The continuation of tyranny will bring the fight to America, as Ramzi Yousef and others did. This is my message to the American people: to look for a serious government that looks out for their interests and does not attack others, their lands, or their honor. And my word to American journalists is not to ask why we did that but ask what their government has done that forced us to defend ourselves."

His last words to the camera were, "It is our duty to lead people to the light."

Ali had been told to sit in the back of the room during the interview. When it was over, I went looking for him. "So, do we have a story?" I whispered when I found him. "Please tell me it wasn't just an hour of ‘Praise Allah' bullshit."

"No," Ali said. "We have a very good story." I asked Ali what bin Laden had said that would make this news. "He was looking right into your face," Ali said, "and he was saying that you—you people, the Americans—would be going home from the Middle East in coffins and in boxes."

"He said that?" I asked, excited. "And while he was saying this, what was I doing?"

Ali looked at me a bit oddly and said, "You were nodding like you agreed with his plan."

During the hour-long interview, bin Laden, assuming correctly that I did not understand a word he was saying, had taken to looking at his translator as he gave his answers. Clearly, he did not understand the basic conventions of the American television interview. Imagine that. So, to keep his responses directed toward our camera, to make it seem like we were rocking along together, I engaged him in knowing eye contact and nodded thoughtfully.

"So, Ali, you're telling me he's promising genocide, and I'm nodding like an asshole?"

"Yes," Ali said, smiling.

But we had our little story, and a few weeks later, in a few minutes of footage, Osama bin Laden would say hi to America. Not many people would pay attention. Just another Arab terrorist.

Bin Laden was once again surrounded by his men, leaving the way he came in. It was past two in the morning as the gunfire started again. This time, Rick shot the whole scene. But as we packed our gear, bin Laden's press aide and his security chief came over to inspect our tape. Looking carefully at each scene of bin Laden arriving and leaving, they ordered any face not covered with a kaffiyeh to be erased. When I objected, they said the deal was simple: If we did not delete the faces, we would not leave with the tape. And so, into the night, they played and rewound, played and rewound. Over each face, the two would confer. "He travels," one would say to the other, and we'd have to delete that second or two of footage.

According to the FBI, last summer, a group of these men "traveled" for bin Laden to Kenya and Tanzania. On August 7, two truck bombs destroyed the American embassies in both countries. Two hundred thirteen dead in Kenya. Twelve of them were Americans. In Tanzania, none of the eleven killed were Americans. Most were Africans. Many of them were Muslims.

Two weeks after the bombings, President Clinton ordered a missile attack on the very site where we had met bin Laden. All three of his camps were obliterated, and there were casualties. In anticipation of this American retaliation, bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, Atef, and most of the leadership had gone into seclusion.


AKHTAR, WHO HAD VANISHED AT THE AFGHAN BORDER on our trek in, was among those cheering, 9mm in his shoulder holster, as bin Laden came and went. Akhtar travels, too. He very obligingly escorted us out of Afghanistan and drove us all the way back to Islamabad.

Meanwhile, bin Laden's reach has now been documented among Albanians fighting the Serbs in Kosovo. Wherever Muslims are in trouble, it seems, Osama bin Laden will be there, slaying enemies, real or perceived. A modern nightmare, really—a big-screen villain, a freelancer with the resources of a state but without all the nasty obligations. Sort of a Ford Foundation for terrorists—or freedom fighters, depending on whom you ask.

After the American cruise-missile attacks, intelligence sources told me that bin Laden had been intercepted talking on satellite phones, trying desperately to get damage assessments and news of casualties. The same sources said that bin Laden had shifted his operations from Khost to Kandahar and that he was building new camps. To try to arrange another meeting, Chris Isham and I asked Ali to return to London.

A few days later, the same people we had been dealing with in London were arrested by Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist Branch on "suspected connections to bin Laden's terrorist group." One was being held for possible extradition to the United States. We sent one more request to bin Laden, this time through our man in Peshawar, along with a list of questions. We haven't heard back.

Bin Laden's old house, a walled mansion with a tower, has become a guesthouse for his men. These men, new volunteers, seem to be showing up in greater numbers since the bombing. Some will fight in Kashmir, others will fight on the front lines against the Taliban's opposition, and some, of course, will "travel" for bin Laden. After dark, around Kandahar, motorcades of twenty cars with tinted windows speed through the city. No one there has to wonder who it is. Osama bin Laden races through the darkness, taillights vanishing in a cloud of dust, a most wanted man.

The day after the American counterstrike, an ABC News colleague in Pakistan got a call from Ayman al-Zawahiri, who had been at the camp with us that night. Al-Zawahiri said bin Laden was alive and very well and that he had a message for us:

"The war has just started. The Americans should wait for the answer."



TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government; Israel; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: afghanistan; global; intolerance; islam; obl; radical; war; world
This interview is highly relevant to current events.

