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New: Is the "Project for a New American Century" Killing off the US Economy?

11/18/2004 Part 2 of a Three Part Series

History of Fundamentalism:
How far apart are Al-Queda and Extremist Judeo-Christianity?
By Tanya C. Hsu
Senior Political Analyst & Director of Program Development
Institute for Research: Middle East Policy

America's First 9/11

On September 11, 1990 President George H.W. Bush addressed a joint session of Congress alerting America and the world to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and Iraq. His central rationale for intervention warned of Iraqi troops moving toward the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in preparation for an attack upon the Kingdom:

"In the early morning hours of August 2nd, following negotiations and promises by Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein not to use force, a powerful Iraqi army invaded its trusting and much weaker neighbor, Kuwait. Within three days, 120,000 Iraqi troops with 850 tanks had poured into Kuwait and moved south to threaten Saudi Arabia. It was then I decided to check that aggression…"

In mid-September the Pentagon confirmed that 250,000 Iraqi troops with 1500 tanks were massed on the Saudi border. Saudi Arabia's leaders, briefed by the US, believed they faced an existential dilemma: invasion and overthrow by Saddam Hussein, or infidel troops using the Holy Cities of Islam to attack fellow Arab Muslims. Under great American and domestic political pressure, Saudi leaders allowed US troops to stage and launch their war upon Iraq from Saudi soil.

Although the Pentagon to this day refuses to declassify the photographs of the Iraqi troop build-up, images obtained from commercial Russian satellite imagery companies have become available. Two high resolution photos in particular provide a comparison. The first clearly reveals Iraqi vehicles massed in and around Kuwaiti oil field infrastructure.   (See exhibit #1)

Exhibit #1 Satellite Image: Vehicles massed around Kuwaiti oil fields – September 11th 1990
(Source: Canadian Broadcasting Company)

The second image reveals a Kuwait/Saudi border completely devoid of Iraqi vehicles.

Independent satellite analysis revealed no Iraqi troops on the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.  There were no tanks. There was nothing.  Just empty desert for miles on end.   (See exhibit #2)

Exhibit #2 The Kuwait-Saudi Arabian Border/September 11th 1990.
(Source: Canadian Broadcasting Company)

The Saudi leadership had been deceived into an alliance, and America would pay dearly 11 years later.   George H. W. Bush and the Pentagon had done more than manipulate a long term friend and ally.  By failing to understand and consider the level of perceived defilement the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia would generate, Bush triggered a series of reactions that led directly to the terror attacks of 9/11.   

Still in Saudi Arabia at the time, Osama bin Laden approached Crown Prince Abdullah with an offer to raise an army and fight Iraqi troops, to preclude the need for the presence of US troops upon the Holy Land.   Prince Abdullah rejected the offer. 

Although the Saudi government ultimately permitted US troops to launch attacks against Saddam Hussein to protect the kingdom, Muslim adherents saw it a different way. They saw infidels launched from the Holy Land of Islam to strike down fellow Muslims.   Osama bin Laden abandoned any allegiance to the Kingdom at that moment, vowing to bring down both the
United States and the House of Saud.

Saudi Arabia – A Desert Island

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands alone in the world, an island in the sand.  In 100 years it has gone from uniting a land of tribal leaders, warlords, Bedouin and traders to a closed society protecting its Muwahhadin form of Islam.    The state has come to be despised by many fellow Arab nations for projecting a conservative form of Islam that does not represent the majority.  It is simultaneously loathed by many Saudi ex-patriots for its failure to provide for the Saudi people.   The Kingdom is feared and reviled by Americans on both sides of the political fence  and from almost every member of Congress for its decadent ruling family, business connections to the Bush family, as the origin of Osama bin Laden, or all. 

The Kingdom is facing its biggest crisis to date.  Should Saudi Arabia not change from within, it will be a lose-lose situation for the Kingdom and the United States.  As one of the fastest climbing nations from complete underdevelopment to global prominence, Saudi Arabia could descend even more rapidly.  Glacial reforms have usually been more successful and less painful to any nation's populace.   Saudi Arabia no longer has this luxury. 

The message to the Kingdom from the United States has become deafening. The US demands “reform” of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia according to “American” democratic ideals. The US wishes to see its own image reflected in a Saudi democracy.   The Bush administration remains steadfast in its conviction that forcing democracy upon Iraq will yet be a remarkable success, and will be a model for change throughout the Middle East.

Despite a decade long plan of action cautiously implemented by the Kingdom to reform from within, on its own terms and according to its culture, the US demands instantaneous results. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has come to a point of no return.

