OSAMA BIN LADEN was one of the 54 children of Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, a construction magnate who made his fortune by cozening up to the royal family of Saudi Arabia. The bin Laden family has had an intimate relationship with the upper reaches of global power politics for the past half a century.
In 1996, after the bombing of the Khobar Towers for which Osama took credit, the Saudi Binladen Group was given the contract to rebuild the facility.
Also in 1996, FBI agents in the Washington field office were investigating the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, a suspected terrorist organization that included Abdullah bin Laden, the group’s president and treasurer, and Omar bin Laden. BBC News uncovered internal FBI documents showing how the agents were ordered to stop their investigation. The case was only reopened the week after 9/11 and the day after both brothers fled the US with FBI permission.
In 1998, another FBI investigation into the bin Laden brothers, this one initated by the New York field office, was called off by the State Department because, it was revealed, the bin Laden family had been granted Saudi diplomatic passports in 1996 and thus had diplomatic immunity inside the United States.
In the days after 9/11, two dozen members of the Bin Laden family and over 100 members of the Saudi royal family were flown to assembly points in Texas and Washington and then flown out of the country. At least one of these flights took place during the total ban on civilian air traffic over North American airspace. Declassified FBI documents show that the Bureau believed the bin Laden family flight out of the country—carrying suspected terrorists Abdullah and Omar bin Laden—was chartered by Osama bin Laden himself, but some of the passengers, including Abdullah, were not even interviewed in person by the FBI before their departure.
Of course, for the purveyors of the official conspiracy theory of Al-Qaeda, none of this has any relevance because the Saudi Binladin Group, the family business conglomerate, issued a terse, two-sentence statement in April of 1994 publicly disowning Osama. The facts, however, indicate that this public disowning was in fact a ruse.
In 2004, Osama’s half-brother Yeslam Binladin admitted that the family shared a joint Swiss bank account with Osama. The account was not closed until 1997, the year after the Khobar Towers bombing.
Yeslam’s ex-wife, Carmen, has also stated that she “cannot believe” that the family “have cut off Osama completely,” as have Vincent Cannistraro, the former head of the CIA Counter Terrorism Center, Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA bin Laden unit, and the French intelligence service, which released a report two days after 9/11 indicating they believed the bin Laden family to be covertly aiding Osama.
Nonetheless, the question remains: do the bin Laden family connections to the highest circles of power in the American political establishment have any relevance to the story of Osama bin Laden? Is there any evidence that American intelligence was involved with Osama himself over the years?
During Operation Cyclone, the US government funded the Afghan mujahedeen in their struggle against the Soviets in the largest covert operation in CIA history to that time. An estimated $5 billion in arms and funding were supplied to the jihadis, including stinger anti-aircraft missiles and other equipment that kept the Soviet Red Army bogged down in the country for years.
Officially, the CIA’s contact was limited to the Afghans themselves, and no funding was given to the so-called Arab Afghans like Osama bin Laden, the Muslims from the Arab world who came to Afghanistan to aid in their fight against the Soviets. In reality, however, CIA funds were being funnelled to the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service that distributed those funds to the Arab Afghans through an organization called MAK, or the Bureau of Services. Osama bin Laden was the one in charge of MAK’s finances.
This much was admitted by Osama’s brother Salem in 1985, who confessed that Osama was “the liaison between the US, the Saudi government and the Afghan rebels” at the time. In 1986, Salem asked the Pentagon for anti-aircraft missiles on Osama’s behalf.
The former chief of the US visa bureau in Jeddah, Michael Springmann, has testified that during his time there, he was respeatedly ordered by CIA officials to approve visas for bin Laden’s mujahedeen cohorts so that they could be provided training at US military bases. 11 of the 19 alleged 9/11 hijackers would go on to get their visas from the same consulate.
FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds has admitted that in her time at the FBI she saw proof that the US had maintained a “very intimate relationship” with bin Laden all the way though the 1990s up to September 11th.
The Guardian reported that Osama had travelled to the American Hospital in Dubai for kidney dialysis treatment in June 2001. While there, he was visited by the local CIA station chief. When the CIA official later boasted about having met Osama bin Laden, he was promptly recalled to Washington.
In a July 2005 article in the Guardian, Robin Cook, the former speaker of the House of Commons, asserted that the name Al Qaeda itself actually referred to the database containing CIA assets from the Afghan mujahedeen struggle.
Even Osama’s alleged responsibility for the 9/11 events has been repeatedly called into question. In the weeks after the attack, the Taliban offered to hand bin Laden over if the US provided proof that he was connected to 9/11. Bush turned the offer down. After the invasion of Afghanistan began in October, the Taliban again tried to hand him over, this time dropping the request for proof of bin Laden’s guilt. Bush again refused.
