January 22, 2006

Osama's Book Club.

Osama Bin Laden recommends a book and it shoots up the bestseller list:
"Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower" had reached number 21 on the Amazon list by Sunday, leaping from below the 200,000 mark....

[Author William] Blum, speaking from his Washington apartment, said he was "surprised and even shocked and amused" by the al-Qaeda leader's apparent words.

"I was not turned off by the endorsement," he told a New York radio station.

"I'm not repulsed and I am not going to pretend I am."

(Hmmm.... do you think the government will check into those of us who go to the Amazon page for the book?)


Anonymous said...

Maddening inscrutability.

Anonymous said...

Would you expand on your statement please? What exactly is shameful?

PatHMV said...

(Hmmm.... do you think the government will check into those of us who go to the Amazon page for the book?)

Don't feed the tinfoil hatties!

sonicfrog said...

Hmmmm... I need more traffic. I wonder how I can persuade OBL to endorse my blog????

sonicfrog said...

Off topic. The reign of Juan Non-Volokh is ending.

Jake said...

200,000 Al Qaida members in the US? Who knew?

SMGalbraith said...

What exactly is shameful?

Here's a person - bin Laden - that believes in, among other things in my very short list of horrors, stoning to death homosexuals and women who have sex outside of marriage, praising another person's intellectual work.

And that person (Blum) accepts bin Laden's praise.

Accepts mind you and not rejects that endorsement.

And someone asks what the shame is in that reaction.

As they say in downtown Tehran, Oy.

Imagine, let's say, Fred Phelps endorsing a book and the author not repudiating that endorsement.

And Bin Laden makes Phelps sound like SpongeBob Squarepants.


D.E. Cloutier said...

For the author, this is nothing more than the free enterprise system at work in the global economy.

Anyone who reads the book already has his/her mind made up.

Steve Donohue said...

I'm still waiting for Osama to endorse my blog...

Ron said...

Blurb or die!

It's when he shows up on BookNotes...that's when I've got a problem.

mango said...

I'm not certain it's a bad thing that people want to see for themselves what the book says. I read "Mein Kampf" at one point, not because I agree at all, but because I wanted to know what Hitler believed. I can't help but hope that the majority of people who are buying this thing are buying it out of curiosity, not endorsement. I may be wrong, of course, but I certainly hope so.

Of course, the scary thing is all of the five-star reviews...

Duffy Nichols said...

His honesty is heartening, however.

retired randy said...

- - - and not a damn one of you even knows what OBL said in his message. Aren't you even curious?

XWL said...

Frequent commenter, Reader_Iam, posted on this earlier, and comments on my comment that points to the commentariat at HuffPo's take on this book.

(The blogosphere can be a tangled world wide web at times)

Needless to say, they agree with quxxo that rather than shameful, it's more of a 'you go girl' moment, and we should all 'fight the power' and end 'boooosh fascism' and all.

Any politician who appeals to these folks in any way must be kept away from power, they are suicidially stupid and their reflexive anti-Americanism can only lead to destruction if they gain the air of a sympathetic administration.

These folks are MAINSTREAM Democrats, just ask them, that's what many of them will say, and Sen. John Kerry's recent diary at Kos testifies to that assumption. (assuming it's real, and as of yet no denial)

Lonesome Payne said...

I think it's a step toward clarity in our politics.

He firmly believes eveything he writes in the book. He firmly believes a man like Osama bin Laden embodies an understandable reaction to our depravities. (I'm slightly speculating with that second one.) For him to repudiate bin Laden utterly would be to say: "Whatever our past depravities, they do not come close to having us deserve what bin Laden says we deserve."

And he doesn't believe that to be so goddamn obviously the case.

I've thought for some time the left's problem is an inability to really own up to and openly talk about the implications of their own beliefs. Yet openly investigating and talking abour depravities is probably something we should do.

For one thing, it would tell us some things about ourselves that we should know, and tell people who don't really know the details of the mistakes we've made and the patterns we sometimes fall into.

