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Osama Bin Laden

An Elusive Warlord's Deadly 'Sleepers': Osama Bin Laden
Monday, September 17, 2001
By Peter Bergen

I met Osama Bin Laden on a frigid night in March 1997, deep in the barren mountains of eastern Afghanistan, a year after he first declared war on America. The mysterious Saudi multi-millionaire, a tall figure with an aristocratic demeanor, walked with the help of a cane. His calls for attacks on U.S. targets were delivered in a mild manner, belying the rage of his words.

A key to his holy war against America may be found in his childhood. His father, Mohamed Bin Laden, emigrated in 1930 from Yemen to Saudi Arabia, where he founded a construction company and became one of the richest men in Arabia. Mohamed combined business acumen with a deep religious faith, traits that he passed on to some of his 50 or so children. The family had the singular honour of renovating and maintaining Islam's holiest sites, Mecca and Medina -- contracts that are, coincidentally, some of the most lucrative in the Middle East. Bin Laden was 10 when his father died in a plane crash. He has said that his life today is a continuation of the religious devotion of his father.

For many Muslims around the world, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a life-transforming event -- the godless communists had invaded a sovereign Muslim nation. Within weeks of the invasion, 22-year-old Bin Laden was travelling to Afghanistan's neighbour, Pakistan, to support the holy war against the Russians.

Bin Laden was already an expert in demolition from the family construction business. When he made his first trips into Afghanistan, he took hundreds of tons of construction machinery, bulldozers, loaders, dump trucks and equipment for building trenches that he put at the disposal of the Afghan guerrillas. The machinery was used to build roads, dig tunnels into the mountains for shelter and construct rudimentary hospitals.

In 1984 Bin Laden set up a guesthouse in Peshawar, Pakistan, for Muslims drawn to the jihad. It was called Bait ul Ansar, or "House of the Helpers", and was a way-station for volunteers heading for training with one of the Afghan factions. Later Bin Laden formed his own military unit and set about recruiting Muslims worldwide.

The recruits came to be known as the "Afghan Arabs", though they came from all over the Muslim world. Some were high school students whose visits were not much more than the equivalent of a summer camp. Others spent years fighting the communists. Nobody knows their exact number, but most estimates suggest the low tens of thousands. They received some sort of military training and were indoctrinated in the most extreme interpretation of jihad.

In 1986 Bin Laden founded his first camp inside Afghanistan. It was near the village of Jaji, a few miles from the border. With a force of about 50 Arabs, Bin Laden fought off a lengthy siege by Soviet forces, his baptism of fire. Arab journalists based in Peshawar wrote daily dispatches extolling his exploits, which were published in the Middle East and brought him a flood of new recruits.

"What we benefited from most was that the glory and myth of the superpower was destroyed not only in my mind, but also in all Muslims," he told me in 1997.

With the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in 1989, Bin Laden turned his attention to other jihads, founding Al-Qaeda, or "the Base". Al-Qaeda's main target is the United States.

Since the mid-1980s Bin Laden had advised friends to boycott American goods because of US support for Israel and Middle Eastern regimes, such as Egypt, which he regards as "un-Islamic". His distaste for America mutated into hatred by 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait and American troops were dispatched to Saudi Arabia. Armed "infidels" of both sexes were trespassing on sacred Arabian soil. For Bin Laden, this defied the dying words of Mohammed: "Let there be no two religions in Arabia."

Bin Laden's war against the United States started with small operations. Bombs went off outside two hotels in Yemen housing US servicemen in 1992, killing an Australian tourist. He is implicated in the deaths of 18 US servicemen in Somalia in 1993 and the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York that same year. In 1995 men influenced by Bin Laden's writings bombed a military facility in Saudi Arabia, killing five American soldiers.

On August 7, 1998, exactly eight years after American troops landed in Saudi Arabia, the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were blown up and more than 200 people died. Two years later, the bombing in Yemen of the USS Cole killed 17 American sailors.

Bin Laden's foot soldiers are put through rigorous training for this war. L'Hossaine Kherchtou, a Moroccan who had been a student of catering in France in the late 1980s, traveled to Afghanistan to attend an Al-Qaeda training camp in 1991. On his first night he was awakened at 1 am by gunfire and was told: "Don't think you are going to sleep in this camp."

