This interview was conducted in the third quarter of 2010 in Afghanistan, at a place which is a six-hour drive from Kabul airport. Many details have been omitted to safe guard those that were instrumental in setting up this interview with Osama Bin Laden. I was instructed to upload parts of the interview onto my blog sites after I had received instructions from Kabul.
The telephone call brought news from Sharif in Kabul.
“As-Salāmu `Alaykum bhai jaan”.
‘Wa `alaykum s-salām, who is this?”
“Sharifbhai, you wrote to me that you want to visit Afghanistan, why?”
“Oh, I want to do a series of articles on Afghan cuisine, is this possible”.
“Hahaha…yes, very possible…but I will suggest other interesting subject”
“What should I do?”
“I will contact our embassy in Delhi. You go there after three days, brother, with your passport. All will be arranged, wa `alaykumu s-salāmu wa rahmatu l-lāhi wa barakātuh.”
Ten days later I arrived in Kabul with a carry bag containing some clothes, a small camera and notepads. Sharif was adamant I didn’t bring a laptop.
As soon as I exited the airport two Pashtus approached and bundled me into a jeep with curtains and drove me away. Some minutes into the drive one of them tied my hands and the other put a black cloth over my head. Then they pushed me to the floor of the vehicle. No one spoke.
The smell of mobile oil and exhaust was overwhelming. I cried out to my companions, one of whom bent down and in a gruff voice told me that if I wanted to do the interview I had to comply with the conditions.
What conditions? What interview? With whom? Had Sharif sold me out to theTaliban?
The drive lasted, I think, around six hours. When the vehicle finally stopped my captors led me up some stairs and sat me down on a mat. When they removed my blindfold and untied my hands I noticed we were in a room. The walls were bare. In one corner was a bed on which rested a man with a turban and white flowing beard. The single tungsten bulb shed a warm light while the air smelt of antiseptic and sweat.
A cat sat in the green doorway looking at me. I could hear a baby crying.
Just then a man in army issue trousers but no shirt was dragged in. His body was badly bruised. Skin appeared to have been peeled off by some sharp instrument. I couldn’t see his eyes for they were blood soaked. The fingers on his right hand had been crudely chopped off.
The old man rose slowly from his bed, coughed and looked at me. It was then that I realised I was face to face with the most wanted man on the planet. I was terrified. Sharif had set me up.
“This man’, he said pointing to the captive,” came to one of the villages with his friends in the night. They shot Islam who was sleeping next to his wife. These are animals. Take him out, cut his throat and send his head as a message to those foreign troops”, he said in a quiet voice and started coughing again.
The man was dragged out and a burka clad woman entered with a cloth to wipe the blood off the floor, while another entered carrying two steel mugs of water. One was handed to me. The water smelt strangely of roses and tasted a bit salty. The second was placed on a low table next to the bed.
Osama stood looking at me while playing with his prayer beads. His eyes were bright like a predator sensing his prey.
“They think we are fighting for the Muslims. They are wrong. This about a new world order. For too long the USA and its friends have ruled with their foolish policies. Look at the Arab countries that do business with the West. They shall all face their own people next year (2011). What we have put in place will soon bear fruit. One by one these Arab leaders that call themselves Muslim will fall.”
I replied,“Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Libya, Syria and even Qatar appear to have strong leaders. How can their people rise up against them? Do you think this can be changed by your people?”
Osama smiled, reached for the cup of water on the table, took a sip and flung it on the floor. The guard sitting behind me hit me on my shoulder with the butt of his gun. The pain was unbearable as I fell to the side.
“You are an idiot. I made a mistake by listening to Sharif. I should hand you over to my men. Do you know what is happening in the streets in these countries you talk about? How the common people survive? And these rulers call themselves Muslim? Islam is about brotherhood. All is one and one is all. But that’s not the case right now. Let me tell you, “ he said pointing his finger at me, “the first to fall will be Egypt. Mubarak is a thief. He will be shot. And if the Army doesn’t do it, we will. And Syria? Assad thinks his country is his family business. He too shall pay.
Understand one thing, Islam is our religion it is not our political agenda. In fact Iran has sent agents to discuss future arrangements. But how can we trust them? Look at their people, they want western democracy.”
“Why is violence necessary to bring about a new world order? Isn’t there any other way that it can be done?” I asked hesitantly keeping my eyes on the floor mat, too afraid to look into osama’s eyes.
“Do you think Gandhi could practice non-violent methods against these people today? Tell me? These governments only understand violence. When they are threatened with violence they listen. Our people have done good work and our message is loud and clear. Yes I would prefer to discuss matters but how can this happen when our Holy Land is ruled by a regime ‘loyal’ to the West…but this will not happen…so violence is the only path to creating a new world order. We had begun our jihad in Pakistan. We own Pakistan. No one can change this. Afghanistan will be liberated in 2011. And when this is done a message will be sent to the West. When they receive it they will know that a new world order has come and they will have to talk to us not with bombs and guns but with folded hands.”
“Will Al Qaeda be the control center?” I said in a low voice.
“Al Qaeda is not an army. It is a political party with an agenda to create the new order through a program of networks of groups that usually work independently. We have no direct control over what they do but we supply the arms and finance their operations. And like a bank we call in our loans, sometimes when our people get too undisciplined. We too have our honor. You remember Daniel Pearl. I personally gave instructions not to kill him because we will lose sympathy with the left-wing media. Yet Omar disobeyed me and killed him. So we had him betrayed to the West.”
“You have mentioned a new world order. What will this order be?”
“Not now, at a later stage I will send for you. We will talk again. I am tired.” He replied in a rasping voice, then lay on the bed and turned his face to the wall.
The guard behind me pushed me to stand up and then blindfolded me, tied my hands and led me to a vehicle waiting outside. On the drive back I kept thinking of the beheaded prison, the curious smell of antiseptic that pervaded the room and Osama’s eyes. Was his vision of a new world order a myth, a dream or a violent reality in the making?
I suppose we will have to wait for 2011 for the answer.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om