Iraq War 2003: Background & Lessons
Return to Iraq War index page
February 23, 2003
Osama Bin Laden And The New Crusader War: Bin Laden’s New, Secret Message to the Islamist Leadership
New intelligence regarding a comprehensive message to the Islamist élite from Osama Bin Laden, deliberately obfuscated by the February 11, 2003, message broadcast on al-Jazeera, provides new insights into the escalation of terrorism against the West, Saudi Arabia and other targets
Exclusive. By Yossef Bodansky, Senior Analyst, GIS. Starting early February 2003, the US, the UK and Israel have been at the highest terrorism alert status since September 11, 2001. This situation was prompted by the confluence of a flow of intelligence warnings concerning the planning and imminent launching of specific spectacular operations, with the emergence of a series of communiqués from Osama bin Laden and other prominent Islamist leaders, distributed in anticipation for the US war on Iraq.
However, more than encouraging and predicting terrorist strikes, bin Laden’s messages chart the next phase of the Islamists’ jihad against the US and West. Ultimately, these communiqués constitute a most important set of declarations outlining the Islamists’ polity, reiterating their commitment escalating the jihad, as well as stressing the Islamists’ resolve to withstand the anticipated onslaught on Iraq, and then seize the initiative and strategic trends from the US-led West.
Bin Laden himself stressed the centrality of spectacular terrorism to the Islamists’ confrontation with the US-led West: “Those who did not understand the message I sent in New York and Washington after your previous crimes, and because you are about to attack, in the name of Allah, I will strike!”
Zawahiri’s Message: The late January 2003 publishing of an article by Ayman al-Zawahiri — leader of the Egyptian terrorist group, Al-Jihad (now essentially absorbed into al-Qaida), and the principal colleague and military commander of Osama bin Laden in the al-Qaida grouping — provided the first indication an ideological-theological milestone. The 60th issue of the Al-Mujahidun newsletter, the organ of the Egyptian Al-Jihad, carried an editorial by Zawahiri titled “Until When Will We Continue to Ask These Questions?” Zawahiri complained about the procrastination and indecision throughout the Muslim world, manifested in an endless quest for fatwas. Rather than embarking on the jihad, Zawahiri notes: “Asking questions has become a recurrent and prominent characteristic of our lives. We are asking such questions all day long and sometimes even in our dreams. How and when do we wage jihad? With what do we wage jihad? What is the land on which we wage jihad? Where is the money? Where are the supporters? We have become experts in asking questions more than our enemies.”
Instead of asking these question, Zawahiri admonished, the Muslim world must recognize the mounting threat form the West’s onslaught and embark on an avenging jihad. “Yes, treatment with reciprocity; yes, slay just as they slay; kill just as they kill; and displace just as they displace. They do not understand except the language of force and slaughter,” Zawahiri answers the questions above. And he presents his own rhetorical questions: “Do we lack people although our Ummah [Muslim nation] numbers one-billion Muslims? Do we lack knowledge although Muslim scientists are working for the crusaders and the Jews in their space and nuclear laboratories? Do we lack the money although we are the richest people on earth with our resources?” Zawahiri acknowledged that the situation was far from being perfect and that “we lack many other things that are shameful to mention because mentioning them is scandalous to us and a source of shame to us”. Nevertheless, Zawahiri admonished the readers, “our Ummah possesses the potential components for victory and empowerment but these need someone to actualize them and give them prominence. Our Ummah possesses the might of the true faith in front of which all other forces collapse.” The time for urgent action had come, he concluded.
Zawahiri’s Editorial ushered a brief surge in ideological self-contemplation culminating in the dissemination bin Laden’s first message. Unlike previous cycles of release of bin Laden’s messages, this time the Islamist leadership, particularly bin Laden loyalists, carefully prepared the would be audience to the arrival of these messages, as well as provided the desired “spin”. Most important were the interactions with the Islamist communities in Western Europe and the Arabian Peninsula, especially Saudi Arabia.
Indicative of this phase was a meeting which took place on February 7, 2003, in the London area between emissaries of Osama bin Laden that had just arrived from Pakistan and a few dozen local Arab activists. The discussion included explicit threats to the United States and Saudi Arabia. The primary subject of the meeting was going over several contingency plans for “popular” or “grassroots” activities in conjunction with the anticipated US-led attack on Iraq. The emissaries arrived in order to inform Islamist activists in Western Europe what bin Laden was expecting of them, and help them prepare for implementing these instructions. However, since most of the Arab activists in the West are also active in “opposition” movements in their home countries, bin Laden’s emissaries also addressed the Islamists’ plans for, and expectations from, key parts of the Arab world.