And confronting these issues direcly will slowly tug interpretation of these events away from the monopoloy domain of the intellectual left, and will gradually build the number of people who understand it is more than possible to be aware of these depravities and still suspect that OBL's recomended treatment is, well, too harsh. And should be repudiated. More than repudiated: actually, wow, resisted with enthusiasm.

I know the author is a morally unbound fool; most commenters here know that; too much of the country suspects it but doessn't have a strong answer for the banshees who agree.

Bring it on.

SMGalbraith said...

It's interesting - and revealing -that Bin Laden in his latest address is trying to transform himself into a Ho Chi Minh-like figure.

Gone are all the references to the historic injustices (real and imagined) committed by the Christian West against Islam. Gone are the references to the re-establishment of a world-wide Caliphate.

He's clearly trying to appeal to the anti-American and anti-Bush left as (apparently) his ability to garner greater Islamic and Arab support falters. Apparently.

If he shows up in his next video wearing black pajamas, the transformation will be complete.

PatCA said...

"I think it's a step toward clarity in our politics."

Amen to your whole post, paul. The last four years have seen quite a learning curve, for me personally and for the country. Remember when no one knew what a "jihad" was?

This interregnum has given us a space in which to experience the hollowness of our obsession with process. Radical Islam seeks to destroy us, period.

Quxxo is just being provocative, but the opposition in general is lost and cannot see the forest for all those potentially fascist, racist trees. Sometimes it's clear and true: you're either with us or you're against us.

Mitch said...

OK, NOW can we question their patriotism?

wildaboutharrie said...

Paul, I think that's very well put. I think there's far too little discussion of our past depravities (and atrocities) among regular moderate types, so the far Left screams about them and claims it's the ONLY American history, and the far Right screams that it's traitorous to even entertain the idea that we've screwed up. It's a public discourse in which people who can think abstractly can rarely be heard.

(As you know, I would also include CURRENT depravities in terms of how we were deceived into Iraq, but I think you and I quit company there.)

Do you remember after 9/11 when some media outlets addressed the question of the motives of al qaeda? Immediate pushback. Pundits claimed the left wanted to offer "understanding" to the terrorists. As if understanding (in the other sense) your enemy is a bad thing.

Lonesome Payne said...

wilabout -

I don't think we entirely "quit company" there. My refrain is the need for the left to separate their anger at W from understanding the dilemma Iraq would have presented even to any hypothetical dreamboat honest president.

Ricardo said...

Shows the power of a good endorsement, much like what Dick Cheney was able to do for the duct tape industry a few years ago.

wildaboutharrie said...

"dreamboat honest president"


But yes, I remember now where you're coming from.

Brendan said...

We're missing the big picture. The shameful thing is the book, not Osama's embarrassing endorsement. Any tome that hints that Al Qaeda has a "point" or "legitimate grievances" should be shunned. Sadly, this is just more Zinn/Chomsky/Sontag/Moore warmed-over tripe.

Anonymous said...

He firmly believes eveything he writes in the book.

Ignoring other issue, uh, this is a painfully stupid statement.

He firmly believes a man like Osama bin Laden embodies an understandable reaction to our depravities....
Evidence please Palfrock. Please cite the pages and quote the text in Rogue State that backs up this claim of yours. Surely you're not going merely from the one newspaper article and the rantings in this echo chamber are you? Have you read his book? (Go on, I won't smear you with DEC's smear that Anyone who reads the book already has his/her mind made up.)

I know the author is a morally unbound fool

Evidence please. Have you read the book? Are you just tooting out your *ss?

Ann, is Palfrock's and DEC's the sort of informative public debate you are proud of hosting?

Ann, how would you deal with this sort of abuse of logic, reason, and argument in your classroom, or in your courtroom? Or is this some new variant of the Hegelian Dialectic and the Adversarial System that you con law prof blogger people teach?

wildaboutharrie said...

quxxo, some support for Paul:

He firmly believes a man like Osama bin Laden embodies an understandable reaction to our depravities...

