I decided to address the Bin Laden letter after reading an article about how Pope John Paul II, who is normally a very optimistic person said while speaking at a pontifical university that "terrorism and violence across the world, seems to be pointing us in a direction where a clash of civilizations at times seems inevitable."
I have wanted the opportunity to critique the ideology of Osama Bin Laden from his own words for years but since it seems to be the policy of the American media to not give terrorists a "stage" to express their beliefs, we are often kept in the dark as to exactly what we are often times fighting against.
For those of you that have read this site, most of this will sound familiar to you. Bin Laden, like all religious fundamentalist, sees the world as about as complex as a comic book. Everything is black and white. There are no shades of gray. Those that are religious admire that. Those of us that can go to bed at night without a nightlight on or don't see signs of the apocalypse in solar eclipses find it nothing short of lamentable.
Critical thinking is an exercise in identifying and weighing the gravity of the subtleties of any particular subject.
You will find none of that in his argument.
From reading his own words it is clear to me that his entire movement is nothing but the crusade of a religious fundamentalist, motivated by social injustice that isn't focused on practical steps towards achieving obtainable goals but rather relying on quite literally the divine intervention of God to bring their agenda to fruitition.
At first I thought that I would try to address "Osama Bin Laden's letter to America" point for point seeing that I wrote the article "Osama Wants Me Dead. I Don't Know Why But I am Sure He's Got His Reasons" a few years ago, but I won't do that for several reasons.
One of those reasons being for the sake of redundancy.
If you want to read his entire letter to America you can find it here.
A vast majority of his argument is based on his religious beliefs, so there is really no need to address them point by point.
Instead I will focus solely on the first of his two questions: "why are we attacking you"
His response is predictably "because you attacked us first".
As for the first question: Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is very simple: (1) Because you attacked us and continue to attack us.
It is commanded by our religion and intellect that the oppressed have a right to return the aggression. Do not await anything from us but Jihad, resistance and revenge.
You attacked us in Somalia; you supported the Russian atrocities against us in Chechnya, the Indian oppression against us in Kashmir, and the Jewish aggression against us in Lebanon.
He has a big problem with Israel and Jews in general.
The creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals. And of course there is no need to explain and prove the degree of American support for Israel. The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its*price, and pay for it heavily.
You are the nation that permits Usury, which has been forbidden by all the religions. Yet you build your economy and investments on Usury. As a result of this, in all its different forms and guises, the Jews have taken control of your economy, through which they have then taken control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life making you their servants and achieving their aims at your expense; precisely what Benjamin Franklin warned you against.
I have always said that "when you side with someone you automatically inherit their enemies" and Bin Laden makes it perfectly clear that his war with us is due to a huge degree to our government's persevering support of the state of Israel (big surprise).
The Israeli government aren't Saints or innocents by any stretch of the imagination. The Israeli government has been every bit as villainous as any Palestinian "terrorist" in every single way feasible.
Any argument against that fact is indefensible.
In many ways the Palestinian "terrorist" is up against an Israeli government that has been documented as exploring every avenue available to them toward the complete genocide of the Palestinian not at all unlike how the apartied government of South Africa plotted the systematic removal of the black majority there, as the United States succeeded in doing to the native American.
Where else can we read that Moshe Ya'alon, Ariel Sharon's new chief of staff, describe the "Palestinian threat" as "like a cancer - there are all sorts of solutions to cancerous manifestations. For the time being, I am applying chemotherapy."
Where else can we read that the Israeli Herut Party chairman, Michael Kleiner, say that "for every victim of ours there must be 1,000 dead Palestinians".
Where else can we read that Eitan Ben Eliahu, the former Israeli Air Force commander, say that "eventually we will have to thin out the number of Palestinians living in the territories".
Where else can we read that the new head of Mossad, General Meir Dagan - a close personal friend of Mr Sharon - believes in "liquidation units", that other Mossad men regard him as a threat because "if Dagan brings his morality to the Mossad, Israel could become a country in which no normal Jew would want to live".
- taken from an article written by Robert Fisk from Independent UK wrote on how the knavery of the Israeli government is widely reported in the Israeli press.
The creation of the state of Israel is a throw back to what was at the time considered the unquestioned right of European colonialism. The land which is now Israel was given to the Jews by the British after World War II. At that time, European cultural tradition believed that the cultural other had no right to property, especially when it came to land.
The cultural other could no more own land than the wild animals that inhabit it, therefore, it couldn't be stolen. And in the case of the Palestinians it didn't need to be compensated for when it was given to what are not the Israelis.
