While investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has been busy clouding the history of Osama bin Laden’s years on the lam in Pakistan, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence cleared things up a bit by releasing a list of documents found at the lair in Abbottabad where he was killed in 2011.
Intelligence experts may be most interested in the newly declassified communications between bin Laden and his terrorist underlings, but I’m fascinated by a number of general- interest titles and press clippings in “The Bin Laden Bookshelf,” which may give insight into the mind behind the most brazen terrorist attack of the 21st century. Or maybe his wives were just big Noam Chomsky fans. In any case, here is a sampling:
In Mullins’ telling, the Fed was largely a British neo-Colonial plot: “the shadowy figures behind the operation of the Federal Reserve System were themselves shadows, the American fronts for the unknown figures who became known as the ‘London Connection.’ I found that notwithstanding our successes in the Wars of Independence of 1812 against England, we remained an economic and financial colony of Great Britain.” Mullins noted in his preface that “a writer only has one book within him,” which in this case seems more a blessing than a curse.
“History affords no parallel, whether from a religious or political point of view, to the sudden rise of Mohammedanism and the wonderful conquests which it made,” writes Haines. “The electric spark had indeed fallen on what seemed black unnoticeable sand, and lo the sand proved explosive powder and blazed heaven-high from Delhi to Granada!”
After a 2010 audio broadcast in which bin Laden said that “all of the industrialized countries, especially the big ones, bear responsibility for the global warming crisis,” he was widely decried for jumping on the climate-change bandwagon for PR reasons. Was his interest more sincere?
In an interview, Esposito seemed bemused by his presence on bin Laden’s reading list: “More than likely, he was isolated for so long and he had to fill his day, and he spent a lot of time watching DVDs or watching news or reading, so he probably had people put together a pile. It is a hodgepodge list … nobody would have been expecting the diversity and the diversity of opinion – he had think tanks from left to right and authors from left to right. They probably saw my title with bin Laden’s name on it without reading it.”
This study, part of the Center for a New American Security’s “Future of the U.S. Military” series, calls for increasing U.S. military presence globally to enhance its “capability in numerous strategically important parts of the world to make a difference in normal day- to-day regional balances of power.” O'Hanlon, a friend, e-mailed me that bin Laden probably “just wanted to learn about U.S. military bases, perhaps partly to help keep himself alive!”
This 1989 collection of lectures is a bit of an odd choice, however, as it focuses primarily on press criticism and the “primitive nature of contemporary Western culture.” Bin Laden may have skipped ahead to Appendix V, which deals with Washington’s supposed whitewash of Israeli “obstructionism” to the peace process and the “anti-Arab racism” peddled by the U.S. media.
Tobin Harshaw writes editorials on national security, military affairs and education.