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My Father, the Terrorist

Author: Thomas W. Lippman, Adjunct Scholar, Middle East Institute
November 15, 2009
Washington Post

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For readers who have been living on another planet for the past decade or so, here is the news: Osama bin Laden is a monster, a priapic zealot who was as cruel and arrogant in family life as he has been in his bloodstained public career. Not only is he a mass murderer, he is committed to inflicting death on as many people as possible. He lives to kill, the pursuit of violent jihad overpowering even the most basic human feelings and paternal concerns. He was a tyrannical and selfish father who deprived his many children of education, food and the comforts of modern life. From his wives he insisted on absolute subservience, sexual and otherwise. His only friends are the sycophantic thugs of his al-Qaeda entourage. At home he forbade laughter, not that there was much to laugh about.

We may have long suspected all this. Now our suspicions are confirmed by "Growing Up bin Laden," a repellent but oddly fascinating as-told-to memoir by bin Laden's first wife, Najwa, and fourth son, Omar. Assuming that their accounts, as recorded by Jean Sasson, are truthful, we have an inside-the-tent view of a person so blinded by his cause that he strips himself of all humanity.

 

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