The questions remain: Will the Kingdom move ahead and show the world that Islam, the Holy Cities (Mecca and Medina), and the people are not the fearsome shadowy entities being portrayed? How will this be accomplished, and can it beat the clock and proceed before Al-Qaeda and others decide to change Arabia for them?  How easy will it be to change perceptions in the US where think tanks such as the highly influential and media savvy American Enterprise, Brookings and Washington Institutes with their varied “scholars” continually hold Saudi Arabia accountable for nearly all present Middle East woes? 

Other groups and movements outside of the Kingdom are dedicated to changing the Saudi Kingdom and overthrowing Muslims who are not true practitioners of Islam: Saudi Salafi “apostates”.  Clearly these groups oppose the hard-line position of the “Wahhabi” ruling family, in their view oppressive to the Saudi people. 

Honest scholars find Islam to be a religion of equality and charity, beauty and compassion.  Not providing for the general population is haraam (forbidden) in Islam.   The royal House of Saud is perceived not to have changed since King Abd al-Aziz stated, after the discovery of oil, “fill my belly and I don't care about it” and “don't educate the children too much or they will rebel”.

A resistance leader, who prefers to call his organization a “Renaissance Movement”, agrees that change within “Arabia” is necessary and timely.  In a personal interview with this author, he described his dream for the nation as follows:

“[We would like to] take back Saudi wealth outside Arabia, the assets must be returned to the people, and education must become new.  [We would have] vocational systems, colleges, and an industrial revolution will begin – [an] agricultural industry is not enough.  All Muslims will be welcomed.  The women will be in universities, teaching and studying they will be in the elections.  If a woman wants to build a bridge in the country, that is fine!   In the time of the Prophet women were fighting to climb trees to work!  We will negotiate with non-Arab nations, except on our conditions this time.”

The leader of this organization, also made clear that there would be full equality for women, a distribution of the wealth from oil to the people because the natural resources belong to the “ummah” (people of the state). 

The leader of another organization puts it this way:

“The Saudi regime imposed on the people a life that does not appeal to the free believer.  The people wanted to encourage what is right and forbid what is wrong – they can't.  The regime dismisses them from their jobs and in the event that they continue (to speak out) they are detained in prisons.  I have rejected to live this submissive life that is not befitting of man let alone a believer. 

“We started to publish some declarations. However, the Saudi Regime did not like this and started to exercise pressure… insisted I keep my mouth shut – I decided to look for a land in which I can breathe a pure, free air …It is much better …to live under a tree …than to live in palaces in the most sacred land… where injustice is so widespread.“

Who are these reformers who have tried to disseminate the same message as the president of the United States, Congressmen and women, academics, television pundits paid handsomely for expressing their horror of such a system as Saudi Arabia maintains?  

The first quote is from Dr. Muhammad al-Masari, Director of the Party for Islamic Renewal, based in England.  Dr. al-Masari is personally regarded by Osama bin Laden as a valued Islamic teacher; bin Laden having tried to persuade him to come to Afghanistan to educate his “ignorant” Mujahadeen while they trained in the Al-Queda camps. 

The second is Osama bin Laden

After the end of the Cold War Osama bin Laden stated, “This collapse made the US more haughty and arrogant, and it has started to look at itself as a Master of the World, and establish what it calls the “New World Order.”   William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, the iconic journal of neo-conservative thought, agrees with bin Laden.  As Kristol himself wrote on America's current policy towards the Arab world: “It is a greater war for shaping the Middle East.  It is a war that is intended to change the political structure of the entire region.  The world is a dangerous place.  [Neocon] doctrine maintains that the problem with the Middle East is that [there is an] absence of democracy and of freedom.   The way to fight is to create a New World Order, to create a new Middle East.”  Kristol and his fellow arch-conservative advisers to the Bush administration firmly believe that “fanatic Wahhabism” is undermining the stability of the entire region. 

When the 9/11 Commission closed its books and concluded that the cause of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon were caused by “Islamic fundamentalism” (an oxymoron within Islam), they failed to learn during the process that Osama bin Laden believes that the Wahhabi rulers in Saudi Arabia are too fundamental for his tastes. 

Another failure on the part of the Commission was surprisingly glaring: a significant conflict of interest.  Thomas Kean (D – NJ), 9/11 Commission Chairman, neglected to reveal his personal and ongoing business dealings with Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law, Khalid bin Mahfouz.  Democratic Senator Bob Graham and Michael Moore also forgot to mention the Kean- bin Laden business relationship in their damning “expos�s” of the Saudis.  Kean remains a director of Amerada Hess, the oil company partnered with Saudi Arabia's Delta Oil.  One of Delta Oil's biggest financial backers is bin Mahfouz, who has also supported Manuel Noriega, Abu Nidal, Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush. Saudi contracts secured by the Carlyle Group benefit Democrats equally if not more so than Republicans: One of Carlyle's founding members is Daniel Rubenstein, a Democrat who worked for president Jimmy Carter, and its chairman is Louis Gerstner Jr., close associate of the Clinton White House.