The emissaries assured the activists from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that instructions had already been issued to local Islamist “mujahedin cells” to prepare for popular armed insurrection. The recent violent incidents throughout Saudi Arabia, the emissaries insisted, were not isolated incidents. Rather, they were the beginning of “a comprehensive change in the style of the jihad current” including the introduction of “martyrs” — that is, suicide-bombers — to the confrontation against the House of al-Sa’ud. The emissaries stated that the Islamists no longer recognized the legitimacy of the Saudi state, and considered the Government and the members of the House of al-Sa’ud to be infidel.
The emissaries expected the launching of the US-led war on Iraq to spark a wave of terrorism all over the world, and particularly in the United States and in Saudi Arabia. They stressed that bin Laden and his aides “are fully confident that the Iraq War would be the spark that triggers turmoil in the entire region because of what they say al-Qaida has prepared for the United States if it went ahead with an Iraq strike”. They explained that bin Laden’s “blow against the United States would upset the balances in the region and make al-Sa’ud persons cut off from life’s artery”. The emissaries assured the Saudis in the audience that bin Laden’s networks in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states were extremely large, diverse and resilient so that it would be virtually impossible for the Saudi security authorities to destroy them.
Bin Laden’s emissaries added that “the coming blow from Sheikh bin Laden to the United States” would immediately instigate “dispute among the sides of the Ruling Family” on how to react to the ensuing outburst of Islamist militancy and insurrection throughout the Kingdom. They expected Saudi Arabia to be destroyed as a result of the aggregate impact of “the eruption of a feud in the Ruling Family and the ensuing anarchy in the country.” The emissaries assured their listeners that the Saudi security forces would collapse soon afterwards because they were already thoroughly penetrated by the Islamists, and would not dare to suppress a genuine Islamic revolution. The alternative to this scenario, the emissaries warned, would be an Algeria-style fratricidal civil war with no end in sight.
Participants in the meeting described the mood among the audience as a mixture of anxious anticipation and jubilant elation. The Europe-based activists clearly comprehended bin Laden’s call to arms and were determined to implement his instructions. They concluded that bin Laden was about to unleash spectacular and unprecedented terrorist strikes in both Western Europe and the United States: strikes about which the activists know nothing and the emissaries only hinted. However, the local activists were eager to participate in these momentous events even if only in a supporting role in the fringes of the main drama. As well, the participating activists had no doubt that bin Laden has a vast terrorist infrastructure in the Arabian Peninsula, and that he will activate these networks at first opportunity. The emissaries left no doubt, the participants stressed, that bin Laden was determined to confront and destroy the House of al-Sa’ud as the first step toward the restoration of the Khilafah (Caliphate). The anticipated US attack on Iraq, and particularly the ensuing occupation of the Baghdad — the Grand Capital of historic Arab Caliphates — would be the huge spark and catalyst for a momentous reawakening of the entire Muslim world.
Bin Laden’s Open and Secret Messsages: On February 11, 2003, the Islamist movement faced an unexpected complication. In the early morning (Asia and Europe time), a few sources affiliated with the mujahedin movement in Western Europe announced a forthcoming message from bin Laden. This announcement was solely for internal distribution among the Islamist élite. “Osama bin Laden has issued a new statement on the current military buildup in the Middle East, to coincide with the Muslim Eid Festival,” the announcement read. Bin Laden’s statement would consist of “an audio recording and an English transcript” to be issued via a British outlet. The announcement provided instructions on how to get copies of bin Laden’s real message. Significantly, the internal announcement identified the key points to be made by bin Laden in his statement.
Meanwhile, anticipating a leak to hostile intelligence services, the Islamists prepared a diversion. A watered-down statement, also recorded by Osama bin Laden, was sent to al-Jazeera TV quite openly. As anticipated, the recording was intercepted by the Qatari security authorities and then handed over to the US. Both the Qatari authorities, who might have been party to the Islamist deception, and the Islamist leadership were convinced that the US would “swallow the bait” quietly. But that was not to be. Instead, Secretary of State Collin Powell not only announced the existence of the bin Laden statement while testifying in front of the Senate Budget Committee, but claimed it was to be broadcast by al-Jazeera TV later that day. Now, al-Jazeera was caught off balance, as its chief editor Ibrahim Hilal desperately attempted to convince the Western media that al-Jazeera TV had no such tape. Ultimately, however, the Qatari security authorities did provide al-Jazeera TV with the intercepted taped message, and bin Laden’s diversion statement was broadcast later that day.
