Bin Laden and Palestine

by Henry Farrell on October 30, 2004

I’d gone along with the popular wisdom that Bin Laden had only recently expressed interest in the Palestinian cause in order to broaden his appeal – “Juan Cole”: tells us that this conventional view is flat-out wrong.

bq. Bin Laden has repeatedly said that one of the reasons he hit the US was over the Israeli attacks on the Palestinians. Bin Laden has cared deeply about Palestine since his youth. His partner in Peshawar at the Office of Services for 6 years when he was funding the Mujahidin was Abdullah Azzam, a prominent Palestinian Muslim fundamentalist. When he came back to Jiddah from Pakistan after the Soviets withdrew, Bin Laden gave a guest sermon at the local mosque in which he bitterly criticized Israeli actions during the first Intifadah. He declared war on the Zionists and the Crusaders, and has constantly complained about the Occupation of the Three Holy Cities, which are Mecca, Medinah and Jerusalem. Because he did not use traditional Palestianian nationalist language, it has been possible for some to miss his commitment to the Palestine issue.

NB – threads on CT and elsewhere that even mention Palestine or Israel in passing tend to descend swiftly into a repugnant back-and-forth of slurs against Israelis and Palestinians – I’ll be ruthless in deleting comments to this post that even hint at going down that path.



quietstorm 10.30.04 at 4:22 pm

Ah, the conventional wisdom is wrong because Juan Cole can find some quotes saying he cared about Palestine and that a single Palestinian joined his organization. Talk is cheap, action is more noteworthy. Bin Laden/ Al Qaeda was sooooo upset about Israel but never attacked an Israeli target either in Israel or abroad prior to 9/11. He was soooo upset about Israel that he attacked the WTC, the USS Cole, the Khobar Towers…… up to 9/11 but just didn’t get around to attacking the primary motivation for his violence. And it’s not as though terrorist organizations don’t have assets within Israel either. Given the enormous popularity of the anti-Israel position among the wider Arab audience to which Bin Laden would like to attract, the conventional wisdom stands, Cole’s argument is unconvincing although consistent with his personal views.


Dubious 10.30.04 at 4:44 pm

Juan Cole certainly has more time and ability devoted to Middle Eastern politics than I do. He has a, err, viewpoint on the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, so I’d like to hear confirmation (or non-denial) of his analysis from someone of a different viewpoint.

That said, it seems obvious to me that regardless of whether OBL has always made hay of the I-P struggle, he’s making hay of it now. And regardless of whether OBL makes hay of it, the I-P struggle inflames Arab sentiment.

Has OBL’s message actually given us useful additional information, information that we didn’t already know?

As an uninformed outsider, the new piece of information here seems to be that this message really is to the US citizenry instead of an apocalyptic rant ‘to’ the US citizenry, but actually for domestic consumption. Also, OBL seems to be trying to set himself up as the reasonable, elder statesman interlocutor.

While speaking to the US audience, he offers a tactical ceasefire, saying he’ll stop shooting if we stop supporting Israel. It’s not a deal the US will accept, but it’s also not a crazy plan to reabsorb Andalusia to the new Caliphate.


enzo rossi 10.30.04 at 4:48 pm

Bin Laden hasn’t (directly) attacked Israeli targets because he thinks that the best strategy to promote the Palestinian cause is to diminish US influence in the area (and there are quite a few other terrorist organizations operating against Israel anyway!).

Getting rid of Israel is important to him because Israel (just like the states he calls ‘corrupt Arab regimes’) stands in the way of his project of renewing the Califate, i.e. of creating a pan-arab superpower. So the destruction of Israel is only instrumental for him, and this is why he doesn’t use the stanadrd Palestinian nationalistic rethoric.

Yes, that’s a pretty quick and sloppy way of making a complex point, but isn’t this what blogs are for?


praktike 10.30.04 at 5:06 pm

Of course Israel is important to him. The Dome of the Rock is the third-holiest site in Islam.


bob mcmanus 10.30.04 at 5:22 pm

What rossi and praktike said. Viewing the I/P conflict without understanding the motivations of the Arab/Islamic world, which are in large part not determined by the conditions or treatment of the Palestinians is a catastrophic mistake. Any possible settlement between the two major parties is likely to be undermined from outside.