"Yesterday, he made clear that he deplores the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But he argues, as many other essayists have, that they were an understandable retaliation against U.S. foreign policy. 'The thesis in my books and my writing is that anti-American terrorism arises from the behavior of U.S. foreign policy,' he said. 'It is what the U.S. government does which angers people all over the world.'"


wildaboutharrie said...

PS he also says:

"I am totally against what they did. But we cannot view that as totally the acts of a bunch of madmen. If we do . . . we will continue making the same mistakes, and the so-called war on terror will be as doomed to fail as the war on drugs."

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, but my point is, and Palfrock can correct me, he hasn't read the book, and DEC says that anyone that does is a traitor.

I doubt if Palfrock read from that website (I didn't.... I think the url came out a bit mangled.)

You quote the website as stating Yesterday, he made clear that he deplores the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001., but Palfrock says
For him to repudiate bin Laden utterly would be to say: "Whatever our past depravities, they do not come close to having us deserve what bin Laden says we deserve." Those statements are at odds. So where is Palfrock's proof?

Whether it's Blum, Zinn, or Atrios, Krugman, Herbert, Dionne, Kos, RawStory, FDL, etc., Palfrock is going to remain afraid to shake up his universe and read some alternative opinions. He'll form his own, or rather, have them formed by DEC. And he'll continue his little love songs in the name of helping liberals figure out what their problem is and in the name of morality.

Meade said...

"...are you just tooting out your *ss?"

asks the tooting expert.

Attempt to answer Mitch:
Too late. Nothing left to question.

Lonesome Payne said...

quxxo, I hesitate to respond at all, because the franticness of what you write is pretty good evidence that what I wrote bugged the hell out of you. Which is good.

My opening sentence that you call "stupid" ws intended as an opening "given." No brilliant revelation intended. I woulda thought that was pretty obvious, but when you're looking for openings, you'll find openings.

Wildabout has done a good job of quickly ferreting out some pretty good support against your second source of indignant rage. (Thanks Wildabout; go grab yourself a cigar out of petty cash.)

The sufficient evidence that he is a morally unbound fool is the sentence Ann quoted. An exact hypothetical parallel: Charles Lindbergh writes somethign critical of US foreign policy in 1938; Hitler heartily agrees and endorses it; Lindbergh says the same thing.

It has nothing to do with whether I would agree or disagree with any or all or much of his book, which I haven't read. It is entirely supported by that sentence.

I'm gonna read it, though. I went over to Loiuse Erdrich's bookstore this morning and ordered it. I like to support small leftist bookstores, and plus I love reading things by morally unbound fools. (You should be very happy about that, by the way.)

Oh, just saw your second riposte:

There is a crucial and obvious difference between automatic declarations that "of course no one should do what Osama does, and of course no one deserves 9-11" in some kind of automatic peace-loving sense; and the kind of "chickens are coming home to roost" sentiments that many of those same people will also speak. That's what the author tries to get away with, I would assume.

And it's more than an assumption; the fact that he won't repudiate the praise of a demon shows the have-it-both-ways workings of his mind.

You don't know what I read in general, by the way. My hobby is coming at the left hard the way the left tends to assume is their own particular right to do against others. The more insular and shielded of them can't handle it.

Anonymous said...

Well I apologize then Palfrock, for I was wrong, Surely you're not going merely from the one newspaper article and the rantings in this echo chamber are you? You do in fact form your opinions on just a few quotations of others, and not from reading the material yourself.

Enjoy your hobby, I am going for a bike ride.

mango said...

Brendan: Any tome that hints that Al Qaeda has a "point" or "legitimate grievances" should be shunned.

My feeling is that it's probably valuable in the same way Mein Kampf is -- by knowing what your opponent believes, you can defeat them.

Terrible books by terrible people should be read and known by the rest of us so that we can reject them absolutely and face our opponents with clarity and wisdom.

Lonesome Payne said...

Quxxo, my position is that his sentence stands on its own, and even if I agreed with his book, and found it enlightening in some sense, I would say the same thing.

Your position seems to be that no one can ever say anything about something an author says unless he's read everything that author has ever written.

Ignore - ignore - ignore - sidestep - ignore - here's a thing I can pounce on! - bike ride.

