Coming to America


Via The New Yorker comes final confirmation that Osama bin Laden has actually visited the United States in the past. It was a mellow trip undertaken in 1979, hitting all of the Great White Satan's hot spots—including, of course, Indianapolis.

The tale comes mostly from his first wife, Najwa, who recounts one particular encounter with vintage American culture shock:

There was one incident that reminded me that some Americans are unaware of other cultures. When the time came for us to leave America, Osama and I, along with our two boys, waited for our departure at the airport in Indiana. I was sitting quietly in my chair, relaxing, grateful that our boys were quiet….

I saw an American man gawking at me. I knew without asking that his unwelcome attention had been snagged by my black Saudi costume…

I took a side glance at Osama and saw that he was intently studying the curious man. I knew that my husband would never allow the man to approach me…

The New Yorker's Steve Coll admirably resists the urge to conclude that this awkward moment (which, I imagine, is common for Muslim men carting burqa- or hijab-clad wives around in fly-over states) is, like, so important to understanding bin Laden's mind:

Not a particularly consequential experience, perhaps, but surely one that has a life in Osama's memory and imagination—and another indication, among many available in his life, that he should be understood not only as a self-isolating radical imbued with millenarian religious narratives, but also as a modern and globalized figure whose experiences and outlook belong very much to our age.

To the unknown, uncouth fellow who looked askance at Mrs. bin Laden that one time 30 years ago in Indianapolis: Thanks.

(One more bit of crazy bin Laden family trivia: Osama's niece Wafah Dufour did a spread in GQ and is both Ivy-League educated and smokin' hot.)