Osama bin Laden’s “message to our brothers in Iraq” as broadcasted by al-Jazeera TV on February 11, 2003, had no surprises or milestones theological decrees. Bin Laden first described the overall context of the forthcoming war in Iraq. “We are following up with great interest and extreme concern the Crusaders’ preparations for war to occupy a former capital of Islam, loot Muslims’ wealth, and install an agent government, which would be a satellite for its masters in Washington and Tel Aviv, just like all the other treasonous and agent Arab governments. This would be in preparation for establishing the Greater Israel,” he explained. “Amid this unjust war, the war of infidels and debauchees led by America along with its allies and agents, we would like to stress a number of important values,” bin Laden stressed.
Bin Laden’s key message was that the forthcoming war against the US in Iraq was a jihad in the interest of all Muslims rather than the nationalist war advocated by Saddam Hussein. The entire Muslim world must assist Iraq not because of support for Saddam Hussein’s cause but in order to save all-Islamic values from the US-Israeli onslaught. Bin Laden declared that “fighting should be for the sake of the one God. It should not be for championing ethnic groups, or for championing the non-Islamic regimes in all Arab countries, including Iraq.”
Citing his personal experience fighting the US forces in Afghanistan in fall 2001, bin Laden assured his audience that the American forces “depend on massive air strikes so as to conceal their most prominent point of weakness, which is the fear, cowardliness, and the absence of combat spirit among US soldiers”. Therefore, as demonstrated by the mujahedin in Afghanistan, “Faith triumphed over all the materialistic forces of the people of evil, for principles [of guerrilla warfare] were adhered to,” bin Laden stressed. “If all the world forces of evil could not achieve their goals on a one square mile of area against a small number of mujahedin with very limited capabilities, how can these evil forces triumph over the Muslim world? This is impossible, God willing, if people adhere to their religion and insist on jihad for its sake.”
And bin Laden had practical lessons as well. “O mujahedin brothers in Iraq, do not be afraid of what the United States is propagating in terms of their lies about their power and their smart, laser-guided missiles. The smart bombs will have no effect worth mentioning in the hills and in the trenches, on plains, and in forests. They must have apparent targets. The well-camouflaged trenches and targets will not be reached by either the smart or the stupid missiles. There will only be haphazard strikes that dissipate the enemy ammunition and waste its money. Dig many trenches.” Ultimately, it would take a protracted war of attrition and the constant bloodying of the American forces to defeat the enemy on the Iraqi battlefield. “We also recommend luring the enemy forces into a protracted, close, and exhausting fight, using the camouflaged defensive positions in plains, farms, mountains, and cities. The enemy fears city and street wars most, a war in which the enemy expects grave human losses,” bin Laden explained.
Ultimately, however, bin Laden stressed, it would take spectacular terrorism to triumph over the United States and the West. “We stress the importance of the martyrdom operations against the enemy, operations that inflicted harm on the United States and Israel that has been unprecedented in their history, thanks to Almighty God,” bin Laden declared. The objective of these operations should go well beyond Iraq to include all pro-Western countries in the Muslim world. Bin Laden emphasized that “whoever supported the United States, including the hypocrites of Iraq or the rulers of Arab countries, those who approved their actions and followed them in this Crusade war by fighting with them or providing bases and administrative support, or any form of support, even by words, to kill the Muslims in Iraq, should know that they are apostates and outside the community of Muslims. It is permissible to spill their blood and take their property.” In embarking on these operations, the mujahedin should strive “to liberate themselves from those unjust and renegade ruling regimes, which are enslaved by the United States. ... The most qualified regions for liberation are Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the land of the two holy mosques [Saudi Arabia], and Yemen.”
Bin Laden next addressed the key issue of relationship between the Islamist mujahedin and apostate governments, such as Saddam Hussein’s. “Needless to say, this Crusade war is primarily targeted against the people of Islam. Regardless of the removal or the survival of the socialist party or Saddam, Muslims in general and the Iraqis in particular must brace themselves for jihad against this unjust campaign and acquire ammunition and weapons,” he declared. “Fighting in support of the non-Islamic banners is forbidden. Muslims’ doctrine and banner should be clear in fighting for the sake of God,” bin Laden reiterated. However, the US threat was seen as all-inclusive and constituted a paramount menace to the entire Muslim world. Hence, in confronting the US, the mujahedin would be defending Islam rather than assisting Saddam. “Under these circumstances, there will be no harm if the interests of Muslims converge with the interests of the socialists in the fight against the crusaders, despite our belief in the infidelity of socialists,” bin Laden decreed. “Socialists are infidels wherever they are, whether they are in Baghdad or Aden.”