The Palestinians are a tool for the Saudis (for example) to get control of the Dome. They are serious. The conflict will not be resolved until I can walk around the Kaabah.


mona 10.30.04 at 5:22 pm

From what I read about him, seems that what bin Laden cared most deeply for in his youth was money, expensive designer clothes, hanging out at Monte Carlo with the other uber-rich kids of the Saudi elites.

How he went from that to self-proclaimed terrorist patron of the Palestinians and Afghans and all Muslims worldwide, is a mystery that no one can fully explain, simply because we don’t have all the gory details. But his ‘commitment’ looks about as genuine as Monsanto’s to organic agriculture.

Seriously, what’s Cole’s point anyway? I don’t get it.


Adam Kotsko 10.30.04 at 5:29 pm

I for one am outraged at Juan Cole would ever suggest that bin Laden is a human being with sincere political convictions!

I noticed this shortly after 9/11 — all of a sudden, everyone, of every political stripe, was invoking bin Laden’s periodic tapes as though he were some sort of oracle, almost as though he were a friend of some kind. It’s like we were glad to hear from him because he had direct access to truth.

Since it’s been so long since we had heard from him, maybe most people have forgotten the atmosphere that surrounded bin Laden at first, or maybe I’m totally wrong — but it was weird, almost like we trusted bin Laden’s word more than Jacques Chirac’s.


Giles 10.30.04 at 5:37 pm

most biographies I’ve read said that Laden was pretty uninterested in politics in his youth. I thus find Coles assertion that it has been a burning issue for him since his youth pretty hard to believe.


Detached Observeer 10.30.04 at 5:43 pm

Like other commenters on this thread, my initial reaction is skepticism. Mentioning solidarity with the Palestinians in the Arab world is like wrapping yourself in the flag in the USA: it scores you some political points and everybody does it. Can we agree that, whatever Bin Laden’s views on the subject were in the past, he has motivation to present himself as a long time crusader for the Palestinians?

The supporting evidence seems to be some remarks OBL made back in the day. But in the Arab world, virtually everyone criticizes Israeli actions all the time, so were his remarks really something out of the norm?


harry 10.30.04 at 5:58 pm

I don’t read Cole much, but I did read the whole post to which Henry pointed. I read it differently from the rest of you, which may betray my lack of Cole-awareness. Wasn’t there some irony? Not in the general analysis, which was very interesting, but in the uses of words like ‘commitment’ and ‘cared deeply’?


praktike 10.30.04 at 6:03 pm

most biographies I’ve read said that Laden was pretty uninterested in politics in his youth.

You’ve read some strange biographies. Did he have some epiphany and decide to just become a radical political Islamist? Nope, he was mentored Abdullah Azzam as a student.


abb1 10.30.04 at 6:38 pm

Doesn’t really matter what makes Mr. Bin Laden tick. Whatever it is, it would be silly to deny that I/P conflict (and Israel is general) has been the main source of instability in the region since the British left it.


Pollie Anon 10.30.04 at 6:39 pm

Am I the only one who’s periodicaly amazed by the Juan Cole worship that goes on at CT?

Juan cole says something and suddenly it’s true — the truth, no other.

Much as I respect Cole’s expertise, I also take into account his viewpoint when I evaluate the information he presents.

The guy’s not an oracle for gawd’s sake.


SomeCallMeTim 10.30.04 at 7:22 pm

I think I’m missing something. Why is the actual fidelity of UBL to the I/P issue interesting? Surely Detatched Observer is right – UBL wrapping himself in the I/P issue is good politics in his neck of the woods, and that’s really the important point. Does anyone on Earth really fear a 50 yr old diabetic? It’s what he can convince others to do that matters, and that ability to convince appears to be based in part on his ability to use the I/P issue as a touchstone for his movement.

I never really understood at the time of 9/11 why it was important to people to deny that UBL actually cared about the Palestinians. And I guess I still don’t. Even if he did, we (in the West) wouldn’t think it justified 9/11. So who cares if he’s sincere?