He was trained on the American M-16 rifle, the Russian AK-47 rifle and PK sub-machinegun, the Israeli Uzi sub-machinegun and anti-aircraft guns. He also took classes on grenades and was taught about the use of explosives such as C3, C4 and dynamite, anti-personnel mines, anti-truck mines and butterfly mines, which children sometimes mistake as a kind of toy. After graduating from his camp, Kherchtou moved to Peshawar, where he was inducted into Al-Qaeda.

Bin Laden is not involved in day-to-day dealings with his followers. He sets the general policies of Al-Qaeda, which are then relayed down a loose chain of command to lower members of the group, many of whom have had little or no contact with Bin Laden himself.


Osama Bin Laden's Motives
By Dean Brown

Compared to the professional analysts, we Christadelphians are completely unqualified as journalistic fact-gatherers on the world news scene. We don't directly interview world leaders or investigate material facts.

But when it comes to analyzing the facts that these people gather, Christadelphians have the distinct advantage of approaching matters from a point of view that is radically different from everyone else in several important ways. This advantage allows us to analyze a situation in ways that others cannot possibly do, and if this advantage is used properly (and that can be a very big "if" !!) then it can help us to better understand the reasons why we are to act the way that God calls us to act.

The following is my own analysis of the situation, particularly relating to the motives of Osama Bin Laden and other militant fundamentalist Muslims.

I start by asking you to think about five dates in history: 586 BC, and 70, 1948, 1967, and 1973 AD.

You already know what I am referring to with regard to each date. The destructions of the Temple in 586 BC and again in 70 AD. The emotional response that we have to these dates is one of sadness and lamentation. Then comes 1948. The establishment of the modern state of Israel, and the miraculous victory of little infant Israel against the combined Arab armies. The hand of God working in the nations. The fig tree budding. What a wonderful prophetic sign. Then comes 1967. The miraculous Six Day War. Again the hand of God working, with Israel regaining control of full Jerusalem including the Temple Mount. And finally 1973. Israel's miraculous recovery after nearly being annihilated in the surprise Yom Kippur War. Again we see the hand of God working.

But how do Muslims feel about these last three dates?

In the early years, and by that I mean roughly from the 1920s to the 1970s, most Muslims were adamantly opposed to the idea of the existence of a modern nation of Israel. They wanted to drive Israel into the sea, and to deny it any recognition of statehood.

But over time the attitude of many average Muslims softened, and they began to accept the notion of a modern nation of Israel in its present location. Militant Muslims therefore had a battle on two fronts. First was the Israelis, and they were certainly willing to attack them and anyone who supported the Israeli "right to exist". Second were these "soft" Muslims. That is, Muslims who were willing to recognize Israel, in deed if not in word. Many of these "soft" Muslims also have had and continue to have a gradual adoption of and toleration for many Western societal mores.

Most Westerners have no appreciation for the amount of "domestic" terrorism that goes on within many Middle Eastern countries, where militant Muslims are adamantly opposed to the current "moderate Muslim" regimes. Egypt and Saudi Arabia in particular are beset with this problem, and it has been an important feature on the political scene of many other countries. For example Iran, which was "moderate" under the Shah, "fundamentalist" under the Ayatollah Khomeini, and is wrestling its way back to being "moderate" despite enormous internal pressure from the fundamentalists.

My point is that all of the politicians and journalists are talking about Bin Laden trying to scare or terrify the Western public, and how that's not going to work because we are a better people than that, and that Bin Laden and his kind of people underestimate our courage, love, and resolve.

In doing so these Western leaders either don't understand or are misrepresenting Bin Laden's motives.

Bin Laden and other militant Muslims have one ultimate goal with two parts, and use the violence of terrorism as a two-sided tool.

The two sides of the tool are (1) to encourage and embolden their fellow Muslims, and (2) to get the United States and others to make a semi-rational determination that the cost of supporting Israel outweighs the benefits. The ultimate goal is to achieve a worldwide Islamic society, but as this is so far off it is far more important to concentrate on the two immediate steps or parts of this goal. They are (1) to replace the "moderate" Muslim leadership currently in place in many Middle Eastern countries, and (2) to eradicate Israel. This second part can be further broken down into two steps. First, get nations such as the United States to stop supporting Israel, because with American backing the eradication of Israel is considerably more difficult, and then the second step of the actual eradication of Israel.

I would like to deal with this issue of Bin Laden's motives by asking: whose thinking is he trying to change and how?

His primary audience is NOT the people that he is attacking, but rather his fellow Muslims, most of whom are spectators. His hope is that these people will be emboldened and encouraged by his actions, and that every Muslim will become more fundamentalist. He knows that he can't start with a big victory against Israel and the United States and others. What he wants right now is a small victory so that others will join his cause, thus making his organization and its allies strong enough to achieve a big victory in the future.