"The war has just started. The Americans should wait for the answer."

1 posted on 06/27/2003 2:33:01 AM PDT by risk
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To: NYC GOP Chick; governsleastgovernsbest; LibKill; bentfeather; gaspar; NativeNewYorker; drjimmy; ...
ping: 1999 bin Laden interview in Esquire

During the hour-long interview, bin Laden, assuming correctly that I did not understand a word he was saying, had taken to looking at his translator as he gave his answers. Clearly, he did not understand the basic conventions of the American television interview. Imagine that. So, to keep his responses directed toward our camera, to make it seem like we were rocking along together, I engaged him in knowing eye contact and nodded thoughtfully.

"So, Ali, you're telling me he's promising genocide, and I'm nodding like an asshole?"

"Yes," Ali said, smiling.

2 posted on 06/27/2003 2:57:59 AM PDT by risk (Live free or die.)
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To: risk
"We are sure of our victory against the Americans and the Jews as promised by the Prophet: Judgment day shall not come until the Muslim fights the Jew, where the Jew will hide behind trees and stones, and the tree and the stone will speak and say, ‘Muslim, behind me is a Jew. Come and kill him.'"

This is one of the "Signs of Qiyama" prophecies from the Hadith which Islamicists believe guarantees their victory over the United States and Western Culture. For more information, see this thread:
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/933079/posts

3 posted on 06/27/2003 3:19:08 AM PDT by Dajjal
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To: Dajjal
A fascinating doctrine, and does appear to explain much about the current conflict. Thank you.
4 posted on 06/27/2003 3:50:45 AM PDT by risk
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To: All; risk; VOA; Fred Mertz; flamefront; SMEDLEYBUTLER; generalissimoduane; Joy Angela; ...
NEVER FORGET


Both Terrorist Expert MONSOOR IJAZ and the 1990's Sudan Ambassador to the U.S. MAHDI IBRAHIM MOHAMED both confirm that the CLINTONS refused 3-Offers they brokered with the President of the Sudan...

...to extradite OSAMA bin LADEN to a U.S. Trial that would have prevented the Attacks of Sept. 11th on US.

2-OSAMA Offers in 1996, 1 in 2000


...Last Saturday while guesting on The Judicial Watch Report Radio Show the CLINTONS' personal White House Political Advisor during the 1990's DICK MORRIS confirmed that the CLINTONS DID refuse 2-OSAMA Offers in 1996 saying "OSAMA who?"
He didn't address the 2000 OSAMA Offer on the air.

...OSAMA was known internationally after he lead the War to expell the Soviets from Afghanistan during the 1980's.


...My fellow Veteran of the .."WE WERE SOLDIERS".. Battle of IA DRANG-1965 and Sept. 11th Lifesaving Hero ..RICK RESCORLA.. had Tower 2 suddenly come down on him after he had already saved 1,000's of other lives.


...And so My Fellow Americans...

...I again ask you, like I have been ever since that Day of Infamy:


"DON't you DARE let the CLINTONS get away with THIS one..!"


Signed:..ALOHA RONNIE Guyer / Vet-U.S. 7th Cavalry's Opening Days of the Vietnam War-1965-66

(Photos)
http://www.lzxray.com/guyer_collection.htm


NEVER FOR
5 posted on 06/27/2003 8:33:43 AM PDT by ALOHA RONNIE (Vet-Battle of IA DRANG-1965 www.LZXRAY.comt)
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To: All; risk
NEVER FORGET


'Remember the Lost and Suffering on September 11, 2001'

(Photos & Thread)
http://www.TheAlamoFILM.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=33


NEVER FORGET
6 posted on 06/27/2003 10:02:28 AM PDT by ALOHA RONNIE (Vet-Battle of IA DRANG-1965 www.LZXRAY.comt)
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To: risk
Remember how a BILL CLINTON who supposedly said "OSAMA who..?" appeared on the Cover of 'ESQUIRE' in a Full Frontal clothed shot of him sitting on a chair with his legs spread apart ready for some action..?

OSAMA = 'ESQUIRE'
CLINTON = 'ESQUIRE'
7 posted on 06/27/2003 10:14:59 AM PDT by ALOHA RONNIE (Vet-Battle of IA DRANG-1965 www.LZXRAY.comt)
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To: risk
for later
8 posted on 06/27/2003 10:17:22 AM PDT by aShepard
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To: 1john2 3and4
With the CLINTONS refusing 3-OSAMA Offers during the 1990's:


.."IS it SAFE?" = HILLARY on Senate Armed Services..

http://www.TheAlamoFILM.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=629
9 posted on 06/27/2003 10:20:25 AM PDT by ALOHA RONNIE (Vet-Battle of IA DRANG-1965 www.LZXRAY.comt)
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