Why not accept a truce from bin Laden?
(UPDATE, 25 January: "Why not test bin Laden's 'truce' offer?" Christian Science Monitor)The first google news search we did yesterday of the most recent Osama tape returned headlines saying, in some way or another, "Osama Promises New Attack on US soil." At the time, the news was still fresh, so only a few articles had been written.
"In a sense, [the terrorists] were more globalized than we were." -Report of the 9-11 Commision, Chapter 11
The reason we bother bringing this up is that we're somewhat surprised that the articles seem to downplay so much the truce offer from everyone's favorite terrorist:
I offer a cease-fire on basis of mutual respect, but you will not allow it because the arms manufacturers and warmongers will not allow it.Surely we're overstepping the bounds of freedom of speech when we ask, Why the hell can't we even consider an offering of peace from Osama "Yo Mama" bin Laden? By all accounts he is a terrorist responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people. That's true, which is why our line of questioning should not be construed in any way as support for (a) "the terrorists" (b) murder (c) al-Quada or as (a) anti-American (b) anti-Israel (c) anti-freedom (d) anti-democracy.
Well, being devoted to the contrapuntalists (an idea that made someone some friends at the FBI), we've dared ourselves to present another side of Osama bin Laden. It goes without saying, this is not a love letter to al-Quada, this is simply an endeavor in reason, because it is an undeniable fact that two contrary images of bin Laden exist, and only one, by and large, has been presented to the West. Knowing both sides, without pridefully or childishly ignoring the fact that Osama could have some honorable aspects, could help the US and the West resolve their problems in the Middle East, get American troops home, and go about dealing with the problems that exist in their countries.
Like the guy who played Patton in Patton said to the guy who played Rummel, "You magnificent bastard, I read your book!" It only makes sense to know your enemy, and the United States does not.
That said, don't bother prostesting this article unless you have read it and you have insightful arguments. We are always happy to be wrong, especially about things like this. If we find that we have been sufficiently rebutted, we will happily retract our statements.
For those of you who will think this unpatriotic, most of this information (not to mention the idea itself) came from the book Imperial Hurbis by Michael Scheuer, a former CIA agent with over two decades of service to the US. In fact, he started the CIA's bin Laden unit. If it is dishonorable to one's nation to have a real impression of the enemy (in order to look Through Our Enemies Eyes so to speak.) then tell that to him.
Osama the Freedom hater
Many will remember the President's State of the Union address in which he said:
Well, at least he's half right. Osama bin Ladin does want in many respects to rid the Middle East of Jews and Christians as well as overthrow the regimes mentioned in the second paragraph. As for the latter, he views them as corrupt (which they are), and he despises that their constant abuse of the Muslim people. That's one of the reasons he repeats as to why he is fighting the United States: He wants the US to stop propping up corrupt Muslim dictators!
Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber -- a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.
As states this article from the BBC:
There was, however, one significant element missing from his list of grievances: he did not say anything about the idea of America - its rights, its freedoms, its prosperity. It was in American foreign policy that he saw the greatest threat to Islam. Indeed, he criticised the west for supporting dictators and authoritarian regimes in Islamic countries simply because it suited their interests.To add to that, this is one bin Laden's stong points. In a region lacking compassionate leaders, bin Ladin is seen as the only hope for millions of people. As long as the US and the West let Muslim leaders rule their people with an iron fist, bin Laden, dead or alive, will give Muslim people hope.
Characterizing bin Ladin and al-Quada as a group that hates freedom is as Mike Sheuer says "one of the greatest dangers for Americans in deciding how to confront the Islamist threat" (p. 8). He goes on to remind us that the soviets, who not only were godless but also frequently tortured and killed Muslims within their borders, never inspired more than disdain from Muslims in the Middle East, much less Jihad. The mujahadeen didn't start fighting the Russians until the Russians tried to move into the Holy Land.
In addition, let's not forget Ayatollah Khomeini. Though most Muslims agreed with him that the West was morally depraved, few ever took part in the Jihad or gave their lives to fighting the US. In other words, "Khomeini's rhetoric was full of noise, hate, and fury, but with minor exceptions, it motivated few battlew to the death against the Great Satan" (p. 211)
This is not a war of values. Al-Quada has little problem letting people around the world be whatever they are, just not in their Holy Land. This is a war over terratory, plain and simple.
