This book helped me crawl into the mind of Osama bin Laden. It helped me understand more of the mess that is the Middle East. A fascinating read. I loved it. Below are some of my observations in no particular order
Everyone needs a miracle
It is true, the Russians left Afghanistan. It was too costly, in the end, it wasn't worth the effort, so they left. The USA was bound and determined to give Russia their own Vietnam, so they happily supplied Afghans with whatever they needed to inflict casualties on Russia. Not too long after their withdrawal, the communist superpower crumbled. Shortly before Russia's tactical departure, a small Russian force attempted to take out Osama Bin Laden's out of the way, mountain hide-out. Osama's team of Saudi freedom fighters were pulverized and fled. The Afghan's forced the Arabs back into action, and with Afghan support, they managed to kill 35 Russian soldiers and take back their enclave. The foray was not even noticed on the Russian side, one more skirmish in those God-forsaken mountains, but in the heightened religious atmosphere among the men following bin Laden, it was another story altogether, there was a dizzying sense that they were living in a supernatural world, in which reality knelt before faith. For them, the encounter at the Lion's Den became the foundation of the myth that they defeated the superpower. Within a few years, the entire Soviet empire fell to pieces—dead of the wound that Osama and his faithful band inflicted upon the communist infidels. With Allah, anything was possible. If Russia could fall, so too could America, and so they should.
Young zealots armed themselves with the miracle stories that flowed out of Afghanistan, stories that spoke of tanks running over Jihadis with no effect and Russian bullets unable to penetrate bodies. Confidence soared as rumours spread that even the birds interfered with Russian aircraft and angles on horseback joined the faithful in battle.
The sword is the better way
Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, believed in Universal Islamic Rule and was opposed to all western ideas of democracy, capitalism, and materialism, he said:
"It is the nature of Islam to dominate not to be dominated - to impose its will on all nations and to extend it's power to the entire planet, to be the dominant cultural force in the world we must take over, and it's the duty of all Muslims to assist in this glorious endeavor.
Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, preached against the freedom of the west
"Yes we are reactionary, you intellectuals don't want us to go back 1400 years! But freedom corrupts our youth, freedom paves the way for our oppressor, freedom will drag our nation to the bottom freedom is the enemy and America is the champion of freedom
Khomeini preached on:
Islam says, Whatever good there is in this world it is because of the sword and the shadow of the sword. People can only be made obedient because of the sword, the sword is the key to paradise. Obedience is better than freedom.
Western ideals cannot survive in the face of Islam, the only hope for lasting peace between the West and Isalm is if Muslims en-masse re-invent their religion embracing democracy, freedom, and love as core values. That does not seem likely.
What makes a terrorist?
The lure of an illustrious meaningful death was heightened because of government oppression and economic hardship. Saudi Arabia, for example, had buckets and buckets of money, but the king spent it all on yachts, gambling and mind-boggling excess. Radicalism prospers in the gap between rising expectations and declining opportunities. The young men from Saudi could see the waste they resented it. Isalm wasn't the culprit; however, Corrupting Western influences were, they must pay!
Also, the youth were idle, unemployed and bored. Art was impoverished, and entertainment was heavily policed or altogether absent. Finally, when men are culturally set apart from the consoling and socializing presence of women, it's only a matter of time before trouble starts. — Martyrdom started looking like a pretty good option for these young men whose lives had become stunted.
Add to all this a theology which taught that a man's sins were forgiven the moment the blood drained from his body in Martyrdom. The forgiven one's sacrifice would also prevent 70 of his family members from the fires of hell and all his fleshly longings long denied on earth would be fulfilled by the gift of 72 eager virgins awaiting him in paradise.
The biggest "object lesson" that drove many Muslims closer into fundamentalism was the 1967 six day war debacle with Israel. A lot of Muslims came to believe that God had sided with Israel because Muslims had become soft and corrupt like the West. Only a rededication to strict Islam would bring about success in over-throwing the Jews and becoming the dominant force in the world again.
Osama bin Laden's greatest motivation to radicalize his adherents was made evident in a speech given just before 9/11. In the statement, Osama quoted Mohammed, the prophet who had warned the people of his day against becoming weak "because of your love of life and your hatred of fighting." He reminded all his martyrs that Islam would always be inferior until they returned to their religion to fight for it. Shame was the motivation that pushed the 19 terrorists to action on that fateful day. These men, unlike many others, were comfortable, well educated and from stable homes, but the way of Islam was still under the thumb of the West, and would always be until they threw off their comforts and fought.
