Murray asks students to weigh bin Laden's appeal
Friday, December 20, 2002
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
VANCOUVER -- Why is terrorist leader Osama bin Laden so popular in some parts of the world?
Perhaps, said Sen. Patty Murray, it's because he and his supporters have spent years building good will in poor nations by helping pay for schools, roads and other infrastructure.
At an appearance before a high school honors class, the Washington Democrat offered what her spokesman called an intentionally provocative challenge for students to ponder.
"We've got to ask, Why is this man so popular around the world?," Murray said during an appearance Wednesday at Columbia River High School. "Why are people so supportive of him in many countries that are riddled with poverty?"
The answers may be uncomfortable, but are important for Americans to ponder -- particularly students, Murray said.
"He's been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that," Murray said.
"How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?"
An expert on terrorism, who co-wrote a book profiling bin laden and al-Qaida, said Murray's comments, published yesterday in the newspaper The Columbian, were on the mark.
"That's kind of a generalization, but mostly accurate," Michael Swetnam, chairman of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Va., said yesterday.
Since about 1988, who is bin Laden, believed to have been the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, has been on a mission to build schools, roads and even homes for widows of those killed in the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan, Swetnam said.
There is even a rumor that bin Laden helped build an Afghani orphanage, although Swetnam said he has been unable to confirm that.