The Life, The Beliefs, and the Thoughts of Osama bin Laden, Part 3

While babysitting on Tuesday night, I finished one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read, “Growing up bin Laden,” by Nawja and Omar bin Laden. I started out reading a sample of this book, thinking that the sample alone would satisfy my curiosity, but evidently it just made it worse. After caving and buying the book on my Nook, I read through it quicker than I read novels for high school and college. (Being forced to read something just makes me drag my feet, but if I read something because I want to, it has the opposite effect!)

While I was nearing the end of the book, the six year old paused his Wii game and said to me, “What are you reading anyway?”

I paused. What do I tell a child who is innocent to the death and destruction of the world? My eyes darted back and fourth.

“Well, what is it?!” he asked, flustered, holding the Wii control in one hand and the nun-chuck in the other.

“It’s about a father,” I scrambled to say. “Written by his wife and son.”

“Is that all? What about a father? That sounds boring.”

I secretly prayed that he would unpause his game and go back to fighting his Mario characters.

“Well, the father is not very nice,” I said.

“Who is this father anyway? What’s his name?” He asked.

I panicked for a response, again. I figured there was a 95% chance he probably has never heard of him, so I said it. “Osama bin Laden,” I said. He shrugged and un-paused the game.

I finished the book a few minutes later. While the book was written in 2009 and published in late 2010, it ends with Omar and Nawja leaving Afghanistan between September 7-9, 2001. Omar was warned by a high-ranking member of Al-Qaeda before the U.S.S. Cole bombing that a “big event” was going to take place and that their lives were going to be at risk after it happened. (Not that their lives weren’t already at risk, but clearly he was referring to the 9/11 attacks being planned and knowing the retaliation that was going to occur)

Omar was the only one of Osama’s 17 or so children that started to question his father’s love for violence and as he puts it, “Jihad.” As he got older, he started planning his escape from his father’s training camps and compounds in Afghanistan. The children knew to not even look at their father in the eye when speaking to him (that is considered disrespectful in Muslim cultures), let alone talk back or question anything that he said or did to them. But not only did Omar look at his father in the eye, he also questioned him repeatedly until he answered him. “My father, how many people did you kill in the Afghanistan/Russia war? How many people? How many people did you kill?”

I do not believe that Osama bin Laden was born an evil person. He was once a charismatic, lovable, and smart person who in the least, had extreme Islamic views on the world. I do believe, however, that once the evil came into his heart and mind, that it multiplied to the point of him literally being happy to see destruction and death of Americans. (Omar said that when he saw his father’s reaction to the US Embassy bombings in Kenya and the bombing of the USS Cole, it was “the happiest he had ever seen his father.”) It was at that point in the book that I realized that this man had been overcome by evil from Satan, although he never saw it that way. He saw it as the right thing to do for Islam. He saw it as “good works” being done to better the world.

Evidently, toward the end of the story (so, roughly around 2000 or early 2001), bin Laden informed his sons that there was a “sign-up sheet” in a nearby mosque for boys to volunteer themselves to be suicide bombers. Osama bin Laden asked his sons to go to the mosque to add their names to the list. Omar was enraged as he watched his small brothers run toward the mosque. “How can you ask your own sons to volunteer themselves to die?”

Osama replied with something along the lines of, “I do not love my sons any more than I love other men of this country. You all are no different to me.”

I don’t understand what it is like to be a parent, as I am not yet one, nor do I know what it is like to lose a child as unfortunately some parents do have to go through for one reason or another. But I could never, ever imagine asking my own blood, my mini-me’s, the children I have created with the person I love, and have raised from birth, to become a suicide bomber, even if it was for my own religion. This was the second sign in this book that I truly saw his evil nature on a personal level. However, no matter his actions or requests toward his children, I still believe that they all loved their father, even after some of them fled from him in 2001. He was not always this way, and that is what saddens me. Just as the introduction to the book says, “People are not born terrorists. Nawja knows only the man, the West knows only the terrorist.”

Next up on my research regarding bin Laden: reading the newest book on my Nook, titled, “The Cell,” by John Miller, a former ABC News journalist who actually interviewed bin Laden face-to-face in 1998.

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Lordy, Lordy! The Colonel is NOT 40!

Happy Birthday, Dad!

All I see are faces

It’s been 11 years since we decorated the small building of the 1/77th FA Battalion in Ft.Sill, OK. Black balloons, black streamers, and posters drawn by us hung in the hallways and the walls of the office of the commander. Though we didn’t know it at the time, in a little over a year, my love and appreciation for you would tested in a way I never thought was possible. I can truly say that hearing your voice answer the phone on that horrible day was a turning point in my relationship with you.


