Growing Up Bin Laden is a book that simply is too untrustworthy, for several reasons, for its claim that Osama bin Laden was right-handed to overturn the intelligence community’s long-standing description of him as left-handed. Further investigation, perhaps involving bin Laden’s wives or other children, might help resolve the issue.
THE OPINION OF PROF BRUCE LAWRENCE
by Prof David Ray Griffin
In the book, however, the supposed account by Omar says that he rebuked his father, after which:
“He stared at me with evident hostility, gesturing with his hands: ‘Omar, this is what you need to know, my son. You hold no more a place in my heart than any other man or boy in the entire country.’ He glanced at my brothers. ‘This is true for all of my sons.’ My father’s proclamation had been given: His love for his sons did not sink further than the outer layer of his flesh. His heart remained untouched by a father’s love. . . . I finally knew exactly where I stood. My father hated his enemies more than he loved his sons.” 83)
According to the Rolling Stone interview, however, this conversation – quoted time and time again as revealing Osama bin Laden to have been an unfeeling monster of a father – never happened. Jean Sasson apparently invented the entire scene. Lawson concluded: “In Omar’s world, it appears, it is possible to be misquoted in your own autobiography.” 84) That certainly seems to be the case if your autobiography was put into final form by Jean Sasson.
The moral of this long discussion of Growing Up Bin Laden is that this book is simply too untrustworthy, for several reasons, for its claim that Osama bin Laden was right-handed to overturn the intelligence community’s long-standing description of him as left-handed. Further investigation, perhaps involving bin Laden’s wives or other children, 85) might be able to resolve the issue.
THINGS THE REAL BIN LADEN WOULD NOT HAVE SAID
In any case, even if Osseiran were able to overcome all of the problems discussed above, there would still remain what I consider the main reason for calling the so-called confession video a fake: the fact that its bin Laden figure said many things that the real Osama bin Laden, if he had planned the 9/11 attacks, would surely not have said. Largely repeating here the analysis I gave in my book – which Osseiran failed to address in his critique – I will examine five such statements in the video:
Pre-Boarding Ignorance of the Hijackers: Speaking about the young men who carried out the hijackings, the bin Laden figure in the video said:
“The brothers, who conducted the operation, all they knew was that they have a martyrdom operation. . . . [T]hey didn’t know anything about the operation, not even one letter. But they were trained and we did not reveal the operation to them until they are there and just before they boarded the planes.” 86)
According to the FBI, however, the 19 (alleged) hijackers had purchased their plane tickets two weeks in advance, so they would at least have needed to know which flights they were supposed to board. 87)
One might, to be sure, suspect that “bin Laden” meant only that the men did not know that they were intended to hijack and then crash the planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and one other target. But even this idea would be absurd. If the hijacker pilots did not know their targets until “just before they boarded the planes,” how could they have found their way to those targets without assistance from air traffic control? Even if they used hand-held GPS (global positioning system) units, as some defenders of the official account have suggested, they would have needed to know the coordinates of their targets.
In fact, a supposed “bin Laden video” that appeared on September 9, 2002, showed the alleged hijackers, as the BBC reported, “reading flight manuals and studying maps, one of which is of the Washington DC area.” 88) To be sure, Osseiran, believing that bin Laden’s original plan had been taken over and expanded by people in the US government, 89) could dismiss this video as a piece of post-operation propaganda. But the problem would still remain of how the al-Qaeda pilots could have reached their targets without guidance from air traffic control, unless they knew the details of the operation in advance.
Pilots as Not Knowing “Muscle Hijackers”: Making another statement that did not fit with the evidence compiled by the FBI, the bin Laden figure of the confession video said:
“Those who were trained to fly didn’t know the others. One group of people did not know the other group.”
According to what the official reports said, however, the pilots and the other men, usually called the “muscle hijackers,” mingled with each other: Some of the muscle hijackers reportedly settled in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, along with pilots Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah, while the other muscle hijackers settled in Paterson, New Jersey, along with pilot Hani Hanjour. 90)
Again, Osseiran might dismiss this contradiction as simply another reflection of the fact that the plan created by bin Laden was later modified. If so, however, one must wonder why bin Laden – who knew something about the need for close cooperation when people are carrying out dangerous missions – would have devised a plan in which the al-Qaeda pilots would not know the hijackers who were to subdue the crew and passengers.
IRON MELTING FIRES
Arguably the most problematic statement made by the confession video’s “bin Laden” is one that Osseiran quoted, but only partially. Here is the statement in full:
“[W]e calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy who would be killed based on the position of the tower. We calculated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four floors.. . . [D]ue to my experience in this field, I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. This is all that we had hoped for.” 91)
In an essay in which Osseiran argued that bin Laden really did confess to planning the attacks, he quoted a portion of this passage and then said: “That is enough for me.” 92) The portion he quoted, however, did not include the statement in which the bin Laden figure said that, given his “experience in this field,” he “was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building.” This statement is doubly problematic.