Palestine, which has sunk under military occupation for more than 80 years. The British handed over Palestine, with your help and your support, to the Jews, who have occupied it for more than 50 years; years overflowing with oppression, tyranny, crimes, killing, expulsion, destruction and devastation.
From the world-view of this European cultural tradition they were not stealing land from the native people, the cultural other didn't know how to use the land. They had no idea of its proper use, therefore Europeans had a duty to take over the land, to develop it if you will and to use the resources.Therefore anything being occupied by the cultural other is actually seen as being "unoccupied" because Europeans have rights to everything.
See, I told you European colonialism was an ugly broad.
No, the creation of Israel and the problems in the region are a direct result of European colonialism.Contrary to what some believe, this Jewish Muslim conflict in the middle east is not something that goes back thousands of years, in fact, before the creation of Israel, Muslims, Jews as well as Christians co-existed in the region in relative peace.
This part of Bin Laden's argument regarding our policy towards weapons of mass destruction I agree with wholeheartedly.
Your policy on prohibiting and forcibly removing weapons of mass destruction to ensure world peace: it only applies to those countries which you do not permit to possess such weapons. As for the countries you consent to, such as Israel, then they are allowed to keep and use such weapons to defend their security. Anyone else who you suspect might be manufacturing or keeping these kinds of weapons, you call them criminals and you take military action against them.
You are the last ones to respect the resolutions and policies of International Law, yet you claim to want to selectively punish anyone else who does the same. Israel has for more than 50 years been pushing UN resolutions and rules against the wall with the full support of America.
We needn't look any further than our current administrations dealing with Iraq to see how true that is.
I believe that this administration was always going to use military action against Iraq. We even went so far as to say that if the UN wanted to continue to be a "factor on the world stage" and not go out like the League of Nations they had better condone our war against Iraq.
There was never any question that we would go to war with Iraq with or without the blessing of the UN.
Lobbying for the UN to pass a resolution is where we are trying to give the impression that we are civilized and do things in accordance to codified law. We want to say to the world that we are acting in accordance to the powers granted by UN resolution. However, how are we going to expect someone to take a UN resolution seriously when we ourselves said that in the event that they failed to pass the resolution we were going to act anyway? Passing the resolution puts Iraq in a position where if they don't comply they look like they have broken the laws of the civilized world and thus justifies our actions against them. When the reality is that we were going to war regardless and if we fought without the UN's blessings we would just label the UN the dreaded "irrelevant" and say we were fighting a moral fight that the UN was not brave enough to support.
Historically, minorities have been slow to catch on that what is legal and what is moral have little relationship to one another in the European cultural tradition. This is espceially so when dealing with the cultural other.
There is no clearer example of this than when Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Tawney, who authored the courts ruling on the Dred Scott case in 1857 said "Negroes had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."
Let us not forget one of your major characteristics: your duality in both manners and values; your hypocrisy in manners and principles. All*manners, principles and values have two scales: one for you and one for the others. You steal our wealth and oil at paltry prices because of your international influence and military threats. This theft is indeed the biggest theft ever witnessed by mankind in the history of the world.
I think the Native Americans have you beat there, Bin Laden, but I get your point.
I find it appalling how he talks about how his version of Islam is all about respect, honor and whatnot because any idiot can see that it only applies to intra-faith behavior. What he doesn't just come right out and say but is implied in nearly half of his argument is he feels he has the moral authority to do anything to a non-Muslim including taking their lives. And in that case, how is he any different than what he accuses the west of, in regards to a duality in both manners and values?
That is exactly how he lives. The world s made up of only two kinds of people; Muslims and infidels. Ironically, that mentality is fundamentally no different than the European cultural tradition that he so vehemently criticizes.
These next few paragraphs strike at the heart of what he sees as inherent problems with western civilization, particularly the role of government. Government for Bin Laden is just a tool to enforce the laws of the Koran which are the laws that God has given to govern our lives. Obviously this is an issue that cannot be reconciled between his ideology and our own western idea of government.
It is saddening to tell you that you are the worst civilization witnessed by the history of mankind: You separate religion from your policies, contradicting the pure nature which affirms Absolute Authority to the Lord and your Creator. You flee from the embarrassing question posed to you: How is it possible for Allah the Almighty to create His creation, grant them power over all the creatures and land, grant them all the amenities of life, and then deny them that which they are most in need of: knowledge of the laws which govern their lives?