Though we’ve had our differences, to say the least, I know that God spared you for a reason. If He had taken you that day, just as he took many lives, I would not have been able to grow with you and fix our relationship to what it is now. Sure, we are not perfect now, you still lecture to me all the time, and we have our arguments, but I know how much you love me and believe in me. It is because of your love, encouragement, and support that I believed I had the smallest chance at graduate school, and so I applied. Though I did not get in, I was also sad to tell my biggest supporter who believed in my abilities more than I believed in myself that I did not obtain my ultimate goal. But today is not about me, it’s about you. We celebrate the birth of a man who became a West Point graduate, who served his country without one complaint for 27 years, and who literally had to chose from all who wanted him when looking for a job after military retirement. You are successful, smart, and an influence in my life. I love you, Dad. Have a wonderful day even though I am not there to share it with you! 

One of the first (documented) times we saw each other!

Love, TBT (also JJ, TJ)

The Life, Beliefs, and the Thoughts of Osama Bin Laden, Part 2

It’s been nine days since the death of the world’s most wanted man, most sought-after fugitive, and arguably one of the most evil people to ever live in my lifetime. As previously mentioned, I’ve spent many hours reading, watching, and researching more about this man, now that he has died. I have started to develop my own theories through my research and have come to a few conclusions that are none other than my own opinion.

Since I am trying to look at his life with an open mind, as much as I can, despite his attempted murder of my own father with the attack on the Pentagon, I am trying to understand why he developed such a hate for America and Western civilization as a whole. I downloaded some samples of books on my Nook, particularly “The Cell” by John Miller and “Growing up bin Laden” by his first wife, Nawja and fourth son, Omar.

The first 71 pages of “Growing up bin Laden” were so intriguing that I was not satisfied with the sample ending mid-sentence, mid-chapter. (Later I was told that’s why they call it a “sample,” of course!) I decided to just lose the ten dollars and buy it. So, it came to my Nook instantly and I have been plowing through it almost non-stop since then. It is an easy read in the sense that both Nawja and Omar talk rather simplistically, but at the same time, parts are hard to read because of how they describe their lives. One thing that really struck me in the letter to the readers (written by one of the commentators, if you will, Jean Sasson) in the beginning is the following:

People are not born terrorists. Nor do they become terrorists in a single stroke. But step by step … their lives unfold in a pattern that leaves them prepared to receive the seed of terrorism. And so it was with Osama bin Laden. And the man, men, and events that planted that seed faded away. But the seed grew and the terrorist walked. And the man before become the terrorist thereafter. Najwa Ghanem bin Laden knows only the man. The West knows only the terrorist.

This statement encompasses my entire view on my research. As much as I harbor hate for him for what he did to my own life, not to mention the inhumane things he’s done to others in this country, I still hold a part of me that wants to see him as the man Nawja once knew.

Once I heard of his death, I was text messaging with a friend about it, saying our 20-something, inexperienced comments to each other such as, “Can you imagine being the person who took the shot?” After batting back and fourth with one another, I suddenly let out something that I was surprised would come out of my fingers. “I sort of feel sorry for him. He had one chance at life and this is how he chose to live it. Now, his family has to live with losing a husband, child, brother, and father.”

She didn’t respond, perhaps because she didn’t agree with me. And I’m sure that me admitting that statement publicly could irritate a lot of people, but despite what he’s done (which believe me, is inexcusable), he still has a family that loves, or loved him at one time and they have to mourn the death of him, while others are rejoicing along the streets of America.

Then I came across a verse about the death of the wicked. Ezekiel 18:23 says, “‘Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord GOD, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?'” The Lord does not take pleasure in the death an evil-doer, in fact, He feels sad when they die, because they did not use their life as a time to repent and be forgiven for their evil actions. This is exactly how I felt in that moment I sent that message to my friend: sad. I truly do wish within my heart that he had been able to admit his wrong-doings and ask the Lord for forgiveness.

And that’s the thing about forgiveness from God. Whether a four-year-old me asks for forgiveness for lying to my parents about dumping baby powder on my white dog (true story) or whether Osama bin Laden asks for forgiveness for his bombings, high-jacking, and thousands of deaths, God always answers, “yes.” It hurts me to think that he could have been forgiven, but more than likely didn’t use his chance while on earth to ask for that forgiveness.