Generally Snell 10.30.04 at 8:29 pm

Praktike’s right about Abdullah Azzam. He was instrumental early in the Palestinian movement, and always came back to the issue of Israel even as he helped the Afghans drive the Russians out. He focused more consistently on the foreign occupation of the Islamic homeland than he did on the corruption of native regimes. Bin Laden’s always been big on ousting the Sauds, and, secondarily, other authoritarian Arab regimes. Azzam saw Afghanistan as preparation for fighting the Israelis, while Bin Laden was already looking at Riyadh and Washington.

Azzam’s assassination in 1989 took the wind out the “Afghan” mujahideen moving against Israel–many of them went back to their countries of origin to cause trouble, notably in North Africa. Bin Laden pays lip service to hating Israel, and certainly sees the strategic advantages of supporting that cause, but his first preoccupation has always been the “democracies of bread” that make a mockery of democracy and Islam, and happen to occupy Mecca and Medina, which are holier than Jerusalem by a long shot in Sunni eyes, and just as wrongly occupied by what they see as unIslamic forces.

Gilles Kepel wrote an excellent book called Jihad: the Rise and Fall of Political Islam, which details that pretty well.

Chris Suellentrop also wrote an article on Azzam at Slate that you can find here:


Generally Snell 10.30.04 at 8:37 pm

P.S. UBL’s stance on Israel is important precisely because, if he has the savvy and resources to survive a US-Pakistani onslaught for going on three years, he’s capable of many other things as well. He remains a nexus of Arab wealth and is wealth himself. His expertise in guerrila warfare is unquestioned. What better reason to gauge his objectives vis-a-vis Israel?

It’s interesting to note here that Hamas (the Islamist party) has become stronger, and the more secular Fatah/PLO relatively weaker since the first intifadah.


roger 10.30.04 at 8:55 pm

I’ve been waiting for the CT economics half to put together some post on perverse incentives and Osama bin. Isn’t it an almost classic case: a dictator who, before 9/11, governed a country on the verge of bankruptcy, now has a guaranteed stream of money, plust security, to encourage him to capture bin Laden and… cut himself off from the stream of money and guarantees of security.

Isn’t this a job for Ted?


dsquared 10.30.04 at 8:57 pm

It also ought to be more obvious than it apparently is that, with Yasser Arafat on his last legs and a obvious dangerous power vacuum developing among the Palestinians, “outreach” attempts from Osama to the world’s biggest community of suicide bombers are pretty worrying.


Toadmonster 10.30.04 at 9:26 pm

From what I read about him, seems that what bin Laden cared most deeply for in his youth was money, expensive designer clothes, hanging out at Monte Carlo with the other uber-rich kids of the Saudi elites.

You read Bodansky. He was wrong.

In any case, I see no reason to doubt the sincerity of bin Laden’s stated convictions. If your goal is to eliminate non-Muslim influence in the ME, then you want to get rid of Israel. However as I recall, bin Laden split with Azzam precisely over whether to attack Israel following the war with the USSR or to work against secular regimes in Muslim countries.

So I think it’s silly to suggest that it’s just politics for OBL. However it is certainly possible and even likely that increased emphasis on the I-P conflict is political.


abb1 10.30.04 at 9:26 pm

What better reason to gauge his objectives vis-a-vis Israel?

I don’t get it. Regardless of whether his interest in IPC is high or low, it’s clear that his ambitions are much broader. It seems perfectly obvious that to him the US is the great satan and Israel is one of the little ones. What else can you gauge here?

From the cost/benefit analysis Israel is probably the least opportunistic target for these guys because of the extraordinary level of security there; most they can do is to send some money to one of the Palestinian resistance groups.


SqueakyRat 10.30.04 at 10:07 pm

Regardless of whether his interest in IPC is high or low, it’s clear that his ambitions are much broader.