The Saudi government has maintained close relations with every US administration. Yet this close relationship, in the past much needed, has eroded.  Saudi Arabia's key force continues to be petroleum.

As the world scrambles to connect the dots to define the threats of terrorism that do indeed exist, as opposed to those which are mirages, books are churned out rapid fire.  A raft of cynics attempt to link groups on both sides of the Atlantic to terrorism.  Key gaps have been glaringly overlooked.  As Lee Hamilton of the 9/11 Hearings Committee testified on Capitol Hill in special summer session, we knew all about Osama bin Laden's fatwa's and 9/11, but we still did not “get it”.

US presidential candidate John Kerry upped the ante during his campaign: “To put it bluntly, we will not do business as usual with Saudi Arabia”.  Regarding the US reliance on Saudi oil, Kerry said, “If we are serious about energy independence, then we can finally be serious about confronting the role of Saudi Arabia in financing and providing ideological support for Al-Queda …”, reinforcing anti-Saudi oratory.  

Saudi Arabia is in a position to influence market prices.  In 2004 the Saudi reserves were estimated at 260 billion barrels; approximately 25% of the world's proven reserves, and has the largest surplus production capacity.  Americans continue to demand greater supply to support their leading per capita consumption.  Rather than make energy efficient changes that would decrease US demands, candidate Kerry demanded that Saudi Arabia play by new American rules.  Saudi Arabia may be alone in a sea of sand, but animosity from the US toward the region has forced it to reach out to new allies.

Defusing the explosive relations between the US and Muslim world require two major changes:  The US must stay out of the Muslim lands as occupiers, and cease unconditional support of Israel.   Instead, the US takes sides in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the thorn in the side of all Arab states.  America has begun another Crusade to conquer the Middle East, as Islam views it.   Most policy makers have ignored the importance of Islamic justice and history to the peoples of the region. The history of fundamentalism goes largely ignored.   

Without examining the history of the region and culture, and by ignoring the reasoning behind the ongoing attacks against the United States and Western allies, the losses will be far greater than the 3,000 people lost during 9/11, the 1,146 US troops killed in Iraq, the 1,080 contractors killed or missing, and the thousands upon thousands of severe injuries to US troops.  “Terrorism” is not a new phenomenon, it has never been eradicated, and it has been with us for thousands of years.  It certainly did not begin with Islam or Al-Queda, and the principles of what many call freedom fighters are honorable to those who fight their war.  As President Yasser Arafat is laid to rest we recall that Nelson Mandella was considered a “terrorist” not too many years ago.

The West can not win this battle unless its knowledge base and strategies completely change.

Origins of Fundamentalist Terrorism

The term “fundamentalism” originated from the 1920s Protestant movement in America guided by five “fundamentals”: the absolute truth and literal word of the Bible; the Virgin Birth of Jesus; Jesus' resurrection; the "supernatural" atonement of Christ's blood forgiving sins, and the authenticity of the Gospel miracles.  Fundamentalism is predicated on the beliefs that these are the only truths, and that disbelievers are an evil that must be fought.  Using this template the Muwahhadin (commonly known outside of the Middle East as “Wahhabi”) of Saudi Arabia are no more “fundamental” than millions of American Christians today.  William Kristol wrote, “Muslim fundamentalists regard the Koran – every word of it – as God's own language” as if this were unique to followers of Islam.  Of course most Muslims believe such: “Qu'ran” literally means “Recitation” (from God).

Today it is estimated that there are at least 25,000 followers of Al Qaeda globally, primarily from Pakistan and Egypt.  There are 1.3 billion Muslims across the world.  If Al Qaeda members represent 0.002% of the entire Muslim population it would require a membership growth up to 13 million Osama bin Laden supporters before Al Qaeda had just 1% of all Muslims under his sway.

