Outside View: Bin Laden’s advice to his children

Published: Feb. 28, 2012 at 6:39 AM

JAMES. ZUMWALT, UPI Outside View Commentator

HERNDON, Va., Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Nine months after U.S. Navy SEALs ended Osama bin Laden's terrorist activities -- and life -- an interesting revelation has come to light about the man whose hatred of the West triggered the deaths of more than 3,000 innocent victims on Sept. 11, 2001.

The revelation was made in an interview in The Times of London given by Zakaria al-Sadah, the brother of bin Laden's fifth wife, who was wounded during the raid that took the terrorist leader down on May 2, 2011, and one of three wives present when he died.

Sadah was recently reunited with his sister and shared insights into bin Laden's last conversations with his children. Restricted to living within the confines of his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the world's most wanted fugitive spent a great deal of time offering them advice.

He warned his children "not to follow him down the road to jihad" and further counseled them to "go to Europe and America to get a good education." Additionally, he suggested they seek a better life outside the Middle East -- even at the expense of adopting Western ways.

As for telling them not to follow in his footsteps, bin Laden simply followed a tradition to which all Islamist leaders have adhered when making their calls for jihad. There is no record of those sounding the call ever encouraging their own offspring to answer it. Men of bin Laden's ilk have no qualms about fellow Muslims sacrificing their children but do not wish for their own to do so.

It is an absolute hypocrisy that seems to escape the logic of those blindly heeding the jihadist call. As Muslim parents willingly allow their own children to go off on suicide missions, one better understands the observation made by former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that peace in the Middle East is only possible "when Arabs love their children more than they hate us."

Bin Laden's advice that his children seek an education in Europe or America -- even at the risk of becoming Westernized -- makes sense to one who understands the Arab world offers little to students other than rote memorization of the Koran and other topics of limited application needed to survive in today's world.

The Arab world offers little in the way of creative thinking as such thought causes tyrants to fall or raise questions about the teachings of a religion locked in eighth-century ritual while the world passes it by.

This absence of creative thought among Arab nations is evidenced by the fact -- if one removes oil and terrorism from the equation -- there is little Arab states have to export. The combined value of exports of the Arab League's 22 member states, again taking oil out, total less than those of Finland.

A good barometer of a society's creativity is the number of patents it generates. Taking the 20-year period 1980-2000 and comparing the number of industrial patents filed by a society unrestrained by religious practice, such as South Korea's evolving democracy, to those filed by the entire Arab League, reveals a shocking disproportionality.

The Arab League's population outnumbered South Korea's by more than 6-to-1 at that time. Yet, during that period, while Arab patents totaled 400, South Koreans filed more than 15,000. Alfred Nobel almost matched this production by the Arabs during his lifetime, having been issued 355 patents; Thomas Edison exceeded it during his, receiving more than 1,000.

The lack of creativity in the Arab world is further evidenced by the small number of Nobel Prize recipients it can claim. Israelis represent 0.2 percent of the world population; Arabs 20 percent. Yet from 1910-2005, while 165 Jews received Nobel prizes, six Arabs did.

The lack of Arab creativity stems from its educational system. Several years ago, China conducted a study of the top 500 universities in the world. Not a single Arab university placed while seven Israeli universities did.

We will never know how bin Laden would have rationalized the advice he gave his children on education in view of his hatred of the West.

He evidently recognized an education inspiring free thought could only be obtained by leaving the Arab world behind and heeding the advice of the 19th-century American author Horace Greeley.

Greeley published what has become one of the most commonly quoted phrases of his era. Believing in America's manifest destiny of westward expansion, he encouraged the returning Civil War veteran in an 1865 New York Tribune editorial to, "Go west, young man, go west."

One can only wonder whether bin Laden recognized the bitter irony in his hypocritical advice for his children to "go West." It was clearly an acknowledgement of the superior "manifest destiny" of Western societies. But, perhaps the greater irony was his inability to grasp such hypocrisy as his own experiences in the Arab educational system deprived him of the creative thought process necessary to do so.


(James. G. Zumwalt, is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer who heads Admiral Zumwalt and Consultants, Inc. He has published numerous articles in various publications. He is author of "Bare Feet, Iron Will -- Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields" and the soon-to-be-released "Living the Juche Lie -- North Korea's Kim Dynasty.")


(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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