Broader, yes. Not clear that they extend beyond the Middle East or the Islamic world in some wider sense.


mona 10.30.04 at 10:30 pm

toad, no actually, I didn’t read Bodansky. I didn’t read any specific biographies on him, except in articles or other books on terrorism. I was thinking of a photo I saw of the bin Laden kids and friends and cousins hanging out in Monte Carlo. Osama was in his teens and obviously wasn’t yet working in the family business so maybe by the time he was 21 he had already developed a “political conscience”, if we may call it that. I don’t know. But I do think there are a lot of reasons to doubt his “sincerity”, in more ways than one. Or even the sincerity of the Pakistani services who maintain they no longer know anything about him. I don’t really know what to believe. But I know what _not_ to believe. And I don’t believe he’s for real. Or that he single-handedly commands a single terrorist body with a pyramid structure.

In any case, the exercise in analysis of his speeches strikes me as surreal. Like Adam said, in a way, it is like he was an oracle.

The question on where he is and what he’s doing and how come no one can find him after all these years, that should be the main focus of interest, I think. Also, maybe, how exactly do his tapes mysteriously get dropped at Al Jazeera’s gates. Instead, today, in the papers, all I read was how his language marked a departure and how he could affect the elections and how this passage meant this and the other meant that. The scriptural readings. I don’t know, it feels absurd.


Hassan 10.30.04 at 10:50 pm

Speaking as someone who has taken Cole’s class here at U of M (History 241), I would like to give mw 2 cents. Cole has an intimate knowledge of the Afghan War during the 1980s. He was a graduate student there during the war. I doubt that there is a non-Muslim academic who knows more about the origins of Al Qaeda than Prof. Cole. And for those who whine about “hero worship”, that just sounds petty–get over it already.


seth edenbaum 10.30.04 at 11:22 pm

Of course OBL is interested in the I/P conflict. And the comments here have added nothing. It’s the last part of Cole’s post is the most interesting.

I wonder if Bin Laden has heard from the field that his association with the authoritarian Taliban has damaged recruitment in the Arab world and Iraq, where most people want an end to dictatorship and do not want to replace their secular despots with a religious one. The elections in Pakistan (fall 2002) and Afghanistan went better than he would have wanted, and may have put pressure on him. He may now be reconfiguring the rhetoric of al-Qaeda, at least, to represent it as on the side of political liberty. I am not saying this is sincere or might succeed; both seem to me highly unlikely. I am saying that it is interesting that Bin Laden now seems to feel the need to appeal to this language. In a way, it may be one of the few victories American neo-Wilsonianism has won, to push Bin Laden to use this kind of language. I doubt it amounts to much.

Bin Ladin is now the one dangling the carrot by the stick. [I’m using the original meaning here] And this for the US audience. He is trying -if only by his own crude defintion of the term- to sound reasable Cole wonders why.

And as as my general opinion of Cole, I’ll follow Hassan’s defense


Danny Yee 10.30.04 at 11:51 pm

Cole is not an oracle, but he is an expert, and he provides information I can’t readily access elsewhere.

I found the following fascinating, for example:

The talk about being “free persons” (ahrar) and fighting for “liberty” (hurriyyah) for the Muslim “nation” (ummah) seems to me a departure. The word “hurriyyah” or freedom has no classical Arabic or Koranic resonances and I don’t think it has played a big role in his previous statements.

As for bin Laden’s feelings on Palestine, I have no doubt that his political views have changed over time and will continue to do so. He wasn’t born a fully-armed adult from his father’s forehead!


jonty 10.31.04 at 12:11 am

The answer is very simple. The Bush administration and the tame media, which is terrified of upsetting Likudniks, don’t want you to know that OBL has a realistic political agenda. Otherwise they might feel compelled to address it. It’s much easier to dismiss him as a madman driven by hate. Notice that in the whole presidential campaign, no one has dared address amending US policy on the I/P conflict, while everyone in the Middle East knows a solution would end 95 percent of the hostility towards the US. It’s in your hands, Americans, but don’t wait for your leaders to act.


vernaculo 10.31.04 at 12:22 am

“…the world’s biggest community of suicide bombers…”
The world’s biggest community of cheese-eaters. The world’s biggest community of open-source advocates. The world’s biggest community of model-railroad enthusiasts.
As though there’s an affinity for violent suicide shared amongst otherwise median-normal folks. Because of course the alternative, the reality, is that people turn to self-immolation when there’s nothing left.
When Bin Ladin says,

“…so that it tastes what we taste and would be deterred from killing our children and women…”

you don’t suppose he means that do you?
How could he?
Why would he think “we” are killing women and children? “We’re” not killing women and children.
Are we?