 By contrast, 11%, or 660 million, people throughout the entire world call themselves “evangelical Christians”.  According to a recent Gallop poll, 42% of Americans call themselves evangelical.  Evangelical (from the Greek “euangelion”, meaning good news of Jesus) can be identified by four components: conversion, or a belief that lives need to be changed; the interpretation that all truth is to be found within the Bible; activism, in that all believers are dedicated to the service of God; and crucicentrism, the belief that Jesus Christ's death represents atonement for ones' sins.  Daily more than one million people watch the most popular religious leader in America, far right wing Evangelical Reverend Pat Robertson's “700 Club” television program, donating $100 million per year to support his message.  And that message is a warning of the danger of the “warlike” Islam, Islam the mechanism for “Satan's plan to prevent the return of Jesus Christ the Lord”, with the Prophet Mohammed a “wild-eyed fanatic, robber and brigand”.  On October 10th, 2004 Robertson threatened George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden both in the same breath:  Speaking from Jerusalem on behalf of God, Robertson claimed: “God says, 'I'm going to judge those who carve up the West Bank and Gaza Strip!” , lest any US president have any fanciful notions about returning the Occupied Territories to their former owners.  Robertson guaranteed that he will form a third political party taking millions of Evangelical Christian American voters with him. (Robertson ran for president of the United States in 1988.)   These relatively new “Zionist Christians” fervently back America's support for Israel as a precursor to the biblical “end of times”  The Reverend also put Osama bin Laden on notice that he must not “frustrate God's plan" to have Jews rule the Holy Land until the Second Coming of Jesus.

The Reverend Jerry Falwell, another infamous Evangelical Christian preacher, called the Prophet Mohammed a “pedophile” and “terrorist”, and claimed that 9/11 was really caused by pagans, abortionists, feminists, homosexuals, the American Civil Liberties Union, People for the American Way, and all who have tried to secularize America.  Of the above he said, “you helped this happen."   When challenged, Falwell justified his comments by quoting Scripture: "Proverbs 14:23, which says 'living by God's principles promotes a nation to greatness, violating those principles brings a nation to shame.”  Falwell overlooked Scripture not so favorable to Christianity's roots, including incest, murder, and slaughter of innocents.

In the Old Testament/Torah, Moses himself said to his people after murdering two kings, as they prepared to pass Jordan,

When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; … thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: …ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.  And thou shalt consume all the people which the lord thy god shall deliver thee…shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed…” Moses, Deuteronomy 7:1 – 7:23, Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), King James Version. 

Christian Evangelicals are now seen as a far greater threat to the average Muslim, with their crusading zeal and political influence in America, backed up by the greatest military force in the world. With Israel presiding over more than 400 nuclear warheads sitting in their back garden, the Judeo-Christian movement offers no quarter.

Christianity has had a dark legacy of injustice.  It was used to justify racial segregation in the “Jim Crow” era, paraphrasing Biblical passage as evidence of “the truth” of the position of the supremacist Ku Klux Klan who have always used violence, terror, murder and fear to spread their message of white purity.  It is said that every town in the USA has at least one active member of the Klan remaining today. It is an open organization, was a significant political force just a few decades ago, proudly supports US government projects (highways, roads, etc.), and many in Congress today must hide their past sympathies with the organization.

Members of the US Congress are intensely vocal, however, in their Christian devotion, using biblical passages to underscore their faith.  Professing minimum religiosity or not mentioning it at all places a candidate at a disadvantage to politicians professing absolute loyalty to Christ.  Americans want to know that their representatives are as faithful to the Christian church as they.   Americans are now the second most religious nation in the world, behind only India. Almost 60% of Americans attend church weekly.  Fifty two percent of Americans would not vote for an atheist for president even if well-qualified, Thirty eight percent would not vote for a well-qualified Muslim.

Departing US Attorney General John Ashcroft is a member of Assembly of God Church.  No dancing, no alcohol, no makeup, and no card playing is permitted, and his staff must pray to Jesus in his government office daily, despite laws separating church and state.  In 2000, prior to his appointment, Ashcroft gave an interview to a white racist magazine, the Southern Partisan, proud that it was one journal that was able to “set the record straight”.  He also claimed that America has “no king but Jesus”.

Many believe that President Bush, a “Born Again” Christian, is strongly allied with Israel in part because of his sincere belief in the Coming of the Messiah.    The forgiving attributes of Christianity were absent during Bush's reign as governor of Texas, where he was credited with executing 155 prisoners, more than any other official in US History.  Bush had said “Texas did not sign the Vienna Convention, so why should we be subject to it?"  Many Christian Zionists are growing rapidly and significantly in their absolutist support of Israel, and Israel embraces their enthusiastic financial aid despite knowing that Christians believe Jews will go to Hell unless they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Senator Trent Lott, Rep. Tom Delay, Rep. Bob Barr, Rep. Dick Army, Senator Orrin Hatch and other Republican lawmakers are members of the Council for National Policy (CNP).  The Council's leaders include one R. J. Rushdoony, founder of the Chalcedon Foundation. In his monthly newsletter, Rushdoony gives voice to those such as the Reverend William O. Einwechter, a Pennsylvania minister who is also the VP of the National Reform Association that pushes for a Christian government.  Einwechter believes that parents should stone to death their wayward children, as "[T]he execution of the rebel in view is just, merciful, and preventive. Just, in that the transgressor deserves to die; Merciful, in that his quick death prevents the destruction of the family, society, and others; Preventive, in that it strikes fear in the heart of other would-be rebels and restrains them from taking a similar ruinous course."   Similarly Rushdoony advocates death for treasonous acts including idolatry; slave-ownership; and desires a complete global Christian domination. “World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less” writes his peer George Grant.

