In The Bin Ladens, two- time Pulitzer Prize-winner Steve Coll continues where Ghost Wars left off, shedding new light on one of the most elusive families of the twenty-first century. Rising from a famine-stricken desert into luxury, private compounds, and even business deals with Hollywood celebrities, the Bin Ladens have benefited from the tensions and contradictions in a country founded on extreme religious purity, suddenly thrust into a world awash in oil, money, and the temptations of the West. But what do these incongruities mean for globalization, the War on Terror, and America’s place in the Middle East? Meticulously researched, The Bin Ladens is the story of a remarkably varied and often dangerous family that has used money, mobility, and technology to dramatically different ends.
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Two sides of a family, two very different directions.
At the moment Flight 77 smashed into the Pentagon, Shafiq bin Laden — Osama’s brother — was at the Washington D.C. Ritz-Carlton, attending an investors conference sponsored by the Carlyle Group, the global equity firm heavily connected with members of former President George H. W. Bush’s administration. Another brother, Abdullah, a graduate of Harvard Law School, was in line for a latte at a Cambridge Starbucks.
Two sides of a family, two very different directions. It’s well-known that the Bin Laden family made mega-millions building Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure as oil revenues exploded, thanks to an assiduous courtship of the Saudi royal family and American decision makers. Osama bin Laden, of course, irate over the presence of U.S. troops in the kingdom during the first Gulf War, broke with his family and declared war on America. But what Steve Coll describes in such rich detail in “The Bin Ladens” is exactly how Westernized the rest of the family remains.
Coll, a New Yorker writer who won the Pulitzer Prize for Ghost Wars (his history of American bumbling in Afghanistan), uncovers the family’s mind-blowing ties to the West. This is a story of Hollywood, Disneyland and the Ivy League, of investments in shopping malls and thoroughbreds, of friendships and partnerships with presidents (Bush, Carter), moguls (Trump) and country singers (Kenny Rogers). The bitter irony? No matter how the family denounces Obama, 9/11 proved to be great business; war in the Middle East has only made “the kingdom’s Halliburton” wealthier and more powerful.