IS BIN LADEN STILL ALIVE?
by Prof David Ray Griffin
Whereas these first three points are more than sufficient to refute the claim that the question posed by my book is irrelevant, the most decisive reason is a fourth: The book’s argument, to recall, was not merely that bin Laden is probably dead but also that he has probably been in this state since mid-December 2001.
If this is true and were to become publicly acknowledged, the dozens of “messages from Osama bin Laden” that have appeared since 2001 would be exposed as fakes. People in America and around the world would, therefore, realize that some organization had been fabricating these tapes for the purpose of deceiving them into thinking that bin Laden was still alive.
If it were to be learned, moreover, that these tapes had been fabricated by the Pentagon, as part of its “psyops” (psychological operations), then the military leaders who had authorized their creation would be exposed as guilty of breaking the law prohibiting the US military from directing propaganda at the American people. Questions as to why they did this – questions that would likely lead to answers involving the “military-industrial complex” – would probably follow. A lot of people would not like such questions to be raised.
In light of these considerations, Osseiran’s first criticism is clearly false. I turn now to his second.
CRITICISM #2: THE VIDEO MENTIONED BY TONY BLAIR IN NOVEMBER 2001 IS AUTHENTIC
As I have already indicated, I agree with this criticism, along with Osseiran’s further point that I should have known that the bin Laden interview to which Blair referred was one that had been videotaped by Al Jazeera but then not aired.21 Now that I am aware of these stories, I am mystified as to how I could have missed them.22
The fact that the video was authentic does not, however, undermine my contention, argued in other writings, that there is no good evidence that bin Laden had planned or even specifically authorized the 9/11 attacks.23 Osseiran’s contrary view may be based in part on the assumption that bin Laden confessed responsibility for these attacks during the Al Jazeera interview.
This assumption was, in any case, widely expressed when the tape was first reported. As pointed out above, Telegraph writer David Bamber, in speaking of the importance of this video, said: “Osama bin Laden has for the first time admitted that his al-Qa’eda group carried out the [9/11] attacks.” The Telegraph itself supported this view with the title it put on the article: “Bin Laden: Yes, I Did It.”24 Prime Minister Tony Blair then endorsed this interpretation a few days later by claiming that bin Laden had, during the interview, said that he had “instigated” the 9/11 attacks.25 It was, in fact, these descriptions of the tape’s content that made me suspect it to be a fabrication.
The idea that bin Laden had in this interview admitted responsibility for the 9/11 attacks was, in any case, also promoted by CNN on January 31, 2002, when it aired a portion of the interview. After bin Laden was shown saying – in response to the American claim that he was responsible for 9/11 – that the description of him as a terrorist was unwarranted, CNN commentator Wolf Blitzer said: “That may sound like a denial but listen to what he says only moments later.” CNN then showed footage of bin Laden saying: “If inciting people to do that is terrorism and if killing those who kill our sons is terrorism, then let history be witness that we are terrorists.”26
After the entire transcript was published, Sarah Sullivan of Turner Broadcasting System gave the same interpretation, writing: “The transcript of the interview makes bin Laden’s defense of Sept. 11 and implicit acknowledgement of responsibility even clearer than the excerpts broadcast by CNN.”27
Not all journalists, however, described this interview as one in which bin Laden had acknowledged responsibility, even implicitly, for the 9/11 attacks. Guardian writer Oliver Burkeman, for example, said that bin Laden “dodges questions about his responsibility for the September 11 attacks, but says they were justified.”28
A close examination of the transcript shows, moreover, that bin Laden did not even dodge the question. Rather, he simply made the same two fold point about the attacks that he had previously articulated – namely, that he rejoiced in the attacks but had not been responsible for them or even known about them in advance.
