A few weeks ago, we offered a “post” that was critical of Michael Scheuer, the former senior CIA analyst whose published work demonstrates an eerie fondness for Osama bin Laden and bizarre conspiracy theories about Jews. To our surprise, Mr. Scheuer deigned to reply to our charges; clearly, this is a man with some time on his hands.
In his initial response, Mr. Scheuer offered a variation of a typical defense: You guys are cherry picking quotes without a proper understanding of their contexts. Through such means, Mr. Scheuer’s high praise for bin Laden’s “admirable moral qualities” becomes anything but high praise for bin Laden’s “admirable moral qualities.”
Are we the only ones who found this justification unsatisfying? Perhaps so. And thus we decided to take aim at Mr. Scheuer’s ideas again, this time in a context for which we cannot be accused of picking any cherries.
Radical Islamist apologist-cum-Duke University professor Bruce Lawrence’s edited collection Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden bears a blurb from Mr. Scheuer, seemingly taken from Mr. Scheuer’s tome Imperial Hubris. Mr. Lawrence, like Mr. Scheuer, detests American foreign policy and Israel’s existence, and thus we can presume that he has not cherry picked a quote to make him look ridiculous. The entire text of Mr. Scheuer’s blurb reads as follows:
Western media have made no consistent effort to publish bin Laden’s statements, thereby failing to give their audience the words that put his thoughts and actions in cultural and historical context…Bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging a war on us. None of the reasons have anything to do with our freedom, liberty and democracy, but have everything to do with US policies and actions in the Muslim world.
For us, this blurb compels us to ask a rather quotidian question: Has Mr. Scheuer even read Bruce Lawrence’s collection? Has he ever taken a look at Osama bin Laden’s statements and writings?
Why surely he has, you say. This is a man with such a crush on bin Laden that he must keep a list of his bon mots in his Trapper Keeper. And yet we still have our suspicions.
After all, Mr. Scheuer claims that bin Laden’s terrorism is wholly unlinked to notions of “freedom, liberty and democracy” but is entirely related to “US policies and actions in the Muslim world.” Yet on virtually any page of Mr. Lawrence’s collection, you can see proof that this is utter nonsense. In fact, it is so bloody incorrect that it seems the sentiment of an unhinged loon.
Don’t believe us? Well, how about we offer you a smattering of quotations from Mr. Scheuer’s hero himself?
In a pugnacious letter to Saudi Mufti bin Baz, for instance, bin Laden writes:
We ask Him to show the liar his lies, and help us avoid them, and to establish an order of guidance for our umma in which those who obey Him will be proud and those who disobey him will be humbled, and in which good is enjoined and evil rejected, and in which justice is done and the truth is spoken, in which the banner of jihad is raised up high to restore our umma its pride and honor, and in which the banner of God’s unity is raised once again over every stolen Islamic land, from Palestine to al-Andalus and other Islamic lands that were lost because of betrayals of rulers and the feebleness of Muslims
Huh: So bin Laden is irked by the Muslim loss of “al-Andalus,” i.e., Andalusia. Gee, doesn’t that particular event predate America’s deleterious foreign policy? It seems as if bin Laden isn’t necessarily troubled by the successes of Western imperialism so much as he is bothered by the failures of Islamic imperialism. But don’t ask Michael Scheuer about that. This must all be America’s fault.
But perhaps this reference to Andalusia is a fluke–an uncharacteristic tick in the writing of a man singularly motivated by American foreign policy. Well, then just take in bin Laden’s delightful characterization of Jews, which he uttered in a 2003 address:
What will explain to you who the Jews are? The Jews are those who slandered the Creator, so how do you think they deal with God’s creation? They killed the Prophets and broke their promises. Of them God has said: “How is it that whenever they made a covenant or a pledge, some of them throw it away? In fact, most of them do not believe.” These Jews are masters of usury and leaders in treachery. They will leave you nothing, either in this world or the next. Of them God has said: “Do they have any share of what He possesses? If they did they would not give away so much as the groove of a date stone.” These Jews believe as part of their religion that people are their slaves, and whoever denies their religion deserves to be killed. Of them God said: “[That is] because they say ‘We are under no obligation toward the gentiles’–they tell a lie against God and they know it.”
This is the sentiment of a man whose only concern is US foreign policy? To Michael Scheuer, whose comments on our previous “post” intimated that anti-Semitism is merely a red herring, the answer is an emphatic Yes.
Mr. Lawrence’s collection is chock-a-block with passages of the sort we quoted. There’s no denying that Osama bin Laden loathes American foreign policy and wants Israel destroyed. But for Mr. Scheuer to assume that bin Laden is solely motivated by such perceived malefactions is to misread bin Laden so willfully that one may reasonably wonder about Mr. Scheuer’s motives.
It seems as if Mr. Scheuer thinks to himself: “I hate American foreign policy, and I hate Israel. Thus, if Osama bin Laden attacks America, he must share all of my views. No wonder he has such admirable character traits–he’s just like me.”
This is intellectually dishonest and pernicious. It’s also morally abominable. And it’s just one of many reasons why no one should take Michael Scheuer seriously.
(Note: The crack young staff usually “weblog” over at “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” where they are currently reading either Imperial Hubris or The Protocols of the Elders of Zion–they can’t recall which one.)