It took them ten minutes to get to the third floor where he is. He has heard the helicopters, the screams, the shots. In the room where he meets his fifth wife there is an Ak-47 and a Russian-made pistol, but he decides not to take them.
The SEALs break into the room. His hands are resting on his wife’s shoulder. Everything is very fast. Two quick shots. According to the man who pulled the trigger, the retired operator Robert O’Neill, “his head was opened.” A message resounds on the radio: “Geronimo, E-KIA ( enemy kill in action ). It is May 2, 2011 and Osama Bin Laden , the West’s public enemy number 1, has just been executed after almost ten years of hunting.
Surely many years before, that Saudi boy, of a Syrian mother and Yemeni father, born in Riyadh in 1957, the seventeenth of the 54 children of the great Saudi construction magnant Mohammed Bin Laden , could not imagine what his end would be like while he watched his favorite western series on television from his home in Jeddah, where he grew up, Bonanza and Fury , as both Lawrence Wright and Peter Bergen collect in their essential books The Towering Tower and Osama Up Close.
Perhaps shortly afterwards he could imagine it. Around adolescence, Osama, already a believer, the son of a man of fanatical faith and a close friend of the royal family, seems to find the flame of his cause. Some sources speak of a gymnastics teacher who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since then he will stop wearing Western clothes and watching US television shows . They say that he cried on television when he saw news about the great trauma of the Arab world: the situation in Palestine.
When he is only about 10 years old, his father dies in a plane crash. Osama, unlike some of his relatives, will not choose to live a life of luxury, international universities and world travel . He will study economics at the university of his city, where he will continue to deepen his radical Islamist vision. Later, he will begin to work in the family business, eagerly, trying to emulate his idolized, albeit distant, father, a Yemeni migrant, almost illiterate, who managed to build one of the largest companies and fortunes in the country.
Osama bin LadenOsama bin LadenWikimedia Commons
In 1979, the world underwent profound transformations that affected Bin Laden and his conscience: the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan convinced a 22-year-old Osama that a step more. He will leave his working career and embrace jihad in the Central Asian country that will mark his entire later life.
I thought that if there are good bunkers, there will be good jihad
Your work in Afghanistan, at first, will be that of donor, funder and base builder. Tall, good-looking and with a calm and friendly character, according to some, an Arab journalist who covered that conflict drew a profile “as a businessman” of him: “He calculated down to the last detail ( …). He was extremely organized (. ..). He brought heavy machinery to build bunkers and roads to help the Mujahideen, because he believed that if there are good bunkers, there will be good jihad . “
Later he will form a legion of pro-Afghan Arab fighters and will go on to fight the Soviets on the ground, achieving more propaganda than military successes. That experience will give him confidence in his future plans, because, in his vision, a few armed men of faith had succeeded in defeating a superpower.
A year before the Afghan victory over the USSR, in 1988, Osama along with other Arab veterans of the war founded Al Qaeda , the base. An organization that mixes elements of the most radical Wahhabism – the illusion of uniting the entire Muslim world under Sharia and fighting the infidels – and conservative – “Women of my line! Never use cosmetics or imitate the whores and tomboys of The West, “he would write – and revolutionary and anti-colonial elements. They were preparing to wage global war.
Dick Cheney with the Saudi Defense Minister during the Gulf WarDick Cheney with the Saudi Defense Minister during the Gulf WarUS DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Shortly after, with the First Gulf War, Osama breaks ties with his own country. Saudi Arabia becomes an ally of the United States and the West against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – whom it also despised – and allows the deployment of its troops on its territory.
Seeing American soldiers on the very ground of the holy places of Islam is too much for the leader of Al Qaeda. His frontal opposition to the royal family, which his father served so much and the one that served him to enrich himself, causes him to be banished and his citizenship taken away. He will march to Sudan for five years, but pressure from the United States and the Saudi kingdom will cause him to settle with his family in 1996 – he had four wives and thirteen children – in Afghanistan., hosted and protected by his great ally, the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar.
