Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Too Many Movies and Too Much Free Time

I just finished reading an article in this week’s news regarding, of all things, conspiracy theories that have been generated about the world’s most infamous current boogeyman, Osama bin Laden. Now, in my humble opinion, bin Laden, while holding a high status in view of international media, government security forces, and other jihadists, is still just a single, dare I say marginal, figure in the realm of global jihad. But the man still holds the world’s attention, as he has for the last decade, among both the rational and paranoid alike. As the article I just read addresses the latter group, I felt like maybe I should put in my two cents on some of their absurd claims.
Apparently, many of the conspiracy theorists out there would have you believe that Osama bin Laden was killed early in the United States invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and any subsequent communiqués attributed to him have been a means to perpetuate the myth of Osama bin Laden in order to justify a seemingly endless “War on Terror”. Yeah, I cringed a little bit too. What kind of proof do these theorists present to back up their claims? Enter David Ray Griffin, theology professor and member of the “9/11 Truth Movement”, who points to the video released in December 2001 in which bin Laden both confesses to the 9/11 attacks and looks “fatter, with shorter fingers” and is “writing with the wrong hand” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8444069.stm). Mr. Griffin contends that al-Qaeda has rarely admitted to acts of terrorism and violence and that, given later recordings of bin Laden being of the audio variety only, it leads one to believe that the video is likely a forgery. He then goes on to cite the release of a later October 2004 video of bin Laden, which he claims lacks then religious rhetoric of previous messages from al-Qaeda and may have been utilized to secure a second term for President George W. Bush, as it was released just days prior to the election.
So let’s take a step back from fantasy and into the realm of rationality. While the theories offered above by Mr. Griffin have been largely dismissed by video and intelligence experts, there is a bit of debate over a video released in September 2007, that features a more youthful looking Osama bin Laden and has number of eyebrow-raising technical glitches, like points during which the video freezes but bin Laden’s audio continues to play. But go figure, none of these issues add up to a massive western government conspiracy. More likely, according to former CIA agent Robert Baer, al-Qaeda themselves faked the tape (if it was in fact a forgery) in order to rally their forces around the figure of bin Laden and to reinvest their followers devotions. Many who entertain these wild conspiracy ideas and simply ignoring an obvious truth: the U.S. is just fighting a difficult and capable enemy and, at the end of the day, this country, or any other, isn’t capable of maintaining such a massive conspiracy without any leaks or any evidence of its existence. I should say briefly here that I am American, I love my country, and I believe in its principles completely. But is it really so hard to believe that this country just simply cannot find this individual and that the message of al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups is not a tool of our government but rather something in the world beyond our control? This country is not some infallible, invincible force in the world that is the master controller of all things; no, we’re just like all the rest. So put the wild theories to bed, people, because they hold no weight. They are merely the musings of those out there who have seen too many movies and who have too much free time.

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