Monday, June 13, 2005

OBLa-di, OBLa-dah 

Courtesy of our esteemed colleague the Fixer at Alternate Brain, a Der Spiegel report (in two parts: one and two) with considerably more information on Osama bin Laden than the American papers have bothered to dig up in the last year or two:
In mid-January 2005, New York federal judge Richard Casey wrote, in his grounds for allowing the civil suit against SBG filed by the families of 9/11 victims, that "the Saudi Binladin Group maintained close relationships with Osama bin Laden at certain times," and that it remains "unclear" whether these ties continued when OBL became involved in terrorism.

Can this global company, with its close ties to the Saudi royal family, truly be brought to trial, or will the US government, officially allied with Riyadh in its "war on terror," work behind the scenes to have the case dismissed? SBG has already demonstrated its willingness to work with the West by entering into joint ventures with Motorola and a deal with Disney, and has also been Porsche's official agent in the kingdom. Moreover, SBG is developing new airport security equipment in Saudi Arabia, as well as building housing for US managers working in the oil industry.

In Kazakhstan, the Saudi Binladin Group is helping build the country's new capital, Astana. In Syria, SBG and a Spanish company jointly operate the country's biggest olive oil processing plant. And in Dubai, the family company has just submitted a bid for a portion of the construction of what will be the world's tallest building. Next to aircraft, it seems, the bin Ladens see towers as a special challenge.

[Imperial Hubris author Mike] Scheuer's axis of evil differs markedly from the president's. He believes that Pakistan and, even more so, Saudi Arabia are the epicenters of global violence. "Many Saudis support the terrorists in Iraq to this day - but we're the ones who are putting up the money -- by paying $50 for a barrel of oil and making ourselves dependent on oil imports."

Scheuer, an experienced intelligence expert, doubts that the entire bin Laden family has severed ties with Osama: "I haven't seen anything in the last 10 years that's convinced me that would be the case." In his view, SBG still derives some of its profits from business dealings in the Islamic world that can be linked to the family's supposed "black sheep." "He's treated as a hero almost everywhere over there," says Scheuer.

While [OBL's sister-in-law, Carmen bin Laden] felt that her years studying in the United States were carefree, the years spent in Jeddah after her marriage to Yeslam were nothing short of martyrdom. Living in the family clan's environment, she was able to observe first-hand the oppression of women and the indoctrination of children. For Carmen, it was unbearable not to be allowed to drive a car, or to be required to obtain her husband's permission whenever she wanted to travel. "The Saudi Arabian Wahhabites are the luxury version of the Taliban," says Carmen bin Laden . . . .

The outsider observed the trench warfare that was taking place for power within the family dynasty, a battle in which her husband, son number 10, soon moved to the top. "The daily realty within the family was jealousy, envy and intrigue," she says. "But the all-powerful Islamic traditions of Wahhabism ensure that no one is excluded from the clan. No individual destiny is more important than the shared system of values."

This is why Carmen bin Laden believes it is impossible that the brothers have severed all ties with Osama. "No matter what he has done, they cannot disown him -- it would be a violation of the Sharia laws." And because of the close relationships between the royal family and the construction company, Carmen also believes that there are still secret links among Osama, various princes in senior government positions and leading religious scholars.

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