Bin Laden Was Just a Man

We could use an inexplicably 'good' version of him, writes David Brooks
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2011 12:45 PM CDT
In this 1998 file photo, Osama bin Laden speaks to the journalists in Khost, Afghanistan and made available Friday March 19, 2004.   (AP Photo/Mazhar Ali Khan, File)

(Newser) – Osama bin Laden was a shy boy who loved his parents. His father died at age 9. He lived in suburbia, attended an elite school, was religiously devout, and liked Bonanza and the evening news. Why all these personal facts? “Because we have a tendency to see history as driven by deep historical forces,” writes David Brooks of the New York Times. “But sometimes it is driven by completely inexplicable individuals, who combine qualities you think could never go together … who are able to perpetrate enormous evils even though they themselves seem completely pathetic.”

Here was a feared terrorist who was “gentle and soft,” and “seemed to regard murder as a subdivision of brand management,” a tool to raise money, get attention, and manipulate meaning. “Even the most brilliant intelligence analyst could not anticipate such an odd premodern and postglobalized creature,” Brooks posits. “I just wish there were a democratic bin Laden … another inexplicable person with the ability to frame narratives and propel action—for good, not evil.”

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