A new memoir of Osama bin Laden by his wife and son

Thomas Hegghammer in The National:

Bilde Omar was initially in denial about his father’s responsibility for September 11, but he gradually came to terms with it and began distancing himself publicly from the elder bin Laden. In 2007 he married a British woman 24 years his senior, left Saudi Arabia for Qatar and began seeking political asylum in various European countries. According to Jean Sasson, Omar himself contacted the publisher with the book proposal in 2008. One suspects that the book is partly an attempt by Omar to convince the outside world of his peaceful intentions and to increase his prospects of moving to the West. Omar’s bitterness toward his father shines through in the text, but not to the point of undermining his own credibility.

It is much less clear what motivated Najwa bin Laden, who was still married to Osama when she wrote the book (and still is, as far as we know). Najwa, who has lived in her native Syria since 2001, seems to have been a reluctant participant of this book project. It was allegedly Jean Sasson who suggested she be a co-author, and she only agreed after being persuaded by Omar. Perhaps she is hoping that the book will help dissociate her children from their father’s legacy and make their lives easier.

At any rate, Najwa is considerably less critical than Omar toward Osama; she neither condemns nor supports her husband’s activities. She comes across as a naive, subservient figure with few political opinions of her own. She prefers to talk about family matters and wants to appear as a loyal wife while showing empathy with the victims of her husband’s attacks. Her position is understandable, but annoyingly spineless. Still, her description of events seems sincere. On the whole, the book must be taken seriously as a historical document.

More here.