Should have left them alone.
Saddam snatched up oil-rich Kuwait and stood on Saudi's border. Would they be next? Could the West stand by as a mad man grabbed an unbelievably large share of the world's oil? Looking back, I say "yes," America should have stayed out of it as much as possible. Osama wanted to fight Sadaam with his Jihadi's. Let them fight it out is what I say. Osama was radicalized against the USA when they moved their army into Saudi Arabia. The USA should have let Iraq and Saudi duke it out, and then have come in only at the desperate request of a country on the verge of collapse. The USA invested way too much in a country that could never appreciate them.
The USA is all about sex, and sex is bad.
Initially, the Arab world was fond of America. They were the only country that had fought against colonialism and won. It was a short-lived affection, however. Sayyid Qutb, the thought leader behind modern Islamic extremism, would summarize his perspective on America. "They are a reckless deluded heard chasing after sex and money, little above beasts." Sayyid was convinced that sex led people away from salvation, and according to him, there was entirely too much of that going on in America! It probably didn't help that he was propositioned by a drunk woman on the boat that brought him to America for his study tour, or that he managed to find time to read the Kinsey report on sex. He was thoroughly disgusted.
Sayyid Qutb also rejected Christianity as an idealized fantasy. To him, it was a dream that could never come true. Islam was a much better story to him because it was a complete system with rules and laws and the power to enforce them and not just dreams of the way things should be.
It wasn't long before it was thought and taught that the West's corrupting influences on Islam were the reason why Islam has not yet succeeded in taking over the world. Which is why the West must be destroyed; the other factor was the USA's affection for Israel; this was utterly intolerable.
9/11 was completely avoidable.
This is easily the most troubling part of the book. Intelligence agencies were different than criminal agencies. Intelligence gathering (CIA) had developed a bizarre habit of withholding information from criminal investigation agencies (FBI) The official reason for this lack of collaboration was a determination not to compromise "sensitive sources and methods." Once a criminal investigation started, the CIA would have to give up control, operatives could lose their cover. They understandably didn't want that. However, the CIA had more than enough info at their disposable to help the FBI both locate and arrest the 911 bombers. Indeed the CIA even knew when several of the suicide bombers had entered the United States some 20 months before the bombings! Still, they refused to share with the FBI. The FBI was convinced that a terror threat was high, and they asked the CIA repeatedly for help, but without success.
Why? was there another reason besides the official one? Some say it was because the CIA hated O'Neill, who was the FBI counter-terrorist strongman. He was impulsive, hotheaded, and had a huge personality. He was a threat to many, within the politics of bureaucracy. Whatever the reasons 9/11 was completely avoidable had the two agencies chosen to work together.
One of the great ironies of this story is that O'Neil was one of the only people who took Osama seriously. It was he alone who truly understood the threat and could have prevented it. Instead, infighting cut his career short, he took a post as a security consultant at the World Trade Centre in August of 2001 he died less than a month later in the attacks.
Sex outside of marriage is a severe sin in Islam, But Muhammed Bin Laden loved his women, so what could he do? Marry them in the morning and divorce them at night. He did that a lot, so much so that he had a full-time staff member employed to keep track of all the details to make sure no moral laws were broken, and that if any children were produced as a result of these short term marriages, they would be suitably cared for. Fifty-four children were created as a result of these arrangements, the wives numbered in the hundreds. Osama bin Laden was produced by the marriage of Mohammed and a Fourteen-year-old "wife." Muhammed was clever, but something feels wrong about this.
What would Muhammed Do? (WWMB)
What is the justification for Muslim extremists to kill women and children? In 630, Mohammed allowed the use of a catapult to conquer a walled city even though it would kill women and children. This was all the justification needed to harden the conscience of any tender souled Jihadi. If Mohammed did it, we can too!
A doctrine of Islam that believes you can kill other Muslims that don't agree with you. It goes against the Quran says Lawrence Wright, but does it go against Mohammed's actions? Whatever the case "Takfir" is the reason why so many Muslim have no qualms about killing one another.