In the first place, given bin Laden’s “experience in this field” – he was a civil engineer – he would surely have known that that the Twin Towers would have been supported by steel, not iron. If the translation is correct, therefore, this is a statement that the real bin Laden would have been unlikely to make.
Even more serious is the second problem: As a civil engineer, Osama bin Laden would surely have known that the “fire from the gas in the plane” could not have melted any of the Twin Towers’ steel support columns. He would have known that a building fire, even one fed by jet-fuel (which is essentially kerosene), could not have brought any of the steel columns anywhere close to their melting point. The real Osama bin Laden, therefore, would not have expected any of the buildings’ columns to have melted.
He would not, therefore, have had even the minimal expectation about floor collapse expressed by the man on the tape, namely, that the fire would “collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it.” Although the man on the tape formulated this expectation as a modest hope – that he expected “only” those floors to collapse – the real bin Laden, unless he expected Allah to help out with a miraculous intervention, would likely have laughed and said “only?” 93)
THE OPINION OF PROF BRUCE LAWRENCE
Another reason I gave for calling this video a fabrication was that Professor Bruce Lawrence, considered America’s leading academic expert on bin Laden, 94) had called it “bogus.” Adding that he had some friends in the US Department of Homeland Security assigned to work “on the 24/7 bin Laden clock,” he said that “they also know it’s bogus.” 95) Having quoted Lawrence’s statements in my book, I then referred to Osseiran without mentioning his name, saying:
“One defender of the authenticity of this ‘bin Laden video’ has claimed that Lawrence was talking about a later one.” 96)
I had shown otherwise by pointing out that Lawrence had called the video to which he was referring the “bogus smoking-gun tape that came out in November 2001.” 97) In saying “November,” Lawrence – whose statement was made in response to a question during a radio interview – probably had in mind the fact that this video was said to have been made on November 9 and was reportedly found near the end of that month. In any case, by referring to it as the “smoking-gun tape,” he clearly indicated that he was referring to the so-called confession video we are discussing.
Osseiran, however, claimed that this was disproved by an email exchange he had with Lawrence after hearing that radio interview. Having sent Lawrence a letter criticizing his statement and explaining his own hypothesis, Osseiran received a reply in which Lawrence explained that, by calling the tape a fake, he “meant that it did not originate with OBL. ” On the basis of that statement, Osseiran concluded that it could “hardly be described as a [mere] claim on my part that Dr. Lawrence back peddled [sic].” In explaining why he interpreted Lawrence’s reply as back-pedaling, Osseiran wrote:
“His play on words that the tape did not originate with bin Laden is either supportive of my work or, if otherwise, needs to be publicly explained.”
Lawrence’s statement, however, surely meant simply that the bin Laden figure in the tape was not Osama bin Laden himself. That Lawrence did not accept Osseiran’s theory about the tape is further suggested by the fact, reported by Osseiran, that Lawrence “has since been unresponsive to all communications.”
Conclusion: Osseiran accused me of “cherry picking” evidence in order to support my claim that the so-called confession video, which was released December 13, is a fake. This accusation is doubly problematic:
Besides the fact that the examples he gave do not support his charge, 98) he has himself engaged in this practice. That is, he simply ignored a major portion of the evidence I had provided in support of the conclusion that the “bin Laden confession video” is a fake.
Given Osseiran’s charge that my statement to this effect is an “outrageous falsehood,” it was incumbent upon him to address all the evidence I had presented for this statement. But he addressed only parts of it, ignoring the strongest part: the various examples of things that Osama bin Laden would almost certainly not have said. Osseiran cannot expect people to take his “sting” hypothesis seriously unless he can successfully counter this evidence.
CRITICISM #4: THE EVIDENCE FOR BIN LADEN’S DEATH IS INCONCLUSIVE – AND NOT EVEN VERY GOOD
Near the beginning of his critique, Osseiran wrote: “I have looked into the possibility of him [bin Laden] being dead while doing my own research and found all evidence to be inconclusive.” By thus phrasing his statement, he implied that I had claimed the evidence to be conclusive. But that is not so.
The strongest assertion I made, which occurs on the final page of the book, says: “The available evidence, therefore, supports Robert Baer’s statement, made in October 2008, that Osama bin Laden is dead.” To say that the available evidence “supports” a thesis is not to say that it conclusively proves it. Moreover, to speak of the “available evidence” is to acknowledge that evidence supporting the opposite conclusion might surface.
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