Osama

Some names will forever be associated with one person, like Elvis, Marlon or Adolf. Now we have Osama. I saw an interesting biography of him on the BBC the other day. His father was a Yemeni who settled in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, and developed a successful construction business. He had 12 wives, the last of which was considered the least, and she was nicknamed “the slave.” Her only child, born in 1957 was named Osama, and so he was nicknamed “son of the slave” by his 52 step-brothers and sisters. That’s bound to give someone a complex.

When he was a teenager he went with a gang of brothers and sisters on a trip to Norway to “taste” what the West had to offer (Norwegian blondes), but apparently this did not work out so well. He also studied English in Oxford like thousands of other “foreigners,” but then returned to Riyadh to study management and economics. There he became more religious and met Sheikh Abdullah Azam, a charismatic preacher, who had developed a brand of extreme anti-Western Islam. After he finished his studies he joined the family business and became extremely wealthy.

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979 Osama at the age of 22 joined the jihad against them. There he met Ayman al-Zawahiri, who had broken off from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1988 and was preaching the concept of “global jihad” against the West in order to establish a new Caliphate.  Zawahiri had been imprisoned by Pres. Mubarak as one of the ring-leaders behind the assassination of Pres. Sadat for making peace with Israel. Osama became his devotee and his financier. Together they established an office in Riyadh to help volunteers go to fight in Afghanistan, that they called al Qaeda, or the Base. This became the start of their underground military organization. With his organizational skills and money Osama used computers and communications to extend the reach of this informal network.

After the war, and the defeat of the Soviets, Osama returned to Saudi Arabia and began a campaign against the Government there that he considered was compromised by its close ties with the US. In 1994, because of these activities Osama was expelled from Saudi Arabia and was stripped of his Saudi citizenship. He then settled in Khartoum, Sudan, ruled by a fundamentalist Islamic Government. By liberally using his money he co-opted some of the Government leaders to aid him in developing his anti-Western Islamic organization.

During the Gulf War, the Saudi Government agreed to allow US forces to be stationed there. This was considered a crime against Islam by Osama and many other extremists, not that they supported Saddam Hussein, and he wrote a letter to the Saudi King essentially declaring war on him. This led the Saudi Government, with US support, to bring pressure on Sudan, to expel him. Before they did the Sudanese secret service offered to turn him over to the US, and after he left they offered to give the US secret service all his remaining files. Both offers were stupidly refused by Pres. Clinton himself! What shortsightedness. Osama chose to go back to Afghanistan (on his private jet), where he had been busily setting up military training camps, and was received with open arms by the Taliban. After settling there he issued his “fatwa” in 1998 declaring war on the US, that was essentially ignored until 9/11/01.

The rest as they say is history. Now the last chapter on Osama is under way. He is almost certainly hiding somewhere in the North West Pakistan tribal areas, in Waziristan. The Pakistani Army is carrying out a search and destroy campaign there, and hopefully he will eventually either be killed or captured. But, his ghastly legacy lives on in the many terrorist incidents that have been perpetrated and continue in his name.

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