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Plus ça change…

Just a quick one to provide a link to a transcription of Bin Laden’s full speech . Worth reading, to understand his argument – ‘know thy enemy’ and all that.

He develops an argument which really owes a lot to Lenin’s analysis of global imperialism and the World War I (for example, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism) – basically saying that foreign policy in America is driven by multinational corporations. Specifically, blaming Kennedy’s assassination on “the owners of the major corporations who were benefiting from its [the Vietnam War] continuation”; asking why the Democratic Party did not force withdrawal from Iraq after the last elections, he says “they are the same reasons which led to the failure of former president Kennedy to stop the Vietnam war. Those with real power and influence are those with the most capital.”

Then he develops some more modern themes: global warming, poverty in Africa, globalisation – these are also blamed on “The capitalist system [which] seeks to turn the entire world into a fiefdom of the major corporations under the label of "globalization" in order to protect democracy.” This message seems somewhat more directed at your average younger person, of the anti-globalisation type.

Then, interestingly, he whacks in a message to the middle-classes too: “the reeling of many of you under the burden of interest-related debts, insane taxes and real estate mortgages”; later, he promises taxes (zakat) of only 2.5% under Islamic rule.


So far, what he says could be said by many if not most left-wing parties in the world. But then we get to the interesting bit – the solution to the problems…

"So it is imperative that you free yourselves from all of that and search for an alternative, upright methodology in which it is not the business of any class of humanity to lay down its own laws to its own advantage at the expense of the other classes as is the case with you, since the essence of man-made positive laws is that they serve the interests of those with the capital and thus make the rich richer and the poor poorer."

"The infallible methodology is the methodology of Allah, the Most High, who created the heavens and earth and created the Creation and is the Most Kind and All-Informed and the Knower of the souls of His slaves and the methodology that best suits them."

No surprises there… he then goes on to argue that Americans believe in God, but that a secular system is akin to polytheism. The logic is thus:
“So how about you when you associate others with Him in your beliefs and separate state from religion, then claim that you are believers?! What you have done is clear loss and manifest polytheism”

i.e. Someone who claims to believe in God/Allah (who are one and the same to him), but doesn’t follow Koranic laws and strictures, is worshipping a ‘false gods’. I don’t quite see how one can argue that following different laws is equated with worshipping divinities, but that is what he means.

Of course, the scary thing about his argument here is – from what I know – that by classifying Americans as ‘polytheists’, they therefore become non-Christians, and thus not subject to the protections afforded to the ‘people of the book’ in the Koran.


It’s interesting to see how his basic argument is an anti-capitalist one, that was common throughout the 20th century, but rather than arguing for communist state, he argues for an Islamic one. Otherwise the message is very much the same as radical communist groups in the 70’s/80’s such as the Red Army Faction, and many others – including of course the Soviet Union who he fought in Afghanistan.

So what does it all mean? Well, if we have in this speech a good example of how he motivates his followers, then we can argue that he gains most of his followers by appealing to their sense of economic injustice – i.e. that the rich countries/countries get away with whatever they want. So it’s not about religion, or a ‘clash of civilisation’, about ‘freedom haters’, or about ‘evil’: it’s about working to provide justice and equality before the law; about America and other western powers putting their money where their mouth is and condemning all regimes that abuse human rights, abolishing unfair subsidies that prevent poor farmers from exporting their produce to America and the European Union; and so on.

Finally, just to point out that in spite of his obvious intelligence and ability to weave together a discourse relevant to many, bin Laden remains as much a hypocrite as President Bush and his ilk: while pointing out that it was Europeans who burnt millions of Jews, and not Muslims, he says “In fact, burning living beings is forbidden in our religion, even if they be small like the ant, so what of man?!” To which I would respond: what of 9/11? How do you think those people trapped in the fires there died? Or in Algeria?

Anderson, Kirk. "[Work of the Almighty]. Kirk Anderson's Editorial Cartoons. 2004. 9 Sep 2007
Wilkinson, Signe. "[Martyrdom]". Signe Wilkinson's Editorial Cartooons. 2002. 9 Sep 2007
Stantis, Scott. "[Die for freedom of speech]". Scott Stantis. 10 Feb 2006. 7 May 2006


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RK Boo on :

I like the last cartoon. Bloody people like Laden and Bush should just be locked up in a boxing ring and fight each other to death--rather than dragging along thousands of other innocent ppl with them.

Btw, I wrote a new short story - it's on my blog. Do leave/email me a critique if you're not too busy. ;-)

julian on :

Ya, along with other fools such as Mugabe... they could be given an island and the winner is allowed to call himself the President/Khalif/... of the Universe, and rule over the rest... preferably a flat island that is very close to sea level ;-)

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