Finding Bin Laden’s Diary: Inside the mind of the King of Terror

Close to a year ago, United States Military forces killed Osama Bin Laden in a highly secretive mission inside Pakistani borders. In the process, the Military came across many personal affects of Al-Qaeda’s leader. Military leaders called this a “treasure trove of more than 6,000 documents.” In those documents, Bin Laden spoke in his own voice, and thus revealed many secrets to US officials about his thoughts and wishes.

According to a recent article, the documents reveal a man who “was simultaneously an inveterate micromanager but was also someone almost delusional in his belief that his organization could still force a change in foreign policies in the Muslim world if only he could get another big attack organized in the United States.” The papers show that many of his subordinates were skeptical about Al Qaeda’s ability to accomplish this feat given their diminished capacities.

Interestingly, Bin Laden was aware that Al Qaeda’s brand was becoming unpopular due to the number of civilians they had killed. In a letter to a Shabaab leader, Bin Laden urged him not to say he was directly affiliated with Al Qaeda because it might attract many enemies, as was the case with a similar group in Iraq. Additionally, as a fundraising scheme, Bin Laden thought Shabaab would be better suited not pushing Al Qaeda’s name. The article states that Bin Laden even contemplated changing the name of his terrorist organization, to attract better attention.

In the same letter, Bin Laden urged members of Shabaab to try to avoid killing civilians, as they were then doing in battles, and to focus on African Union troops. This is rather ironic, in that Bin Laden’s orchestrated attacks often have involved civilian losses. Bin Laden also constantly urged his holy war to his followers, but when it came to his family, he advocated something quite different. Bin Laden urged his sons to stay away from Al Qaeda’s base in Pakistan, and instead go to Qatar to further their religious training.

These insights into the mind of Bin Laden are crucially important, as they revealed the structure of Al Qaeda and many of their goals. The discovery of these documents have caused many scholars to conclude that Al Qaeda may be dying out. This “treasure trove”, however, will remain invaluable as it allows us into the mind of a powerful and evil man. Much like finding the Diary of Hitler, Bin Laden’s writings will continue to be instrumental towards understanding the extremist beliefs that fuel terrorist leaders.


  1. This “treasure trove” of documents is very interesting and seems to allow us a unique insight into the leader of Al-Qaeda. The aspect mentioned above that I find the most interesting is that Bin Laden was aware of the negative branding behind Al-Qaeda and was thinking of changing the name of the organization. Would that really have helped? People clearly would have caught on that is was the same group with the same mission and the same way of operating. I think it is unlikely that a name change would have helped in that situation. I also find the impact that he thought another US attack would have very interesting. I don’t think that that is the effect it would have. I think it would have created more hostility and more negative international policy towards muslims rather than making it better.

  2. I am rather surprised by what this ‘treasure trove” revealed. The fact that Bin Laden thought a name change could affect public perception is interesting. However, it is not rare for extremist groups and their leaders to change their names. Most often, leaders will do so to strengthen their names or arouse fear at their names’ utterance because of its meaning or translation. Leaders may also change their names to avoid detection. Oftentimes, extremist groups will change their names when they discover that their agendas have changed as well, which is an important consideration. Although many may believe that they have disappeared or disbanded, these “former” terrorist groups may have simply shifted their focus to another target and chose to rename themselves for the purposes of doing so. However, Bin Laden’s proposed name change for Al-Qaeda seems to suggest that he wanted to combat or eliminate the public perception crisis affecting Al-Qaeda. Yet, the United States still seemed to have been Bin Laden’s target, so why now? Setting aside my own personal opinion of the devastation he caused this country, could he truly believe that a name change could be a game changer for Al-Qaeda’s “future endeavors?” I don’t think so. If he was aiming to preserve his image, he should have had the forethought to not kill innocent civilians in the first place. He made his bed while he was alive. Now, his successors will have to sleep in it, snuggled up with all of the tarnished infamy that comes along with it.

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