It becomes more surreal: In March of 2003, at least 13 members of the US Congress attended a ceremony for the Reverend Sun Yung Moon, crowning him as Moon declared himself to be the Messiah who personally saved the souls of Hitler and Stalin.   The ceremony was held in the Dirksen Office Building in the Senate, which requires permission by a senator.   Moon also happens to own the Washington Times, the conservative newspaper of Washington D.C.

So how can this be any less terrifying than Muslims who have strayed from Islam, the religion that condemns harm to man more than any other?  Why has the West become fixated upon Islam as a religion of violence and terror, when it is in fact the exact opposite?  More importantly, why are the voices that articulate and counter these overflowing masses of hypocritical accusations effectively silenced?  They are easy to find but the US media fails time and again to air these views. 

Suicide and Terror

The first recorded case of “terrorism” can be traced to the Jewish Zealot-Sicarii, who lived in Jerusalem in 100 BCE.   The Zealot-Sicarii (meaning “daggermen”) cut the throats of their victims (women and children included) in the public arena in order to gain maximum attention and instill fear and anxiety in the population.  Jesus instructed his followers who did not have weapons to buy them even if it meant selling their clothes (Luke 22:36), suggesting that He and His followers were also Zealot-Sicarii.  The curved Sica dagger was used for terrorist assassinations upon the Roman occupiers.

The term terrorism (”terreur”) was first used during the French Revolution in 1792, when the peasants revolted against King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antionette.   This was known as the “Year of Terror”.  Modern terror was then characterized by the activities of the Russian Narodnaya (Peoples' Will), the Bolsheviks, who were the primary �migr�s to Israel after the Russian Revolution. In the 1990s terror in the Balkans offered hope to the “regular” people, as it did in Kashmir, Chechnya, Aceh (Indonesia), and Xinjiang (China).


Exhibit #3 Same Vision, Different Sides

(Source: Irgun and Hezbollah)

Irgun poster distributed in Europe 1947 Hezbollah poster distributed in Lebanon 2004

In 1946, Menachem Begin, leader of the Irgun Zionist organization, “terrorist number one” and later Israeli prime minister led the attack on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.  Fifty kilos of explosives set on timers destroyed the hotel and killed 91 people (mainly British).  Prime minister of Israel Yitzhak Shamir (1983- 84, & 1986-92), also a self-described terrorist, was the leader of the equally radical Stern Gang.  He assassinated the British resident minister Lord Walter Moyne in Cairo on November 6, 1944, and executed the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte, UN Mediator on September 17, 1948.  Shamir remained a member of the Knesset until his retirement in 1996.  

On May 4th 1947 the first suicide bombings occurred at Acco (Acre) Prison, when Jewish prisoners detonated a massive bomb permitting 255 prisoners to escape.  A month prior, four Jewish prisoners had been hanged and subsequently referred to as “martyrs”.  

An American Israeli doctor, Baruch Goldstein, opened fire on a mosque o
n the Feast of Purim (February 1994) at the Tomb of the Patriarchs.  Goldstein, a member of the Kahane Kach terrorist group, killed 50 Muslim Arabs and wounded more than a hundred others, knowing that he would be murdered in retaliation on site. His grave, now a pilgrimage site for many who honor him reads:

Here lies the saint, Dr. Baruch Kappel Goldstein, blessed be the memory of the righteous and holy man, may the Lord avenge his blood, who devoted his soul to the Jews, Jewish religion and Jewish land. His hands are innocent and his heart is pure. He was killed as a martyr…” 

Today Jewish extremists sit in the Knesset, demand Israel abide only by Jewish religious laws, and advocate the continuing violence against the Palestinians.

In other corners of the world, terrorism looms large.    Hindus do not have a negative perception of suicide for terror activities. In fact, Veda scripts taught that suicide was the greatest sacrifice. Hindus now routinely attack Muslim mosques in India.  The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka are one of the world's leading terrorist groups.   The Tamil Tigers are the first organized modern group to use female suicide bombers, called “Birds of Freedom”. 

