Written June, 2004.
It's an old adage, "the straw that broke the camel's back", indicative of a pivotal moment in one's life that causes a step-wise change in
attitude toward some aspect of life. And usually, when the back breaks, the result is not a positive. There is the good chance that an
anti-American sentiment was instilled and fostered in Osama bin Laden while at university, but the moment of bin Laden's violence-inducing
animosity toward the western world in general, and the U.S. specifically, seems to be a back-breaking step-wise occurrence that can be easily
pinpointed. And the pin points most often to the Saud Royal family.
Osama bin Laden's biography is available on line here
. Much has
been written about his life and therefore this article is not intended as a biography. This article addresses the analysis of when bin Laden
stepped over the line to declare war and his western jihad.
As previously stated, there is a high probability that Osama was introduced to fanatical anti-western philosophy and the concept of jihad against
western ways (at least against Israel and its allies) while at university. He attended the King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It
is worth noting that sources reportedly close to Osama have stated that at this time he was "very non- confrontational". While there, one of his
professors and most admired mentors was Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azzam.
Sheikh Azzam is considered the "godfather of Jihad". He began " fighting the good fight" in his early years while in Jordan. He fought in the
1967 war against Israel in the West Bank of Jordan, and after the 1967 war he fought in the jihad against Israeli occupation. Eventually, the
Jordanian government took action to drive the PLO out of Jordan and Sheikh Azzam found himself a jihadist without a cause and fled to Egypt and
eventually the King Abdul-Aziz University in Saudi. One would be remiss to not point out what the crux of Azzam's philosophy was, and it is best
stated by his current day admirers:
"The Sheikh's life revolved around a single goal, namely the establishment of Allah's Rule on earth, this being the clear responsibility of
each and every Muslim. So in order to accomplish his life's noble mission of restoring the Khilafah, the Sheikh focused on Jihad (the armed
struggle to establish Islam). He believed Jihad must be carried out until the Khilafah (Islamic Rule) is established so the light of Islam may
shine on the whole world."
And furthermore, these same sources state that Azzam, acting as an evangelist of jihad, saw only one way to implement this:
"From his pulpit Sheikh Azzam was always reiterating his conviction that "Jihad must not be abandoned until Allah (SWT) alone is worshipped (by
mankind). Jihad continues until Allah's Word is raised high. Jihad until all the oppressed peoples are freed. Jihad to protect our dignity and
restore our occupied lands. Jihad is the way of everlasting glory". When Sheikh Azzam realised that only by means of an organised force would the
Ummah ever be able to gain victory, then Jihad and the Gun became his pre-occupation and recreation. " Jihad and the rifle alone: no negotiations,
no conferences and no dialogues." he would say."
It is not a stretch to conclude that Osama was a follower of Azzam; and that statement is made literally. In 1979 Sheikh Azzam moved from Saudi
Arabia to Pakistan for the purpose of supporting the Afghan Jihad. Shortly after this, in 1980, Osama bin Laden did the same. Eventually, Osama
landed in Afghanistan proper, and fought with the mujahedeen as early as the first two weeks of the invading Soviet forces.
Nothing should be taken away from what Osama did for the Afghani people during this time. Osama was instrumental in organizing and funding the
mujahedeen. He set up training camps, and safe houses ( most notably the "Guest House" in Peshawar, Pakistan), and he traveled back and forth
between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia recruiting young men to fight in the mujahedeen cause. And he fought along side them. He was, in fact, a hero
and instrumental in the defeat of the Soviet invading forces in Afghanistan.
In 1988 Osama became disturbed by his inability to account for fighters who migrated to Afghanistan to fight in the mujahedeen. Their family would
contact him asking about their status, and due to disorganization he would be unable to account for them. This disturbed Osama enough that he took
organizing actions. All movement of mujahedeen and visitors would be documented and their arrival and departure from the guesthouse and the camps
would be recorded. It was at this time that the entire infrastructure in Pakistan and Afghanistan came to be known as Al-Qa'edah
That these years of jihad on the Afghani battlefield and the resultant victory against the invaders affected his psyche cannot be dismissed. As
some analysts have stated, it instilled a sense of invulnerability. But also, with the Islamic upbringing, and the teachings of Sheikh Azzam
driving him, it most assuredly also enforced that Allah was smiling on his actions. Though these underlying theological and philosophical
ideaologies might be found to be offensive to some, the actions taken by Osama to this point in his life were not only understandable, but
In 1989 the Afghanistan jihad had come to a successful end. Osama now looked for his new jihad front and decided that it should be in South Yemen.
