Osama bin Laden was one of the least popular people in modern history without a doubt, at least in the western world. His death at the hands of Navy SEALs last week permanently foreclosed any opportunity to talk with him about his use of terror. Long before his death, I contemplated what I might say to him if I ever met him. I’d have asked, ‘Why choose terror? What do you really expect it to accomplish, other than venting anger?’ In someone reputed to be so bad, I’d have looked for a morsel of good. Bin Laden was, by all reports, an intelligent man. I wonder whether it might have been possible to make a personal connection and influence his views.
Would you meet with a terrorist given the opportunity? What would you have asked bin Laden and why?
Or maybe it’s not bin Laden but another public person with a negative persona that captures your interest, someone like Fidel Castro who for decades was America’s bogeyman.
I asked fellow writers to share their sentiments- would they want to meet someone with a notorious reputation? If so, who would they pick, what would they like to talk about, and why?
Osama bin Laden
“Why violence? Would you have not gone further if you had called your enemies attacks against you to the court of public opinion, on the world stage?”
–Tennille Webster, Price, Utah
“I’ve always wondered about the idealists who “turn.” I interviewed a fellow who grew up in Libya and told me that Moammar Gadhafi took power as a reformer intent on correcting the corruption and injustice of the previous Libyan government. He was widely admired as a champion of the people, but little by little turned into what we know him as today. I would meet with the young idealist (or pretender) Gadhafi to, in the words of The Who, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” and understand whether he changed from his youth or simply deceived people from the start. That shift from principled idealist to self-serving autocrat fascinates me because it has happened over and over throughout thousands of years of human history.”
–Brad Sylvester, Strafford, N.H.
“I would pick Josef Stalin, and ask why he so betrayed the worker’s movement and the real tenets of Marx, setting back real social justice worldwide a century or more, and so damaging the perception of socialism as to make it a dirty word to so many.”
–Jeff Musall, Newberg, Ore.
“It would have been fascinating to sit down with Pol Pot and discuss his reasoning for sending urban Cambodians out of the cities to work hard labor and the killing of intellectuals. If perhaps his academic failures and volunteer work as a laborer were more the cause of those deaths than any ideological need for a ‘Zero Year’ to restart civilization.”
–Tamara McRill, Sullivan, Ill.
“What price makes it worth betraying a beloved friend?”
–Kimberly Morgan, Tampa, Fl.
“I would be interested in meeting Hitler. Of all the evil people we’ve seen, he is one of the first that was seeing success at ridding the world of the people he deemed inferior to make a supposedly better, more elite world. I would want to know why he so hated Jews and how he convinced thousands and possibly millions to believe as he did. Despite being evil, he could command the attention of almost anyone instantly. I wonder if he had turned that talent to something good, what would have happened. I also wonder if he would have been truly happy if he had succeeded or if there would have been another group he thought should be taken out of the world.”
–C.D. Crowder, Greensboro, N.C.
“I would want to interview Adolph Hitler . ‘What were you thinking?’ is a question that comes to mind. LOL I’m also interested in all his weird weapon ideas, fighting on a war on so many fronts and other things. Of course, I would have to ask if he really thought he could get rid of God’s chosen people . Throughout history, the Jews have been gone after, yet they always survive. Will people ever learn that when God makes a promise He keeps it?”
–Emma Riley Sutton, Okla.
And my own answer:
“If you could have one ‘do-over’ of anything you or Cuba did in the last 50 or so years, what would it be? What is the one most important thing the U.S. could have done that might have changed the bitter relationship between our countries? If we’d looked in the proverbial mirror and acknowledged some of our own imperfections, could you have done the same? What would you have seen in that mirror and what do you think we’d have seen?”
–Carol Bengle Gilbert, Silver Spring, Md.