Who Is Osama
bin Laden and What Does He Want?
2001 by Linda Moulton Howe
Osama bin Laden, organizer
of the Al Qaeda Islamic terrorist group
of Muhammad Bin Laden, owner of the large construction company,
Bin Laden Group, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photograph
from Middle East newspaper.
September 15, 2001 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - The horror in New York, Washington and
western Pennsylvania this week has not only changed the psyche
of our nation - it changed air travelers into potential enemies
and airports into much less friendly territory. I know that from
personal experience yesterday morning at the Philadelphia Airport.
I was scheduled to fly to Dallas on a 9:17 a.m. flight in order
to attend a conference. But when my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m.,
lightning and thunderbolts were dropping around the house like
bombs and the hard rain turned the Pennsylvania Turnpike and
I-476 to the airport into a slow moving traffic jam. A trip that
would normally take about 55 minutes, took 2 hours and 20 minutes.
As I pulled up in front of the American terminal,
a policeman immediately started waving his arms toward me and
shouting, "Move that car! No cars are allowed here!"
I told him I knew I had to check in at the counter, but wanted
to know where to park given the new security restrictions. He
motioned toward the normal parking area several blocks away.
Two American skycaps who had showed up without any work to do
asked where I was headed. I told them and they said the flight
had been delayed so I had time to park and get my suitcase to
the airline counter. They also warned me that if I had any manicure
scissors, pen knife or anything with a sharp edge, I had better
put that in my suitcase. Otherwise, it would be confiscated at
baggage security. So, I unlocked my suitcase on the sidewalk,
took my manicure bag out of my carry-on and locked it back inside
my hard suitcase.
Then I drove off for the only parking lot
I knew about. But it was blocked off with a wall. There were
no other instructions. I yelled to a passing car, "Where
are we supposed to park?" He pointed upward and as my eyes
followed, I saw new parking garage signs. The airport is undergoing
expansion and everything is changing. I found myself in a loop
right back in front of the American Airlines terminal. The policeman
was outraged to see me. He yelled, "I told you you can't
come here, not anywhere near here. Now move!" I yelled back
through my open window, "I'm not an enemy. I need guidance.
Where do I park?" As he moved towards my car as if to physically
push it, he yelled back, "You park at Arriving Flights."
Park at arrivals? That's a first. And why didn't he tell me that
first time around?
Again, I made the loop and finally found new
parking still under construction, got my suitcase and started
dragging it on a run toward ticketing, remembering the American
attendant's words, "The plane is delayed." But when
I got to the ticket counter, the agent said the plane had already
left and the only options were standbys on sold out planes. So,
I didn't get to Texas. Instead, I left the Philadelphia Airport
wondering if that first morning of getting airliners back into
American skies again was only a taste of unfriendly police security
to come? And a foreshadowing of protests that could inevitably
arise as American expectations of freedom and flexibility are
I also wondered how 19 Islamic fundamentalists,
some with connections to the head of the Al Qaeda worldwide terrorist
group lead by Osama bin Laden, could be in the United States
- some even learning how to fly airplanes in Florida - and not
be under close scrutiny of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
and Central Intelligence Agency?
In fact, one headline in today's Philadelphia
Inquirer says, "CIA reportedly warned FBI about one
suspect." The article from the Knight Ridder News Service
in Miami says the CIA, before the airliner attacks on the Pentagon
and World Trade Center, told the FBI that Khalid al-Midhar was
in the United States and was someone "troubling enough to
be on a watch list." Al-Midhar was one of the hijackers
on American Airlines Flight 77 which hit the Pentagon. According
to unnamed sources, the FBI did check out the information and
concluded that Al-Midhar had come into the U. S., but had left
again. It's clear now that Al-Midhar did not leave until his
suicide bombing mission into the Pentagon.