(Source: Tamil Tigers)

Tamil Tiger Birds of Freedom wear a cyanide capsule around the neck to be taken in the event of impending capture. Tamil Tigers, until the recent war in Afghanistan and Iraq, had carried out at least five times more such terrorist attacks than all other similar groups put together.  Currently membership of the fighting force alone is estimated to be over 10,000.   These men and women will not only kill by suicide bombings, but will hack to death women and children. On 18 September 1999 the Birds of Freedom attacked three villages.  Their victims were dragged from their sleep and hacked and chopped to death using machetes and swords. ``I heard the Tamil women laughing as if they had gone mad,” said one farmer who managed to escape. Over 60,000 lives have been lost to the Tamil Tiger's civil war against Sri Lanka's Sinhalese Buddhist majority.

One common denominator of terrorism remains anti-imperialism.   Democratization and a resurgence of spiritualist motivations combined with decolonization almost guarantee a rise in rebel terrorist activities.  History remains a blueprint of today's responses. 

Exhibit #5:Terrorist Organization Membership

(Source: Various estimates)

terror_groups.jpg (41794 bytes)

Views of Al-Qaeda

Born in Saudi Arabia in 1957 of a Yemeni father and fashionable Syrian mother with a penchant for Parisian couture, Osama bin Muhammad bin Laden is assumed by many to be “Wahhabi”.   

This is incorrect.  

To this day academics recycle the same information: that the 13th-14th century scholar Ibn Tammiyya is bin Laden's mentor.    Osama bin Laden's ideas are more accurately a blend of Saad Qutb, a modern day scholar of Islam who called for a rebellion against corrupt rulers of Arab nations, and the 7th - 8th century Iraqi radical Dhul-Khuwaysarah, who argued over the Muslim community's political status after the death of Mohammad.  According to those who know bin Laden personally, his true mentor and guide was a modern day Palestinian professor of Sharia'h law, Sheikh Abdullah Assam.

 Abdullah Assam was born in 1941 in Palestine, fought in the 1967 “Yom Kippur” war, was a protagonist of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and co-founded HAMAS.  In 1973 Assam received his PhD in Usool ul-Fiqh (the Principles of Islamic Justice) from Al-Azhar University in Cairo.  After teaching in Jordan he moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and taught Shari'ah Law, writing many books on his interpretation of Islam and the meaning of jihad.  He wrote “Jihad means fighting.  It does not mean to fight with the pen or to write books or articles in the press or to fight by holding lectures.”  His work conveyed a message of self-defense in the preservation of Islam; well thought out, concise, and expressing his commitment to a reformation or the corrupted religion, Assam advocated living a life of charity and purity in all things.  (See exhibit #6)

One of his students in Jeddah was a young Saudi millionaire named Osama bin Laden.

Exhibit  #6: Abdullah Assam in Helmut, Assam in Parka, Assam in Traditional Afghan Hat

In his “Defense of the Muslim Lands” Assam stated, “If a piece of Muslim land the size of a hand-span is infringed upon then jihad becomes fard 'ayn (mandatory) upon every Muslim male and female…without the permission of its parents.”  He believed that “Expelling the kuffr from our land…is a compulsory duty upon all… The first [duty] is repulsion of the enemy aggressor who assaults the religion… If only Muslims had fought in Palestine, Palestine would not have been lost.” 

Sheikh Assam saved his harshest criticism for the rules of Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations whom he saw as having abandoned the true meaning of Islam:  “The protection of the religion takes precedence …over the protection of wealth.  Therefore the wealth of the rich is not more valuable than the blood of the Mujahideen.  Let the rich beware and take heed of the law of Allah concerning their wealth…”

The bin Laden who had previously enjoyed the fast paced lifestyle of the Beirut nightclubs was drawn to Assam's message to stop the display of obscene wealth he saw by the Saudi princes while poverty in the Kingdom increased. Accusing the Saudis of suppressing scholarly voices in opposition to the ruling family, bin Laden began issuing declarations in the Kingdom and was ordered to cease.  When he refused, he left for the Sudan.  Despite repeated requests from his family to apologize to King Fahd, he refused.   The Saudi government subsequently froze his assets and stripped him of his citizenship in 1994

The Kingdom was Allah's. 

With US troops on Saudi soil, Sheikh Assam predicted, “Our occupying enemies are very deceptive and execute programs to extend their power in these regions (Afghanistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Kashmir, Lebanon, Chad, Eritrea, etc.)”.  . He intended for his Jihad to spread to the lands that had once been under Muslim control: Bukhara and Tashkent, (Uzbekistan), Somalia, Burma, and Yemen.  But “Palestine is the foremost Islamic problem…it is the heart of the Islamic world.” I thought that Mecca and Medina were… Heart and soul are not the same.

