Afghanistan is a bitter and hostile country where countless people perish under a relentless desert sun. A land of terrorists and drug dealers, a land of radical religions.
But it also a land of spectacular panoramas and delightful people.
One such delightful person is Osama bin Laden.
Osama is one of the many sons of the Shah of Saudi Arabia. He started out life with a 300 million dollar inheritance.
I visited Osama in his secret desert hideaway in Afghanistan.
I found the bearded cleric to be calm and kind. He offered me delicious dried dates and pistachios and as we shared the simple meal in his cave, he explained his philosophy. “Basically,” said Osama, “I see myself as a great lover of both men and women.” Here he paused to invoke the name of his god, Allah.
“With all due respect,” I said, “People claim you are the mastermind behind the terrorist attack on the United States of America that killed more innocent people than were lost at Pearl Harbor and on the Titanic. It was on CNN.”
“I am a poor desert wanderer who loves all mankind. I do not even get CNN. What are you referring to?”
“The World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Carried out by suicide squads.”
“News to me. I love the American flag and the country for which it stands,” said Osama. “Regrettably some of the infidels in Washington did not like my father and now seek to discredit me, a humble servant of Mohammed. They spread horrible stories about this simple desert cleric. They even say I kill people.”
“Mohammed taught it is a terrible sin to take an innocent human life,” I said.
“I agree. I would never harm another’s life.”
“But the U.S. State department claims you earn millions through arms trading, opium production and terrorist activities. And because of what you have done thousands of people are dead.”
“That is nonsense.” He was about to continue when an out-of-breath runner, wearing only a pair of dusty shorts, appeared at the entrance to the cave.
Osama listened as the runner said something in his ear, then my host whispered into the runner’s ear.
The runner nodded, then raced to the edge of a nearby cliff and threw himself from it. A moment later we heard his body thud into the ground, five hundred felt below us.
“My God,” I said, “What was that all about?”
“Please,” said, Osama, “do not blaspheme in my land. The runner brought word that a virgin who wishes to meet me will be late.”
“But why did the man kill himself?” I asked.
“No idea. I asked him to arrange for me to see the 10-year-old at 8 tonight. He failed me. The meeting will not be until 8:15.”
“And he killed himself over fifteen minutes?” I asked.
“It may seem tragic,” said Osama. “But the runner is happy now. He is in paradise where twenty virgins will surrender themselves to him and he shall live forever at Mohammed’s side.”
“Is that what you whispered in his ear?” I asked.
“You must have imagining things,” said the gentle desert cleric. “I said nothing to him. Pass the pistachios. And peace be with you, my brother.”
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