Happy Birthday Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden. Had you lived you would have been celebrating your 57th birthday today. You’ll forgive me if I don’t light a birthday candle for you.

Where Did This “Nutjob” Come From?

He was born on this date in 1957 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His father, Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, is a billionaire construction businessman who has close ties to the Saudi royal family. Upon his fathers death in a plane crash, Osama inherited approximately $25 to $30 million from his families fortune.

Osama bin Laden was between 6’4” to 6’6” tall but a very thin 160 pounds. He had six wives and has as many as 26 children, most of whom fled to Iran after the 2001 attacks where their movements are strictly monitored by the Iranian government.

He formed the organization known as al-Qaeda in 1988. He used his sizable fortune to help finance guns and arms to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan’s battle against the Soviet Union. He set up shop in the Sudan after being banished from Saudi Arabia in 1992 and US pressure forced him from Sudan in 1996.

After relocating again in Afghanistan he declared war on the United States and orchestrated several bombing attacks on American interests. Bin Laden believed that only the strict restoration of Sharia law would restore the Middle East and the Muslim world to greatness once more. He despised socialism, communism and democracy.

The Hunt for Osama

In 1998, following the US embassy bombings he made the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list. The FBI listed a hefty $25 million dollar bounty on him dead or alive. Between 2001 and 2011 a full out, world wide, search for bin Laden was launched. Thousand of tips and leads came up empty.

Finally a lead that bin Laden was living in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan paid off. On May 2, 2011, President Obama authorized a group of Navy Seals to storm the compound. Bin Laden was shot and killed in that attack and reams of files and intelligence were also recovered.

Some Final Thoughts

I’m sure that to some Middle Easterners Osama bin Laden is similar to our own Ben Franklin or George Washington  — a freedom fighter. Wanting to make things better based on their personal ideology and vision.

There are very strong differences in political and religious ideologies between East and West. We are talking about a region that has been at war with itself for thousands of years. And in recent years we have seen fit to involve ourselves in these ongoing conflicts.

Will there ever be a Rodney King moment in the Middle East? Can’t we all just get along? Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, Israel, Palestine, Libya, Egypt, are all acting like a dysfunctional family around the Thanksgiving dinner table. It’s doubtful that peace talks have any chance of future success.

But at least one obstructive cog in the wheel is no longer with us. I guess history will have to decide if that’s good or bad. Anyway, Happy Birthday Osama, and thankfully, there will be no many happy returns of the day.

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