At the same time the relatively myopic FBI begins a publicized investigation of Cheney’s homeboys at Halliburton.
So, Halliburton a criminal enterprise profiting massively in Iraq, through the auspices of the V.P.
So, invasion of Iraq by corrupt military/industrial heavies.
So, invasion bad.
So, resistance to bad invasion good.
So, US greatest superpower ever in history.
So, resistance to the world’s greatest superpower’s bad invasion looking pretty heroic.
So, Bin Ladin possibly not the true worst villain here.
Quite possibly.
We’re not killing women and children are we?
Well no, we’re not.


h. e. baber 10.31.04 at 12:49 am

The Israel/Palestine conflict is just another part of the same package. The Israeli settlements look like middle class Southern California housing developments, growing out into the dessert–while the Palestinians occupy the role of undocumented Mexican immigrants. Except they aren’t immigrants. Throughout the Arab world people see that picture of Americans–and Israelis–living the good life and know that they are locked out. They can’t join us so they want to beat us–and to rationalize it have bought into the idea that materialistic Western ways are wicked.

Whatever bin Laden thinks he’s playing to his base for whom the I/P conflict is an effective local symbol of their grievances. It’s not much different from the current administration’s appeal to the American working class. They know Volvos and ski vacations are out of reach so they resent latte-drinking, Volvo-driving liberals and console themselves with the conviction that their “family values,” religious commitment and way of life are superior.


Generally Snell 10.31.04 at 1:21 am


Read upthread. I was responding somecallmetim’s question as to whether UBL’s stand on Israel mattered or not. Simple answer: strategically, sure it does, he’s a force in the region. His financial and strategic committment to fighting Israel is going to determine how he spends his time, money, men and influence.

But no, Israel isn’t number one on his list, and it shouldn’t be. He’s a Saudi, after all, and I don’t think Arab or Muslim solidarity would be enough to turn his attention from the secular Moloch called the Saud family.


Jack 10.31.04 at 2:55 am

The Mona/Giles point about Bin Laden’s youth is odd. Cole is talking about events that came after he came back from fighting in Afghanistan. I’d say that demonstrates political commitment. The point is that he was talking about the Israel Palestine conflict 22 years ago. It is not just a bolt on tool. Even if it were the real question is will it gain traction? As dsquared says the time is ripe.

We’re so vain we think his inflammatory rhetoric is about us but he wants power in the Islamic world most.


seth edenbaum 10.31.04 at 6:30 am

From the LA Times

…In fact, what has caught the attention of the U.S. intelligence community is the strangely conciliatory nature of bin Laden’s new message, according to some government officials and outside experts.

These experts say bin Laden appears to be intensifying his campaign to “re-brand” himself in the minds of Muslims worldwide, and become known more as a political voice than a global terrorist.
“In some ways the tone of the message is as intriguing, and alarming, as the timing,” said a U.S. official familiar with the tape, and the U.S. intelligence community’s analysis of it. “The absence of an explicit threat does represent a different point of emphasis for this guy.

“Is he still an enemy? Absolutely. Is he still focused on terrorism? Yes,” continued the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the tape. “But the tone of this is something we’re looking at very closely to see where this guy is placing his emphasis.”

The U.S. official said “a political spinoff (of al-Qaida) is one of the greatest fears” of U.S. counter-terrorism authorities, in which bin Laden and the terror network follow the path of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hezbollah and members of the Irish Republican Army. Over the years, those groups evolved from having an emphasis on committing terrorism into broader organizations with influential, widely accepted political wings.

