Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Major media reports on new bin Laden video surfacing just before 9/11 anniversary


Today, Tuesday September 11, 2007, is the sixth anniversary of the tragedy, and the first time, in a perpetual calendar sense, that the anniversary has occurred on the same day of the week.

The media has made much of the release of a two videos, one on Saturday and one today (Sept 11, the "anniversary"), a 47 minute video exalting "martyrs." The Saturday piece from Osama bin Laden in which he appears to have dyed his beard black, or be wearing a “hairpiece.” (Some reports seem to indicate more than one video, or more than one version of the video.) This, to appeal to youthful vanity, is seen as unusual in Muslim culture, which supposedly venerates its elders. Osama bin Laden would have turned 50 years old in March.

So far the video(s) have not been obviously available on any mainstream websites. I suppose it is accessible P2P. The government has analyzed it (them), and believes that it indicates that bin Laden is still alive. The videos refer to some events this summer.

The English language version of the Al Jazeera account of the video, “US ‘analyzing new bin Laden video’” is here. Many websites carrying messages from al Qaeda have been shut down, according to this report.

Bloomberg has a more detailed account by Michael Heath and Camilla Hall, here.

The Associated Press has a story (and a short video clip of length 1:20) today by Lee Keath, the press release coming from the News Journal Online of Daytona Beach, FL, here.

The video(s) continue the usual ideological rant, with apparently nothing specific. I do recall the chilling videos played by the major media on Oct. 7, 2001 in immediate response when the United States took action in Afghanistan, and other videos, such as a particularly gloating video shown on Dec. 13, 2001. (The have been about 75 such videos since 9/11/2001). It is clear, however, that Bin Laden and radical Islam as a whole believe (however they cloak their beliefs in historical grievances over occupied lands) in a “tainted fruits” theory of individual morality, and that those who lost lives or lost in other ways in these or similar tragedies in recent history are personally atoning for the “sins” of not only themselves but of others who benefit from their society. Many religions subscribe to this sort of moral belief, and it can be intellectually compelling. As just one example, it’s true, land and property were taken or expropriated from individual Palestinians by force and without compensation (by Israel), a practice that offends and shames modern ideas of individual rights and seems to deserve response. In the early days of my adult working life and living on my own, I did encounter a lot of this sort of indignant thinking from the radical Left within this country, a subset of people who wanted to see justice performed on those it perceived as oppressors ("rich people"). This sort of "subversion" can lead to other threats economic in nature but of colossal scale, and imagination is the only limit, as we have seen in the commentary of the past six years.

It seems interesting, today, to reflect that apparently only Christianity offers salvation through Grace, and allows the individual to be saved by the atonement of one person sent to atone, Jesus. Even some forms of Christianity, however, emphasize works and karma. Traditional Christianity and Catholicism have much of their own hypocrisy and are far from perfect in practice, but Grace gives it one big advantage. Maybe that helps accounts for the advances of western civilization compared to Islam, and other ideologies. The previous Pope, remember, was instrumental in helping Reagan with the fall of Communism. Bin Laden brazenly demands that the entire planet convert to Islam (restoring the Caliphate would no longer be good enough) so that everyone submits to his idea of atonement, no one is forgiven. That sounds a bit like Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution, where everyone has to become a peasant. Sayyid Qutb's theories of religious virtue, where everyone submits and is brought low, as covered in articles in The Weekly Standard in 2002, come to mind. But one big difference between religious theories of "atonement" and classical-liberal or libertarian and secular ideas of "personal responsibility" are that in the latter, force is not used for force any individual to share in payback for some collective wrong.

The Sept. 3 2007 issue of Newsweek has a Special Report "Into Thin Air" on p 24, with the black and white mountain scenery cover and the byline "He's Still Out There: The Hunt for Bin Laden." Indeed, if you follow the logic of the recent Paramount Vantage film A Mighty Heart, he might have escaped through the huge coastal city of Karachi, where, according to many sources (at least one told to me personally) he has had many contacts since the 1990s.

There seems to be a cottage industry in finding these videos. See the story by Joby Warrick, "Bin Laden Brought to You By ..." on Wed. Sept 12, 2007, p A1, here.

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