He returned to Saudi Arabia at this time, allegedly for just a normal visit to his family. While in Saudi, the Kingdom placed a travel ban on Osama
and he was basically trapped in the country. It is alleged that the Saud Royal family was both displeased with his talk of jihad in Yemen, but also
with several speeches he gave while in Saudi Arabia which discussed the "impending invasion by Saddam". Because the Saudi Royal Family had a good
relationship with Saddam at the time, these speeches were not taken well. Osama was order to keep a low profile and to disengage from public
When Saddam invaded Kuwait, Osama took it as a fulfillment of his predictions. He immediately wrote a letter to the king offering to bring the
mujahedeen from Afghanistan into Saudi to protect them from what he saw as an imminent threat of invasion. The victory in Afghanistan and the
invulnerability, and feeling of divine guidance most assuredly fueled this well-intentioned offer by Osama. The Saudi government is reported to
have considered the offer. But as Osama stood ready to call to action the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, the first potentially back-breaking event
occurred. The Saudi royal family turned to the U.S. American forces entered the kingdom for the fight against Saddam that Osama felt was divinely
his. Instead of his Allah-backed jihadi forces defending the Islamic region, the infidels had been called to stand in the holy regions to drive
back the Iraqi forces and potentially defend the Saudi kingdom.
Even though Osama is reported to have described this moment as " shocking" and immediately took peaceful, religious action to speak against it, by
going to the Ummam and obtaining a fatwah against the royal family's decision, this event only strained the camel's back - it did not break it.
And though Osama was deeply disappointed in the Saudi's decision, he had not gone "anti-Saudi" yet.
But apparently the Saudi family had gone "anti-Osama". Somewhere between 1992 and 1994 the Saudi's took their first actions against Osama. He
had already fled the country and after visits to Afghanistan and Yemen, had landed in Sudan where he was profiting from a construction boom in that
country. Sometime during this period the Saudi government privately froze his assets in that country. And in 1994 the Royal family went public
with its animosity toward bin Laden by announcing the withdrawal of his Saudi citizenship.
During this same period of time two anti-American incidences occurred that have been connected to bin Laden*. The attempted bombing of U.S. troops
in Yemen in 1992, and the attack of U.S. troops in Somalia in 1993. It can only be assumed that these activities were the driving force behind the
Saudi royal family's decision to withdraw his citizenship and it can also be assumed there was most likely U.S. pressure to do so.
But another incident happened in the spring of 1995; a car bomb attack in Riyadh against American military. And as the source states in bin
Laden's biography: "Bin Laden never claimed responsibility, but the Saudi government tried to link the incident to bin Laden by showing video
confessions of four "Arab Afghans" involved in the bombing."*
In May 1996, upon the claims of the Saudi government, and under pressure from the U.S. government, the Sudanese government expelled bin Laden. This
act, which could only be seen by Osama as being an Islamic government acting against a Muslim "fighter for the cause" at the behest of the Great
Satan, in combination with the kowtowing of the Saudi family to the U.S. military was, in fact, the last straw. In August of that same year, back
in what must have now become his " beloved" Afghanistan, he penned his 12-page fatwa which has become known as his "Declaration of War".
This fatwa by Osama details exactly what had led to both his anti- Saudi and anti-American resolve. The writing is split almost 50/50 between
railings against the Saudi family and condemnation of the U.S. military presence in the "Holy Lands". Osama is as incensed at the secularism that
has taken place in Saudi as he is at the presence of a foreign force on the kingdom's soil, and, in fact, implies the former has resulted in the
latter. It is apparent that he feels what has led to the "invasion" of Muslim lands by foreign forces is as much a leaving behind of theocracy in
Saudi Arabia to a more democratic rule than any other root cause.
