Tuesday, June 14, 2005

GLOBAL JIHAD: Osama's Road to Riches and Terror

Mohammed bin Laden had no quarrels with either the preachers or the princes; his only goal was to make it to the top, and the construction business was the ideal launching pad. The kingdom needed roads, railroads and airports. Bin Laden senior built ramps in the palace for the handicapped King Abd al-Aziz's wheelchair and highways into the mountains for his luxury cars. Bin Laden was later named Minister of Public Spending, and the royal family even awarded him the contract to renovate the country's holy sites. The family business, SBG, quickly developed into the court builder for the entire Saudi infrastructure. Following an old Islamic tradition, the bin Laden senior kept numerous wives. In 1956, he sired child number 17 with a Syrian woman from Latakia, and the boy was named Osama. It must have been difficult for the patriarch to keep track of his family; ten years later, child number 54 was born -- Mohammed bin Laden's last offspring. In 1968, the patriarch was killed when his Cessna, piloted by an American, crashed -- a foreshadowing of things to come. The king placed the family business, SBG, under the management of a trustee, making the bin Laden sons the de facto wards of the monarch. Osama was ten years old at the time and he was occasionally allowed to ride along on the company's bulldozers. But he had hardly known his father -- a deficit he recognized only later in life when he elevated the family's patriarch to the status of Spiritus Rector in matters of Islamic fundamentalism. Even as a boy, Osama was always considered the "holy one" in the family. He drew attention to himself when he denounced school soccer tournaments as a godless waste of time and assiduously monitored the houses of neighbors, taking it upon himself to enforce the state's prohibition of music. He enrolled in the economics program at Jeddah's King Abd al-Aziz University, where the curriculum was determined by anti-Western agitators from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Read Part One and Part Two