Published on Monday, December 2, 2002 by the San Francisco Gate
Osama's 'Letter To America'
by Harley Sorensen
Just offhand, would you think that anyone in America is curious as to why Muslim fundamentalists hate us so much?
If we were given the answer, straight from the horse's mouth, would anyone pay attention?
If Osama bin Laden wrote, "This is why we hate you," and then laid it all out, chapter and verse, do you think we'd be curious enough to read what he had to say?
The answers to these questions seem to be no, no and no.
Lives are at stake in our "war on terrorism," perhaps thousands of lives, maybe hundreds of thousands -- and not just overseas. Untold numbers of Americans might die -- right here, in the United States of America -- before our "war" is resolved, and yet we seem not one whit interested in the motivations of our enemies.
That's the conclusion one must reach if one looks at our studious avoidance of the "letter to America" purportedly written by Osama bin Laden.
Have you seen that letter? Have you read about it in your newspapers? Have you heard it mentioned on television or on the radio?
Not likely. As near as I can tell, after searches on both Nexis and Google, bin Laden's "letter to America" has been thoroughly ignored by the American press.
It has had quite a few mentions on the Internet, however.
The only place off the Web that the English version of the letter has been reprinted in its entirety, to my knowledge, is in the United Kingdom's Observer.
The letter, written in Arabic and about 3,800 words long, has been around the past few weeks. It was originally posted "on a Saudi Arabian Web site previously used by al-Qaeda to disseminate messages," the Observer reported.
It was then picked up and sent by Mohammed al-Massari to hundreds as an e-mail attachment. The Observer described al-Massari as "the UK-based Saudi Arabian dissident whose Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights has opposed the al-Saud regime for more than a decade."
The Observer had the letter translated into English by Arabs living in England.
Was the "letter to America" truly written by bin Laden? Who knows? I can't tell, and I certainly wouldn't take the word of any government "expert," theirs or ours. Whoever wrote it, however, seems to have done a good job of laying out the case against America and other Western nations, as seen through the eyes of Islamic fundamentalists.
In his "Churchillian" address to Congress on Sept. 20, 2001, President Bush gave his reasons why our enemies hate us.
"They hate what we see right here in this chamber -- a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other," Bush said.
Judging from bin Laden's letter, Bush was right in that. Islamic fundamentalists, like fundamentalists everywhere, are not too keen on democratic principles.
But bin Laden went a few steps further. Bush didn't.
"Why are we fighting and opposing you?" bin Laden asked. Then, answering his own question, he wrote, "The answer is very simple: Because you attacked and continue to attack us."
He focused on Palestine, "sunk under military occupation for more than 80 years. The British handed over Palestine, with your help and your support, to the Jews, who have occupied it for more than 50 years; years overflowing with oppression, tyranny, crimes, killing, expulsion, destruction and devastation."
Because of our continued support of Israel, bin Laden wrote, we must share the blame for the mistreatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government.
But although the continuing problems in Israel seem to be on the top of every Arab's complaints against America, the list of complaints is long. Bin Laden continues, "You attacked us in Somalia; you supported the Russian atrocities against us in Chechnya, the Indian oppression against us in Kashmir and the Jewish aggression against us in Lebanon."
He adds, "Under your supervision, consent and orders, the governments of our countries, which act as your agents, attack us on a daily basis."
After a long list of complaints, bin Laden asks, "Is it in any way rational to expect that after America has attacked us for more than half a century, that we will then leave her to live in security and peace?"
If you want to know our enemy, I urge you to read the letter attributed to bin Laden.
We're in trouble. We could be badly hurt by our enemies.
So far, we've been lucky. During World War II, German scientists were trying to develop atomic weapons. We beat them to it.
When the war in the Pacific went bad for the Japanese, they enlisted kamikaze pilots to fly explosive-laden planes into our warships. Some observers believe the strategy might have changed the outcome of the Pacific war if it had been tried earlier.
As the events of Sept. 11 showed, and as we see almost every day in Israel and other nations, we are opposed by a totally dedicated enemy who doesn't fear death.
For our own good, we'd better start paying attention to what this enemy has to say. We have problems that guns and bombs alone won't solve.
Harley Sorensen is a longtime journalist and liberal iconoclast. His column appears Mondays. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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