Origins: Was Osama bin Laden, the scourge of our age, a sickly man, possibly even one dying of his infirmities? In the world of gossip, scuttlebutt that trivializes a hated enemy by portraying him as less powerful and more piteous often proves highly popular because it helps reduce the perceived threat that person represents to a more manageable level. Such rumbles are routinely kited during times of conflict, and often prove to have little more to them than mere wishful thinking on the part of those looking for reassurance.
Yet that may not have been the case here. Rumors about
This man spoke to a doctor who accompanied
Around that same time, an unnamed official in the intelligence community stated
Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia responded to the rumors by denying them. "His health is good. There is no problem with his kidney or liver," said Ahmad Ullah, a Taliban spokesman in southern Kandahar, in March 2000.
William Safire asserted in a November 2001 New York Times article that in
In September 2001, it was reported that Moosa Wardak, an Afghan doctor, had traveled to India not long before on a diplomatic passport issued by the Taliban government to buy some medical equipment for
Stories about bin Laden's renal problems and treatments that have been sought for them surface in many news articles, each appearing to come from different sources, thus this rumor may have more substance to it than the usual slander of an enemy which, even if voiced through numerous media outlets, ultimately proves to flow from the same wellspring. This multiplicity of sourcing cannot be confirmed, however, because those who provide such accounts do so only under promise that their identities not be revealed. The secrecy of the
A persistent rumor asserts bin Laden received treatment for his ailing kidneys at the American Hospital in Dubai in 2001, arriving on
The CIA has flatly denied the report. Its spokeswoman, Anya Guelsher, said that it was "complete nonsense." Bernard Koval, the director of the hospital, also denied the terrorist had been a patient there, saying "Osama
Osama bin Laden himself, in a November 2001 interview with a Pakistani newspaper, denied reports he had been hospitalized in Dubai for kidney treatment and said "My kidneys are all right."
Was he ill or was he well? Whom to believe?
The truth of such whispers will be impossible to determine until the body of
Barbara "final exam" Mikkelson
Last updated: 1 May 2011
Gannon, Kathy.   "Witness: bin Laden Seemed Sick at Meeting About Clinton Visit." Associated Press. 25 March 2000. McGregor, Glen.   "Bin Laden May Be Dying, Reports Say." The Ottawa Citizen. 20 September 2001 (p. C5). Safire, William.   "Essay; Prague Connection." The New York Times. 12 November 2001 (p. A19). Sage, Adam.   "Ailing bin Laden 'Treated Secretly for Kidney Disease.'" The Times [London]. 1 November 2001. Agence France Presse.   "Osama bin Laden Denies Kidney Problems." 10 November 2001. Agence France Presse.   "American Hospital in Dubai Denies Treating bin Laden." 31 October 2001. Business Recorder.   "Pak Students Offer Kidneys to Osama." 23 March 2000. Deutsche Presse-Agentur.   "Suspected Saudi Terrorist Osama bin Laden Dying, Magazine Says." 16 March 2000.