As I’m reading “Growing up bin Laden,” I can feel the hate that literally was festering within him. What drove him to his actions, I believe, is his extreme views on Islamic rules and culture. He did not believe in hardly anything that the western part of the world had as a part of everyday life. Things in our lives that we don’t even think twice about, such as electricity, television, doctors, or toys for our children–Osama wanted none of that in his life or the life his own children. If that is the way he wants to live, I see it as fine, because God gave us a free will. The problem with how he wants to live is that he did the exact same thing that he accused Americans of doing–pressing our ways onto others. His goal through al-Qaeda, as described in the book by his wife and son, was to try to get rid of Westernization as a whole and through that, the entire world would become an Islamic culture. They also state, at the same time, that he hated how Americans were always trying to put their Western ways into other countries. What was going on inside that man’s mind was a never-ending battle, that grew to so much hate that he took serious revenge by the actions he displayed ten years ago.

The Life, the Beliefs, and the Thoughts of Osama Bin Laden: What Was Going On?

Having no formal responsibilities (such as, a job) equals having a lot of free time during the day. Having a lot of free time, unfortunately for me has always equaled having a lot of thoughts. My mind is the most powerful weapon I will ever own. It analyzes, it creates, it manipulates, it twists, it turns, and it exaggerates. When I have time, I tend to over-think a lot of things. I tend to read, to investigate, and to dig deeper. I do, in fact, possess that “curious about the world,” characteristic that Columbia looks for in a student. And lucky for me, I have free time now that I am unemployed, and because I have so much time, I have been reading, researching, and watching a lot of material on Osama bin Laden.

I’m not sure if it is just my curious nature, or my over-analytical brain that is thinking this way, or if anyone else is feeling this way, but now that this man is dead, I really want to know more about his life. Most of all, I want to learn why, in this world, someone could hate Americans so much that they are willing to try to kill as many of them as they can, including some of their own. That is the biggest, most unanswered question I have right now, and I’m sure (at least, I hope) there are many others feeling the same way.

The way I am trying to see it is from this seemingly (to me) neutral standpoint: perhaps he, and his followers, see us (“Americans”) as we see them. We see them as evil, as terrorists, as killers. We are a diverse nation. We are the land of the free, and most importantly, as displayed on Sunday evening, the home of the brave. We are the land of opportunity. We run on a democracy. We are a free nation. We are allowed to speak what we wish, think what we wish, and praise God, write what we wish.

We are divided, too, because we all have different political beliefs. We are Republicans. We are Democrats. We are independents. We are Jewish. We are Atheists. We are Mormon. We are Christians. We are Muslim. We are Buddhists. We are executives. We are CEOs. We are politicians. We are custodians. We are engineers. We are social workers. We are restaurant managers. We are train conductors. We are unemployed.

But we all, as Americans, all agree beyond the shadow of a doubt: terrorists are wrong. Terrorists are evil. Terrorists must be destroyed. Terrorists must pay for what they’ve done to us, for trying to take away our freedom, to shake our foundation, and to attempt to exterminate our ways of life. Even those that once served our country, put their life on the line for our freedom, who somehow turned on their country and bombed an innocent office building killing over 100 people, must die for what they’ve done. We all agree with that, no matter our religion, our political stance, or our economic “class status,” that terrorists are the face of evil and that they must pay for what they’ve done.

So maybe, in the world that Osama bin Laden grew up in, or in the Muslim community, or maybe in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, or just in his household, he was taught to view Americans as we view terrorists. More than anything else that we say, do, or believe, we are Americans and that is what he hates. More than anything else, he is a terrorist and that is what we hate. So as we are taught to hate terrorists, he is taught to hate Americans. Make sense? That’s the only way I can begin my research on this “organization” or group of followers; to view his way of life basically as the opposite of mine, and with an open mind, despite what I’ve been taught, know, or believe. Because I am curious to know, more than anything, why he hated us so much that he was willing to sit in his caves, compounds, wherever he was from time to time, and literally think of how he could shake our foundation literally to the ground. I don’t understand it, believe me. I don’t know if I ever will. That very man, his very brain, his very followers, tried to kill my own father. They wanted my father dead so badly that they were willing to volunteer themselves and their lives to kill him. Praise God that they did not succeed in killing my father, but there are 3,000 others in this country who cannot say that. His plans to end their lives because they were Americans succeeded in that sense. But I pray that those families who are left felt justice on Sunday, because finally, what we all as Americans agreed on completely, fully, with every fiber our beings, happened: he paid his price for taking so many lives.

Stay tuned. I have many more thoughts and things to share. And if you have a comment, or a conflict with what I’ve said, please feel free to voice your opinion. I am truly open to all sides and thinking regarding this topic.