Osama Bin Laden Urged His Sons to Be Suicide Bombers
Osama bin Laden raised his family of five wives (plus one marriage that was annulled) and more than a dozen children in a way meant to make them tough and ready for the rigors of war. He shunned air conditioning and refrigerators in the desert heat, banned toys and the kind of laughter that showed too many teeth, refused to wince when his men used Omar's puppies as the victims in chemical weapons tests. He would cane his children for the slightest misbehavior, at times hitting them so hard the stick would break.
"He didn't treat us differently than any of his followers. He just expected us to act like everyone else, because he was the leader," said Omar. He and his brothers were given weapons training. In a breaking point between them, Osama encouraged them to sign up for suicide missions, volunteering to blow themselves up.
"We were shocked. Why would our father say something like this to us? After he went away we just talked about it and said this was never going to happen, this was not our way." Omar found the rare and substantial nerve it took to talk back.
"I objected, and said why did you do this? What is the point? He didn't respond. We were not more important than his big goal...and nothing would stop him from this."
Omar shrugged off the notion that his father had a cruel streak. He saw the spartan treatment as part of Osama's worldview. In his book "Growing Up Bin Laden," Omar noted the change in his father when he lands back in Afghanistan amid the violence of war and begins a rugged trip to a complex of barren caves in the Tora Bora mountains.
"I looked at my father. He did not seem to mind the trying conditions, but seemed exhilarated by them," Omar wrote. He added with a grudging admiration, "No matter what, my father was a tough man."
In Omar's book, his father became infuriated with the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia, arriving to protect against an attack by Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War. (Omar says his father disliked the secular Saddam, and that there was "no contact, no connection" between the men.)
In August 1996 Bin Laden declared war on America from his Afghan cave, citing the fact that U.S. forces were still in the Persian Gulf.
His father's pitch to the incoming mujahideen was different, focused on Arab discontent over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an issue with broader appeal. They came in droves, a new generation of men seeking jihad, or holy war, against the infidels of the West.
Omar described how during meetings of mujahideen in Kandahar, leaders would play videos of perceived Israeli atrocities, the demolition of homes and the killing of civilians. Men would leave the meeting raging to fight. Between Israel and America, Osama saw America as an easier target.
"He thinks America is weaker than Israel. America is easier to get attacked, with its huge cities," Omar said. "He sees America is the main power, but in fact is weak in certain ways."