Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden
Bruce Lawrence ed.
London: Verso, 2005, 292 pp. pb
January 2 2008
Upon reading this book, the reader can safely agree with Michael Scheuer: "Bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us. None of the reasons have anything to do with our freedom, liberty and democracy, but have everything to do with US policies and actions in the Muslim world." (book jacket)
As in the volume of Nasrallah's essays speaking for Hezbollah, this volume is largely geopolitics. Compared with Nasrallah's just released essays, these essays contain more references to Islamic writings to justify battle to eject the united $tates from the Arabian peninsula, Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq. There is also mention of struggles against so-called communists in Yemen (p. 8) along with intra-proletarian struggles in Indonesia, Kashmir and Bosnia. However, the rank order in Islam is the territory of Saudi Arabia first, which is supposed to be like a Washington DC in not having local politics soil the larger cause. Hence, DC is not supposed to have the right to vote by the original U.$. setup which sought to protect the federally elected officials from corrupt local officials. Mecca and Medina are so important to Islam that foreigners and local politics are analogously warded off most ferociously there. Palestine and Iraq are next in line and now Osama Bin Laden says the Taliban is the only one to have constructed a Muslim republic. These are the geopolitical priorities of Osama Bin Laden stated over and over again--and they conform to the thoughts of much of the Islamic world.
With U.$. troops in all these Islamic places except Palestine, where U.$. arms go to I$raelis, the problem with the current U.$. propaganda war is the 90% of the public that does not care that the issue is really an anti-war issue. The U.$. public assumes that its troops everywhere belong everywhere, with the exception of Iraq now. It is only what we call the striving patriots like Ron Paul who are informing the U.$. public that the U.$. military was attacking Islamic civilians before 9/11. Listening to mainstream U.$. politicians, one would think that none of them ever read anything from Hezbollah, Al Qaeda or any Arab nationalist. The reason is that there is usually not a political gain in vote-counting for politicians to tell Amerikans things that would make them uncomfortable.
In fact, Osama Bin Laden alludes to arguments against him that the Muslims never sent a "messenger" to the united $tates to straighten it out before attacking. This is actually literally untrue as a publication called the "Messenger" does in fact appear in the United $tates. We have the Nation of Islam organization. We also had Malcolm X, but it appears that Amerikan Muslims killed him. There were many attempted messengers, but Amerikans do not want to hear it.
Despite the fact that only 10% pays attention to foreign affairs and so we can be sure that we are dealing with a small elite concerned with the multiple issues of Palestine, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, MIM has argued that expanding political consciousness in the united $tates is actually detrimental. A population that is overwhelmingly composed of oppressor nation petty- bourgeoisie is not going to respond positively to the political call of the oppressed, so it is best that it stays asleep while the Third World mobilizes. Second best is for both the oppressor and oppressed to mobilize.
Osama Bin Laden refers over and over again to scholars. Those that stand on their own feet end up killed, imprisoned or deported in the Islamic world by U.$. puppet regimes. The rest end up in the pay of the West or Western supported kings or military dictators.
In the West, our problem with intellectuals is to some degree a matter of their material comfort being so much greater than that of Third World intellectuals. Western intellectuals have allowed even Marxism to become bourgeoisified; whereas, the fate of Marxism in Third World hands will not be the same. Difficulties with Marxist intellectuals in the Third World are the same as with Muslim scholars--deportation, death and prison. The remaining supposedly Marxist Third World intellectuals are often just Liberals unduly influenced by bourgeoisified pseudo-Marxism.
What potential for being the yeast of change is lost also because a decisive portion of Western intellectuals resists political sociology like the plague. Unlike Marx who started his career searching for a social vehicle of revolutionary change of the purest intentions, today's Western intellectuals start with the dogmas of majority rule within imperialist country borders and racial integration--backdoors to an empire's patriotism.
Understanding the Koran or Torah and their context requires a scholar, which this reviewer is far from being. Yet, among the 1.2 billion that are Muslims, college education is a rare privilege. Given the choice between the influence of the TV and the churches, Osama Bin Laden has chosen the madrassas. Geopolitically, it is a wise choice. The oppressors and exploiters can reach the TV, but grabbing a hold of the education of the oppressed is much more difficult, despite New York Times harangues.
We will point to a few concepts explored in Messages to the World. One is that according to Osama Bin Laden's version of Islam, one must have both "material, tangible knowledge and true understanding of the surrounding context" (p. 11) and Koran-related knowledge. With such an approach there is nothing stopping Osama Bin Laden from having a more accurate grip on reality than so-called Marxists.