On September 12, for example, this twofold point was made on bin Laden’s behalf by one of his aides, who told Al Jazeera that bin Laden had had “no information or knowledge about the attack” but that he had “thanked Almighty Allah and bowed before him when he heard this news.”29
Continuing to deny responsibility in the following days, bin Laden himself told Al Jazeera on September 16: “I stress that I have not carried out this act, which appears to have been carried out by individuals with their own motivation.”30 On October 7, he praised the “vanguards of Islam . . . [who] destroyed America,” but he did not withdraw his earlier statements denying involvement.31
During the Al Jazeera interview of October 21, bin Laden made this same two fold point. On one hand, he expressed his approval of the attacks in New York and Washington, calling them “great on all levels” and saying, in particular, that “the collapse of the twin towers is huge.” On the other hand, he denied responsibility.
After saying that the designation of him as a terrorist was unwarranted, he responded to the American government’s claim that it had convincing evidence of his complicity in the attacks by stating: “We never heard in our lives a court decision to convict someone based on a ‘secret’ proof it has. The logical thing to do is to present a proof to a court of law.”32
At this point, however, bin Laden did – contrary to Al Jazeera’s statement that there was nothing new in this interview – go beyond what he had previously said in public statements: Having denied direct responsibility for the attacks, he suggested that he might have been indirectly responsible.
Speaking of “the brave guys who took the battle to the heart of America and destroyed its most famous economic and military landmarks,” bin Laden said:
“They did this, as we understand it, and this is something we have agitated for before, as a matter of self-defense, in defense of our brothers and sons in Palestine, and to liberate our sacred religious sites/things.”33
His point was that he had encouraged (“agitated for”) Muslims to strike back at Americans and Israelis, as an act of self-defense against their attacks on Muslim holy places and people. This striking back was self-defense, he argued, because Americans and Israelis would quit killing Muslims only if Muslims killed enough of them in return to make them stop: Having spoken of the killing of Muslims in Palestine and Iraq, where “more than 1 million children died . . . and others are still dying,” bin Laden said: “If they kill our women and our innocent people, we will kill their women and their innocent people until they stop.”
Making still clearer the sense in which he might be given some credit for 9/11, he said: “We have agitated for this [an attack on America] for years and we have issued statements and fatwas to that effect.” He then referred to an event in Saudi Arabia in which four young men, who had been “influenced by some of the fatwas and statements that we issued,” had destroyed “an American center.” Bin Laden then commented: “If they mean . . . that there is a link as a result of our incitement, then it is true. . . . We have incited battle against Americans and Jews. This is true.”34
In other words, just as bin Laden was not involved in planning the attack on the American center in Saudi Arabia, but was indirectly responsible for it in the sense that the four young attackers were “incited” by his fatwas against America, he may also have been indirectly responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
It is in this sense that we should understand the passage of his interview quoted by Blitzer:
“If inciting people to do that [namely, attacking America in self-defense] is terrorism, and if killing those who kill our sons is terrorism, then let history be witness that we are terrorists.”35
To summarize: Having denied that he was a “terrorist” in the sense of having planned or specifically authorized the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden added that, if the word “terrorist” is used (unreasonably) for Muslims who strike back at America in self-defense, or who encourage fellow Muslims to do so, then he and the “brave guys” who attacked America on 9/11 are indeed terrorists.
I am grateful to Osseiran for pointing out the existence of the Al Jazeera interview, thereby giving me the opportunity to provide this analysis of it. By showing the falsity of the widespread assumption that bin Laden confessed direct responsibility for the 9/11 attacks in this interview, this analysis strengthens the case against the authenticity of the tape released December 13, in which the bin Laden figure claimed to have been directly involved in planning the 9/11 attacks.
To explain: If bin Laden during his Al Jazeera interview had expressed direct responsibility for those attacks, then it would not be surprising if he had also done so in a private interview with a visiting sheikh (see the discussion below). But because bin Laden in the Al Jazeera interview once again denied responsibility for the attacks – except possibly in the indirect sense that his fatwas against America may have influenced the attackers – then the video released December 13, 2001, would, if authentic, be the one and only recording we have in which bin Laden claimed direct responsibility.36
I turn now, in any case, to Osseiran’s critique of my book’s treatment of this video.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this post.
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