Osama son Omar bin Laden with his English wife Jane Felix
OMER BIN LADEN’S STATEMENTS
by Prof David Ray Griffin
Omar bin Laden: With regard to new information contained in the chapters of Growing Up Bin Laden that are attributed to Omar bin Laden, there is an additional reason to be skeptical of it: The circumstances behind this book suggest that he may have shaded the truth in order to aid his own cause.
In 2007, Omar, who already had a wife and a two-year old child, was married in Egypt to a British woman, Jane Felix-Browne, who took an Islamic name, Zaina Mohamed al-Sabah. 61) Omar then applied for permission to move to England to live with her. But in April 2008, he received word that his application for a spousal immigration visa had been denied. The stated reason was that Omar had, in recent media interviews, indicated “continuing loyalty to [his] father,” so that his presence in England might cause “public concern.” 62)
Following this rebuff, apparently, Omar suggested to Jean Sasson that they collaborate on a book. “[D]uring the spring of 2008,” she wrote in the book’s Final Comments, she received an email letter from Omar saying that “he wanted me to reveal his personal story.” 63) In these comments, Sasson indicated that she had concerns about Omar that were similar to those of the British authorities:
I did not want to participate in the book if Omar believed that his father had valid reasons for his murderous behavior. I was concerned, too, when I read a number of Internet articles in which Omar seemed inconsistent about his father’s cruel actions. Indeed, while Omar proclaimed his hatred of violence, for a long time, he seemed unable to accept as true that his father had been the man responsible for 9/11.64
In order for his autobiographical account to be acceptable to Sasson and also to change the attitude of the British authorities, therefore, it would need to show three things:
· Omar does not doubt his father’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks;
· Omar does not believe his father had valid reasons for these attacks; and
· Being opposed to cruelty and terrorism, Omar has completely renounced his father’s beliefs and commitments.
Press interviews prior to that time had given cause for doubt about all three points. With regard to the first point: His new wife, having said in 2007 that Omar “misses his father,” added: “Omar doesn’t know if it was his father who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.” 65) Omar himself was quoted in April 2008 as saying that, although he condemned the 9/11 attacks, he could not condemn his father due to lack of evidence of his guilt: “Who can know 100 per cent that my father is behind 9/11? . . . I do not know if my father is a terrorist or was involved in the attacks.” 66)
With regard to the second point, the Associated Press in January 2008 said, “Omar doesn’t criticize his father and says Osama bin Laden is just trying to defend the Islamic world,” then quoted him as saying: “My father thinks he will be good for defending the Arab people and stop anyone from hurting the Arab or Muslim people any place in the world.” 67) At about the same time, ABC News quoted Omar as saying: “[My father] believe if he put two buildings down, maybe some people, little will die. But millions other will [be] save[d]. He believe that.” 68)
With regard to the third point, ABC News, besides reporting that Omar “did not consider his father to be a terrorist,” quoted him as saying: “My father is very kind man. . . . I still love him, so much, with all my heart.” 69) In April 2008, the Telegraph referred to similar statements by Omar and characterized him as having “revealed a somewhat ambiguous attitude towards his father’s track record.” 70)
After Growing Up Bin Laden appeared, the reviews made clear that Omar had addressed all three points. A review in Time magazine began:
“For Omar bin Laden, . . . the awful realization that his father was a terrorist mastermind who was plotting a global conspiracy that would destroy the lives of thousands of innocent people and even his own family came gradually.” 71)
A Washington Post review summarized Omar’s portrait of his father thus:
“Osama bin Laden is a monster, a priapic zealot who was as cruel and arrogant in family life as he has been in his bloodstained public career. Not only is he a mass murderer, he is committed to inflicting death on as many people as possible. He lives to kill, the pursuit of violent jihad overpowering even the most basic human feelings and paternal concerns. He was a tyrannical and selfish father who deprived his many children of education, food and the comforts of modern life.” 72)
Omar had clearly made all three points that needed to be made. The only question is: Did he do so in a believable way? A note of caution was raised by an Asia Times reviewer, who wrote:
“Omar bin Laden . . . is reliant on the good graces of a number of easily offended people . . . . His newly released biographical book . . . is almost sycophantic when it comes to discussing anything that might impact his present situation. . . . The person he can afford to offend . . . is his father. [Omar is] at times prone to overly explicit condemnations (one suspects he has an eye on future visa applications; he was recently rejected from Britain despite his wife’s nationality).” 73)
And indeed, when read with this suspicion in mind, the book contains much that seems to confirm it.
For one thing, the main purpose of Omar’s contribution to the book seems to be to show that he is completely different from, and has fully broken with, his father. He emphasizes their differences time and time again, 74) and on his final page, Omar says:
“I am nothing like my father. While he prays for war, I pray for peace.
“My father has made his choice, and I have made mine.
“And now we go our separate ways, each believing that we are right.
“I am, at last, my own man.” 75)
In drawing this contrast, moreover, Omar contradicts things he had said earlier. In the book, he speaks of his “father’s message of hate”; he says that after the 1988 attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es- Salaam, his father “had no regrets for the action, even for the death of Muslims”; and on the final page, he says: “I often wonder if my father has killed so many times that the act of killing no longer brings him pleasure or pain.” 76) Prior to writing the book, however, Omar had said: “My father is very kind man. . . . And he very sorry when he do something like 11th September.” 77)
Even his account of coming to accept his father’s responsibility for 9/11 is unconvincing. In the book, Omar says that this question was resolved after hearing “an audiotape of my father’s words taking credit for the attacks.” Although he does not there indicate when he heard this, except for saying that it was “much later,” 78) summaries of interviews after the book’s publication show that he was saying that it occurred within months of 9/11. 79) If so, why was he in April of 2008 still saying that he was uncertain?
It would appear, therefore, that many of the things in Omar’s contribution to the book are there not because they are true, but because he felt that they needed to be there in order for Sasson to publish his story and for that story to convince British immigration authorities to give him a visa.
There is, moreover, another conceivable motive. Press reports indicated that, as we would expect, intelligence agents were in contact with him. 80) These agents might have promised to help him obtain a visa if he included certain points in his book, such as the statement that his father was actually right-handed and the assertion, which he also makes, that his father did not need dialysis but merely “had a tendency to suffer from kidney stones.” 81) We cannot know this to be the case, to be sure, but we also cannot rule it out.
Finally, we have another reason, beyond Omar’s possible motives, for being skeptical about any claims that are found only in Omar’s contribution to this book: Given the fact that it was put into final form by Jean Sasson, whose relationship to truth seems at best episodic, we cannot be sure that all the things in Omar’s chapters really came from him.
This problem was brought to light during a Rolling Stone interview with Omar, after Guy Lawson, the interviewer, referred to one of the most cited passages in the book. According to this passage, Osama bin Laden, after putting up a sheet of paper for men to sign if they were willing to volunteer to be suicide bombers, encouraged his own sons to sign it. When one of Omar’s youngest brothers started to do so, Omar became furious and said: “My father, how can you ask this of your sons?” But when Lawson quoted this passage, Omar appeared confused and asked: “It says that in the book?” After Omar’s wife Zaina confirmed that it did, Omar, shaking his head, said: “It was not like that.” His father had not suggested that his own sons should sign up, Omar told Lawson, but “one of my little brothers wanted to put his name. I shouted at him not to do it.” And that was it. Lawson asked, “You never said anything to your father?” Omar had spoken sternly to his father at other times, he replied, but “not at this moment,” after which he added: “He [my father] walked away from us. He was smiling, like it was just between him and his God.” 82)
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