…”He has injected a political element into his work, and has tried to appeal almost on an intellectual level,” said Cressey, now a counter-terrorism consultant. “He’s saying, ‘I’m here and you better factor me into your calculations, political and otherwise.’ ”

“If people are concerned that he is evolving into more of a political figure, to a certain extent he already has,” Cressey said of bin Laden. U.S. authorities, he added, “should be concerned if (bin Laden’s) message resonates with a broader portion of the Muslim world than his narrower messages of the past, in that he was declaring war. And only time will tell if that’s the case.”

Lee Strickland, who worked for the CIA for 30 years until his retirement a month ago, said bin Laden already has made inroads, in some respects.

“He and his organization have matured and become more subtle and more effective in delivering their message and their policy,” Strickland said.

In his most recent tape, Strickland said, bin Laden “shows a great sophistication in thinking, in planning and in communication. It makes him much more dangerous.”

I’m a little amused that they are calling him more dangerous by being less violent, but one shouldn’t expect otherwise from the CIA.


Rick Brady 10.31.04 at 8:33 am

As Beldar said earlier and I’ve posted today, Osama’s sudden Israel focus is part of a negotiation strategy for Kerry if he wins the election on Tuesday.

See Osama Counters


mona 10.31.04 at 11:29 am

Jack, sorry, maybe my remark was more silly than odd, it must be the Marxist in me, maybe I should cut more slack to the well-fed sons of the privileged Saudi elites, the richest people in the world, so hated and envied, yeah, I’m probably being unfair. Maybe I just interpret “commitment” in a different way. What can bin Laden know about living as a Palestinian? In Afghanistan he was a well-paid recruit of the Pakistani services and the CIA, since they worked together. Channelling funds to those who were fighting the Russians on behalf of the US. His family happens to have entertained very close business relations with the Bushes and his cronies in the oil and military industry. By pure accident, no doubt. No, I don’t think he’s insane, and yes, he definitely is committed to some cause, I just don’t think it’s got anything to do with improving things for the Palestinians or anyone else but those who are actually benefiting from having him as the global bogeyman.

Where is he? who’s helping him stay hidden and well-fed and healthy? who’s shipping his tapes all the way to Qatar? that’s what I want the answers to, not if he really cares about a Palestinian cause which is certainly gaining nothing from his speeches or actions. He not only claimed responsibility for killing thousands of innocents, he gave the US the pretext for two wars already, legitimised all kinds of Israeli operations in Gaza and sanctified Russian massacres in Chechenya because now it’s all part of the global war on terror. That’s some impressive commitment.


Jim Harrison 10.31.04 at 4:20 pm

Whether Palestine is subjectively important to Bin Laden is irrelevant because Palestine is enormously important to everybody involved in Middle Eastern politics. No Muslim politician—and Bin Laden is a politician as well as a terrorist—can possibly ignore Israel and what it means for the reigion, particularly since Israel is a military powerhouse disposing of an estimated 200 nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them anywhere from Algeria to India.


Haven 10.31.04 at 5:04 pm


Bin Laden was “born-again”


L 10.31.04 at 8:23 pm

“doesn’t matter what makes bin Laden tick”. that’s a good point, a lot definitely centers on the I/P conflict.
But not sure I understand the “wasn’t really interested in politics in his youth” complaint.
Please don’t forget that where bin Laden received his best financing and training was from the CIA, when he and many others were paid to “give Russia their own Vietnam”, as Zbigniew Brzenski (?sp) put it, in trying to kick them out of Afghanistan.
Not long after, yes, they went on to other things, but if not for that, bin Laden would still be just a poor little angry rich kid in Saudi.


nobody's home 10.31.04 at 8:48 pm

The first interview I ever remember reading with OBL, he was very fervant and impassioned over Israel’s shelling of the UN refugee camp at Qana inside Lebanon’s borders. As I remember, the UN’s report had later said that the shelling was no mistake (as Israel had claimed it was) but an intentional targeting, and OBL was labelling it Israeli terrorism.

I believe it can be found in the Atlantic Monthly archives, 1996 or 1997.


abb1 10.31.04 at 9:30 pm

As Beldar said earlier and I’ve posted today, Osama’s sudden Israel focus is part of a negotiation strategy for Kerry if he wins the election on Tuesday.