The attention paid in the West to the al-Jazeera TV statement created complications within the Islamist trend. At least in South Asia and the Middle East, the Islamist leaders had already been briefed about, and prepared to propagate, bin Laden’s real message. Now, given the notoriety of the al-Jazeera TV message, they must address it if only in order to avoid confusion in the Arab street. Hence, the Islamist leadership elected to stall on the release of bin Laden’s real statement, and instead initially react to the al-Jazeera message as if it were the real one. Consequently, in some instances, the local leaders reacting referred to the broadcast message as their starting point, but actually ended addressing themes and content of the real message. Most important among these was the Saudi Imam Abu-al-Baraa al-Qarshi, one of bin Laden’s most trusted lieutenants, who issued a follow-up statement on February 12/13, 2003.
“Praise Allah, our Sheikh’s words have reached the general leadership of the Muslims and the mujahedin throughout the world,” al-Qarshi started. His main theme, however, was reassuring the Believers of the impending spectacular strikes against both the US and Saudi Arabia. “Wait, our friends, salvation is at hand and the painful blow is on its way. It will be a sweeping attack recognizable, with God’s help, to those who believe with all their hearts in jihad and the mujahedin,” he stated. Al-Qarshi then alluded to hidden messages in bin Laden’s audio message, noting that “those unfamiliar with our Sheikh, Osama bin Laden, will find it hard to decipher his sermon.”
Al-Qarshi delved into the issue of using weapons of mass destruction in one of these spectacular strikes. Significantly, he did not deny the possibility such weapons might be used in and against the United States, but concentrated on denying they might be used in Saudi Arabia against brethren Muslims. “More than one Crusader in the Black House hinted that our Sheikh will use weapons of mass destruction in the Land of the Two Shrines. I swear to God that for al-Qaida’s cells operating in the Land of the Two Shrines, this concept is as distant as east is to west. Special care will be taken not to harm Muslims,” al-Qarshi wrote. He stressed the existence of a unique command structure for bin Laden’s operatives in Saudi Arabia. He explained that “the Land of the Two Shrines is the only place where an individual is forbidden to act without the consent of the supreme leadership. I swear to ensure no mistakes are made, so that each blow against the Crusaders in this Holy Land will be painful and not spill a drop of Muslim blood. The [Saudi] government, despite its paucity of information about al-Qaida cells, knows that al-Qaida can reach any place at any time, regardless of security measures taken in the Land of the Two Shrines.” Al-Qarshi stressed that the al-Qaida networks throughout Saudi Arabia were already at the ready to strike out. “The majority of al-Qaida’s active leadership in the Land of the Two Shrines — the mujahedin — need not expand its religious consciousness or make further preparations because it has already been trained to be prepared.”
Bin Laden’s latest message, al-Qarshi hinted, might include the activation code. “Praise Allah, the message of the Sheikh has reached the general leadership of the Muslims and mujahedin throughout the world, and those orders will be understood only by those who are part of the mujahedin,” he quipped. Al-Qarshi’s concluding words were aimed at the general audience. “And wait, salvation is near and the painful blow is on the way. It will be sweeping, and with God’s help and signs recognized by those who believe in their hearts in jihad and the mujahedin. And God will proclaim paradise and our Sheikh will take the Islamic Army to his bosom and its flag shall fly everywhere in the world. We are waiting.”
Only on Friday, February 14, 2003, was Osama bin Laden’s real message finally released for select internal distribution; essentially at the last moment before the Friday noon prayers and sermons. The Islamists released high-quality audio recording in Arabic and an excellent English translation for the Western-based Islamists. Titled “Exposing the New Crusader War,” bin Laden’s message sought to chart the course of the global jihad.
Osama bin Laden started by presenting the historical context of the current war. According ot bin Laden. The Muslim world is currently engaged not in a “War on Terrorism” started by events of September 11, 2001, as depicted in the West, but rather in yet another phase of Islamdom’s historic and worldwide confrontation with the intensifying encroachment of the West. Bin Laden described the present time as a period of great challenge to the Muslim world because of the legacy of historic injustice and aggression. “This is a time when the blood of the Muslims continues to flow in Palestine and Chechnya, in the Philippines, Kashmir and Sudan and when our children are dying because of the American sanctions on Iraq. At a time when our wounds have not yet healed following the Crusader Wars on the Islamic world in the last century, and because of the result of the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 between France and Britain, which led to the division of the Islamic World into bits and pieces — with the agents of the Crusaders continuing to rule under this agreement to this very day — we are again witnessing another Sykes-Picot Agreement, but this time one which is between Bush and Blair, but of the same nature and for the same purpose: to destruction and eradication of the Ummah (Nation) of our Beloved Prophet (SAWS).”
