Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Slate: Why terrorists hate the US (and Oz)

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-08-08

I recommend a Slate post by Reza Aslan, "Why Do They Hate Us?  Strange answers lie in al-Qaida’s writings" (2007-08-06) that reviews books detailing al-Qaida’s own words about why they hate the US, and the rest of the coalition of the willing.

The first and best of these is "Messages to the World", a collection of Osama Bin Laden’s declarations translated by Duke University professor Bruce Lawrence, in which Bin Laden himself dismisses Bush’s accusation that he hates America’s freedoms. "Perhaps he can tell us why we did not attack Sweden, for example?"

Aslan also reviews the "more complete" "The Al Qaeda Reader", edited and translated by Raymond Ibrahim, a research librarian at the Library of Congress.

…Ibrahim’s point is that we can learn about al-Qaida’s intentions by reading their words, that a book like this can help Americans better understand the nature of the anger directed toward them. … Al-Qaida’s nominal aspirations—the creation of a worldwide caliphate, the destruction of Israel, the banishing of foreigners from Islamic lands—are hardly mentioned in the book.

Between the two Alsan notes not a hate for US democracy, but a litany of grievances, including global warming and Guantanamo.  The review then makes an observation uncomfortable to many:

Most Americans would agree with many of these complaints. And that’s precisely the point.

Aslan goes on to say that al-Quaida’s complaints are aimed at generating ill-will against the US (and by extension, US allies in the War on the Abstract Noun).

In the end, this is the most important lesson to be learned from these writings. Because, if we are truly locked in an ideological war, as the president keeps reminding us, then our greatest weapons are our words. And thus far, instead of fighting this war on our terms, we have been fighting it on al-Qaida’s.
Don’t believe me? Ask Bin Laden:

Bush left no room for doubts or media opinion. He stated clearly that this war is a Crusader war. He said this in front of the whole world so as to emphasize this fact. … When Bush says that, they try to cover up for him, then he said he didn’t mean it. He said, ‘crusade.’ Bush divided the world into two: ‘either with us or with terrorism’ … The odd thing about this is that he has taken the words right out of our mouths.

Odd, indeed.

It’s another good post at a thoughtful site that gives a good idea of the shape of what an up-market journal can be (and worth looking at from a new-media perspective alone).  It includes a darn good editorial/political cartoon roundup, and a page containing "interactive essays".  Get a taste of the wide range of topics from the RSS feed.  It has a good range of free newsletters.  Highly recommended.


One Response to “Slate: Why terrorists hate the US (and Oz)”

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