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October 30, 2004

I Didn't Realize I Could Hate Bin Laden More

Wall of Hope and Remembrance

I just read the transcript of the latest bin Laden tape. It made me loathe him more than I did already, something I wouldn't have believed possible. Fortunately I didn't see it on television, because I might have tried to leap into my large screen Daewoo and strangle him. This would have led to an unhappy outcome, unless of course the inside of my television is where he's been hiding.

There are two reasons for my increased hatred, hatred so intense I'm concerned I will break my computer by typing this too hard.

1. After the terrorist attacks, Bush predictably claimed Al Qaeda did it because they "hate our freedom." So I started calling friends, pretending to be bin Laden, and telling them: "Now that we have gotten the United States, we will turn our freedom-hating attention to our number one enemy -- SWEDEN."

Maybe you had to be there, but let me tell you, I really killed with that. So to speak.

So guess what? Here's one of the things bin Laden said in the new tape:

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.

I knew bin Laden was a religious fanatic. I knew he was a mass murderer. But I never considered he would stoop so low as to STEAL MY MATERIAL.

He is the Robin Williams of terrorists. Next thing you know, he will be sprouting extraordinary amounts of bodily hair and appearing in roles which celebrate our common humanity so relentlessly that you vomit.

2. More seriously, bin Laden demonstrated himself anew to be just like all the other bloodthirsty maniacs who've dogged mankind for the past 20,000 years.

Bloodthirsty maniacs have a limited number of tricks up their sleeve. One of them is to claim that somehow they're not really responsible for the results of their monstrous crimes. Sure enough, in the new tape bin Laden also said this:

It never occurred to us that the commander in chief of the American forces (Bush) would leave 50,000 citizens in the two towers to face those horrors alone at a time when they most needed him because he thought listening to a child discussing her goat and its ramming was more important than the planes and their ramming of the skyscrapers.

Ah, I see. The unsophisticated might have thought the blame for the slaughter of 3,000 of my neighbors fell squarely on the shoulders of THOSE WHO ACTUALLY KILLED THEM. But don't fall for that simplistic propaganda. You see, al Qaeda assumed that George Bush would fly in, much like Superman, and save everyone from "those horrors" bin Laden created.

This reminds me of nothing so much as those who explain that the deaths of Iraqis under UN sanctions were all the fault of Saddam Hussein. If only bin Laden had the State Department and hundreds of right wing websites to repeat his bullshit, he might really get somewhere.

The picture above is from the "Wall of Hope and Remembrance" on the south side of St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan, a block and a half from my old apartment. St. Vincent's was one of the hospitals anticipating a flood of people injured in the attacks, so it was covered with thousands upon thousands of flyers from people looking for missing family members.

It quickly became clear none of the missing were alive. St. Vincent's couldn't just throw the flyers away, and so they used them to create this memorial. However, it was still too soon to say outright what everyone knew -- that none of these people were ever coming back -- so it was named a wall of hope and remembrance, rather than remembrance alone.

I used to walk by it every day. As months turned into years, I was surprised to find it always had the power to make me cry with frustration and fear and anger and sadness. Just like I'm doing now.

Posted at October 30, 2004 12:02 PM | TrackBack

Thank you for a very moving post.

Posted by: Oscar at October 30, 2004 01:17 PM

I respect the emotions you are invoking here, and I have no desire to deny the pain bin Laden's words may have caused you. I would like, however, to suggest that the interpretation you offer of the quote in point no. 2 is unjustified. My interpretation of this section of the speech is that bin Laden is, on the one hand, expressing incredulity that Bush would not have immediately brought the resources of the U.S. to bear in an attempt to prevent further attacks, and, on the other, thanking God that he was allowed the extra time for the execution of the attacks. I have trouble seeing him as disavowing the effects of his actions. I am not, as I hope is obvious, making any kind of defense of bin Laden, I am only suggesting that a clear assessment of his words is worth making.

As to stealing your material however, this is obviously a fair cop. The man is scum.

Posted by: plover at October 30, 2004 09:19 PM

It was a very moving post, but I'm afraid you completely lost my sympathy when you mentioned your widescreen Daewoo. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to see what's on my TINY 9" KITCHEN TV.


Seriously, though, good post.