The State Department and the Immigration and
Naturalization Service which are responsible for issuing and
verifying visas on the passports of foreign nationals declined
to comment about the CIA warning to the FBI. Further, officials
familiar with intelligence matters say the CIA issued a secret
report to senior policy makers that Osama bin Laden was shifting
his terrorist strategy from attacking U. S. interests abroad
to the U. S. mainland. Supposedly some of those CIA warnings
were as recent as July. Now, Bin Laden is considered to be at
least one of the masterminds behind the insidiously evil and
unimaginable use of American civilian airliners filled with people
to attack American buildings filled with civilians and military
A small section of New York's World Trade
Center, fragile but still standing,
two horrific airliner attacks the morning of September 11, 2001.
The North and South Towers of the WTC both collapsed
into a pile of rubble 100 feet high. Other nearby
also collapsed, destroying 10% of Manhattan's
financial office space,
15 million square feet
equivalent to ten Empire State buildings.
© 2001 by Spenser Platt/Getty Images.
Since Tuesday's attacks, Senate and House
intelligence committees have been drilling the FBI and other
federal agencies about suspects and how officials might have
overlooked warnings, clues and other evidence that could have
prevented the hijackings and plane crashes. One overall problem
is competition instead of cooperation in the U. S. intelligence
system. This problem was summarized by an unnamed former Justice
Department official: "Not all of the law enforcement information
systems are linked up and they don't all talk to each other.
You have to proactively call each agency and make sure they have
these names on these lists. It doesn't necessarily take the click
of a button."
Former State Department Counter-Terrorism
One former State Department official, Larry
Johnson, who was Deputy Director for Anti-Terrorism Assistance
Training, Aviation Security and Special Operations in the U.
S. State Department Office from 1989 to 1993, was interviewed
for a Frontline program that was broadcast on September
12. His insights into Osama bin Laden and his connection to the
Taliban leaders now in control of Afghanistan include this revelation:
"When you step back and look over the last 20 years at all
the significant terrorist attacks against the United States in
which Americans were killed or injured, roughly 72% (of those
people harmed) are linked to two individuals: Iranian Hezbollah
security chief, Imad Mughniyah, and Osama bin Laden. ...The only
one who's really been consistent with his actions to kill Americans
has been bin Laden, and those affiliated with him, over the last
eight or nine years. And when you realize you're dealing with
individuals who are willing to die and are willing to kill thousands
of others without any regard for the consequences, we have entered
a new realm - they've ratcheted up their activity to a level
that they want to make sure it succeeds, and with the belief
that in succeeding they're going to destroy the United States.
...It is of a magnitude and a dimension that the world has not
seen before. It is a wake-up call for all the world. ...And
if it is bin Laden's work, all he's guaranteed himself out of
this is not a victory in the Islamic world, but guaranteed the
opposition of the rest of the world. And I don't care who you
are. You cannot stand up against the world with that kind of
pressure. ...He won a battle that will lead to his downfall."
Who Is Osama bin Laden?
Who is Osama bin Laden and what does he want?
Here is a brief history. Osama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden
was born in 1957 in Ar-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where his father
owns the construction company, Bin Laden Group. Osama bin Laden
was the 17th of 52 children sired by Muhammad Bin Laden, considered
Saudi Arabia's wealthiest construction magnate. At age 22 in
1979, Osama bin Laden graduated from King Abdul Aziz University
in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia with a degree in civil engineering. That
December, he left Saudi Arabia to join the Afghan resistance
known as the mujahedeen after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
Ar-Riyad, Saudi Arabia is the birth place
of Osama bin Laden. Iraq, Iran,
Pakistan are neighboring countries.
play pivotal roles in terrorist activities on the earth today.
During the 1980s, Osama bin Laden was an aggressive
fund raiser to provide the mujahedeen freedom fighters whatever
aid and military equipment he could. By 1988, he established
his now-famous organization, Al Qaeda (The Base), to provide
more military muscle and financing to the Afghan resistance.
The next year in 1989 after the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan,
bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia a hero. There he worked for
his father in the Bin Laden Group and became involved in political
opposition to the Saudi monarchy. He also opposed Saudi alliance
with the United States and was punished in April 1991 in confinement
at Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.
