The Importance of Understanding bin Laden: “He claims the right of resistance”

[ Petersen’s piece below contains a piecing-together of bin Laden’s argument against the U.S., and justification for violence against U.S. civilians. On the one hand, post-9/11 blind rage, or overgeneralized hatred, may still prevent many Americans from considering such arguments. On the other hand, in light of the increasing popularity of bin Ladenesque arguments among Middle Easterners and others, it’s not clear there is any path to lasting peace other than by means of some degree of mutual understanding. Notes: some of bin Laden’s Fatwahs referenced below can be found on the site. The underlining below is mine. –BL ]

The Path of Evil

25 July 2004 |

by Kim Petersen

We want our land to be freed of the enemies; we want our land be free of the Americans. — Osama bin Laden, 1999

They hate our freedoms. — President George W. Bush, 2001

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. — Sun Tzu

The philosophy of the sixth century BC Chinese military strategician Sun Tzu is relevant to a glaring disconnect between two aggrieved parties. Bush, after overcoming his apparent initial befuddlement (recorded for posterity) to the attacks on 9-11, defiantly voiced his anger. Hatred of American freedoms, according to Bush, had spurred some Muslims to carry out an unprovoked attack on US soil. This claim is ludicrous; and it is refuted by the 9-11 commission?s final report that identifies 9-11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed?s motivation for the attacks as his ?strong disagreement with American support for Israel.? (1)

In 1996 Osama bin Laden summoned the Muslim Brotherhood to action.

It should not be hidden from you that the people of Islam had suffered from aggression, iniquity and injustice imposed on them by the Zionist-Crusaders alliance and their collaborators; to the extent that the Muslims’ blood became the cheapest and their wealth as loot in the hands of the enemies. Their blood was spilled in Palestine and Iraq….

It is now clear that those who claim that the blood of the American solders (the enemy occupying the land of the Muslims) should be protected are merely repeating what is imposed on them by the regime, fearing the aggression and interested in saving themselves. It is a duty now on every tribe in the Arab Peninsula to fight, Jihad, in the cause of Allah and to cleanse the land from those occupiers. Their wealth is a booty to those who kill them.

Bin Laden?s grievances about the injustices perpetrated against Arabs and Muslims by the US and Israel were already in the public realm. It is irrefutable that US and Israeli Zionists are carrying out ethnic cleansing and genocide against Palestinians. Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright even infamously admitted in a television interview that the destruction of hundreds-of-thousands of Arab children was a worthy price in achieving American objectives in Iraq. So bin Laden?s stated grievances were public and also corroborated by US and Israeli officials. It is a verifiable fact that the US and Britain have stripped away the freedoms of the Arabs, whether directly, through Israel, or by the complicity of backing Arab despots.

Bin Laden also addressed Americans:

Terrorizing you, while you are carrying arms on our land, is a legitimate and morally demanded duty. It is a legitimate right well known to all humans and other creatures. Your example and our example is like a snake which entered into a house of a man and got killed by him.

The youths hold you responsible for all of the killings and evictions of the Muslims and the violation of the sanctities, carried out by your Zionist brothers in Lebanon; you openly supplied them with arms and finance. More than 600,000 Iraqi children have died due to lack of food and medicine and as a result of the unjustifiable aggression (sanctions) imposed on Iraq and its nation. The children of Iraq are our children. You, the USA, together with the Saudi regime are responsible for the shedding of the blood of these innocent children.

Osama bin Laden?s remarks are transparent. He claims the right of resistance. There exists a compelling case for the moral, legal, and political right of Palestinians to resist occupation. (2) Bin Laden implored Muslims ?to do whatever you can, with one own means and ability, to expel the enemy, humiliated and defeated, out of the sanctities of Islam.?

Therefore, even though American civilians are not targeted in our plan, they must leave. We do not guarantee their safety, because we are in a society of more than a billion Muslims. A reaction might take place as a result of [the] US government’s hitting Muslim civilians and executing more than 600 thousand Muslim children in Iraq by preventing food and medicine from reaching them. So, the US is responsible for any reaction, because it extended its war against troops to civilians. This is what we say. As for what you asked regarding the American people, they are not exonerated from responsibility, because they chose this government and voted for it despite their knowledge of its crimes in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and in other places and its support of its agent regimes who filled our prisons with our best children and scholars. We ask that may God release them.

