Moral Outrage
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Osama bin Laden How and why he was radicalized

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of al-Quds al-Arabi, provides the following insights:

I spent three days with Osama bin Laden in 1996 when I traveled to the remote, mountainous Tora Bora area of Afghanistan to interview him. I found him gently spoken, humble — even shy — and extremely polite. It is difficult to reconcile these personal memories of the man with the fact that he presided over so much terror and destruction.

Why did he hate the Americans so much? Why did he turn to the most extreme form of radical Islam and why did he chose violence to express this hatred and this faith?

Unlike many wealthy Saudis, Osama wasn’t beguiled by the west. He saw himself as occupying the moral high ground even [as a teen] and his criticisms of western values — or lack of them — later became a recurrent theme in his speeches and informed his impulse towards jihad with an atheistic, “infidel” west.

When the U.S.S.R invaded Afghanistan in 1979, resistance erupted in the form of the Islamic mujahedeen. In 1982, when he was 25, Osama decided to relinquish his privileged and comfortable life and head for the front line. In Afghanistan, Osama came face to face with the U.S. military advisers who were arming and training the mujahedeen.

When the Soviet troops finally withdrew in 1989 the U.S. began to worry about possible “blow-back” from the hard core of battle-hardened militant Islamists that remained. Osama learned (from Pakistani intelligence, interestingly) that he was among a group of men targeted for assassination by the CIA. He fled back home only to find himself placed under house arrest. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Osama felt the mujahedeen had been exploited and cheated by the Americans and deeply resented the fact that the Saudi regime was so compliant with the U.S. agenda.

With Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait …Osama wrote a letter to the Saudi Minister of the Interior, offering to put together an army of ex-mujahedeen to liberate the tiny state. His offer was refused and shortly afterwards 100,000 U.S. troops arrived on Saudi soil. In Osama’s eyes, this was sacrilege: Saudi Arabia is home to Islam’s two most sacred sites, Mecca and Medina, where the presence of non-Muslims is explicitly forbidden in the Koran. Osama described this moment to me as “the most shocking,” in his life. Deeply angered and embittered, he made plans to secretly leave the land of his birth.

Al Qaeda had been established in 1988 and the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri… identified two battlefronts: the “near enemy,” — the Middle East’s assorted tyrants and dictators and the “far enemy,” — the western powers, mainly America.

The failure to find a just settlement for the Palestinians and America’s perceived unconditional support for the Jewish state was another causus belli for Osama bin Laden.

[Excerpts oF a CNN article by Abdel Bari Atwan]


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