Gordon Freece said...


Not a lot of black people go to David Duke to find out what they're doing wrong. Gee, why not? My guess is that most of them prefer to confine their reading to the "echo chamber" (*snort*) of people who don't obsessively and irrationally hate them. Are they "afraid to shake up [their] universe and read some alternative opinions"? Heh. Yeah, whatever, quxxo. Whatever.

It's possible that, sheerly by accident, David Duke has included one or two rational or factual tidbits in among all the howling gibberish (you, quxxo, would think it's a lot more than "one or two"), and it's equally possible that Chomsky has done the same, in odd moments when he's not explaining how the Jews have established "98% control" of the United States. It's a bit like the monkey-with-a-typewriter principle. But only a bigot or a hobbyist with strange tastes would waste time wading through the contents of Duke's or Chomsky's mind.

nunzio said...

Maybe OBL will start a book club like Oprah.

I think the Satanic Verses should be next on the list.

Gordon Freece said...

Clarification: I'm not saying Chomsky hates black people, above. I'm saying his hatred of the United States very closely resemble David Duke's hatred of black people. That is the similarity.

It's just a funny factoid that their views about international relations, and about Jews in American public life, happen to be very nearly identical in content as well as form.

Lonesome Payne said...

By the way, via the Web site of Newsweek's Christopher Dickey - http://www.christopherdickey.blogspot.com/ - I was led to this web site, which features this list of "extracts" from Blum's book as compiled by (I gather) fans:


(Sorry, still don't know how to do a link in a word in the comment context.)

Quick response: The list does include some things that I anyway have always considered to be manifest US depradation; and yet it seems to makes no attempt to differentiate in a moral sense between various examples of the US use of force. So: the overthrow of Allende and the installation of the Shah are exactly the same, morally, as the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of WW2, or our support for Israel. (Yep, that again.) There has been no such thing as a moral use of US force for this guy.

He accomplishes this at times(it may be the authors of the site doing this; though they do call this stuff "extracts") by telling us things that "nobody knows" or that the reality we thought we knew is "lies."

It's a "lie" that the Hiroshima and Nagaski bombing saved lives on balance; "everybody knew" the Japanese were completely unable to fight anymore and an invasion would have been a walkover. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? The CIA as much as caused that, for some reason.

In short: I have crept slightly more closely to certainty on my judgment of morally unbound, on this admittedly indrect evidence. Don't tell quxxo, though. She gets upset.

Oh: one problem a guy like this sets up for himself is that his judgments in some situations are such manifest nonsense - and again, I point to the idea that it's totally absurd to think the invasion of the Japanese mainland woud have been a horrifying thing resulting in milions of deaths - that it really calls into serious question the whole endeavor.

If his opinions are so fevered, so odd, in some particulars, what are we to make of the others?

And actually, what does this say about the mind of Osama bin Laden, that he's so taken with this guy? In the end, is OBL an intellectal on par with a not-particularly-discerning sophomore at UW Whitewater?

We're doomed.

Wade Garrett said...

Paulfrompls - Uh, they've been bringing it on, and our soldiers haven't liked it very much. Its easy to talk shit when wear you live thousands of miles away, wear a cowboy hat and have never been shot at in your life.

Palladian said...

Al Quaeda's Bin Laden impersonator has humorously learned how to play American leftists for fools (not that that's usually tremendously difficult). I wonder what book "Bin Laden" will be promoting in his next podcast? Something by Howard Zinn?

reader_iam said...

Osama was one of 30 students. He [used to sit] two-thirds of the way back on the window side that looked out onto sports fields and playing grounds. He was literally outstanding because he was taller than his contemporaries, and so he was very noticeable. His English was not amazing. He was not one of the great brains of that class.

This is from a book excerpted in a Times of London article at the end of the first week of January. The author is represented as having been researching Osama for eight years--well before the 9/11 attacks. That research includes, according to the author, interview with people with knowledge of not just Osama, but his larger family, over an extended period of time.

I had something to say about that interesting review at the time.

