A Psychological Profile of Osama Bin Laden

By Ross, Colin A. | The Journal of Psychohistory, Spring 2015 | Go to article overview

A Psychological Profile of Osama Bin Laden


Ross, Colin A., The Journal of Psychohistory


ABSTRACT: Understanding Osama bin Laden's personal history illuminates his motivation, inner conflicts, decisions and behaviors. His relationships with his mother, father, country and religion set the stage for his conflicted choices as an adolescent and then as an adult. Although only a cursory psychological profile is possible based on public domain information, the profile constructed here could be useful in setting future foreign policy. Perhaps the crucial mistake in U.S. foreign policy was abandoning bin Laden as an asset when Russian forces were expelled from Afghanistan in 1989: this act by the U.S. set the stage for the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001.

Osama bin Laden was the most wanted man on the planet before he was killed by Seal Team Six on May 2, 2011 (Pfaffer, 2011). He had been on the cover of Time magazine, on the agenda of the National Security Council, and on every television station around the world The purpose of this psychological profile is to provide a sketch that could be used in understanding other, future Osama bin Ladens.

An adequate psychological profile of Osama bin Laden would be a multimillion dollar project and would require access to extensive classified documents and sources. My analysis is based on books (Bodansky, 1999; Emerson, 2002; Gunaratna, 2002; Juegensmeyer, 2000; Laqueue, 2002; Pfarrer, 2011; Pyszczynski, Solomon, & Greenberg, 2003; Reeve, 1999; Reich, 1998; Robinson, 2001; Stem, 1999; Wright, 2001), magazine articles, newspapers, and television coverage from the public domain, so it is merely a sketch.

How a person turns out is the result of both nature and nurture, both genes and environment, but neither has complete control over the outcome. But there is no gene for terrorism-if bin Laden had been adopted at birth into a stable, patriotic American Muslim family, the chances of his becoming a terrorist would have been much, much less, maybe even zero.

To construct a psychological profile of Osama bin Laden, I will consider both his environment and his personal qualities, but I will not forget the third corner of the triangle of recovery (Ross, 2007; Ross & Halperm, 2009)-the decision-making executive self. Mental health problems like substance abuse arise from a combination of nature and nurture, but they also involve choices and decisions.

Bin Laden should be held responsible for everything he did, including September 11th. Holding adults responsible for their behavior, 1 believe, is the only way to treat them with dignity and respect. The goal of this analysis is to understand bin Laden, not to feel sorry for him.

POSSIBLE, PROBABLE AND DEFINITE MUSLIM TERROR OPERATIONS

Before beginning my psychological profile, 1 want to list possible, probable and definite Al Queda and Muslim terrorist operations with their death tolls, as a brief memorial:

The civilian death toll from bin Laden and bin Laden-related operations with U.S. targets was substantial prior to 9/11.

A PSYCHOLOGICAL PROFILE OF OSAMA BIN LADEN

Osama bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in the summer of 1957. He was the seventeenth son of Mohammed bin Oud bin Laden by his eleventh wife. His father had a total of 54 children by those eleven wives, 24 sons and 30 daughters. There is no way that Osama bin Laden had a satisfying, intimate, personal relationship with his father. He must have been emotionally starved for his father's love and affection. He must have been sad, lost, lonely and resentful. He must have been an emotionally neglected child.

Osama's mother, Hamida, was 22 years old when she married. A Syrian, she was used to going on shopping trips to Damascus, and was more westernized than many Middle Eastern women at the time. She was never a core member of the bin Laden family, and was marginalized and ostracized, partly because she was too defiant, progressive and independent for her husband's tastes. Within the family, Hamida was called Al Abeda, which means the slave, and her only son, Osama, was called Ibn Al Abeda, which means son of the slave. …

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