His SECONDARY audience is the "western" nations, and even here he knows that he is not going to scare us to the point that we are afraid to come out of our homes. He knows that we will never become this afraid. BUT he knows that we will demand more security, which costs much in the way of time, money, and sacrifice of the individual liberties that we cherish and have become so accustomed to. He is implicitly using a carrot-and-stick approach against Western society. "Support Israel, and I will attack your civilian population as much as possible. Abandon Israel, and I will leave you alone, which means that you can open up your society again and live a better life for yourselves." I am setting aside the fact here that if we did as a society stop supporting Israel he would in fact not let up on his terrorism. He would simply continue to use terrorism to achieve the next step along towards his ultimate goal. I can set aside this fact because I am dealing here with his implicit approach at this time, and not with what he would actually do if his approach were to become "successful" (that is, help him to achieve his goals).

President Bush and Vice President Cheney and others have been all over television the last few days talking about Bin Laden's hatred for the American way of life. Yes he does find the American way of life objectionable because in many ways it acts contrary to the Muslim ethic, but that has almost no relevance to the question of what fuels Bin Laden's internal fire. He is far more upset about Muslims adopting Western ways than he is about Westerners having Western ways.

This also brings up an important point about what this war against terrorism might hope to accomplish. Bear in mind that just as he will not make "us" afraid but will impede our movements, any war against Bin Laden and other militant Muslims will at best accomplish the same thing. No amount of force will scare these people into rethinking their basic position. But it is possible to constrain their movements, to make it far more difficult for them to operate.

My own speculation that stems from this realization is that this will only delay the inevitable, as the relentless march of technology makes massively deadly weapons easier and easier to obtain. How long until a small group, operating underneath the "radar screens" of the nations, acquires nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons? Such a group need not even be Muslim. Certainly the Japanese sect that released nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system a few years ago was not Muslim. So at best we can eradicate and prevent the formation of large terrorist organizations who have at least some level of state support. But we can never stop the "lone madman" or the very small group.

There are terrorist groups out there that are not Muslim. But the Muslim ones are the ones that perpetrated this attack and that are the greatest near-term threat. And so while in theory we should be thinking about all of the terrorists that are out there, in practice we should concentrate upon understanding the thinking of these militant Muslims.

My note at the beginning regarding our unique perspective needs explaining here. Our world view is neither Ameri-centric or freedom-centric. Therefore, we can consider this situation not as the world does, but from the perspective that considers Bin Laden's motives to be very much like the motives of Cain and his "seed" (that is, those who have persecuted and murdered the prophets of God, and God's Son).

The Apostle Paul wrote that "as to zeal, [I was] a persecutor of the church" (Phi 3:6) and that he was also "a persecutor and violent aggressor" (1Ti 1:13). He was thinking that he was rendering service to God. He didn't hate Christians because he envied their freedom and wealth. He thought that he was doing God a favor by eradicating these blasphemous followers of the blasphemous Nazarene. The motives of militant Muslims are similar.

My point is that when we hear President Bush or ANY commentator talk about this attack on the American way of life, they are avoiding the real issue. The real issue is nothing less than the veracity of Islam, and the question must therefore be asked of us: when we take a stand and say that Islam is false, what do we suggest is true? The American ideals of freedom and democracy? Christianity, as in Christendom? Or True Christianity? This is why we must realize that when we speak against what has recently happened we must be careful to point out that in doing so we are also standing against the false teaching of the world in all its forms. We speak against Islam because it is patently false, and while militant Muslims are certainly worse, this does not change the fact that all Islam is false. And so are the eastern religions, many of which by their fundamental nature do not breed militarism. And so is Christendom, which in the past has bred much militarism and today does so only occasionally. All of these are false regardless of whether they compound their error by adopting violence to promote their viewpoint.

We stand against all systems of thought that are false, including those who are militant as well.

At the same time we must be careful to note that we are not militant. We appeal to people's intelligent reasoning and deliberation, and we never threaten force against anyone as a means of coercing them into adopting our way of thinking. We don't even threaten people with eternal hell-fire torment. This of course is a byproduct of our theology, but nonetheless the fact remains that we do not threaten people at all in any way.

And so IF people start to become suspicious of us as a group because we are relatively small and quite fundamentalist, point this out to them. Being fundamentalist and being militant are two entirely different matters. All or virtually all militants are fundamentalist, but not all fundamentalists are militant.

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