He rails against the secularism of Saudi Arabia and claims the oppression of the Saudi people via the country's debt, inflation, and corrupt
dealings of the Saudi family. He itemizes the actions that have removed the legitimacy of the Saudi family as:
* "Suspension of the Islamic Shari'ah law and exchanging it with man made civil law."
* "The inability of the regime to protect the country, and allowing the enemy of the Ummah - the American crusader forces- to occupy the land for
the longest of years."
And then he quotes the accusations railed against the Saudi family from a report entitled "the glorious Memorandum Of Advice" which was apparently
drawn up by a number of Saudi citizens and delivered to the king:
* "The intimidation and harassment suffered by the leaders of the society, the scholars, heads of tribes, merchants, academic teachers and other
* "The situation of the law within the country and the arbitrary declaration of what is Halal and Haram (lawful and unlawful) regardless of the
Shari'ah as instituted by Allah;"
* "The state of the press and the media which became a tool of truth- hiding and misinformation; the media carried out the plan of the enemy of
idolising cult of certain personalities and spreading scandals among the believers to repel the people away from their religion..."
* "Abuse and confiscation of human rights;"
* "The financial and the economical situation of the country and the frightening future in the view of the enormous amount of debts and interest
owed by the government; this is at the time when the wealth of the Ummah being wasted to satisfy personal desires of certain individuals!! while
imposing more custom duties and taxes on the nation..."
* "The miserable situation of the social services and infra-structure especially the water service and supply , the basic requirement of
* "The state of the ill-trained and ill-prepared army and the impotence of its commander in chief despite the incredible amount of money that has
been spent on the army. The gulf war clearly exposed the situation.,"
* "Shari'a law was suspended and man made law was used instead.,"
* "And as far as the foreign policy is concerned the report exposed not only how this policy has disregarded the Islamic issues and ignored the
Muslims, but also how help and support were provided to the enemy against the Muslims; the cases of Gaza-Ariha and the communist in the south of
Yemen are still fresh in the memory, and more can be said."
The fatwa then turned to the U.S. forces in the mid-east. It should be made clear that in this fatwa there is no statement that can be derived to
be a threat against American civilians. The statements of jihad, and the promise of American blood-shed are reserved in-whole toward the U.S.
military. And the intent, as stated in the fatwa, is to completely drive the U.S. presence from the region, by any means. It is at this point that
bin Laden references the bombing in Riyadh and the attacks on U.S. troops in Mogadishu as examples of bravery in the fight against the
"crusaders". Of course, the writing is replete with references to the Zionist-allies, and it is clear that an underlying hatred for the U.S.
position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is present, but the focus remains on the larger atrocity in bin Laden's mind - the presence of the
U.S. military in the "lands of the Holy Sites".
Through the input of the jihadist teachings of Sheikh Azzam, and the possible anti-American sentiments he may have imparted to Osama via his biased
position toward the Palestinian-Israeli situation, and through the consideration of the effect on Osama's psyche of the successful jihad in
Afghanistan to lead him to a personal belief of being an appointed "warrior for Islam", an ideaology apparently resulted that ultimately made the
juxtaposition of two trends - the secularization and democratization of Saudi, and the presence of the U.S. military as a defending force in place
of a Muslim force - unacceptable in bin Laden's mind. And the common factor in both these trends was the Saudi Royal family. And with the
situation that existed in 1996 with these two trends in place, Osama's expulsion from a second Muslim country broke the camel's back.
*It should be noted here, in an effort to remain within the truth as can be documented, that though the CIA claims that Osama took credit for these
two incidences, this writer has been unable to find a statement of bin Laden to this effect. The "source" of Osama's biography states that there
may have been some form of unofficial sanctioning of these acts by bin Laden, but there was no formal organizational support or logistics on bin
Laden's behalf. And when Osama's 1996 fatwa is read, the Mogadishu incident is referenced and praised, along with the bombing in Riyahd, but in a
disconnected fashion and with no statement of connection to either of the events. If the reader has documented information toward this question,
please provide it.
1. A Biography of Osama bin Laden
2. Sheikh Abdullah Azzam
3. The Striving Sheik: Abdullah Azzam
4. CIA Fact Sheet: Osama bin Laden
6. bin Laden's Fatwa
Original ATSNN Article
[edit on 1-9-2006 by Valhall]