Usama bin Laden and His Selection Of Terrorism
Usama bin Laden, born in 1957, comes from a wealthy Saudi Arabian family that owns a multinational construction business. He used his inherited wealth to finance Afghan forces fighting the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980’s. After the 1991 Gulf War, he was distressed that Saudi Arabia allowed U.S. forces to remain in the Arabian Peninsula. To advance his agenda of expelling the U.S. from the Islamic world, he worked with other anti-Western fundamentalists to organize a secretive, highly compartmentalized terrorist network, known as al-Qaida. It is through his upbringing, education, culture, and wars in Islamic countries, that Usama bin Laden has sought to purge the Islamic world of the influences that he believes have corrupted and degraded it.
Usama bin Laden was born in 1957 in Saudi Arabia. He was the seventeenth son of 51 children of Muhammad bin Laden. His father was of Yemeni descent, and his mother was from Saudi Arabia. Usama’s father was the dominant figure in the family, and Usama may have obtained his strong Islamic heritage from his father. “He had a tough discipline and observed all the children with strict religious and social code. He maintained a special daily program and obliged his children to follow.”1 Over and above the strict Islamic teachings that he received from his father, Usama bin Laden also received religious indoctrination from a variety of people who were transients during Hajj.
While Usama was still young in age, his father would invite pilgrims traveling during Hajj into their home. Those individuals seemingly had a profound effect on his life. Some of those were senior Islamic scholars or leaders of Muslim movements, and he used to make good contacts and relations through those gatherings.1 In addition to the Islamic teachings at home, Usama also expanded his education in relation to Islam and Islamic movements at the collegiate level.
Usama attended school at King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia during a period when there was a trend or movement, known as the Muslim Brotherhood, which garnered popularity. There was also an abundance of Muslim scholars that he followed and received teachings from; however, there were two renowned teachers in Islamic studies at the university from whom he developed close relationships with. The teachers that he interacted with are Abdullah Azzam, who later collaborated with him in Afghanistan; and Mohammed Quttub, a famous Islamic philosopher.2 It is evident that while growing up, Usama bin Laden’s surroundings included an environment that encouraged a strict Islamic lifestyle; furthermore, his upbringing also consisted of wealth.
Whereas Usama’s father may have been a strict disciplinarian, he was also a successful businessman. Usama bin Laden’s father founded the Bin Laden Group construction company. The Bin Laden Group became heavily involved in Saudi government contracts that facilitated the Bin Laden’s financial wealth. The construction company is known for building mosques in Mecca and Medina in addition to highways and palaces.2 Usama also worked in his fathers business from where he eventually amassed a fortune to finance mujahideen in Afghanistan.
While Usama bin Laden was attending King Abdul-Aziz University, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. He had maintained contact with some of the pilgrims he met during Hajj that stayed with his family, and with his two teachers that mentored him while attending the university. These are the individuals that influenced him to journey to Afghanistan within the first few weeks of the invasion. “During the early stages of the mujahideen (Holy Warrior) resistance, bin Laden traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to meet with scholars and leaders who had been guests at his family’s house. He began lobbying for the mujahideen and raised large amounts of money for their cause.”2 After his initial trip to Afghanistan, Usama bin Laden traveled back to Saudi Arabia in order to expand a support base for the mujahideen by means of money, equipment, and personnel.
Usama made frequent trips to Afghanistan establishing a support base; therefore, gaining popularity among the fighters. He used his family’s connections and wealth to raise money for the Afghan resistance and provide the mujahideen with logistical and humanitarian aid, and participated in battles in the Afghan war.3 The mujahideen received additional funding, training, and weapons from the United States, which considered the Soviet Union an enemy, defeated the Soviet military, and forced the Soviets to pull out of Afghanistan.
The Soviet/Afghan War left an everlasting effect on Usama bin Laden. At the conclusion of the war he stated, “In this jihad, the biggest benefit was the myth of the superpower was destroyed, not only in my mind, but in the minds of all Muslims.”3 During the war, bin Laden built a guesthouse in Afghanistan in addition to military style training camps.
The guesthouse was established as a base station where mujahideen would first come before going to the front lines or to military training. Upon the Soviet withdraw of Afghanistan; Usama utilized the guesthouse as a main base of operations. The complex was then termed al-Qaida, which is an Arabic word meaning “The Base.”1 Hence, this is where the name of his movement came from. At the end of the Soviet/Afghan War, Usama bin Laden went back to Saudi Arabia. This is the period in time when there was an impending invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s military.
Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, followed by the deployment of Coalition forces in the Arabic region, gave reason for bin Laden to lash out at, not only the western military presence, but to those Arab nations he felt were influenced by non-Muslim countries as well; especially Saudi Arabia. He aligned Saudi groups opposed to the reigning Saudi monarchy, the Fahd family, expressing anger at them and the United States for allowing U.S. and allied forces to invade Iraq from Saudi bases in the Gulf War.3 After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, bin Laden was distressed over the Saudi governments aid to western forces via the establishment of an airbase.
Due to being distressed, Usama bin Laden met with several religious leaders in effort to intervene with matters in the Persian Gulf. He sought to issue a “fatwah,” a religious ruling, urging Muslims to kill U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. He succeeded in extracting a fatwah from one of the senior scholars, inferring that training and readiness is a religious duty.1 He immediately gained followers and began recruiting individuals with the intent of sending them to Afghanistan for training at one of his military style training camps. This is the beginning of Usama bin Laden’s selection to use terrorism as an instrument to rid the Islamic world of western influence.
Usama bin Laden began a terror campaign bestowed with speeches and acts of terrorism. Bin Laden gave many speeches that outlined his philosophy. He has been quoted as saying: “The U.S. government has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal. We believe the United States is directly responsible for those killed in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq.”3 Since he began making speeches voicing his outrage against the United States, there have been many terrorist attacks attributed to him and the al-Qaida movement.
The United States alleges bin Laden and other al-Qaida members have targeted U.S. military forces abroad, and symbolic structures on American soil. One of Usama bin Laden’s most memorable claims to date concerns an important date in U.S. military history. Bin Laden told a CNN news reporter during a rare interview in 1997 “Arab holy warriors trained in Afghanistan had banded with Somali Muslims in October 1993 to kill 18 U.S. soldiers in a bloody battle on the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia.”3 Additional U.S. targets alleged to have been attacked by al-Qaida and Usama bin Laden include: the bombing of Khobar Towers, a military barracks in Saudi Arabia; the seaborne bombing of the USS Cole in Aden Yemen; the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and most memorable, the attacks that took place on September 11th, 2001 when commercial airplanes were used as flying bombs, targeting the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a failed attack on the White House.
Since the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, Usama bin Laden has sought to purge the Islamic world of the influences that he believes have corrupted and degraded it. These influences, he believes, include American culture, U.S. military bases, and the Arab governments who tolerate them. As the American war on terrorism wages on in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is inevitable that Usama bin Laden and his al-Qaida movement will strike American interests, and those governments that accept American foreign policy, once again.