By his own words, part of his issue with the west is our insistence of separation of Church and State. This is the foundation of classic political liberalism, one of the classic political ideologies of the modern western world. Our notion of the separation of Church and State grew out of the recognition that toleration was the only feasible alternative to the wars of Religion (big surprise) that had gone on in Europe between the Catholics and the Protestants. Europe had learned the hard way that Liberalism in many ways is the only humane response to a diverse, pluralistic modern society because it emphasizes toleration as a core ethic.
Quite frankly, that is the most appalling aspect of Bin Laden's Islam is how completely alienated he appears to be to even the notion of tolerance.
How Bin Laden tries to reconcile the difference between assigning blame to our government and equally blaming US citizens for the actions of the government is in his premise.
His premise is that since we are a democracy we (civilians) are responsible for electing our government officials by free will and therefore we are equally responsible for what they do when they are in office because by electing them we are in fact showing our support of their policy.
You may then dispute that all the above does not justify aggression against civilians, for crimes they did not commit and offenses in which they did not partake: The American people are the ones who choose their government by way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies. Thus the American people have chosen, consented to, and affirmed their support for the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, the occupation and usurpation of their land, and its continuous killing, torture, punishment and expulsion of the Palestinians. The American people have the ability and choice to refuse the policies of their Government and even to change it if they want.
Uh, not quite.
Yes, it is true that we are a democracy. And yes we elect our government representatives based on the policies that they claim to support. However being in a democracy also means that you are not always represented by who you would necessarily choose to be your leader nor are the policies that your government follows necessarily policies that you personally support.
To make the leap into "my choice in political leadership, is as an individual, choosing, consenting to, and affirming the support of the continuous killing and torture" of any group of people is simply erroneous.
It is such a convenient fallacy to argue that every American, or even that a majority of Americans are aware of everything their government does everywhere in the world and we vote from a position where that knowledge is right there in our pocket.
It is laughable to even suppose this.
Half of Americans think Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. What percentage of Americans does he think are aware of any American foreign policies that permit the torture, killing or punishment of civilians either directly or indirectly?
One of the reasons Bin Laden has no problem killing US civilians is because the weapons that we give Israel are paid with our tax dollars.
The American people are the ones who pay the taxes which fund the planes that bomb us in Afghanistan, the tanks that strike and destroy our homes in Palestine, the armies which occupy our lands in the Arabian Gulf, and the fleets which ensure the blockade of Iraq. These tax dollars are given to Israel for it to continue to attack us and penetrate our lands. So the American people are the ones who fund the attacks against us, and they are the ones who oversee the expenditure of these monies in the way they wish, through their elected candidates. The American people are the ones who employ both their men and their women in the American Forces which attack us. This is why the American people cannot be not innocent of all the crimes committed by the Americans and Jews against us.
Those last sentences touch at the heart of my problem with his argument, Bin Laden doesn't recognize the autonomy of the individual like we do here in the west. Maybe he could understand it if I used his argument against us pointed back at him.
al-Qaeda commits acts of terrorism and other atrocities in the hopes that the West will convert to Islam and aid them in the removal of the state of Israel.
Members of al-Qaeda are Muslims.
Therefore all Muslims support the aims of the al-Qaeda and are therefore are equally guilty of all the acts committed by al-Qaeda.
I agree that the concept of the autonomous individual, is often over emphasized, at least within the context of capitalism, and not enough emphasis is placed on the notion of mutual obligations between people which normally bound communities together.
You are a nation that permits acts of immorality, and you consider them to be pillars of personal freedom.
But there is a middle ground. It doesn't have to be one or the other. Unfortunately he isn't interested in striking a middle ground.
The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam. The religion of the Unification of God; of freedom from associating partners with Him, and rejection of this; of complete love of Him, the Exalted; of complete submission to His Laws; and of the discarding of all the opinions, orders, theories and religions which contradict with the religion He sent down to His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
What he suggests we replace our civilization with is a totalitarian Islamic state? A state governed by some man in a robe telling us what God wants or doesn't want, from the balcony of his mansion while the rest of us live like pheasants on the hillside. That is until someone with a little charisma, a flying carpet and a funny shaped sword stands up and says God told him something completely different than what this asshole has been telling us all this time. Then out of frustration a fucking war breaks out in a bloody class struggle under the guise of a religious conflict.
No thank you.
This much I know.
Until the entire world is following the words of the prophet Muhammad the earth as far as he is concerned the earth is soiled.
So was the Pope right? Are we headed for a clash of civilizations?
In the west we have already been through the government/state religion bullshit and it doesn't work. We aren't going to recreate the wheel for him or anybody else.