Lawrence tells readers that there is a concept of "false consciousness" (p. 16) that Bin Laden employs. More frequently we see him attack polytheism, (e.g., p. 115) in an apparent struggle against pluralist theories. Those that worship idols or rulers are setting up an authority equal with or above god, according to Bin Laden, so that would be polytheism, which is not just open worship of multiple gods. (See the Prophet Muhammad quoted, p. 228) There is open polytheism and crypto-polytheism which the Prophet Muhammad condemned. Among other uses, Bin Laden's attack on polytheism brings rulers down to the level of other people, who also have to answer to god. Bin Laden is careful to inform readers that just because someone is powerful or there is a powerful pattern of reality, there is no reason to assume that god is behind it. He attacks fatalism in his criticism of this statement: "'It is true that jihad is obligatory, but we cannot fight.'"(p. 80)
At one point, Osama Bin Laden says that jihad is so important that he quotes the Islamic scriptures to the effect that one hour of armed struggle is worth 60 years of worship. (p. 128) With that lure, we can see how Islamic country Maoists would be recruited into the Islamic organizations. Perhaps many will never be Islamic scholars, but the jihad is nonetheless very high priority within the religion among the various obligations that exist.
MIM has already explained that within the Islamist jihad concept there is the individual answering to god only. The jihadis' concept of the individual undercuts various ignorant theories of economic development we hear the Liberals put forward.
The constant reference to scholars and the possibilities of bribery leading to corruption are reminiscent of Confucianism. The economic development of Taiwan and $outhern Korea proves that Confucianism is neither a barrier to economic development nor a propeller, since Confucianism has existed since ancient times. Likewise, if the Protestant Reformation was supposed to have a role in spurring thought toward capitalism, then it would be hard to explain why the concept of jihad did not spur capitalism. In both jihad and the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic notion of hierarchy came under attack and the individual's relationship to god prioritized. MIM for its part does not see any religious factors in economic development, but instead like Marx sees changes in religious thought arising from economic reality.
At this time, the Islamic world is under invasion for oil. Hence, old Islamic teachings on invasions and corrupt rulers who act as puppets get dusted off and emphasized. The teachings of jihad neither started the u.$. invasions nor caused a material force to oppose them. These teachings are the culture of the Islamic world, because the upper classes cannot fully educate their people while transferring Islamic wealth to the imperialist countries. Westernization is dangling itself in front of the Islamic world, but its economic bases are not possible, because the Western culture rests on exploitation. So the material fact of an invasion for oil came first and then leaders like Osama Bin Laden appeared with his particular emphases within Islam. If the Islamic countries were the imperialist exploiters, then there would be Christians dusting off the passages of the Bible on oppression and exploitation.
On the whole, we would call this an internationalist volume. It explains both to the West and the Islamic world that Muslims have equal humyn rights with Westerners. Violence against Muslim civilians is much more prevalent than violence against Amerikan and I$raeli citizens and so Osama Bin Laden says, "as they kill us, without a doubt we have to kill them, until we obtain a balance of terror."(p. 114) What readers need to know is that Osama Bin Laden's references to millions killed in the Islamic world by the united $tates are accurate. That is what requires some investigation and study.
In the battle for a balance of terror, Bin Laden has found a scriptural quote about going to hell for starving a cat. (p. 267) On that basis alone, it is plain the U.$. population is going to hell for starving people to death--not just cats-- not only in Iraq but globally. Amerika with its economic sanctions and infrastructure-destroying wars is going to hell or rather it is Hell, Great Satan.
In criticism of Bin Laden, we would say too often in this volume, he takes up the tail-wags-the-dog thesis of Jewish control of the united $tates. (e.g. pp. 67, 113, 143, 148, 167-8, 235) MIM opposes this thesis for two reasons other than that it is inaccurate. 1) It prevents development of the Islamic knowledge of class and nation. Among Amerikans, it will be common to believe that there is a Zionist lobby, but there must be another Arab lobby too. In contrast, the same idea is held differently in the Islamic world, as another avenue to capitulation, where with superhumyn Jews in control of the world, the Islamic masses turn to passivity and praying for Amerikan Christian help. 2) It excuses flabby Arab rulers who kiss Amerikan ass while pretending to oppose I$rael. In fact, such is usually the first sign of pro- Amerikan belief, the idea that "I'm against I$rael, but Amerikkkans are OK. Give me a chance and I'll be a Nazi Amerikkkanist like the rest." I$rael can more accurately be considered the 51st state, but some Arabs want to be the 52nd. When Bin Laden says, "every American is our enemy, whether he fights directly or whether he pays taxes. Perhaps you have heard the recent news that three- quarters of the American people support Clinton in attacking Iraq," he is covering it all, including I$rael. (p. 70) On this point, he is more accurate than any of the existing Marxist parties in the West before there was a MIM. (see also, p. 116 footnotes, pp. 141, 165 on responsibility of Amerika in its entirety) The Christian bourgeoisie populating the united $tates would kill for oil, whether there was a Zionist entity or not. The problem is capitalism, not Jews.