Bin Laden stresses that the recent “Bush-Blair Agreement” constitutes an even more horrific a threat to the very existence of the Arab world than the original Sykes-Picot Agreement. “Indeed the Bush-Blair Agreement proclaims to eradicate terrorism, but it is now clear to everyone that the real purpose of this Agreement is to try and finish Islam and destroy it,” bin Laden observed. The Muslim world’s elite must therefore refrain from supporting the “War on Terror, which is in fact a War on Islam and the Muslims” and instead rally to meet the looming threats to the very existence of Islam. “It is no secret that the recent deployment of forces for an attack on Iraq is only a link in the chain of continuing attacks on the countries of this region including Egypt, Syria, Iran and Sudan. However, their real intention is to conquer and divide the Land of the Two Holy Sanctuaries [Saudi Arabia] as they have long realized the strategic value of this target ever since this objective was passed on from Britain to the United States 60 years ago,” bin Laden explained. Therefore, bin Laden reasoned, “the main American plan and target in this region with this current build-up is not a moving summer cloud that will bring peace to the World, but rather a strategic target of immense significance that will never be neglected by the cunning and dirty American policy at any cost.”
Israel is seen as the preeminent instrument of the Crusaders in their determination to destroy Islam and subjugate the Arab world. “One of the most important objectives of this latest Crusade is to establish a huge Jewish superstate (Greater Israel) that will include the whole of Palestine, parts of Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and a huge area from the Land of the Two Holy Sanctuaries,” bin Laden explained. Israel’s fighting with the Palestinians should therefore be considered a major facet of the Jewish-Crusader onslaught on the Arab world. “What is happening in Palestine is a small sample of what will take place in the region: the killing of men, women and children; imprisonment, terrorism and the destruction of houses; the pillaging of the land and razing of factories; and putting the people into a perpetual state of fear where they can expect death at any time due to a rocket or shell destroying their houses and killing their womenfolk.” Furthermore, the Arabs are also facing a Jewish-Crusader conspiracy to lure them into self-destruction “by disabling the resources of the Ummah for decades, using other methods like the deception of Democracy and other similar tricks.” The Muslim world must therefore immediately reverse this trend because “the creation of Greater Israel will mean the total domination of Jews on these lands”, bin Laden warned.
Bin Laden then proceeded to offering “good news ... that will assist us with our jihad in the Path of Allah” because “it is very important to provide our Ummah with the inspiration that it requires in order to protect itself in this latest Crusade.” The key to victory lies in the restoration of genuine Islam. “The truth is that the Muslim Ummah is the greatest human power on the face of the Earth only if it establishes Islam properly, and then it will be able to face those so-called Superpower nations,” bin Laden stated. That had, he said, been proven and demonstrated repeatedly throughout the history of Islam in the series of victories Muslim forces won against superior forces and the superpowers of day, from the first breakout of Mohammed’s armies out of Arabia to the fateful fighting between the Islamist fighters and the US forces in Afghanistan.
Bin Laden elaborated on this point by highlighting milestones in the combative path of the Islamist trend in recent decades. First came “the defeat of the Worlds’ largest Superpower at the hands of the mujahedin: the Soviet Union, which took place after 10 years of fierce fighting carried out by the sons of the Afghans and whoever helped them from the sons of the Muslims,” bin Laden noted. No less impressive was “the defeat of the Russians in Chechnya when the Chechen mujahedin accompanied by their Arab and Foreign brothers displayed examples of sacrifice and self-redemption and smashed the arrogance of the Russians,” only to be confronted by the Russians’ “return a second time with American backup and support” in a still unfolding futile campaign to suppress the Chechens.
The initial encounters with the US were not different, bin Laden argued. In his recounting of the history of contemporary jihad, he emphasized the contribution made by the Shi’ite HizbAllah in Lebanon. Bin Laden highlighted “the defeat of the American forces in Beirut in 1982, soon after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, when the Lebanese resistance was personified by the truck laden with explosives that struck the main military base of the US Marines in Beirut, killing 242 soldiers: towards Hell was their destination and what an evil destination that is.” Similar experience took place a decade later, when “America deployed her forces to Somalia and killed over 13,000 sons of the Muslims therein, before the lions of Islam from amongst the ‘Arab Afghans’ and their brothers from that region pounced upon her and rubbed her arrogance into the dust, killing scores of them, destroying their tanks and downing their aircraft.”