After video of what the Pentagon alleged was Osama bin Laden confessing to the 9/11 attacks emerged in December 2001, a German national news program conducted its own investigation into the tape. According to its own, independent translators, every single point in the video that the Pentagon alleges indicate Osama’s foreknowledge or complicity in the 9/11 attack has been mistranslated, and the video does not in fact provide any proof of confession.
Famously, FBI spokesman Rex Tomb told investigative journalist Ed Haas that the FBI did not include 9/11 on bin Laden’s “most wanted” profile because there was no hard evidence connecting him to the crime.
And yet within the first minute of TV coverage of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center on 9/11, Osama bin Laden was named as the likely perpetrator of the event. This idea solidified into a near certainty within hours, and the 24/7 news coverage shifted almost immediately to the question of when the US would invade Afghanistan.
In an interview the day after 9/11, confronted with this tendency of the press to jump to conclusions about Osama bin Laden, ex-CIA station chief Milt Bearden made some unexpected statements about the supposed terrorist mastermind.
And now, in May of 2011, after Osama bin Laden has been allegedly tracked down and allegedly shot by a Navy Seal team, after a trillion dollars and two wars have been waged in the name of fighting his shadowy, non-existent terror organization, as the very fabric of our society itself has been torn asunder in the neverending hunt for the terrorist bogeyman under our collective bed, perhaps it is time to ask once again what Osama bin Laden means to us, after all.
If one were to base their understanding of Osama bin Laden solely on mainstream media coverage of him over the last 10 years, a very different picture would emerge to the one that you have just been presented.
This media-constructed image would be one of a radical Muslim who appeared out of nowhere in the 1990s to begin a string of increasingly devastating terror attacks on American targets. After masterminding the 9/11 attacks in some undefined manner from a cave fortress in the hills of Afghanistan, he supposedly outwitted and outmanoeuvred the combined might of the most powerful military and the most technologically sophisticated intelligence dragnet in the history of the world for an entire decade, all the while releasing videos and audiotapes from his secret compound to taunt his would-be captors. Finally, we are told, he was tracked down and shot in a special forces raid during which live video transmissions were inexplicably unavailable and then buried at sea before his death could be confirmed by any independent third party.
What emerges from the official Osama bin Laden story is not a person but a comic book villain, a faceless, mysterious, motivationless embodiment of “terrorism” with all the reality of a Lex Luther or Cobra Commander. His is a powerful myth, made all the more powerful because it has been constructed and promoted by the very politicians and string-pullers who claim to be opposing him.
Like Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein, his face can be put before the public from time to time to produce the Two Minute Hate, a cathartic projection of anger upon an empty image. We know to hiss when his picture is dangled before us and cheer when we are told he is dead. But always, always, it is stressed that he is fearsome, that he is ruthless, and that the only way to stop him is to surrender our rights and freedoms. Even in death, we are told, he and the mythical army of devotees he supposedly ruled over, are a clear and present danger to our society necessitating the continuation of the neverending wars against abstract nouns, TSA agents groping children at the airports and extra-judicial no-fly lists that are turning in to no-ride lists and no-buy lists.
The only thing we can say for certain is that the Osama bin Laden character has now been disposed of in a far-fetched burial story only fitting of his cartoonish myth. And now the public is already being prepared for his replacement myths, a gaggle of similarly cartoonish characters no less connected to the Western intelligence establishment than Osama himself.
But after finally waking from the 10-year nightmare of the Osama bin Laden fable, are the public willing to go straight back to sleep? Or are they going to start questioning the official narratives that are cemented into place in the wake of every large-scale event, narratives that always support more government intrusion in our lives, expanded wars of aggression around the globe and an ever-expanding police state?
It’s an important question, and one that must be answered quickly, while the public is still wary and skeptical of a government that has lied to them time and time again and then refuses to provide that public with a single credible shred of proof that the largest manhunt in the history of America has ended with the disposal of this intelligence asset, Osama bin Laden.
For if the public does choose to go back to sleep and dismiss the copious documentary evidence that the entire war on terror is a fraud being perpetrated by the same people who claim to be fighting the terrorists, we may never be able to awake from whatever nightmare they have planned for us next.
James Corbett is an independent journalist who has been living and working in Japan since 2004. He has been writing and producing The Corbett Report, an online multi-media news and information source, since 2007. His forthcoming book, Reportage: Essays on the New World Order, will be available for purchase in early 2011.
For more information about Corbett and his background, please listen to Episode 163 of The Corbett Report podcast, Meet James Corbett
Postscript: An interview with Osama bin Laden was published in a Karachi-based Pakistani daily newspaper, Ummat, on September 28, 2001. In this interview, bin Laden says of the September 11 attacks in the US:
“I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of a battle.
It is the United States, which is perpetrating every maltreatment on women, children and common people of other faiths, particularly the followers of Islam.”