Stripped of the Zionist lobby discussion, Osama Bin Laden's political economy is close to MIM's. Like MIM, for Osama Bin Laden, "freedom" and "democracy" of the West are for white people. (p. 150) "The freedom and democracy that you call for is for yourselves and for the white race only; as for the rest of the world, you impose upon it your monstrous, destructive policies and governments, which you call 'friends of America.'" (p. 169) Most of the so-called Left in the West never adjusted strategies when the majority inside their countries' borders became composed of exploiters. The implications for democracy and patriotism, not to mention republicanism are never explored. Bin Laden says himself that Amerikans should "take an honest stance with yourselves--which I doubt you will do."(p. 170) There is something sticky or dogmatic going on with Amerikans: it is called class.
As a result, disempowered failures of intellectual activists end up singing in the Democratic Party's choir, while hoping that if they keep compromising, they'll prove to be "tactically smart." Many of the pseudo-leftists turned to Kerry instead of Howard Dean in 2004; even though, Howard Dean opposed the Iraq War and the Patriot Act and Kerry co-authored the Patriot Act. The Kerry voter secretly calculated there is no proletarian majority in the united $tates to oppose the Iraq War or that needs freedom from the Patriot Act, so to obtain the rest of the Democratic Party platform, the Kerry voter pitched aside Howard Dean in favor of a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, John Kerry.
Yet according to Kerry, Osama Bin Laden's public message three days before the 2004 election turned the election around for Bush.(p. 237) This is another thing that the "democratic socialists" and "socialist libertarians" have never accounted for--how a stout message from the Third World influences the world's minority of voters in apartheid headquarters, the U$A, and similar countries. The parties of the left-wing of parasitism do not base themselves confidently in the Third World majority and end up applying Kerry-voter type supposed logic.
That is not to say MIM is advocating armed struggle in the united $tates to copy Al Qaeda. Mao said not to undertake such a struggle, because the armed struggle should start in ungovernable places, not where the rulers have strong transport and communications.
Readers may also find themselves surprised to see positive mentions of the Palestinian organizations "Islamic Jihad" and "Hamas."(p. 152) Before changing his mind, Osama Bin Laden also said he would also work with atheist supporters of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He points to Muslim teachings on when various interests overlap in international matters. Sometimes Muslim interests overlap with other interests. (e.g., p. 184)
At the end of 2007, Al Qaeda was in the news for opposing surrender of any inch of the historical mandate of Palestine.(1) Similar statements are in this volume along with explicit opposition to Madrid, Oslo and Geneva (p. 214) diplomatic initiatives in connection to I$rael. Nasrallah and Osama Bin Laden teach the masses that diplomacy is never just talk leading to solutions. That is an illusion that the oppressor would like the oppressed to have.
It is not so much an Amerikan majority, but an international proletariat that needs to eject U.$. imperialism from the Islamic world. Osama Bin Laden here tells us that as long as Sharon is called a terrorist, then he will also refer to himself as a terrorist. Alternatively, Osama Bin Laden is organizing violence to apprehend international criminals: "How long will fear, killing, destruction, displacement, orphaning, and widowing be our sole destiny, while security, stability, and happiness is yours? . . . Just as you kill, so you shall be killed; just as you bomb, so you shall be bombed."(p. 175) The solution is to get the united $tates off the Arabian Peninsula, out of Iraq and out of Afghanistan. In the imperialist countries, the rest is hysterical opposition to the anti-war movement. The richest countries of the world can pay full price for their oil or stop driving the SUV.
We would suggest that readers pay for this book in cash and be careful. Someone recently received a prison sentence of 25 years in November just for saying to an undercover agent he would give karate lessons to Al Qaeda.(2) People at major research universities or having other access on the Internet may also try to read the CIA-originated FBIS extracts of Al Qaeda writings internationally.