In December 1996, Robert Fisk of the London newspaper The Independent traveled to the mountains north of Khartoum where he met Osama bin Laden. The opening sentences of the article he wrote about the meeting went as follows:

Osama Bin Laden sat in his gold fringed robe, guarded by loyal Arab mujahedin… . With his high cheekbones, narrow eyes and long brown robe, Mr Bin Laden looks every inch the mountain warrior of mujahedin legend. Chadored children danced in front of him, preachers acknowledged his wisdom.

In a second article he wrote about the same meeting, Fisk upgraded bin Laden's attire from gold-fringed brown robe to “white Saudi robes.” But whatever the detail, you get the same message. Here is a man whose face and garb reveal his nobility. Fisk's description bears a close similarity to another account by a British writer of his meeting with an Arab aristocrat. In...


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