It's the friday before the U.S. presidential election. Osama bin Laden makes a very interesting statement, for the first time claiming responsibility for the September 11, 2001 attack, and making a general warning against the U.S.
Excerpts from bin Laden tape
Fri 29 October, 2004 22:59 (Reuters UK)
Excerpts: Bin Laden video
(BBC - a transcript of excerpts broadcast on al Jazeera)
UPDATE [Nov 1, 2004] on aljazeera.net they have provided a full transcript of the video. All other news services are only running excerpts.
Full transcript of bin Ladin's speech
Monday 01 November 2004, 16:01 Makka Time, 13:01 GMT
"Security is an important foundation of human life and free people do not squander their security, contrary to Bush's claims that we hate freedom. Let him tell us why we did not attack Sweden for example.
"It is known that those who hate freedom do not possess proud souls like those of the 19, may God rest their souls. We fought you because we are free and because we want freedom for our nation. When you squander our security we squander yours.
Here's my take - the people of al Qaeda are people, and at the root of that fact is this. They have the same kind of hopes and dreams we have. The fact that they felt compelled to become warriors, and for 19 of them to make a suicide attack (when the Koran forbids suicide) says something significant about the depth to which they are driven. Something, some issue drives them to this. Here Osama speaks of something we all want, Freedom. I suppose for him freedom means practicing his religion in the way to which he desires...?
"God knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers but after the situation became unbearable and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were that of 1982 and the events that followed -- when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the U.S. Sixth Fleet.
"In those difficult moments many emotions came over me which are hard to describe, but which produced an overwhelming feeling to reject injustice and a strong determination to punish the unjust.
Since September 11, 2001 a theory has been in my mind. Some people (maybe all) have formative experiences in their lives. Some of the formative experiences drives their selection of political preferences and agenda. For example, I was in high school during the 1970's and the two oil shocks (the OPEC embargos) of the 70's really affected me. For a time I planned to learn, in college, about solar energy systems so that I could work on developing solar energy to help the country be free from the threats of OPEC.
Assuming Osama is being honest here, he's saying his formative experience was the U.S./Israeli invasion of Lebanon. That certainly was a dramatic event, since Lebanon was pretty well embroiled in chaos at that time. It wasn't so much of a formative event for me, but for Osama it probably came a lot closer to home both lliterally and figuratively.
One wonders though, why did he then work with U.S. forces just a couple years after that to drive Russia out of Afghanistan. It is well known that Osama bin Laden was chosen from the Saudi elite to form and lead the mujahadeen who were instrumental in driving Russia out of Afghanistan. It is also well known that the U.S. armed the mujahadeen, and that therefore Osama was actively overseeing the receipt of weapons and training from the U.S.
In any case .. I suggest that while reading Osama's message one should look past your memory of what Osama has done to this country. I see in the news that both Bush and Kerry are reacting angrily to this message from Osama, and are vowing to destroy al Qaeda. Maybe that kind of revengeful response does not solve the larger problems of the world. If you let go for a moment of 9/11 memories, and read his words as a human, you see someone troubled by what they see in the world. You see a human being wishing that he and his people can have a better life.
It is hard ... forgiveness can be hard, very hard, especially when the grievance is as large as the U.S. has against al Qaeda. And the Bush/Kerry vow to destroy is understandable from one who has not let go of their anger and forgiven.
At the same time that doesn't excuse Osama and his ilk from their responsibility. They took on a heavy burden when they chose to perform the various acts of terrorism they have done. Each have been reprehensible attacks going against the grain of any moral code one can think of.
The issue is the continuing cycles of bloodshed, anger, retribution, revenge, leading to more bloodshed and anger and retribution and so on over and over. We see here that Osama is doing all this because of anger over events in 1982, and his desire for revenge over them. Osama himself, therefore, has not forgiven and therefore is going to keep going after this revenge.
The thing about revengeful thinking is that the source of the desire for revenge is likely never going to be satisfied. The source of the desire for revenge is the memory, in this case of the Lebanon invasion. So long as that memory burns, the revenge desire remains. What forgiveness means is simply to let go or to drop some issue and just move on with life. That's all, very simple, and once you let go of some event, it stops having power over you and the revenge desire stops.