[The United States] didn't find Osama bin Laden for one reason: Osama bin Laden is a humble man. He can live on a little food. He can live without any luxury, and he is like millions who are in that part of the world in Afghanistan or Pakistan. And also he is loved by the people who move around or among them, wherever they are, whether inside Pakistan or Afghanistan. And I don't believe they will surrender him. He's adored by the people around him. For them, he is not a leader. He is everything. He's the father; he's the brother; he is a leader; he is the imam. He is a good example: a man who sacrificed all his wealth to come and live with them, among them, and to fight for their causes. He is different and he [is] not corrupt and so he represents the pioneers of Muslim early Islamic history—The Prophet Muhammad's companions.
Quoted in Peter L. Bergen, The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al Qaeda’s Leader (New York: Free Press, 2006), 380-381.
Sources place him somewhere along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where he has strong civilian support. Since this border runs approximately 1,500 miles, he could be anywhere along it. Even with reduced capacity to carry out terrorist operations, bin Laden is considered a hero by many Muslims for having stood up to the United States. He has become a symbol of Muslim resistance to what they consider American imperialism in the Middle East. A positive view of bin Laden is shared by many Muslims. A 2004 Pew Global Attitudes Project opinion poll showed that 65 percent of Pakistanis, 55 percent of Jordanians, and 45 percent of Moroccans view him favorably. There is no indication that these approval ratings have decreased.
By making bin Laden public enemy number one, the Americans have elevated his stature in the Muslim world to new heights. As Mick Farren expresses it, “Short of Osama being captured alive, or exhibited as a very identifiable and well-preserved corpse—in the way Che Guevara’s hunters had showed off their trophy—he could, in theory, continue indefinitely as a martyr to the cause.” Even in death, and regardless of the means, bin Laden will have accrued enough prestige that his martyrdom will continue to serve as an inspiration throughout the Muslim world.
Stephen E. Atkins
See also Al Qaeda; Atta, Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed; Azzam, Sheikh Abdullah Yussuf; Global War on Terror; Mohammed, Khalid Sheikh; World Trade Center, September 11
See Documents 3, 4, 27, 29, and 38
Anonymous [Michael Scheuer], Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror. Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 2004,
Atwan, Abdel Bari, The Secret History of Al Qaeda. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006,
Bergen, Peter L, The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al Qaeda’s Leader. New York: Free Press, 2006,
Corbin, Jane, Al Qaeda: The Terror Network That Threatens the World. New York: Thunder’s Mouth, 2002,
Lawrence, Bruce, ed, Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden. London: Verso, 2005,
Randal, Jonathan, Osama: The Making of a Terrorist. New York: Knopf, 2004,
Robinson, Adam, Bin Laden: Behind the Mask of the Terrorist. New York: Arcade, 2001,