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Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden

“Unless he dies a natural death in hiding, it seems inevitable that sooner or later his hunter will catch him. If captured alive, he will doubtless be killed on the spot.”—from the introduction.
Despite the saturation of global media coverage, Osama bin Laden's own writings have been curiously absent from analysis of the "war on terror." Over the last ten years, bin Laden has issued a series of carefully tailored public statements, from interviews with Western and Arabic journalists to faxes and video recordings. These texts supply evidence crucial to an understanding of the bizarre mix of Quranic scholarship, CIA training, punctual interventions in Gulf politics and messianic anti-imperialism that has formed the programmatic core of Al Qaeda.

In bringing together the various statements issued under bin Laden's name since 1994, this volume forms part of a growing discourse that seeks to demythologize the terrorist network. Newly translated from the Arabic, annotated with a critical introduction by Islamic scholar Bruce Lawrence, this collection places the statements in their religious, historical and political context. It shows how bin Laden's views draw on and differ from other strands of radical Islamic thought; it also demonstrates how his arguments vary in degrees of consistency, and how his evasions concerning the true nature and extent of his own group, and over his own role in terrorist attacks, have contributed to the perpetuation of his personal mythology.

Reviews

  • “A magnificent piece of eloquent, at times even poetic Arabic prose ... in devising strategies to fight the terrorists, it would be useful to understand the forces that drive them.”
  • “Expertly edited.”
  • “Western media have made no consistent effort to publish bin Laden's statements, thereby failing to give their audience the words that put his thoughts and actions in cultural and historical context ... Bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us. None of the reasons have anything to do with our freedom, liberty and democracy, but have everything to do with US policies and actions in the Muslim world.”
  • “Despite the religious rhetoric and the bloody means, bin Laden is a rational man. There is a simple reason why he attacked the US: American imperialism. As long as America seeks to control the Middle East, he and people like him will be its enemy.”
  • “This vital collection of Bin Laden’s statements … provides an invaluable insight into his thinking by bringing his disparate pronouncements within a single set of covers.”
  • “Here, with a shrewd, scholarly introduction from Bruce Lawrence, is the complete bin Laden reader.”
  • “Collectively, these messages are the closest we will ever have to the terrorist leader’s Mein Kampf.”
  • “The first complete collection of the Saudi's statements published today portrays a world in which Islam's enemies will take the first steps towards salvation by embracing the 'religion of all the Prophets.'”

Blog

  • A Survey of Verso's Responses to 9/11

    Sparing no room for nuance, the magazine covers are all reminding us that the United States—and hence the planet—is set to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, a day that not only changed the world and signaled the end of innocence and spawned a new greatest generation, but also launched a thousand new slogans with which to label that day, and inspired thousands of speeches intent on inspiring thousands more.

    However, despite the horror, anger, uncertainty—and yes, for some, glee—from the damage inflicted on that momentous day, there remained, in the aftermath and up to now, a limited vocabulary within the mainstream with which to describe the events of that time and the trail of destruction that followed.

    And since we aren’t anticipating a commemorative circuitous flight over the country on Air Force One with the President of the United States, we would like to offer an alternate journey—that is, a survey of Verso’s responses to 9/11:

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  • GRITtv: Tariq Ali, Sonali Kolhatkar, and Voices from Ground Zero


    "If the aim was to show us that state terror was more powerful than individual terrorists, we already knew that," says Tariq Ali of the US special forces action that reportedly killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. As Americans celebrated outside of the White House and gathered at Ground Zero to remember those lost, Tariq reminds us that bin Laden's death will not make the US safer.

    Visit GRITtv to read more.

  • Some words from the introduction to Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden

    In 2005, Verso published Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden, a collection of the various statements issued under bin Laden's name since 1994. In his Introduction, the book's editor, Bruce Lawrence notes the absence of any social dimension to bin Laden's thought:

    Bin Laden was barred from the kind of analysis that would have allowed him to distinguish the different structural features of the various Muslim societies in which jihad was to be awakened, and made him hesitate in inflecting the notion of "One, Two, Three, Many Afghanistans." Morally, he does denounce a host of evils. Some of them—unemployment, inflation, and corruption—are social. But no alternative conception of the ideal society is ever offered. There is an almost complete lack of any social program.

    This alone makes it clear how distinctive al-Qaeda is as a phenomenon. The lack of any set of social proposals separates it not just from the Red Army Faction or the Red Brigades, with which it has sometimes mistakenly been compared, but—more significantly—from the earlier wave of radical Islamism, whose leading thinker was the great iconoclast Sayyid Qutb

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