Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Middle Way, Even With Bin Laden

Osama bin Laden's son wants to mediate between his father and the West. He claims his father wants a truce. Omar bin Laden and his wife are planning a cross-Africa bicycle race to raise money and awareness for kids injured in the religious wars there. This is a good cause. And perhaps young bin Laden, who is 26, is right that a negotiated settlement with Al-Qaida is possible. It seems unlikely, but I honor anyone willing to make the attempt, however quixotic.

On the other hand, Omar does appear to be a bit of a flake. His partner in this desert bicycle race is new wife, an English woman twice his age who is now on her fifth husband. And it is more of a hoot than a sign of serious politics to see an Osama lookalike in dreadlocks a biker jacket.

There was one fascinating insight into bin Laden thinking in this article. Omar told the Associate Press reporter,
"My father is asking for a truce but I don't think there is any government (that) respects him. At the same time they do not respect him, why everywhere in the world, they want to fight him? There is a contradiction."

If Osama bin Laden thinks that forcing all governments (including his own) to fight him means that they must respect him, then I think we have a window into his tangled mind. And, oddly enough, this might make it truly possible that he would also take our willingness of negotiate as a sign of respect. If that is what it takes to get him to stop murdering people, it is worth a try.


Anonymous said...

The word "son" looks slippery to me. There's a core biology, of course, but the psychology, culture, and social structure may be profoundly different.

When you call Trilby "my son," you're describing a relationship lived in detail pretty much every day of the kid's life. He's the only boy in a small, intense nuclear family.

Is the Osama/Omar relationship really like that? Isn't Omar one of many children by multiple wives? Even if his father wasn't a nomadic militant who had been organizing armed struggles with superpowers for a quarter-century, I don't think there could be the same kind of intense connection.

I'm glad the son has chosen a more constructive path, but I'm not sure it signals anything about the father other than some of his family ties either frayed or were never well-knit to begin with.

brax4444 said...

You are against the U.S. policy of not negotiating with terrorists?

Gruntled said...

Omar did spend more time with Osama than some of his many kids did. He was with him in Afghanistan until 2000, then changed paths. But, no, I hope my relationship with my son is better than the bin Laden norm.

As to negotiating with terrorists, the ban only applies to the U.S. government. Bin Laden has a beef with many more parties than that.