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The Life of Osama Bin Laden: A Rich Kid Gone Very Bad
The story is not unfamiliar. It is repeated often enough in the human development. A good kid, from a wealthy family, gone bad as an adult. Sometimes, it is a poor kid gone bad as an adult. With al-Qaeda's master terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, it was the former.
It began in 1957, when he was born to his father and mother, Mohammed bin Laden and Alia Ghanem, a low ranking Syrian woman on the list of many wives his father had procured. His father was Yemen but moved to Saudi Arabia and began a multi-million construction company that still is huge, The Saudi Bin Laden group, that has built many of that countries buildings and mosques.
Osama was a normal kid from a rich family. His parents divorced shortly after his birth (she was one of 12 wives and he was 17th of 50 children in the Arab family). He grew up in a very cosmopolitan area and would ride his horse, play in the stables. At night, for dinner, his mom would dress up and use Chanel perfume. Like many kids today, he was raised and lived with his mom and his step-dad and their four kids. Like, most rich kids, he attended the best schools and prestigious private schools while growing up in Jeddah and wore English-styled prep uniforms along with other Saudi princes. Classes included English and math. School mates recall how the tall (6' 4"), thin teenager was a great soccer player especially his ability to conduct the head shot. At that height, he would be prime for basketball. At age 10, his father was killed and he inherited $80,000,000. Once out of school, he traveled to Europe and Lebanon to experience it and meet girls. However, he fell in love with his cousin at 17, while attending King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah studying civil engineering. He was planning to join his father's company.
His path started to veer into the extreme slowly then (mid-70s) when he met Abdullah Azzam, a devout Muslim extremist from the Muslim Brotherhood who preached that Muslims should strive to reunite all lands that had been under Islamic rule. This was the seed that grew within him. It became his passion. As a college student, others state he was average in his class but had so much money, he had no clue what to do with it. The seed planted in the mid-70s had turned into action after the 1979 Iranian US Embassy take over and the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan. His friend urged him to go Afghanistan to fight the Russians. He did and he felt enraged once he saw what the Soviets were doing to the local population. But he was not on the front lines there at the start, he was the fundraiser, he contributed his own to buy weapons and recruit other Mujahedeen warriors. He was 26. He would visit the warriors and encourage them and provide financial support to their families. He was regarded as a rich Saudi prince and good samaritan. He also imported heavy construction equipment to built tunnels and roads. Up until 1988, one could say, he helped the West counter the Soviets in Afghanistan by his support and may have met covertly with CIA agents who also provided arms via Pakistan.
Al-qaeda was born in 1988, after the Soviets left the Afghanistan quagmire and Ayman el-Zawahiri, a doctor, joined him. It was the doctor that was much more radical than bin Laden in radical jihadist beliefs. But the doctor needed bin-Ladens money. Al-Qaeda's debut was a result of the US military rushing into Saudi Arabia to protect it when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Osama had offered his home country to protect it using the Mujahedeen fighters he had befriended in Afghanistan. The Saudi response was no and then kicked him out for being radical. With American troops in the land of Islam's holiest shrines, Osama, was hurt and enraged. He was pissed. That was the "camel that broke his back". From that point on, America and the West, were in his gunsight.
However, in 2002, he still maintained contacts with his family's business and donated to Afghan charities. In fact, when the Taliban banned secular school for Aghanistan children, Osama hired tutors to secretly teach them English, Arabic, math and science
Osama was four times and has 12 kids. Two of the wives were arrested, one was killed, during the firefight in Pakistan that led to his own death. The most ironic thing about his death is that he was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A town named after British General James Abbott, who founded it in 1853 and home of Pakistan's "West Point" cadet school.