Citizens? Responsibility for their Government

Because the U.S. army and Israeli military have indiscriminately targeted Arab and Muslim civilians, Bin Laden, feels that US civilians should bear responsibility for having chosen a government that conducts such atrocities.

Inescapably, this parameter of responsibility could apply [to] Israel, where a large number of Israelis cast votes leading to the election of the murderous war criminal Ariel Sharon. Israeli Jews gave an indication of the general sentiment held towards Palestinians when 63.7% of poll respondents opined that the government should encourage Palestinians to leave. (3) What is most amazing is that these respondents haven’t yet realized that the Israeli government has been actively seeking to displace the Palestinians all along. The poll represents nothing less than a euphemism for ethnic cleansing.

Which way do American citizens lean? A Zogby poll indicates a tight race between the duopoly candidates: President George Bush (45%) and Democratic Party challenger John Kerry (47%). Outsider Ralph Nader garners only 2 percent. (4)

The focus on the person running for president is overwhelming. It is the cynosure of the election. Does one person make such a difference? Ostensibly, yes. In the upcoming US presidential election the commercial media presents the choice as between Bush and Kerry, or variously as Bush and Bush-lite, or Bush and Bush-plus.

Much attention is being paid to the duopoly candidates and their negligible differences — especially since one candidate gets dragged ever further in the direction of the other candidate, apparently unable to stake his own positions. Bush is setting the agenda for both himself and his mimicking opponent. The major claim to stake out a different position would be to oppose the occupation of Iraq, not in tactics, but as a matter of principle. The invasion was illicit and sovereignty must revert to Iraqis.

Instead the Democratic Party has pushed peace and Iraqi sovereignty out the door. Democratic leadership contender Dennis Kucinich, in a colossal surrender of his anti-war campaign, played politics likely in an effort to preserve future presidential ambitions within the Democratic Party. (5) He has effectively abandoned the progressive camp and his integrity will likely take a beating.

Another earlier contender for the Democratic nomination, Howard Dean, had taken a drubbing for insinuating that even-handedness should have a place in Middle Eastern diplomacy. Kerry does not make that mistake. Kerry has raised bias to new heights. Kerry, through the diplomacy of his brother, has genuflected before the Zionist lobby in Israel and assured support of Zionism, which means continued support for territorial theft, ethnic cleansing from these lands, and the dehumanization of Palestinians.

On the important fundamental issue of Iraq, Bush and Kerry espouse a similar immoral stand. There are, however, choices outside the duopoly. Where independent candidate Ralph Nader?s name appears on the ballot he is an option. That it is difficult to get his name on the ballot indicates a lot too. Nader is not the ideal candidate; but his positions when compared to the duopoly candidates? positions sure look much more preferable.

Democrats are playing dirty pool against Nader in his attempts to get on the ballot. It appears he is fighting fire with fire in accepting the aid of Machiavellian Republicans — for which Nader is receiving much criticism. To these critics I would pose the question: if you could further the platform for the destitute, oppressed, and about-to-be slaughtered peoples by accepting aid from an unscrupulous adversary, would you refuse?

Even in states where Ralph Nader may not appear on the ballot there is always the option of abstaining or spoiling the ballot. A no-vote is arguably preferable to casting a vote for a war criminal.

If the election is only about how Americans can improve their own lot while other countries? citizens perish at American hands then that is a very telling indictment of the state of US society. This is what is puzzling about MIT professor Noam Chomsky?s voting strategy. (6) How are the victims of imperialism to benefit from a Kerry presidency?

Your Government at War

Remorseless killing falls definitionally within sociopathology. Many US officials are on record as expressing insouciance to Iraqi sensibilities.

General Colin Powell, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was unconcerned over the number of Iraqi casualties in the 1991 phase of the attack on Iraq. Said he, ?That’s not really a number I’m terribly interested in.?

