The reaction to the recent Osama bin Laden videotape has truly amazed me. To begin with, I was shocked by the way the majority of Americans simply choose to ignore it. Here we are, with people taking their own lives flying planes into our buildings, yet we are too busy watching Law & Order to hear what they have to say for themselves. How many Americans have actually bothered to read the transcripts of what bin Laden has said both before and after 9/11? Have you?
Equally troubling is the way that some people will wittingly or unwittingly distort what bin Laden has said. For example, right before the election, some liberal websites suggested that bin Laden was threatening to attack states that voted for Bush, even though he never said this. Unfortunately, others who are presumably too lazy to read the transcripts themselves then regurgitate these fallacies. For example, a November 12 article in the Maroon repeated the threat against Bush-voting states in addition to suggesting that bin Laden was trying to influence our election (both false).
Osama bin Laden could not care less who our president is. His concern is U.S. foreign policy. In the videotape, he specifically stated, "Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked." Unfortunately, there are some special interests that do not want U.S. foreign policy to change.
These same special interests would like you to believe that bin Laden is "just evil" and "just hates our freedom," and that that is the end of the story. While he is undoubtedly evil, that is not the end of the story. Interestingly, bin Laden himself has recognized the ability of U.S. leaders to obfuscate al Qaeda's true objectives. In the video, Osama opined, "Bush is still misleading you and not telling you the true reason [why we are attacking you]. Therefore, the motivations are still there for what happened to be repeated."
He then went on to say that he is fighting for the freedom of his people. At one point he commented, "Bush says and claims, that we hate freedom, let him tell us then, Why did we not attack Sweden?'" Further along those lines, why is bin Laden not attacking our lascivious strip clubs or our great breweries? With the exception of the World Trade Center (WTC), all of his targets seem to involve the U.S. military (the Pentagon, U.S. Army Rangers in Somalia, a U.S. military complex in Saudi Arabia, etc).
Perhaps the 2001 WTC attack was a follow up on the 1993 bombing of that same site (in which the stated objective was to punish the U.S. for its policies in the Middle East). In the video, bin Laden explains, "It had not occurred to our mind to attack the towers, but after our patience ran out and we saw the injustice and inflexibility of the American-Israeli alliance toward our people in Palestine and Lebanon, this came to mind."
Specifically, he attributes the Israeli bombing of Lebanese tower blocks in 1982 (presumably with U.S. naval support) as the impetus for his war against U.S. intervention in the Middle East. Apparently, this event made him want to "destroy towers in America so that it can taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women." He has further tried to justify the killing of U.S. civilians by denouncing the U.S. bombings of Iraqi civilians from the Gulf War onward. According to bin Laden, the U.S. electorate is guilty of failing to vote out leaders that have assisted in the deaths of innocent Palestinians, Lebanese, and Iraqis.
The purpose of this article is not to humanize an evildoer like Osama bin Laden, nor to justify his actions. Rather, I would like to bring to light the implications of his motivations. First we must recognize what these motivations are. Osama bin Laden is on a mission to change our foreign policy. Despite what some special interests would like you to believe, he does not hate us just for the sake of hating us. Also, while important, we must realize that assassinating bin Laden will not be a panacea. Many (not all) Middle Easterners see bin Laden as a hero, and will be eager to follow in his footsteps (whether it be two weeks from now or two generations from now). U.S. citizens should take all of these revelations into consideration. To quote bin Laden, "Your security is in your own hands."