Yeah, right.

Question for wingnuts: if your brilliant hypothesis is correct, why would he release that tape now and not a few days later – when he is certain that Kerry has, indeed, been elected?

I guess Osama’s pollsters already know the Tuesday’s results, huh. Or maybe he has a time-machine in that cave and reading next week’s newspapers?



Zizka 10.31.04 at 10:35 pm

Confirming evidence for mona’s thesis can be found in the career of Che Guevara, the so-called “communist” whose youth tells us that he was actually just a fun-loving hippie.

There’s a joke about the mother who gave her son two shirts for his birthday. When he wore on of them the next day, she asked why he didn’t like the other one. In the same way, it’s clear that Osama doesn’t care much about Israel/Palestine, since he talks about other things more often.

Apparently you can start an argument these days by saying that Osama actually has intelligible motives, and isn’t just a compulsive, insensate killer who only wants to make free people suffer and die.


jet 10.31.04 at 11:14 pm

Note to the Afghan historicly challenged. The “good guys” in the Russian/Afghan war were divided into two parties. The Saudi’s claimed responsibility for the foreign fighters and were responsible for their funding. The US claimed responsibility for the local and Pakistan elements and were responsible for their funding. Saudi insisted on a strict seperation because after all the US was still the devil.

Osama probably met CIA operatives and maybe the CIA was the go between for the two distinct groups. But it doesn’t appear very probable that Osama went to CIA summer camps in how to kill commies or cashed checks drawn on CIA-CASH-FOR-Mujahadeen.

Wishing has never made things so, and Osama certainly wasn never the CIA’s boy.

Now please return to your debate over how Osama spent his youth, what were his hobbies and interests, how he spent his free time, and important milestones in his life, like when he decided his family’s extreme wealth in a corrupt government and his extravagent lifestyle were at the cost of millions in poverty and that the US should be made to pay for this unware system.


freddie 10.31.04 at 11:49 pm

I am perhaps offbase on this but when in the past I have read Juan I have always felt an anti-Israeli bias. I don’t want to press this issue andmerely call him this or that, but I have noted over and over his ranking on Israel, sometimes in a fairly subtle manner and usually never heavy handed, much as Said at one point said that feelings should count for more than reason and rationality and there ought to be one state for Arabs and Jews–sure.


mona 11.01.04 at 12:23 am

haven: yup, and his conversion is about as genuine as that of the beneficiary of his video messages…

zizka: ah yes, a comparison between bin Laden and Che Guevara is exactly what I had in mind. Not really. (How can you even compare the two?) I think you confused my argument with someone else’s.
Yes, I do find it surreal to credit him with sincerity and genuine political convictions and commitment. But in political terms, I’m not arguing with that notion from a rightist or pro-Bush point of view, or from the belief that he is insane, or that we shouldn’t engage the real resentment against US policies that he appeals to. He said Bush lied. That’s a truth, and putting it in bin Laden’s mouth shouldn’t make it any less so – but that’s not really how it works for everybody, especially 3 days before elections.
So, to spell it out even more clearly: I’m arguing with that notion of crediting him with sincere political beliefs not just from the point of view of someone repelled by the notion of attributing sincerity to a mass murderer (does that make me right wing?), but from the point of view of someone who doesn’t believe he is really working *against* US interests, also given the not negligible detail he started his “political” activity working *for* those interests, via the ever friendly Pakistani services who sincerely don’t have a clue about his whereabouts, and definitely don’t have a clue about the timing of this tape.
Yeah, I’m an idiot who sucks up to oh so unlikely conspiracy theories. I hope that doesn’t make me right wing, either.


Sebastian Holsclaw 11.01.04 at 9:51 pm

“The Israeli settlements look like middle class Southern California housing developments, growing out into the dessert—while the Palestinians occupy the role of undocumented Mexican immigrants.”

Which is a more revealing analogy than you seem to notice.

There are a number of reasons why Southern California housing developments are better than Tijuana’s. More than a few of the most important ones involve having a relatively non-corrupt government, a relatively free market, and not being under the thumb of a fundamentalist religious structure.

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