HaloJonesFan said...

Terrence: CLUCK CLUCK it's the chickenhawk argument!

Now, in my case, I'd be in the Army if I hadn't been diabetic, and I'd probably still be in it today, and I'd be over in Iraq driving a tank around. Am I allowed to state support for the war?

I hope that you don't have any opinion whatsoever on anything you haven't directly experienced. Hell, let me come over to your place, and I'll chop off your leg and feed it to you. You can't say that you wouldn't like it--you've never experienced it!

Gordon Freece said...

Maybe OBL's short on funds. You think Blum might've slipped him a little something for his trouble? Book reviewers have done it before.

What's really sad is the fact lefties admire OBL so uncritically that they'll buy anything he recommends, judging by the sales figures since OBL's endorsement. It'd be funny if somebody paid him off to plug something by Ann Coulter.

halojonesfan: You're right about the "chickenhawk" thing being a non sequitur: The truth of a proposition doesn't depend on who says it. Even if it did depend on that, well... how'd Bush do in the last election among Americans serving in the military, especially among those actually stationed in Iraq? Enormously better than among civilians, as it turns out. So, yes: Republicans are much more likely to serve in the military than Democrats are, and the war has broad support among the people getting shot at. I doubt very much that the Kerry vote over there corresponds exactly to an anti-war vote, either: The Democrats who do serve tend to be relatively patriotic blue-collar types. Remember, Kerry campaigned on the pretense that he wanted to win the war. A lot of lifelong, reflexive Democrats probably held their noses and chose to believe him.

wildaboutharrie said...

quxxo, sorry about the non-link, I can never get it to work. It's to a longer version of the same article, one that gives more information on the perspective of the author.

I'll try to link in case anyone is interested...

wildaboutharrie said...

"What's really sad is the fact lefties admire OBL so uncritically that they'll buy anything he recommends, judging by the sales figures since OBL's endorsement."

Your evidence of this admiration, P, is that Amazon is getting hits on Blum's book? Very deep. Yes, the lefties are so pro-OBL! I guess so is everyone who visits this blog and heads over to Amazon to see what all is going on!

If you were being ironic, may I remind you that it's frowned upon in these parts?

Gordon Freece said...

wildaboutharrie: I thought that ranking on the "Amazon list" mentioned in Ann's post referred to sales. My bad, if that's not the case.

I hadn't known that irony is frowned upon here. Ann hasn't deleted any more than about one out of three of my really annoyingly "ironic" comments. Well... maybe one out of two. But hardly all of them.

D.E. Cloutier said...

Quxxo: "DEC says that anyone that does is a traitor."

Go back to first grade, Quxxo. Learn to read. All I said was that people who read the book already have their minds made up about the subject matter. I neither stated nor implied anyone reading the book is a traitor. What a silly notion.

Goatwhacker said...

Your evidence of this admiration, P, is that Amazon is getting hits on Blum's book? Very deep. Yes, the lefties are so pro-OBL! I guess so is everyone who visits this blog and heads over to Amazon to see what all is going on!

I think the number refers to sales, not hits. Amazon is ranking the book #36 in sales right now. Interestingly, used hardcover copies are going for up to 124 bucks. Looks like somebody wants them pretty bad.

Peter Hoh said...

Yeah, but what I want to know is where Osama comes down on the controversy about James Frey.

Goatwhacker said...

Oops, they're ranking the paperback version #12 in sales now. Looks like the hardcover is only avilable on the secondary market.

Lonesome Payne said...

Terrence -

I don't think you paid very close attention to my use of the phrase "bring it on."

knox said...

I love how people jump on here and demand that we look DEEP into the terrorist's heart, and search their motives for blowing up thousands of innocent men, women and children.

These are the same people who categorically write off ANYTHING Bush says as an outright lie before it even emerges from his lips. Yet they tell us, unbelievably, to keep an open mind with the terrorists, that their actions are at least somewhat legitimate and we must strive to "understand" them.

Hey, do you guys think Timothy McVeigh had some good points, too? How 'bout Hitler? Oh, wait, those weren't points that fit into the Leftist gripes about the U.S. Sorry, nevermind.


knox said...

