Reading is fundamental

Andy Sullivan posts a shocked-sounding link to this story, and I imagine it’ll shock a bunch of other people who’ll link to it and gasp at the liberal perfidy.

Only days after the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, a Duke professor is trying to explain the motivations of the tragedy’s organizer—jihadist Osama bin Laden.

Bruce Lawrence, professor of religion, edited and wrote the forward to the book Messages to the World—The Statements of Osama bin Laden. The text, which goes into print today and will arrive in bookstores in the fall, is the first to include the translations of the Arabic writings of bin Laden.

The book features a collection of 22 speeches and interviews given by the leader of the terrorist organization al Qaeda between 1994 and 2004.

So: What took him so long? This is a terrific idea and a necessary book.

A way to think about it – one of the key insights of Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” was that “Mein Kampf” could have prevented World War II. In it, Hitler explicitly lays out his goals if ever he were elected chancellor of Germany – conquer Europe, kill millions, enslave millions more. As Shirer repeatedly writes, in exasperated tones, if Chamberlain et al had just asked a German translator about the book in 1934 or 1935 (or even 1938), they would have known his actual designs and could have throttled the Wehrmacht in its crib.

I’m not sure if a book published by Verso is going to rip the lid off anything, but this is clearly the right direction to be taking in our analysis of bin Laden. And it only took four years!

2 thoughts on “Reading is fundamental

  1. Yes, by all means bin Laden’s writings should be published. But what’s got people upset is what Sullivan quoted– that the guy says bin Laden “sounds like somebody who would be a very high-minded and welcome voice in global politics.” I guess there’s a way to charitably interpret, but I’m surprised that you’d completely sidestep it.

  2. Yes, that’s true that the “welcome voice” quote was the point of Sullivan’s link. I was trying to pre-empt the criticism I imagine will come after this book simply for existing – the university right down the road from Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, took tons of guff for making incoming freshmen read a PC book about Islam after 9/11. But the professor’s weird respect for bin Laden is worth mentioning … I’ll update the post.

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