Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Correcting for the cut-and-paste version of the Bin Laden talk

It's now clear that the brief taped material broadcast Monday by AlJazeera (the basis for the prior post here) was a cut-and-paste from a longer, 33-minute audio tape, which was released on the Internet by the AQ media arm Al-Sahab today, Tuesday, with English subtitles, along with a bitter complaint from Al-Sahab about the distortions in what AlJazeera presented on Monday. And it seems they have a point.

The first eight minutes or so of the full tape are devoted to praise of the Iraqis for their exploits and their courage in fighting the occupier. This is followed by a thumbnail outline of the geo-politics of the AQ-jihadi struggle. "The map of the region will be redrawn," says BL, "at the hands of the mujahideen, and the artificial borders placed by the Crusaders will be erased, for the state of truth and justice to be established..." a project that is being thwarted by enemies global and local, for instance the Taliban government was toppled in Afghanistan, and in Sudan, where the president declared that he planned to apply Islamic Shariah, "the governor of Riyadh again sought to convince the Sudanese president this time to implement the demands of the atheist United Nations, to allow the entrance of Crusader forces to Darfur." This is something that places an obligation of jihad on people both in Sudan, and in the Arabian Peninsula as well. Bin Laden says: "I mention these events to remind you (Iraqis) of the full size and weight of the responsibilities placed on your shoulders, and of the full magnitude of the conspiracies being hatched against you." In other words, BL's point is to place Iraq in the context of the struggle for Islamic justice regardless of existing national borders.

And it is at that point that he raises the problem of unity in the ranks. There is a duty to unify the ranks, and there is a duty on "sincere people of knowledge and virtue" to promote that. There isn't any hint or any suggestion that this involves any thought of unity between AQ and any nationalist-oriented group or groups. On the contrary, he has just devoted a lot of time to explaining the whole struggle in uncompromising terms of transnational Islamic justice. Moreover, when it comes to his "advice", he talks about the "mistakes that take place between brothers," and he talks about the need to refer all disputes to judgment according to Islamic law administered by men of knowlege and virtue, "for it is there that claims are sorted out and proof is presented... and the two disputing parties must respond to those sincere men of knowledge calling for reform." All of which suggests it would be quite a stretch to think that BL is raising this "unity in the ranks" issue by way of looking to reconcile with any of the groups that aren't already of the ideologically AQ-oriented persuasion. Rather in the full context it reads more like a call to order respecting internal discipline.

Moreover, the section on avoiding "taassub", which was the lead section in the AlJazeera presentation, follows the above exhortation to settle disputes with due Islamic-law process, and here likewise there isn't any actual indication that he means his denunciation of "fanatical partiality" as implying any hint of criticism of the concept behind the Islamic State of Iraq. There isn't any explicit reference to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, so it isn't possible to exclude the idea that he could be one of the leaders in whom BL sees the danger of people taking his orders as infallible, but there isn't any hint in that direction either. The Al-Sahab subtitle writer quotes Bin Laden at this point as saying "Beware of fanatical partiality to men, groups, and homelands. Truth is what God and the Messenger have said...The brotherhood of faith is what ties Muslims together..." And he does end the "A is more important that B" series with "The ummah is prior to the [Islamic] state," so theoretically, there could be a suggestion that he is reminding AQ members that even the leader of the "state" has to be assessed according to law. But the main scriptural citations are to strict application of the law generally, without any hints about current circumstances, and then this: "And even worse than that (doing something generally unlawful just because it is ordered by the group's leader) is when his group and its commander embark on the greatest of cardinal sins and order him to embark on them, like entering the polytheistic parliaments...and electing its members [because government is from God not from men]. I advise myself any my brothers to be pious and patient, for that is the provision and weapon of he who hopes for victory." So the one specific example is in the opposite direction to that of inter-group reconciliation: it is a denunciation of backsliding against his view of Islamic law.

Finally, the "beware of hypocrites" section comes last of all, following on the denunciation of those who dabble in the democratic process. BL says: "And I tell my brothers: Beware of your enemies especially hypocrites who infiltrate your ranks to stir up strife among the mujahid groups and refer such people to the judiciary. And you must check and verify [so as to avoid judgment based on suspicion only]. So the placing of that in the context of the overall speech suggests, again, that what BL is concerned with is unity and good order within the AQ organization, not any "avoidance of fanaticism" in the sense of reconciliation with non-AQ entities.

(Now that I have everyone's attention, please note the film "Meeting Resistance" is showing for another week in DC and NY, then LA and other cities, don't forget to go to the Meetingresistance.com site to see clips and sign up for their newsletter to keep up to date. Steve Connors has an interesting observation (in a comment to the prior post) on what post-film discussions show about how far the media megaphone has gone in screwing up people's understanding of the resistance...)


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