Beast of the Month - November 2001
Osama Bin Laden, Freedom Fighter
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
"president" George W. Bush on Osama, in a phrase that seems to inspire, "Takes one to know one."
You knew this was coming. Could there have been a more obvious pick than Osama Bin Laden as The Konformist Beast of the Month?
Hell, who even needs the "Bin Laden" part? The man is of such infamous celebrity he is now known by one name: he is simply Osama. (Or perhaps it is "Usama".) In any case, thanks to Osama, "president" Shrub has been given some breathing room to cover for his destructive reign, and allowed people to have an object of hate to justify the brutal Afghan bombing campaign: for these reasons alone he deserves the prize.
It seems like only yesterday when Konformist editor Robert Sterling appeared on the Jeff Rense radio show (it was actually August 17, 1998 for those keeping score) during which he discussed the African Embassy Bombings and predicted Osama was going to be the next officially sanctioned bogeyman. (Okay, so Robalini mangled his last name, but give him credit as an oracle.) Osama soon after received a share of the BOTM prize in September 1998 for his role as scapegoat in the Peckergate Scandal. But rather than rest on such a minor achievement, Osama has lived up to the hype, and now has become the first great bogeyman of the 21st century. Not since Adolf Hitler - or at least since O.J. Simpson - has one man been as much focus of hatred in the Western world.
Of course, to call him a bogeyman isn't to trivialize what he has done. Or at least what he has been alleged to do on September 11, 2001. As of the start of November, no definite evidence has been released linking him to the 911 attacks - despite the claims of Shrub and Tony Blair that he is most certainly guilty, they just can't show the rest of us all the evidence, but hey, trust them on this. Blair himself opened his speech of "proof" on Bin Laden's involvement in the WTC attack by stating, "This document does not purport to provide a prosecutable case against Osama bin Laden in a court of law." For the record, Osama has denied involvement in the WTC-Pentagon attacks, saying it is against the Koran to target innocent civilians.
(Then again, even with his denials, Osama - in a rambling, mouth-foaming speech aired on Al Jazeera - showed a cruel lack of pity for the WTC victims. Gee, Osama, we don't expect you to chant "USA!" during the 2002 Olympics, but you could at least feign some concern if you want sympathy from Americans for your fatwah.)
Still, until September 11, the record of Osama and Al Qaeda (meaning "the base," the term coined for his organization) appears to be pretty consistent to his claim. With the possible exception of the attack on the African Embassies - which hasn't been conclusively linked to Osama and is matched by the intentional American bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade - all his targets have appeared to be legitimate in a declared war. Osama is certainly a "terrorist," but that just means he uses terror as a weapon, which means he has a lot of company with the term.
The questions and conspiracies surrounding 911 are a whole other (and much larger) story, and the dust has yet to clear. But the potential of using Afghanistan as pipeline point for the immense oil reserves in the Caspian Sea leads to numerous possibilities of bigger powers (the UK, China, Russia, and, most creepily of all, the US itself) manufacturing a major crisis in the region and using Bin Laden as the easy scapegoat. As for Bin Laden's many alleged misdeeds before 911, it is interesting to note the one he freely cops to is helping General Aidid and Somalia against the US-UN "peacekeeping" mission. Is it possible that Osama is a phantom menace? Before you answer that, think how much Western nations would fear having an Arab revolutionary's face plastered on millions of US t-shirts like Che Guevara.
Which isn't to say that Bin Laden is a blushing innocent. His association with the intolerant and repressive Taliban regime is bad testimony for what he stands for. While the official leader of the Taliban is Mullah Mohammad Omar, Bin Laden, who is reputed by some mainstream sources to be head of the Afghan military, overshadows him both in wealth and prestige. This may be an act of "doing business with who you can do business with," but a man who can influence a nation's leaders to face mass bombings from the Pentagon should be powerful enough to use his political capital for a more benevolent domestic policy.
The Taliban isn't the beginning of Osama's nasty links. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the thuggish terrorist and drug-dealing organization backed in 1998 by Klinton and the United States against Slobodan Milosevic, has extensive ties to Osama and his Al Qaeda organization. Meanwhile, Osama's second-in-command (Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri) and military planner (Muhammad Atef) in Al Qaeda are Egyptians who have a notorious history in their own right, with noted involvement in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the group behind the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat. (Al-Zawahiri was one of over 300 people arrested for the crime, and served three-plus years in connection to it.) And Osama's alleged involvement in the assassination of legendary Afghan guerrilla leader Ahmad Shah Masood two days before September 11 (which fits his admitted modus operandi) is an indication of how he can play hardball.
