Osama Bin Laden's recently released video produced for an American audience has led to a constant stream of analysis by experts and commentators for its Islamo-Marxist drift. (Slate.com offers the full text of Bin Laden's rant here.)
Has Osama bin Laden turned into Osama bin Trotsky? As I was watching bin Laden reading carefully from his prepared speech, I couldn't help but notice the dramatic drifting in the rhetoric from Salafi Jihadism to a new brand of neo-Wahabism, which I'd baptize "Jihadi Trotskyism" just for the sake of analytical linguistics. The (now) black-bearded high commander of al Qaeda was still quoting from holy texts and talking at a Caliphate level, to be sure, but stunningly, he was also reciting recycled neo-Marxism of the kind usually generated at Berkeley, Columbia or the web sites of the anarchic and post-Soviet internationalists.
According to Bin Laden, the U.S. democratic capitalist system "seeks to turn the entire world into a fiefdom of the major corporations under the label of 'globalization' in order to protect democracy."
In that, he clearly hopes to tap into the discontent of the masses and perhaps to appeal to the not-so-mass movements of the radical left that have coalesced around antiglobalization and oppression of the poor, among other themes. But he proposes a different solution to the problem than those groups. So what is the solution to U.S. led democratic capitalism? "[T]he infallible methodology is the methodology of Allah," says Bin Laden.
On Slate.com, Anne Applebaum wonders if this isn't a sign of things to come—the way that Osama will reach out to a new, more Western, audience.
....the message might still hint at the direction in which al-Qaida propaganda, or at least al-Qaida propaganda designed for the Western market, is now heading.... [T]he narrative clearly isn't meant for only the Arab world. On the contrary, perhaps it's time to take the main message seriously: Clearly, al-Qaida's long-term goal is to convert Americans and other Westerners to its extreme version of Islam.
She's right. And while Fox's Brit Hume called Osama's rant crazy, it isn't as laughable as it sounds. As evidenced in the German plot interrupted by authorities last week and as Applebaum argues, the message only has to resonate with a small number of people, just as only a miniscule minority of young people in the West answered the call to global revolutionary socialism that fueld the terrorist organizations such as the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany, the Italian Red Brigades, and America's Weather Underground in the 1960s.
However bizarre Bin Laden's new address is, we should be careful: what many commentators see as a hodge-podge of grievances that are meandering and contradictory may be Osama Bin Laden's attempt to touch as many sore spots as possible and get them to fester. His bag of tricks represent a cross between a clever politician listing endless promises in a political campaign and a con artist playing psychic who throws out a million predictions, knowing that at least by chance one will come true. You may see the sham—but that's not to say these games can't be effective.
And this time his audience isn't those disaffected souls throughout the Muslim world, but those among us.
POSTSCRIPT: Another Bin Laden video was released today to coincide with the sixth anniversary of 9-11. The SITE Institute reports:
On the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, as-Sahab, the multimedia arm of al-Qaeda, produced a video featuring the will of one of the nineteen hijackers, Walid al-Shehri AKA Abu Musab al-Shehri. The video, 47:16 minutes in length was issued to jihadist forums on the sixth anniversary of the attacks, today, September 11, 2007. Usama bin Laden, the head of al-Qaeda, introduces Shehri in an audio message, describing his motivations for being among those who “penetrated the most extreme degrees of danger” of the “19 champions”. An image of bin Laden is displayed in a scene from his last video appearance, “The Solution”, which was distributed to jihadist forums on Saturday, September 8, 2007. Bin Laden references the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, indicating that the audio may have been recorded after June 2006.