That punishment for opposing Saudi alliance
with the United States set bin Laden on a series of moves that
have continued to this day. First he traveled to Afghanistan.
By October 1991, U. S. troops attacked Iraq's Saddam Hussein
in the Persian Gulf War under former President George Bush Sr.
Afterward, the U. S. established a large permanent military presence
in Saudi Arabia, a land that has two of the most holy places
in Islam tradition - Mecca and Medina. Thus, the American presence
was a huge thorn in the side of not only Saddam Hussein in Iraq,
but Osama bin Laden building his Al Qaeda terrorist organization
in Afghanistan in the holy name of God to attack sin and evil
in the world, namely the United States and its allies. Ironically,
bin Laden who fights "in the name of Allah" has allegedly
financed his terrorist efforts with drug-running money. Afghanistan
in recent years has grown poppy crops that have produced more
than 70% of the world's heroin trade, including heroin sales
in the United States.
A year later in 1992, Osama bin Laden moved
to Khartoum, Sudan which by then was showing Islamic solidarity
by allowing any Muslims into the country, those without a visa
and hundreds of suspected terrorists and ex-mujahedeen. By then,
the United States had produced an indictment against bin Laden
for terrorist activities and was taking an aggressive stance
to legally eradicate bin Laden and his followers.
What Does Osama bin Laden Want?
In turn, bin Laden and his Al Qaeda members
had begun to formulate their goals:
1) To join up with Iran's terrorist group Hezbollah and its security
chief, Imad Mughniyah, and other Shiite Muslim terrorist organizations
against their enemy, the United States and its allies;
2) To attack U. S. military forces stationed
on the Saudi peninsula, including Saudi Arabia and Yemen;
3) To attack U. S. forces stationed in the
Horn of Africa, including Somalia.
And attacks began. Many believe that bin Laden
was linked to Ramzi Yousef, said to be the mastermind behind
the first attack on the World Trade Center in February 26, 1993.
Yousef was believed to be financially linked to bin Laden and
his housing in Pakistan had been paid for by bin Laden.
What Is the Taliban?
The next year in 1994, members of the Mujaheedin
the Afghani men who fought against the Soviet invasion
- raped three women. This enraged a religious teacher named Mawlawi
Mohammed Omar and he immediately organized his students into
a group to find and kill the Mujaheedin and his men who had raped
the three women. The Afghani word for students is "taliban."
Thus, Omar's Taliban now stands for "God's students"
and Omar's mission is to return all of Afghanistan to a pure,
fundamentalist Islamic state.
Osama bin Laden © 1996 by Reuters News
Omar and his Taliban students of God, perhaps
organized by Pakistan's military intelligence with Osama bin
Laden's financial help, captured the Afghan capital, Kabul, in September 1996 and claimed the country as their own, imposing
the Taliban's own interpretation of Islamic law. Note that date
of the Taliban's takeover of Kabul, September 1996, means that
September 2001 was a 5th anniversary to celebrate in the attacks
on New York and Washington.
Omar's vision of that Islamic state means
women are house-bound in service to men; all girls schools have
been banned; electronic equipment such as televisions and radios
are banned along with music in Kabul. Most international human
rights organizations have condemned the Taliban's strict regime.
But it has been recognized by three governments: Saudi Arabia,
Pakistan and the Arab Emirates.
CIA Authorized to Destroy Bin Laden's Network
Earlier that spring because of terrorist attacks
such as the truck bombing of the US-operated Saudi National Guard
training center in Riyadh that killed five Americans and two
Indians, President Bill Clinton signed a top secret order that
authorized the CIA to use any and all means to destroy bin Laden's
network. But that authorization did not prevent the June 25,
1996 large truck bomb that blew up in the U. S. military residence
of Khobar Towers in Dhahran. Nineteen servicemen were killed.