On top of that, Muslims, from many accounts, would love democracy. Pew polls from 2003 show that Muslims have a largely favorable view of Democracy, especially before the invasion of Iraq. So, why all the popular support for Osama if he was against what the Muslim people wanted?
Osama: an armed Pat Robertson in a cave
Let us turn again to Scheuer (p. 17):
There is nothing apocalyptic or narcissistic about bin Laden or our Islamist foes. They are not trying to destroy the world in an Armageddon-like battle, and they are not psychologically deranged people prone to and delighting in the muder of innocents...bin Laden and his ilk also are not motivated by the "failure of Muslim society" to modernize and evolve in the successful pattern of the West.Well damn.
Continue, Mr. Scheuer, sir (p. 17-18):
Bin Laden et al. are not eternal warriors, there is no evidence they are fighting for fightin's sake, or that they would be lost for things to do without a war to wage. There is evidence to the contrary, in fact, showing bin Laden and other Islamist leaders would like to end the war, get back to their families, and live a less martial lifestyle. They share the attitude of the Afghan mujahideen during the Afghan-Soviet war: They are weary of war, but not war weary...In both cases, participating in a defensive Jihad was a duty to God and therefore had to be pursued until victory or martyrdom.Then, perhaps the most interesting part of all this, is that there's a very Robin Hood-esque image of bin Laden in the Muslim world. He gave up a rich life to live poor, spending his money to fight "Goliaths" like the USSR and the US. To be more exact, Scheuer characterizes his image among Muslims as a "combination of Robin Hood and St. Francis of Assisi."
This Scheuer guy really hates America, doesn't he?
In fact, bin Ladin's so loved that not only will millions of poor people not turn him in for a $25 million reward but also he has to convince people to leave his side, many in tears, when he knows an attack is coming. The fact that al-Qaeda often knows exactly what the US will do is a good example of their being globalized, and their ability to spread out before a hit is efficient. As the senior al-Qaeda field commander Abd al-Hadi said, though, "We had a great difficulty persuading many of them to leave Afghanistan...I swear some of them wept when they were told to leave."
Scheuer notes that though Saddam was hated by most Muslims for his secularism and brutality, he was also lauded for being the guy who pissed America's plate. On the other hand, bin Laden is not only a religous man and compassionate towards Muslims, he also provided a blow to the US infinitely more powerful than Saddam ever had, giving him the image of "a modern day Saladin." Afghan kids suck on bin Laden sugar candies, and "Osama" is one of the most common names in for new born males.
al-Qaeda's offers of truce
CBS had the former FBI terrorism expert Christopher Whitcomb on The Early Show yesterday, to tell us that this tape was "insignificant."
What's hard to discern is if the tape is insignificant because it's going to be passed off like all of the others just to be used as a political tool, which is likely, or if it's not important in and of itself. Mr. Whitcomb may be right, maybe this is all just a vain attempt by Osama to regain standing in the now overpopulated terrorism brotherhood. However, there's a link on that same page to old Mr. Scheuer who "sees things very differently."
Scheuer, that anti-American bastard, seems to think, like The B&G, that we should have given the truce more consideration. We'd like to pause here to remind you that Scheuer created the CIA's bin Laden Unit and spent three of his 22-year career as an agent working there.
This offering of truce is certainly not the first. There have been several occassions, as are mentioned in Imperial Hubris, in which bin Laden says if the Americans reduce their presence in the Middle East, then al-Quada will reply in kind.
As for those who say that there have not been attacks and equate that with success against bin Laden, we'd like to point out that al-Qaeda has attacked 18 of 20 nations that it said it would attack. They are pretty good at keeping to their word.
Our purpose in writing this is not to say that the US should have accepted the truce, but that there should have been more consideration. "We don't negotiate with terrorists, we put them out of business," is absurd as a response to a truce from an enemy that up until now has completely defeated the United States.
If anything, Americans must start being more honest with themselves and take note that Osama, though he is responsible for the death of thousands of innocents, he is reveared by millions, and, as Scheuer shows, not without reason. Osama has renounced wealth and by many accounts has shown that he has no fear of even losing his own life to defeat those who oppress Muslims (his POV, not ours). He criticizes youths who are complacent, calls women to participate, etc. On top of that, he is a poet, deeply connected with the Muslim tradition.
Americans, especially the most Patriotic, must have an honest idea of the American enemy if they ever which to defeat him. To deny that is absurd. If Osama is not a psychotic hater of freedom, the US must accept that, which also means an honest consideration of some kind of truce, or a negotiation thereof.
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