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What is an appropropriate response?
Political and philosophical considerations after the attack on the Word Trade Center

Origins of bin Laden network

After joining the Afghan cause in 1979, Osama bin Laden organized, 
inspired Islamic radicals worldwide.

By Scott Baldauf and Faye Bowers,
Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN, AND BOSTON - Osama Bin Laden is a man of vast 
contrasts. He's America's public enemy No. 1, but a hero to the Islamic 
world for fighting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He's a 
multimillionaire Saudi citizen who lives like a pauper, camping out in the
dusty southeastern corner of Afghanistan with four wives and some 15 

Past interviewers and intelligence analysts say he's painfully shy in 
conversation, yet eloquent and passionate when describing his goals of 
removing American forces from his Saudi homeland, destroying the Jewish 
state in Israel, and defeating pro-Western dictatorships around the Middle

"He presents himself as an intelligent, well-educated person, in a gentle 
kind of way," says Jerrold M. Post, a professor of psychiatry at George 
Washington University and a former personality profiler at the CIA.

Dr. Post goes on to say that bin Laden is also "highly expert at 
propaganda management."

Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai recalls how bin Laden 
stagemanaged his first interview, in May 1998. Mr. Yusufzai and other 
journalists were smuggled into Afghanistan at night by the terrorist group
Harkat al-Ansar, and then driven to bin Laden's secret base in Khost, which
American cruise missiles had pounded just a few months before in 
retaliation for the 1998 bombings of US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

When bin Laden's motorcade finally arrived, surrounded by motorcycles and 
other security personnel, a platoon of soldiers fired their weapons in the
air, and a host of artillery batteries boomed from the surrounding hills as
soon as bin Laden exited his car.

"It was a grand entry, like you see in the movies," says Yusufzai, whose 
subsequent Dec. 23, 1998, interview in the deserts near Kandahar was the 
last time that bin Laden met the press. In the interview, bin Laden denied
responsibility for the US Embassy bombings, but praised the work of his "
brothers." "He told me, 'My job is to inspire, to organize people. My job 
is to provoke people. I'm not doing it myself, but I'm preaching so that 
others will do it.' "

Whether bin Laden is responsible for Monday's airline terrorist assault on
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - where thousands may have lost 
their lives - or merely gave it inspiration and moral support, it is clear
that the self-described freedom fighter may be the most difficult foe the 
US has faced in its history. As a financial patron for a loose network of 
like-minded but independent groups scattered from the Philippines to 
Afghanistan to Morocco and beyond, bin Laden has become an unlikely hero 
for millions of Muslims and a symbol of the growing clash between Western 
capitalism and democracy and militant Islam.

"They're winning the battle of the hearts, and minds, and we're losing it,"
says a Western military intelligence source in New Delhi with extensive 
experience in the Middle East. "What do people want? You give them food, 
housing, education. You give them hope, and that's exactly what Islamic 
groups are doing."

There was little in bin Laden's upbringing to indicate that he was 
destined for greatness. Born in 1957 one of the youngest of nearly 50 
children to a former bricklayer turned construction magnate, bin Laden 
grew up a rich kid in an increasingly wealthy country. He studied 
engineering in college, an indication that he intended to take over the 
family company, which by 1966 had become the largest private construction 
firm in the world.

All that changed in December 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded 
Afghanistan and propped up a communist government in Kabul. Arriving in 
the mid-1980s, bin Laden became the main financier for Maktab al-Khidamat 
("the Office of Services"), which recruited Muslims from local mosques 
around the world to fight against the Soviets as mujahideen, or "holy 
warriors." The contacts that bin Laden made at this time allowed him to 
organize an international network of motivated Islamic radicals, called 
Al-Qaeda (literally "the base").

When the mujahideen eventually forced the Soviet forces to leave 
Afghanistan in 1990, bin Laden returned to his home country, Saudi Arabia,
where he found the rulers inviting in American forces. This reportedly 
enraged the young leader, who was looking for a cause and more seriously 
studying Islam.

"It is very disruptive to lose your enemy as he did," says Post. "The way 
he dealt with it was to replace the Soviets with the Americans."

Many of his followers, well-trained Muslim warriors, also returned to 
their own countries, from North Africa to South Asia and even the United 
States, filled with experience and fueled with a passion to bring what 
they saw as a more pure form of Islamic government to their own countries.

Throughout the following years, bin Laden became more and more militant 
about expelling Americans from his holy land. In a series of fatwas or 
declarations and interviews, he increasingly became more hard-line. He 
stressed the significance of Muslims being killed all over the world - 
from the the US support of Israel and the suffering of Palestinian Muslims
to the mass graves of Muslims in Bosnia and the Chechen Muslims killed by 
the Russian military.

"There was a significant shift in 1998 from just getting the military out 
[of Saudi Arabia] to attacking all American civilians," says Post, who has
studied all of his speeches and appearances.

In the 1990s, he has been linked by US officials to:

* The 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six people;

* The 1995 and 1996 bombings in Saudi Arabia in which 22 American soldiers
were killed;

* The 1998 US Embassy bombings in East Africa, in which 224 people were 
killed, including 12 Americans;

* and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole at a port in Yemen, in which 17 US 
sailors were killed.

When bin Laden was expelled from Sudan under US and Saudi pressure and 
moved back to his one-time Afghan training camp near the city of Khost, he
quickly backed the latest rising star, Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar,
and asked him for asylum.

This appeal for asylum, Afghan experts say, is the reason why the Taliban 
are unlikely to hand him over to the US. For the ethnic Pashtuns, who 
dominate Afghan society and the Taliban, asylum is a sacred concept of 
hospitality in an often unhospitable desert landscape. The fact that the 
Taliban leader is reportedly also his father-in-law complicates the 

Even so, there are signs of tension between bin Laden and his patron, 
Mullah Omar. In May 1998, when Pakistan journalist Yusufzai arranged an 
interview with bin Laden in Khost, Mullah Omar was enraged, apparently 
because bin Laden did not seek permission. Within a week, the supreme 
Taliban leader issued a statement that "there can be only one supreme 
leader of Afghanistan" and bin Laden was not in Afghanistan "to conduct 
political or military activities." Bin Laden immediately issued a 
statement, calling Mullah Omar "the commander of the faithful" and by the 
year's end, refused to take further interviews.

While it's unclear how much money bin Laden has given to the Taliban over 
the years - Mullah Omar recently told Yusufzai that bin Laden is broke, 
and now the Taliban give him money - bin Laden's logistical and 
inspirational support is undeniable.

In the Pakistani border town of Peshawar, where bin Laden once made his 
base during the Soviet war, bin Laden is still regarded as a hero. On the 
streets, vendors sell T-shirts with bin Laden's name in Arabic, calling 
him a "world hero" and a "great mujahid of the Islamic people." And, while
many Pakistanis denounce the attacks against the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon, they support bin Laden's war to defend Islamic nations against
"Western domination."

What's clear from this sentiment, and the fact that many of his former 
warriors are ready to pick up arms and follow them, is that they identify 
with him as their leader. "We can only imagine his sense of triumph now," 
Post says. "This not only emboldens him more, but brings him support and 
consolidates his position as the major radical leader."