Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted terrorist, died on May 2nd, aged 54
May 5th 2011 | from the print edition
WHEN he gave interviews to foreign journalists, which he did rarely, Osama bin Laden had a way of looking down at his hands. This, and his soft, slightly raspy voice, and his gentle eyes—as well as the fact that he allowed no instantaneous translation—helped conceal what he was saying: that it was the duty of all Muslims to kill unbelievers, especially Americans, and that when he had seen the bodies of the infidels flying “like dust motes” on September 11th 2001, his heart had filled with joy.
His mien was that of the sage, not the killer. He seldom shed blood himself, though his treasured Kalashnikov, which he carried everywhere, was said to have been wrested in single combat from a Russian soldier in Afghanistan. As a rule he observed from afar as “his boys” blew up the American base at Khobar in Saudi Arabia, or the USS Cole in Yemen (he wrote a poem about that, the little dinghy bobbing on the waves) or the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, where in 1998 more than 200 died. Terrorism could be commendable or reprehensible, he smoothly agreed, but this was “blessed terror”, in defence of Islam. At first he denied any part in the 9/11 attacks, but at last pride got the better of him: yes, it was he who had guided his 19 brothers towards their “easy” targets.