The perpetrators were officially declared to be a Saudi Shiite
group, but U. S. investigators still think Osama bin Laden was
In August 1996, the United States convened
a secret grand jury in New York to investigate and brought a
formal indictment against Osama bin Laden for a list of terrorist
Osama bin Laden's Declaration of Jihad
Against the United States and Its Allies
In turn, bin Laden on August 23, 1996 signed
and issued a Declaration of Jihad outlining his Al Qaeda organization's
1) To drive U. S. forces from the Arabian Peninsula;
2) To overthrow the government of Saudi Arabia;
3) to liberate Muslim holy sites;
4) and to support Islamic revolutionary groups around the world.
He declared that Saudis have the right to strike against U.S.
troops in the Persian Gulf.
Two years later, bin Laden issued a joint
declaration with the Islamic Group, Al Jihad, in Bangladesh and
another in Pakistan under the banner "World Islamic Front"
which stated that Muslims should kill Americans including civilians
- anywhere in the world. And on August 7, 1998, two simultaneous
explosions at U. S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed 224
people and injured more than 4,500.
By October 1998, the Arabic newspaper, Al-Hayat, claimed bin Laden had acquired nuclear weapons from Soviet Central
Asian countries using a network of "influential friends."
In 2000, there was an attack on the U.S. S.
Cole that U. S. officials link to bin Laden.
May 2001 - Bin Laden Followers Sentenced
in U. S.
On May 29, 2001, four followers of Osama bin
Laden are found guilty of charges stemming from the 1998 U.S.
embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, including murder, conspiracy
and perjury. A death penalty and life sentences were given.
September 11, 2001 - New York World Trade
Center Destroyed and Pentagon Attacked
Then on September 11, 2001, four hijacked
American airliners become suicide bombers in the hands of 19
trained terrorists thought to have direct links to Osama bin
Laden and his allies, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and the
Iranian Hezbollah. As Larry Johnson told Frontline: "Bin Laden is a symbolic head of a movement
of religious fanatics who want to purge the world of evil. And
the United States is the symbol of that evil. I think lurking
in the mind of bin Laden and the Al Qaeda group is the notion
that you're going to strike a blow so decisive, so terrible,
it will cause the collapse of the society that they view as hollow.
Western society is evil. It is based upon liquor and prostitutes
and not being faithful to Allah, as they interpret Islam. And
therefore, it's a shell that once you attack it, and hit it in
its right spot, it will collapse....We know things about bin
Laden that we didn't two or three years ago. We now know, for
example, bin Laden was meeting with Imad Mughniyah, the Hezbollah
security chief. Mughniyah, until September 11, 2001, had killed
more Americans than bin Laden, had wounded more Americans than
bin Laden. Mughniyah was involved with the bombing of the Marine
barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, the takeover of TWA 847, the murder
of Navy diver Robert Stethem and the abduction of several Americans
held hostage in Beirut, Lebanon."
Is Imad Mughniyah of the Iranian Hezbollah
the Shadow Behind Osama bin Laden?
And about the connection between bin Laden,
the Iranian Hezbollah and the Afghani Taliban that are supposed
to oppose the Iranians: "...I know the National Security
Council under President Clinton believed that someone like a
bin Laden would have no connection or ties to Iran and that he,
bin Laden, would be diametrically opposed to Iran because the
Taliban are opposed to the Iranians. But when you see someone
like Imad Mughniyah meeting with bin Laden, and Mughniyah moves
freely back and forth between the Bekaa Valley and Iran - and
the Bekaa Valley is where the explosives come out that end up
destroying the U. S. housing complex in Saudi Arabia - and that
the individuals who are involved in that bombing attempt in Saudi
Arabia again show up having links and ties with bin Laden, all
of a sudden, you need to step back and say, Is Osama doing the
bidding of Iran? That's a possibility....Whether he's doing it
on his own or with the encouragement of a state that's staying
behind the scenes, he is willing to use violence to destroy what
he genuinely believes is evil" - the United States of America.
Linda Moulton Howe