US Brigadier General William Looney [sic] stated in a Washington Post interview in 1999, ?[Iraqis] know we own their country. We own their airspace… We dictate the way they live and talk. And that’s what’s great about America right now. It’s a good thing, especially when there’s a lot of oil out there we need.?

The attitude ostensibly extends to the top. Commander-in-Chief Bush was reported to say following the March 2004 killing of four US mercenaries in Fallujah: ?I want heads to roll.?

The bloodlust is not confined to Republicans and generals. George Stephanopoulos, in his book All Too Human, captured President Bill Clinton’s reaction to the fighting in Somalia.

?We?re not inflicting pain on these fuckers,? Clinton said, softly at first. ?When people kill us, they should be killed in greater numbers.? Then, with his face reddening, his voice rising, and his fist pounding his thigh, he leaned into Tony [Lake], as if it was his fault. ?I believe in killing people who try to hurt you. And I can’t believe we?re being pushed around by these two-bit pricks.?

The attitudes of US officials are symptomatic of a sociopathic government. It is pervasive through the ranks. Many US fighters operate in this insouciant killing mode. ?I enjoy killing Iraqis,? said Staff Sgt. William Deaton. ?I just feel rage, hate when I’m out there. I feel like I carry it all the time. We [servicemen] talk about it. We all feel the same way.? (7) Lance Cpl. Tom Browne shares a simple solution to make the killing of Iraqis easy: ?I don’t even think about those people as people.? (8)

Former Baltimore Sun journalist Frank Kent considered, ?The evils of government are directly proportional to the tolerance of the people.? The government formed is the result of citizens having cast votes in an election (although in Bush’s case more so a selection by the Supreme Court). If the Zogby polling results are accurate, then to the extent that the American citizenry are aware — and this is dubious (9) — or care to be well informed of the murderous events in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Haiti, and elsewhere, that sociopathology might be considered to be societal and reflected by the government. A vote for either of the duopoly?s presidential candidates could be construed as a sociopathological attitude to non-Americans since a Kerry presidency would only mean a change of face and little significant change in foreign policy except to invite allies to share in imperialistic plunder. Because a vote for either Bush or Kerry means a perpetuation of the policy of killing, bin Laden?s lament has evidential support.

A tactic of ?anyone but Bush? is based in curious illogic. It supposedly emerges from the thinking that Bush is so utterly horrible that the likelihood of another equally horrible president is unimaginable. Ergo anyone else would be a significant improvement. As Kerry’s Bush-like pronouncements illustrate, such logic is obviously flawed. It seems a far more rational approach would be to recognize the mistaken choice of Bush and search for and choose a candidate whose platform is representative of the voters.

No one denies killing is evil. Yet both Bush and Kerry will pursue a path that results in further killing.

The murderous war crimes spree — from which US troops have been proclaimed immune to prosecution — built on a massive edifice of lies led New York[er] journalist Seymour Hersh to recently declare, ?And this is your government at war.?

Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada.


(1) Terry McDermott, ?Mastermind: U.S. policy on Israel key motive for effort,? Los Angeles Times, 23 July 2004. Available at

(2) Richard Falk, ?Azmi Bishara, the Right of Resistance, and the Palestinian Ordeal,? Institute for Palestine Studies, Winter 2002

(3) Yulie Khromchenco, ?Poll: 64% of Israeli Jews support encouraging Arabs to leave,? Haaretz, 22 June 2004

(4) Whatz New? ?Kerry-Edwards Pulls In Ahead of Bush-Cheney 48%-46%,? Zogby News, 8 July 20

(5) Amy Goodman, ?Did Dennis Kucinich Sell Out Anti-War Democrats?? Democracy Now!, 14 July 2004

(6) Kim Petersen, ?Pain in the Groin: Anarchist Dilemma,? Dissident Voice, 13 April 2004

(7) Charles Duhigg, ??I?M A WARRIOR?: Soldiers hone killer instinct in Iraq,? The Union Leader, July 2004

(8) Lourdes Navarro, ?Marines in Fallujah trade ?culturally sensitive? training for bullets,? cnews, 15 April 2004

(9) Tom Fenton, ?Lack Of Reason, Lack Of Interest,? CBS, 19 July, 2004.

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