The 1990s saw a gradual escalation in the Islamists’ campaign to convince and coerce the US into withdrawing from the Arabian Peninsula. Bin Laden recounted how “in 1995, the explosion in Riyadh took place, killing four Americans, in a clear message from the people of that region displaying their rejection and opposition to the American policy of bankrolling the Jews and occupying the Land of the Two Holy Sanctuaries. The following year, another explosion in Al-Khobar killed 19 Americans and wounded more than 400 of them, prompting them to move their bases from the cities to the desert. Then in 1998, the mujahedin warned America to cease their support to the Jews and to leave the Land of the Two Holy Sanctuaries, but the enemy refused to heed this warning, so the mujahedin, with the ability from Allah, smashed them with two mighty smashes in East Africa. Then again America was warned, but she refused to pay attention to the warnings, so the mujahedin destroyed the American Destroyer, the USS Cole, in Aden, in a martyrdom operation, striking a solid blow to the face of the American military and at the same time, exposing the Yemeni Government as American agents, similar to all the countries in the region.”
Nevertheless, the United States failed to understand the message of the jihad and heed to the Islamists’ demands. The Americans, bin Laden stressed, were “denying reality and proclaiming that we (the mujahedin) were striking them because we were jealous of them (the Americans), whereas the reality is that we are striking them because of their evil and injustice in the whole of the Islamic World, especially in Iraq and Palestine and their occupation of the Land of the Two Holy Sanctuaries”.
This US refusal, or inability, to recognize the quintessence of the Islamist jihad was at the core of the decision to deliver a spectacular blow at the heart of the United States. In the words of Osama bin Laden, “the mujahedin decided teach them a lesson and to take the war to their heartland. On the blessed Tuesday 11 September 2001, while the Zionist-American Alliance was targeting our children and our people in the blessed land of Al-Aqsa, with American tanks and planes in the hands of the Jews, and our people in Iraq were suffering from the America’s sanctions upon them, and the Islamic world was very far away from establishing Islam properly,” the young mujahedin of Allah “launched their attacks with their planes in an unparalleled and magnificent feat of valor, unmatched by any in humankind before them”.
Bin Laden elaborated on the meaning and ramifications of the mujahedin’s strike for the Muslim world. “They destroyed the idols of America, they struck at the very heart of the Department of Defense and they hit the black heart of the US Economy, rubbing America’s nose into the dust and rolling her arrogance and pride into mud. Yet with the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, there occurred an even bigger destruction: that of the great American Dream and legend of Democracy,” bin Laden explained. “One of the many positive results from the retaliatory attacks on New York and Washington is that it has exposed the true characteristics of the Crusaders and revealed the extent of their hate towards the Muslims. These attacks took off the skin of the American wolf and they have been left standing in their filthy, naked reality. Thus the whole World awoke from its sleep and the Muslims realized the importance of the belief of loving and hating for the sake of Allah; the ties of brotherhood between the Muslims have become stronger, which is a very good sign and a great step towards the unity of Muslims and establishing the Righteous Islamic Khilafah insha-Allah.”
Ultimately, bin Laden elucidated, there were even bigger and more important lessons to be learned from the September 11, 2001, strike. The Muslim world must examine the strike and the reverberation in the overall context of the prevailing global posture. “America is definitely a great power, with an unbelievable military strength and a vibrant economy, but all of these have been built on a very weak and hollow foundation. Therefore, it is very easy to target that flimsy base and concentrate on their weak points and even if we are able to target one-tenth of these weak points, we will be able crush and destroy them and remove them from ruling and conquering the world. Thus, this small group of Muslims, by facing up to and standing in front of the international coalition against them and Islam, proved that it is possible to militarily fight against this Superpower and that they were able to protect their Religion and benefit the causes of their Ummah much more than what the governments and people of these 50 odd Islamic countries have done, because this small group chose the Path of jihad as the way for the victory of the Religion,” bin Laden concluded.
