1. The CIA created Osama bin Laden.
Common among conspiracy theorists is the notion that bin Laden was a CIA creation and that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were blowback from an agency operation gone awry. Typifying this view is filmmaker Michael Moore, who on the day after the terrorist attacks wrote: “WE created the monster known as Osama bin Laden! Where did he go to terrorist school? At the CIA!”
In fact, during the Soviet war in Afghanistan during the 1980s, the CIA had no dealings with “Afghan Arabs” such as bin Laden and had few direct dealings with any of the Afghan mujaheddin. Instead, all U.S. aid to Afghanistan was funneled through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the ISI. Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf, the ISI officer who coordinated Pakistani efforts during the war, explained in “The Bear Trap,” his 1992 book: “No Americans ever trained or had direct contact with the mujaheddin.”
Since 9/11, al-Qaeda insiders have responded in writing to assertions that they had some kind of relationship with the CIA. Bin Laden’s top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in his autobiographical “Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet,” wrote, “The truth that everyone should learn is that the United States did not give one penny in aid to the [Arab] mujaheddin.” Similarly, Abu Musab al-Suri, long an associate of bin Laden’s, explained in his history of the jihadist movement, “The Call to Global Islamic Resistance”: “It is a big lie that the Afghan Arabs were formed with the backing of the CIA.”
There are very few things that al-Qaeda and the CIA agree upon — except that they have never had any relationship.
2. Bin Laden attacked us because of our freedoms.
This was a common trope of President George W. Bush. Nine days after Sept. 11, Bush addressed Congress. “They hate our freedoms,” he said, “our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.” Yet, in all the tens of thousands of words uttered by bin Laden, he was strangely silent about American freedoms and values. He didn’t seem to care very much about the beliefs of the “crusaders.” His focus was invariably on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
In a review of 24statements made by bin Laden from 1994 to 2004, political scientist James L. Payne found that 72 percent of the content of the speeches referred to alleged Western or Jewish attacks against Muslims, while only 1 percent criticized American culture or way of life.
In a 2004 video, bin Laden directly rebutted Bush’s assertions about al-Qaeda’s motivations for attacking the United States: “Contrary to what Bush says and claims — that we hate your freedom. If that were true, then let him explain why did we not attack Sweden.”