Leaving to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan Abdullah Assam vowed to create a network of highly motivated Muslim fighters, shrouded in mystique and invincibility, cloaked and unnamed, throughout the globe.   Many of those who came to fight in Afghanistan were well-educated young men trained in engineering, computer science and medicine, and angered by the continual encroachment of Western forces upon Muslim lands.  Yet they were poorly educated in the teachings of Islam.  The availability of information from the bookshops, libraries and Internet meant they were often merely self taught rather than guided by true Muslim scholars.  In the 1980s Abdullah Assam traveled to America, visiting 50 US cities in order to spread his message and recruit more volunteer fighters.

Meanwhile Osama bin Laden had established himself in Afghanistan.  He arrived dressed in the finest English woolen trousers and English custom-sewn Beal Brothers boots, covered by the Afghan shalwar kameez (traditional clothing).  He was mild mannered, spoke classical Arabic, and quiet.  He noted the names and addresses of the wounded as he visited them in the hospital, left them with cashews and English chocolates, and later sent large unexpected checks to patients.  He spent millions to build roads, schools, a hospital and storage depots, replacing those destroyed during the Soviet-Afghan war.  To war-torn Afghanistan, he became known as the “Good Samaritan”, or “Saudi Prince”. 

Exhibit  #7

Osama bin Laden – Not a Cave Dwelling Primitive
(Source: BBC)

Bin Laden (far right) poses with his brothers and two Spanish girls 

Osama bin Laden 1971 (far right) at Oxford University,  England,         

Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Assam finally went their separate ways in a dispute over their primary targets.  Bin Laden wanted to take the Jihad straight to the US, whom both saw as the primary cause of the contamination of the Holy Cities of Arabia; Assam wanted to take the fight straight to Israel to liberate Palestine.

In 1989 Sheikh Abdullah Assam was killed by a bomb blast detonated underneath his car in Peshawar, Pakistan.  To this day the murder remains unsolved although Osama bin Laden, Pakistan's ISS and America's CIA are all suspects. 

Bin Laden, like his mentor, also issued clear warnings, writing fatwa's in 1996 and 1998 as to Al-Queda's intent.  On October 12, 2000 the USS Cole was bombed, killing 17 American sailors, when the ship refueled in Yemen. Al-Queda expected a rapid retaliation by the US that would justify an attack on American soil.  When a response failed to materialize, the planned World Trade Centre and Pentagon hijackings were postponed.  These attacks upon the US would thus be legitimate because they were in self-defense and because the US had yet to withdraw troops from Muslim lands.  According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the US government agencies then missed more than 30 opportunities to pre-empt these hijackings.

 In 1993, when the World Trade Centre was bombed for the first time, the United States did not hold Osama bin Laden accountable – he was named as being responsible only after 2001.   Bin Laden has specifically denied knowing Ramzi Yousef (now in prison for the 1993 bombing) or having any connection to or relation with the explosion.  Instead, a letter from “The Liberation Army” was sent to the New York Times claiming responsibility: “We declare our intent for the explosion on the mentioned building.  This action was done in response for the American political, economical, and military support for Israel, the state of terrorism, and to the rest of the dictator countries in the region.”  (Currently the US government supports Israel to the tune of between $8 billion and $13 billion dollars per year, including forgiven loans.)

Osama bin Laden predicted a United States invasion of Iraq, Iran, and Sudan.  As though on cue, the US has indeed invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, is questioning Iran's policies, and is focusing upon the Sudan and Syria.   Like the others states, Sudan is an oil producing nation. Sudan pumps 300,000 barrels of oil per day, and earns more than $2 billion per year from oil.  Its President Omar Hassan al-Bashir Bashir said, "There is an agenda to seek petrol and gold in the region…this high life that they (the West) enjoy now is a result of the theft of the colonies and their riches and peoples". 

Al-Queda's View

Contrary to regurgitated wisdom, Al-Queda does not wish to remain “in the 14th century” and certainly does not reject modernity.   Osama bin Laden has enthusiastically embraced the most sophisticated satellite and computer technology. Until the US invasion of Afghanistan he emailed his second-in-command Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri frequently, referring to the Taliban as backward because they did not comprehend the need for 21st century media relations.  Al-Queda members in their messages complained about salary levels, missing accountancy papers, and excessive cell phone charges. 

Members do not live in caves because they embrace a primitive lifestyle akin to the Prophet but rather to disappear quickly. The Solieman tunnels and caves in Afghanistan are impenetrable.  Even Genghis Khan was unable to find the people when he invaded Afghanistan in the 13th century.   Warned in advance of Khan's invasion, Afghanis fled underground to these same tunnels and thus.  Genghis Khan thus rode over a land he believed was devoid of man.  