Hence, while the Arabs’ recent history has proven that “jihad is the way to honor this Ummah and provide it security”, the contemporary Arab world is failing the mujahedin. The core of the problem is the state of the Arab world, particularly the very existence of modern states with secular governments. The existence of such states contradicts “the root of Islam” and Arab leaders “ignored it by allying themselves with the disbelievers, ruling by their own man-made laws and supporting and agreeing with the Atheist United Nations.” Ultimately, these governments had done little but further the US’s anti-Islam policies, from recognizing Israel to the destruction of the Taliban Administration in Afghanistan. “After all this,” bin Laden asked, “is it possible for a Muslim to say to the Muslims to pledge their hands into the hands of Hamid Karzai and cooperate with him to establish Islam, lift oppression and cease the plans of America in their tracks?!! This is impossible because Karzai is an American agent and supporting him against the Muslims takes a person outside the fold of Islam.” Bin Laden stressed there is no difference “between Karzai the non-Arab and Karzai the Arab” like “the rulers of the Arabian Gulf.” Bin Laden lamented that “the Crusaders, who appointed the Karzai of Kabul, established the Karzai of Pakistan, implanted the Karzai of Kuwait and the Karzai of Bahrain and the Karzai of Qatar and others. And who are the ones who appointed the Karzai of Riyadh and brought him after he used to be a bandit in Kuwait a long time ago in order to fight with them against the Ottoman Empire and its leader, Ibn Rasheed? They were none other than the Crusaders and they are continuing to enslave us up this very day!!”
Although enthroned by the US, to bin Laden these leaders still constituted a major threat to the vital interests of the Arab world by implementing the West’s grand designs. “These [are] traitors who want to solve our Islamic causes, including one of the most important causes of Palestine, under the rules and regulations of the United Nations or the orders of America, similar to the initiative launched by Crown Prince Abdullah in Beirut, in which he sold the blood of our martyrs and the Palestinian cause in order to satisfy the and assist the Jews and Americans against the Muslims. These leaders have betrayed Allah and His Messenger (SAWS), left the fold of Islam and betrayed the Muslim Nation,” bin Laden stressed. Therefore, it is imperative for the Arab world to rebel against these leaders and “it is necessary upon the Muslims to declare themselves free from these tyrannical leaders” even if through the use of arms. The same applies also to the ruling élites, bureaucracies and media establishments whose work help legitimize the Arab leaders and states. Since these states’ entities reach out to the general public, bin Laden stressed, their influence must be reversed.
Bin Laden then criticized “those scholars and propagators who love the Truth and hate Falsehood, but they sit back from jihad” because they dare not challenge their governments. It is possible to understand them, bin Laden acknowledged, because “this is human nature as a person cannot make the correct decisions under extreme pressure, especially when his security is threatened” by the oppressive regimes under which he lives. “Thus, this state policy of fear and repression on the people has destroyed every aspect of life, including religion. The religion is sincere advice but there is no advice without security.” Consequently, under the fear of tyranny, the Arab world was divided among these who “gave their loyalty to the state”, these who, fearing for themselves, “made an evil and false choice to compromise with the leaders, thus going astray and leading many others astray”, and these who “remained steadfast under the banner” of the Islamist movement. However, even these dedicated individuals could not resist all “the extreme measures” arrayed against them by the states, and consequently, despite their noble intentions, they ended up “holding back from jihad and resistance to the enemy”. Bin Laden considered the latter group as the core of the forthcoming awakening of the Arab world.
To reverse the stifling of Islam, it was, he said, imperative to incite both the would be mujahedin and the sympathizing scholars into active participation in the armed jihad. Bin Laden observed that “the victory of the religion cannot occur merely by the giving of lectures without sacrificing our time and our wealth as the commodity of Allah (Paradise) is expensive. When jihad becomes compulsory, there is a massive difference between sitting and giving lectures, and sacrificing lives and heads for the victory of the religion.” (It has long been the position of the entire Islamist movement, not just bin Laden and his supporters, that under current conditions jihad is already compulsory.)
“So what is obligatory upon the Muslims in the face of this new Zionist-Crusader war against the Ummah of Islam?” bin Laden asked. The answer is simple: relentlessly fighting the jihad all over the world. Bin Laden reiterated that “jihad today is compulsory on the entire Ummah and she will remain in sin until she produces her sons, her wealth and her power to the extent of being able to wage jihad and defend against the evil of the disbelievers upon all the Muslims in Palestine and elsewhere. It is obligatory upon the believers to wage jihad in order to establish the Truth and eradicate Falsehood, to the utmost of their abilities.”
In this bin Laden statement, the emphasis was on the waging of the jihad against the US and Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, in the context of a principled long-term jihad, rather than in the context of the forthcoming war with Iraq. Bin Laden was cognizant of the difficulties facing his sympathizers in the West and certain Arab states. “So as for the Believer who stays back from jihad with his hand and his tongue, then it is obligatory upon him to make jihad with his heart and this entails hating the enemies of Allah and supplicating against them; supporting the believers and the mujahedin, supplicating for them and letting them feel the brotherhood of Iman that connects us Muslims from the East to the West; and wishing sincerely in his heart to wage jihad in the Path of Allah by his hand and his tongue, but this is the weakest of Iman,” bin Laden instructed. Thus, the Islamist leadership must be realistic and understanding in charting the expectations from various segments of society. Bin Laden pointed out that the Islamists “must not combine the major sin of sitting back from jihad, with the major sin of betrayal. Although jihad in person is obligatory upon the entire Ummah, then it is even more obligatory upon the youths in the prime of their lives than upon the old. Likewise, jihad with wealth is more obligatory today upon the wealthy Muslims than on those who are not as wealthy as them.”
