Few individuals in recent history have exerted greater influence on world events than Osama bin Laden — and even fewer have inspired as much mythology. From the origins of the al-Qaeda terrorist network to the devastation of Sept. 11, 2001, to the manhunt that came to an end with such drama last Sunday, bin Laden’s life has been shrouded in mysteries and misconceptions.
1. The CIA created Osama bin Laden.
Common among conspiracy theorists is the notion that bin Laden was a CIA creation and that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were blowback from an agency operation gone awry. Typifying this view is filmmaker Michael Moore, who on the day after the terrorist attacks wrote: “WE created the monster known as Osama bin Laden! Where did he go to terrorist school? At the CIA!”
In fact, during the Soviet war in Afghanistan during the 1980s, the CIA had no dealings with “Afghan Arabs” such as bin Laden and had few direct dealings with any of the Afghan mujaheddin. Instead, all U.S. aid to Afghanistan was funneled through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the ISI. Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf, the ISI officer who coordinated Pakistani efforts during the war, explained in “The Bear Trap,” his 1992 book: “No Americans ever trained or had direct contact with the mujaheddin.”