Then there's the most curious link of all to Bin Laden: that of the Central Intelligence Agency. During the Soviet-Afghanistan War, Bin Laden, like many fighters in the cause for Afghan liberation, had extensive ties with the CIA. Because of his previous ties to the CIA, as well as his noted links to the US-backed KLA, some (most notably Jared Israel through his website Emperor's Clothes) have argued that Bin Laden is still a CIA man, an agent provocateur in the Middle East. Provocateur or not, Mr. Israel notes:
Bin Laden mixes Islamist fanaticism and callous glee over the suffering of Americans, on the one hand, with valid criticisms of the U.S. government, on the other. Among the valid statements: he accuses the US of being responsible for the deaths of a million Iraqi children through its insistence on imposing horrific economic sanctions on Iraq. This is a very extreme charge, of course, but it also happens to be true, as admitted by one of the responsible parties, former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright... Since bin Laden utters vicious, Islamist ravings and equates ordinary Americans with the U.S. government, on the one hand, but mixes this with valid criticisms, on the other, his video creates an atmosphere of hostility towards views critical of U.S. foreign policy because now, in addition to challenging the propaganda apparatus of the U.S. government and its supporting media, we bear the burden of "sounding like bin Laden," whom we happen to loathe.
While Mr. Israel brings up some very suspicious facts, there is one big problem with the provocateur theory (with all due respect to Emperor's Clothes excellent work.) Bin Laden, after all, comes from a wealthy Saudi Arabian family. If he wanted to, he could be sipping pina coladas and living a playboy's life right now. Instead, he's hiding in caves while the world's most powerful army drops bombs in the hopes of killing him. Where is the upside to what he's doing?
This leads The Konformist to another conclusion: that Osama (while being pragmatic enough to work with Great Satan when convenient) truly is passionate and sincere about his battle, so much so that he has rejected what could have been a pampered lifestyle for one of strife and battle.
Such a choice is quite admirable. Indeed, contrary to how the propaganda battle is distorting the facts, there is much to admire about the man. Far from being the coward that Shrub has alleged him to be - an amusing charge considering the source - Osama was particularly noted for his bravery on the field of battle against the slaughtering Soviets. He is also a man known for a polite, humble and friendly demeanor in person, and is noted for his charity in much of the Middle East.
Thanks to his virtues, he has swiftly become a top hero to many in the Middle East just as he has become the top villain in the West, and as terrible as the effects of the 911 attacks are, this is not merely an embrace of pure evil, no more than the mass admiration of Harry Truman in the US despite - or perhaps because of - Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To many in the masses of the Arab world, Osama represents defiance and rebellion against a corrupt and oppressive world dominated by Western greed and thievery. Any analysis of the cult of Osama that fails to acknowledge this is endorsing a comic book version of events wallowing in self-delusion. (A comic book story matched by descriptions of Bin Laden that make him out to be some omnipotent criminal mastermind, a la Lex Luthor.)
Which makes what has happened all the sadder. Whatever enemy Osama is (and, 911 or no 911, Bin Laden certainly is an enemy of the US by his own admission) he is a tragic one. If Osama is a monster, then US foreign policy is his Dr. Frankenstein. If the United States had not chosen to place a huge military base on revered soil in Saudi Arabia, and then used the base to lead such a bloody massacre of Muslims in Iraq, it is improbable that Bin Laden ever would have become as outraged as he has.
Will the real Osama stand up? Is he "THE EVIL ONE" that Shrub and co. has dubbed him to be, or is he the heroic freedom fighter of the Middle East that his admirers see? It appears that he is much of both at the same time.
How will this all end? At this point, anything, including nuclear or biological warfare started by either side, seems a plausible ending. Bin Laden may be a tragic enemy, but he is a ruthless one.
Whatever the case, he potentially has started a movement that Mo Kadaffi failed miserably at: a Pan-Arab union. Even more frightening to both leaders of the West AND the Middle East, he has done this by appealing straight to the people as a symbol of unified rebellion. For once, the bogeyman that the Western establishment has created and promoted is someone they personally have every reason to be scared about.
In any case, we salute Osama Bin Laden as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Osama!!!
Note: On November 14-15, Muhammad Atef was killed in a US bombing raid.
In mid-December, the Pentagon released a tape that they claimed provided undeniable proof of Osama boasting his guilt. Of course, the Bin Laden shown was of far more girth than that of the gaunt man in the Al Jazeera tapes presented in October and late December, indicating the tape - if it is of Osama - is much older than September 11th with audio dubbed in to put words in his mouth (the audio is of poor-quality, which makes it difficult to confirm or deny if it really is Osama's voice.)
As of January 1, 2002, no evidence has yet to be presented linking Bin Laden to the 911 attacks.
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
BBC, September 18, 2001
'Most Wanted Terrorists' List Released
Phil Hirschkorn, CNN, October 10, 2001
Bin Laden in the Balkans
Emperor's Clothes, October 3, 2001
Bin Laden, Terrorist Monster: Take Two!
Jared Israel, Emperor's Clothes, October 9, 2001
Hunting Bin Laden
Bin Laden as Lex Luthor
Gale Holland, Salon.com, October 15, 2001
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