Bin Laden was encouraged by the spread of jihad throughout the lands contested by Islam. These jihad fronts, like Afghanistan of the 1980s, serve as a breeding grounds for mujahedin from all over the world. Therefore, bin Laden, emphasized, “it is obligatory upon the Ummah to protect the jihad that exists today and lend support to it with every means of power that it possesses, as this jihad is a very valuable asset to us, as is the case in Palestine, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Indonesia, the Philippines and other Muslim lands.” Bin Laden paid special attention to the war in Afghanistan, stressing that “the jihad in Afghanistan is currently in a very good position and the conditions there are very favorable for the mujahedin” despite the American-led efort against them. “We are now in the second year of our fighting against the Americans and until now, America has not been able to fulfill her war objectives. On the contrary, she is now trapped inside the Afghan swamp. As for the victories that America experienced in the first few months of the war, after they captured the cities following the mujahedin withdrawal from them, then it is no secret to general military experts and those specializing in Afghanistan in particular, that this was a tactical withdrawal in line with the nature of the Taliban Administration and the nature of the Afghans in their long history of guerrilla warfare,” bin Laden explained.
Bin Laden now anticipated escalation of the war in Afghanistan because “the Afghans have re-organized themselves to the utmost of their ability and they have dug themselves in for a long guerrilla war from the deep, rugged and harsh mountains of Afghanistan, using similar tactics that they employed against the Soviet Union, with Allah’s Grace. They are using those same tactics against the Americans and with the rate of operations having reached two every day, the Americans are in real problems now. They are not able to protect their forces and nor are they able to bring stability to the country, let alone protecting the leader and protecting the public.”
Most important, bin Laden stressed, was the emergence of a broad-based Islamist front to fight the US and its allies. He noted that “during this last year, all of the mujahedin have united their forces and all are extremely enthusiastic for jihad, realizing that jihad against the Americans is obligatory upon them. If it was not for a lack of resources, then they would have increased their rate of operations to ten every day, just like in the previous jihad against the Russians, and the Americans would never be able to bear this, but presently it is not possible.” Therefore, it is imperative for the entire Islamist community worldwide to support the Afghan jihad because Afghanistan is the fulcrum for the rejuvenation of the global jihad movement. Bin Laden decreed that “it is a compulsive obligation upon the Ummah today to lend assistance to the jihad in Afghanistan because it is one of the most important arenas of jihad. Furthermore, we must concentrate on removing the Americans from Afghanistan, for defeating them in Afghanistan will be the beginning of the end of America insha-Allah.” The forthcoming inevitable jihadist victory in Afghanistan would thus usher in an era of Islamist resurrection and triumph.
Bin Laden called for the transformation of the entire Muslim world to meet the imperatives of jihad. “The Ummah today is in an era from amongst the eras of Allah, in which it must not weaken nor tire nor transgress. Rather, it must unite the ranks of the Muslims against the ranks of the disbelievers and it must seek repentance from its minor and major sins, just as important it is for the Ummah in this difficult time, which is no small matter, to shun a life of play, amusement, extravagance and fun, and prepare itself for the real life of killing, fighting, striking and damaging,” bin Laden argued. The youth of Islam would be at the forefront of this Islamist surge. “Therefore, I advise the youths to exercise their minds in the jihad as they are the first ones upon whom jihad is obligatory,” bin Laden declared. “So know that targeting the Americans and the Jews by killing them in any comer of the Earth, is the greatest of obligations and the most excellent of ways to gain nearness to Allah. Furthermore, I advise the youths to use their intelligence in killing them secretly. I also congratulate you all, and our brothers in Palestine in particular, that your mujahedin brothers are continuing firm upon the path of jihad in targeting the Jews and the Americans and that we will never abandon or forsake you, so continue with the blessings of Allah for we are with you.”
And as attested to by the “Orange”-level terrorism alert in the US, the UK, Israel and most of the West: Osama bin Laden’s disciples are actively preparing to implement his teachings on the centrality of uncompromising jihad and martyrdom.