An Okay Review of The Rise and Fall of Osama Bin Laden

Photo by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash

Really tried hard to get into Osama’s mind — found out eventually that you simply can’t if it’s not an autobiography.

Anyway, what I understood from Peter’s depiction of Osama is that Osama had good executive skills but poor critical analysis. He was a typical teenager looking for a thrill in something better than his rich father’s boring construction business — who wanted an identity apart from dozens of his siblings’.

So, violence was naturally interesting to him. A Salafi professor at some Saudi university who fled Egypt because of his affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood taught him about the rightness and righteousness of his version of jihad. But Osama going rogue is not all on Mr. Professor (I’ve forgotten his name but do remember that he was the brother of famous Egyptian scholar Sayyid Qutub). No, Osama can’t be absolved of his actions because of some childhood trauma (i.e. education).

Sure, he was born in violent times (who isn’t?). But he was the one who chose to add to the violence of the violent times. Noe, from violent times I mean, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Osama and his eventual enemy — the USA — did all they could to breed terrorists aka the Mujahideen even before the Soviet invasion through construction projects and American taxpayer’s dollars respectively.

Peter refrains to comment on or hint at a possible agreement between the two. His use of language is careful. A bit too careful for my taste. Sure, Peter. Your book, your rules. But no problem, I’ll hint at such ‘possibility.’

Anyway, he kind of overplays American ‘ignorance’ about whom they were funding thousands of dollars in Afghanistan. But as he doesn’t need to be careful about what the ISI thinks of his book, he talks rather carelessly about how the ISI was the only means between the American taxpayers’ dollars and Afghan Mujahideen. As the book is about Osama, I won’t write passages on the role of the CIA before the Afghan War. I mean, you get the frustration, I hope.

Funding the Afghan Mujahideen for the war was not enough for the kind of thrill Osama was seeking. So, he started leading them on the ground against Soviet Russia. Now, if you have met any war-zone guys in your real life then you’ll know how it’s difficult to settle back in normal life. Fighters (and funders) have a toxic yet deep relationship with warzones. So did Osama.

And then there’s some haze in the book that fails to show clearly why Osama started loathing the US. Peter says something like “Bin Laden opposed the fact that non-Muslims were defending the holy land of Arabia,” after “the Saudis turned to their longtime allies, the Americans, for military support” against Iraq’s Saddam Hussain who invaded Kuwait in 1990, and who could potentially attack Saudi Arabia. Osama was adamant that he should defend Saudi Arabia against Saddam, not the USA, because…he wanted to. Also because the US troops were, well, non-Muslims.

So it’s okay to accept funds for Afghan Mujahideen with filthy non-Muslim money only if the filthy non-Muslims stay out of the holy land. Genius.

I mean, really? I won’t pretend to buy this reason. Maybe, Osama just wanted to be famous. Maybe, that’s not really why he had to go through all the pain. I still don’t know. No one ever ‘really’ will.

But I understand one thing from all of this chaos. The chaos he contributed to is here to stay.

Go on and read potential readers, if you want to know the dirty details. It’s a fine book with a lot of words. And reading a lot of words never hurts if you see things critically.

Author’s Note: Why, Osama, why?





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Zainab Jafri

Zainab Jafri


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