From there, Bin Laden and his followers will plan a total jihad against the US and the West. His radicalism and cruelty will be sharpened. Although at first they rule out killing American civilians – with the Jews it was different – they will soon affirm that it is lawful to annihilate any infidel. In a 2002 interview, after 9/11, Bin Laden said that it was “really strange” to him that there was talk of the death of “innocent civilians”: “We kill unfaithful civilians to compensate children among our own. the ones they kill . This is permissible from a legal as well as an intellectual point of view. “
Despite leading a humble and deprived life, without any luxury, Osama Bin Laden has something that connects him with the American culture of marketing and advertising. His vision of greatness and his need to tout it. In Afghanistan, he was aware that a small military success of his hundreds of Arab volunteers garnered more attention than the great victories of the Afghans. He was very aware of the media power. In a letter between two of his close al Qaeda associates in 1999, one commented: “I think our brother has contracted the disease of screens, flashes, fans and applause.”
Brain or visible face?
And it is true that much has been discussed whether Osama Bin Laden was really the great leader and mastermind of Al Qaeda and its terrorist plans or the visible face, the charismatic leader, of the complex and networked structure of Islamist terrorism.
Bin Laden was already US Public Enemy No. 1 before 9/11 thanks to the brutal attacks on the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and the attack on the US cruise ship Cole in Aden, to which Osama dedicated a poem of his own. hand and letter. Already in the days of Bill Clinton, the US police and intelligence machinery encircled Al Qaeda and, in fact, came close to stopping 9/11.
Since September 11, 2001, Bin Laden has become the global terrorist par excellence and the creator of the worst nightmares in the West. He would go so far as to assure that with their objectives, the Pentagon and the Twin Towers, they sought “to destroy the greatest military power in the world” and “the greatest economic power.”
It was the great and macabre triumph of Bin Laden and the great step towards the long-awaited martyrdom. In a 2002 magazine will, Bin Laden writes “Allah bears witness that love for jihad and death for Allah’s sake have dominated my life . ” Even some of his collaborators and allies believed that these titanic attacks were a mistake because they would not withstand the US response.In a few weeks, the Afghanistan of the Taliban is swept by the US – for a period of barely twenty years as we have just finished. attend- and Bin Laden, after being encircled in the Tora Bora Mountains, escapes from Afghanistan.
Little is known of the Saudi’s whereabouts in subsequent years. The US was offering a $ 50 million reward on his head. The world was burning from the effects of 9/11 and Al Qaeda would gradually fade, despite still achieving some terrible attacks.
What is certain is that his last years of life were spent in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, in a large house where he lived cloistered with his family and a few followers. Without internet, the information that was collected on the hard drives and material that the SEALs removed in the operation of his death and that have been broadcast in a National Geographic documentary shows an austere and family life. Old clothes were burned. He watched Sesame Street with his grandchildren. There was porn – but it is believed not for personal consumption, but because the organization placed encrypted messages on them.
A family life in which perhaps he remembered another fragment of his will from 2002: “As for my children, forgive me that I have dedicated only a little of my time to you since I responded to the call of jihad. I have chosen a path plagued with dangers and that is why I have suffered deprivation, bitterness, kinks and betrayals. I advise you not to work with Al Qaeda. “
Contrary to what some thought, Osama continues in contact with his followers and some messages show him concerned about the safety of his followers abroad. Precisely that contact will be his death sentence. The CIA will track down the courier bringing the communications to your home and target Abbottabad. Barack Obama , the idealistic president who wanted to end the War on Terror, will score the goal of his death in a moment of political need. The United States, to end its greatest enemy, had placed all its material, economic, technological, military and moral power on the altar of sacrifice.
In this sort of attraction between Bin Laden and the US, someone in Washington decided to code him after Gerónimo, the well-known Apache warrior with a Hispanic name who put the US forces in check in the 19th century. A denomination full of possible connotations on both sides, full of images for that child who saw Bonanza and whose only great hobby was riding a horse. An apparent and colossal cultural and propaganda error . But the Apache leader surrendered to General Crooke in 1886. “Once I was like the wind. Now I surrender myself to you, and that’s it,” they say he claimed.
Bin Laden did not turn himself in. With his head shattered, his body was taken out by helicopter and transferred to the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier where, according to the administration, a funeral was officiated with the Islamic rite and he was thrown into the sea.