In November 2001, three to four thousand Taliban and Al-Queda members, including bin Laden and his wives, escaped the bombing by US forces of Tora Bora.  Four months later the US claimed to have killed 500 Taliban and Al-Queda members during the bombing of Shah-i-Kot; but only 10 bodies were found, hundreds of men having escaped. Rewards of $25 million offered to uneducated rural Muslims for Bin Laden's head were inconceivably ignorant of the religious terrain: turning over any Muslim to the “enemy” is forbidden in Islam. 

Osama bin Laden and Al-Queda's main purpose is to rid the Arabian Peninsula of the House of Saud.  In their analysis the Saudi royal family is decadent and corrupt, and the people oppressed as the ruling family live in lavish palaces and drive extreme luxury cars.   They view the House of Saud as the very cause of modern Islamic militancy, a natural consequence of which is extremism, revolt, anarchy and assassinations, replete throughout the world's history.  Bin Laden may view himself as an Islamic “Robin Hood”, taking from the rich to give to the poor, one of the central requirements of Islam.

In 1997 bin Laden specifically stated that he wished for “an end to occupation and the Western and American influence on our countries.”

When Saudi King Fahd allowed US troops to fight Muslims from Muslim soil, al-Queda perceived how hypocritical this was of the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia owed its very existence to the intervention of the ulamas (religious leaders) during the original conflict between Saud and his brother Abd Allah in the 19th century.  Abd Allah had asked for intervention from Muslim Iraq when Saud took leadership of the nation but his request to the ulamas had been rejected because “foreigners” (the Iraqis) could not enter the Holy land.  History reveals that any exceptions were exclusively for Arabs.   Taqi al-Din ibn Taymiyya, the 13th century inspiration for “Wahhabi” Islam, permitted foreigners on Muslim land.  A pious Sufi (mystic) and medieval Hanbali theologian and professor, he allowed the Egyptians Mamluks and the Syrians (“heretics and apostates”), to fight the invading Mongols, jihad being “obligatory” for protection.

Thus the Al-Queda leadership looked on from Afghanistan as the Kingdom put American demands above the requirements of Islam.  This grave sin, as Al-Queda saw it, tipped the balance between a relatively hands-off approach to now saving the land from the Saudi Salafi, who were “subordinate to the US…an act against Islam.” 

What Does Al-Queda Want? 

Al-Qaeda in 2001 did not hate Americans or envy their freedom; in fact it had stated the opposite: “American civilians are not targeted in our plan.”   Regarding the attacks in Afghanistan bin Laden stated, “We do not want innocent people to be killed by the US bombing because of us.   We will evacuate the major cities and we will go to the mountains, deserts, and jungles to regroup and launch attacks on the US forces and their allies.” 

More importantly Osama bin Laden clearly is offended by the continued presence of the US on Saudi soil, and adamantly rejects its continuing aid to Israel, not comprehending how it is possible for the US to sacrifice its own people to serve the interests of the Israeli Jewish State. 

Al-Qaeda views the Kingdom as oppressive and extreme in its practices, denying freedom to the people while itself not being free of American control.   The argument from resistance movements is that the Saudis are “fanatical” about dress codes, ritualistic matters, and even private matters for the home only.  They want equal education for men and women, open elections, and accountability to all citizens.  Would Al-Qaeda's prescription for petroleum call for "oil to be used as a weapon"?    Apparently not. 

“We will find there were [in history] many types of dealings between the Muslim nation and other nations in time of peace and in time of war…in treaties and matters of commerce…As for oil, it is a commodity that will be subject to the price of the market according to supply and demand”  Osama bin Laden in 1997. 

Osama bin Laden's proposed a “reconciliation initiative” in an audiotape released in 2004, by which Al-Queda would cease any attack upon European nations (“our neighbors to the north” as he termed them) as long as they simply removed their troops from Muslim lands.  US troops are a humiliating presence reminiscent of imperialism, and the final Crusade in the attempt to control the world's economy via control of the world's oil supply.  Bin Laden calls for Al-Queda's actions upon the West in the name of his Islam; George W. Bush has called for two wars upon the Muslim lands, even using the word “crusade”, claiming his decision arose after consulting a “higher father”. 

From once being a CIA ally in the war against the Soviets, Osama bin Laden has now effectively been turned in to a new Prophet – a Messenger bringing the issue of change within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the forefront of foreign policy debate.  He has become mythological not because he has successfully dealt devastating attacks upon the US but because he is a figure who has stood firmly against not only the American “infidels” but also the House of Saud.

Despite its short historical existence, the Kingdom stands at a pivotal point in history: no matter where it turns it will find no other choice but change.  The question is who will provide the model for reform?  Will it be George W. Bush or Osama bin Laden? More importantly, is there a better way?

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