Posted by: Ted at October 30, 2004 11:24 PM

[I thought I posted this already, but it seems to have disappeared. So my apologies if it suddenly shows up twice.]

But, Plover... isn't the point of the whole "Pet Goat" thing that it happened after Bush was told that the towers had been hit? i.e. after the attacks had already been executed? Sure, his slow reaction was odd, but it seems unfair to blame him for not preventing the deaths. I had the same reaction as Jon. (It may be fair to blame the administration for ignoring the intelligence that warned that such attacks might occur, but that's not what Bin Laden is doing.)

Osama sounds like a teenager trying to explain why he thinks Bush is a moron. Like, there was this part in that Michael Moore movie, and I don't remember all the details, but it totally shows he's an idiot. I feel that this -- the "Traitor Michael Moore screens 'Fahrenheit 9/11' for Osama!" angle -- will not be good for the Dems. Unless they can drive home the obvious point: don't worry about what Bin Laden is saying; he's a madman, QED. Focus on the fact that he's still available to say anything at all. And *then* vote.

Posted by: inkywretch at October 30, 2004 11:44 PM

The thing I have trouble seeing is how bin Laden is blaming Bush for the deaths. It is necessary to look at the context for the sentence that is quoted in point no. 2. In the previous sentence, bin Laden indicates that he and Mohammed Atta expected that it would be necessary for all the operations to be completed in under 20 minutes in order for there to be no time for a response by U.S. forces. As it was, there was almost an hour between the time the first plane hit the WTC and the time the plane hit the Pentagon. In the sentence following the quote bin Laden thanks God that the hijackers were allowed 3x the expected time to carry out operations. This (and a few other details of the speech) do not strike me as the words of someone disavowing the consequences of his actions—indeed it looks more like an expression of satisfaction with the success of a plan that could easily have gone wrong. There is a level on which he is saying that Bush might have prevented at least some of the damage, but this seems mostly an admission that Bush was given an opportunity by the fact that the operation did not go entirely as planned.

bin Laden's actions, and now, added to that, his expression of contentment at the privilege of having been allowed to see his plans come to fruition is quite enough to justify almost any degree of hatred someone might feel for him. But according him qualities he does not actually possess—positive or negative—will not help to fight him. There have been too many distortions made concerning bin Laden, Islamic terrorists, and indeed Muslims in general in recent years; I'm making a simple plea for accuracy.

Posted by: plover at October 31, 2004 01:19 AM


I think your interpretation of bin Laden's words is correct. But then, I think my interpretation is correct too. I think they can both be correct at the same time. Of course, this doesn't make sense, but the proclamations of bloodthirsty maniacs often don't. Anyone who will kill thousands of people is generally mixed up about what they actually think in their own minds.

Also, I agree with you it's extremely important to be accurate, and that accuracy has been almost totally missing in America re bin Laden. I'll write more about this when I have a second, and I hope you'll comment.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at October 31, 2004 05:25 PM

I have to admit I could not watch him when my husband was watching the tape on Al Jazeera while we were eating Ramadan pre-dawn meal a few days ago. I really cannot stand to watch him. I did read the transcript and like many American pundits have already said I was struck by how he seemed to be using American themes in his speech, talking about freedom, talking about choice, talking about US foreign policy, mentioning stuff like the Lebanese towers to try to convince Americans that he was only reacting (by the way, this is ALWAYS what aggressors do, from the abusive husband/boyfriend, to the political leader that invades countries -- they ALWAYS say their violent actions are nothing but a reaction to some provocation). It was eerie to see him addressing Americans in this way. His other tapes have been more addressed to Arab audiences. He really tailors his remarks to his audience in a surprisingly savvy way.

Posted by: Anna in Cairo at November 1, 2004 07:16 AM

I think they can both be correct at the same time. Of course, this doesn't make sense, but the proclamations of bloodthirsty maniacs often don't.

It's certainly not implausible that meaning and intention in a mind like bin Laden's could undergo mercurial shifts around whatever obsessive line tethers his overall approach, with the outward result betraying a melange of distinct drives. On the other hand, he is quite canny about his media persona, and may construct his messages with an unlikely degree of precision and stagecraft. I expect it all depends on exactly where the faultlines and blindspots are in his self-perception, which is not something I have any clear sense of.

Posted by: plover at November 1, 2004 11:01 PM