Monday, May 21, 2007

Osama doesn't really hate our freedom?

Really well done, short-but-sweet piece from Michael Sheuer, the former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit. It's an excerpt from a Slate article telling us what we should already know - that Osama bin Laden is not a cartoon villain that acts just because he hates Mom, apple pie, and America, but instead has specific goals and objectives that he is trying to achieve.

Turning bin Laden into Cobra Commander is certainly useful for propaganda purposes. It makes it easier for Joe Sixpack watching TV to get all excited about things like warrantless wiretaps and "enhanced interrogation techniques." But it doesn't really do anything to, you know, actually solve the problem.

But why would the current President want to do something like that, anyway?

Let's be clear. Acknowledging that bin Laden may have actual, rational goals he's trying to accomplish does not in any way legitimize him. By recognizing that he's not a cartoon doesn't mean that he's right, and we shouldn't oppose him. But how in the world can you defeat an enemy if you don't understand what the enemy is trying to accomplish?

Unless, of course, actually defeating the enemy isn't as important as using the enemy in true Orwellian manner to mold the people you rule ...

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Osama Doesn’t Hate Our Freedom: The fundamental flaw in our thinking about Bin Laden is that “Muslims hate and attack us for what we are and think, rather than what we do.” Muslims are bothered by our modernity, democracy, and sexuality, but they are rarely spurred to action unless American forces encroach on their lands. It’s American foreign policy that enrages Osama and al-Qaida, not American culture and society.

How is the United States threatening Muslim lands? The post-9/11 crackdowns on Muslim charities have effectively ended tithing, which is one of the five pillars of Islam; our casual denunciations of “jihad” sneer at a central tenet of the Muslim faith. America supports corrupt anti-Muslim governments in Uzbekistan and China, “apostate” governments in the Middle East, and the new Christian state of East Timor. And, above all, it continues to house occupying forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In several videotaped messages since 9/11 bin Laden gave very different, specific reasons for the attack, to wit: the U.S.-led embargo of humanitarian aid to Iraq in the 1990s following Gulf War I (in hopes that starving, illness-crazed Iraqis would arise to overthrow Saddam Hussein), later replaced with a corrupt and equally ineffective U.N. food-and-medicine-for-oil program, which together were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children; America’s unwavering Israel-first Middle-East foreign policy which has so often ignored the rights of Palestinians and which contributes to so much instability in the region, and the continued, growing presence of U.S. military bases in the Middle East, specifically in Saudi Arabia, the holiest lands in Islam.

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