Remember: this is the same "demographic" who would as soon stone to death a woman or a homosexual as look at them. Ask yourself: whose approval are you looking for?

I personally take PRIDE that they're our enemy-- I figure if *they* hate us, that means we're doing something right.

KCFleming said...

For those seeking to understand why the egalitarian left repeatedly sides with people and movements that advocate and practice the most horrendous abuses and crimes against humanity (e.g. they were apologists for Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, and now Osama), consider reading one liberal's view:

The Dark Side of the Left: Illiberal Egalitarianism in America by Richard Ellis, a self-described "lifelong Democrat, a 'card-carrying' member of the ACLU, and an environmentalist."

VW ~adfque; that means you, William Blum, and the horse you rode in on.

Lonesome Payne said...

Knoxgirl -

The only way the stuff you point out is not the overridingly important factor at the base of the difficulties we face is if our own immorality is even worse.

It doesn't take much ambiguity in judging our side - from the complexities behind many if not most of the specific depradations in a book like Blum's; to the ambiguity of judging the US generally in the context od "great power" behavior, including the impossible trade-offs we face all the time; to the massive ambiguity introduced when you consider all the other stuff about the US that is manifestly worth defending - anyway, it doens't take much ambiguity at all before the moral clarity you have wins out.

I'm convinced that's why the left is so rageful these days. So resistant to countervailing facts and perspectives.

They know any significant degree of ambiguity in perceiving the US, from past history to the Iraq war, means their outrage is just sort of dumb, given the nature of the demons out there. It would mean they need to turn their perspectives outward to really take in evil.

That would take a kind of courage they don't yet possess. They only know the courage of introspection and self-correction. It's how the left defines courage.

Dumb-ass bumper sticker of the last year: "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." Not one high form; the highest. Higher by far than that of the men who stormed Normandy. It's not even close.

They're not comfortable at all with the courage of self-acceptance and self-defense and pride. Except of course they're monumentally proud of their own courage in questioning authority. They see themselves as uniquely courageous and laudatory there, in that regard.

Danny said...

It's not just coercible lefties buying this book. You can be sure that the CIA (among other government agencies/military branches) made a Barnes and Noble run the minute they got their hands on Bin Laden's new tape.

wildaboutharrie said...

P., Goat, I'm sorry, my error if it means sales.

Thoughts - I'm disgusted with the trend of equating liberalism with love for terrorists. It's a cheap talking point. It's as stupid as equating conservatism with inherent immorality.

Also - if OBL says "Read this book to understand where I'm coming from", frankly, I'd want to read it. Wouldn't you? Perhaps I'd get it through ILL so as not to make this fellow richer, if I found him distasteful.

So do sales (which also reflect the merely curious, and people on the opposite side of the spectrum from this author) equal love for OBL?

And no, I haven't read it as yet. No time is my lame excuse.

Lonesome Payne said...

wildabout -

I don't know who you're addressing exactly, if anyone here, but the way I describe my attitude about liberals on these questions is probably something like "moral confusion" as opposed to "love of terrorists."

However, sprinkled in with the famous and not so famous quotes from left-people both famous and not so famous over the years are some that come very close to some kind of fascination with the terrorists.

Days after the attack, Arundhathi Roy (sp?) wrote something that a friend of mine sent me, describing it to me as insightful and well-reasoned and so on. It would be hard to come away from that essay and totally reject the notion that there is occasionally something close to fondness for them in the strain of thinking. She seemed to view the act as a pathetic acting-out by abused victims of our hegemony, to be condemned, “of course,” but to be for the most part understood with compassion.

My sister has a friend who is semi-prominent film critic in NY. On 9-11, he was at a film festival in I believe Toronto. He was wandering the streets that night, stupefied, when, another prominent film writer ran up to him on the street all ablaze with excitement, crying: "Can you believe the perfection of the symbolism?"

My sister's friend stabbed him to death as was his duty, but I doubt that kind of reaction was completely unique in the intellectual world of America is evil.