Messages from Osama bin Laden
While I unfortunately missed the actual broadcast, I was interested in Kevin Barrett's interview, discussed here, with Bruce Lawrence, described by Barrett as "America's top bin Laden expert". So I decided to look into this professor, and see if he is really who Barrett claims he is, and if he really backs up Barrett's claims.
First of all, he is a professor of religious studies at Duke University, although for whatever reason, he is not teaching currently. Looking up his university webpage bizarrely forces you to his personal website, without allowing you to stay at the original. His personal website appears designed to sell books more than anything.
Unlike most of the Scholars for 9/11 "Truth" (Lawrence doesn't appear to belong to any of the 3 splinter groups) he appears qualified in a relevant field. Although his rather out-of-date C.V. shows degrees in religious studies, rather than language or history, he does appear to have a fair amount of experience, some abroad, in the study of Islam, and even the Arabic language. Claiming that he is America's top expert on Osama bin Laden might be a bit of an exaggeration though, as far as I can tell Dr. Lawrence has not actually written a single book on Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda. The closest he has come is a 1989 book on Islamic fundamentalism titled "Defenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt Against the Modern Age". Perhaps this just speaks to the lack of academic work in this area by American scholars?
What Lawrence has worked on, however, is as the editor of a book titled Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden. Aside from the 21 page introduction though, he did not write the book, it is just a compilation of bin Laden speeches. In fact he didn't even translate it, that was done by a man named James Howarth. It is still a work worth further research though, so I endeavored to search the dusty leather-bound tomes of Suzallo Library for a copy.
What I found was rather interesting. In this book, Dr. Lawrence does not question the authenticity of any of bin Laden's speeches, in fact the only mention of this issue is by Howarth, who wrote the following in the translator's notes:
Nevertheless, although the question of authenticity inevitably arises when ever a message is released in bin Laden's name, the 24 statements in this collection, issued over a 10 year period, have all been accepted by a majority of the experts who have examined them.
Additionally, not a single one of the 24 statements published in this work include any denial by bin Laden of complicity in 9/11. The two incidences where Barrett claims that bin Laden denied involvement, are completely absent from the book. In fact at least 4 of the statements included, explicitly state that the attack was carried out by Arabs. Starting with an October 21st 2001 interview (page 112):
These repercussions cannot be calculated by anyone, due to their very large - and no less than $1 trillion by the lowest estimate, due to these succesful and blessed attacks. We implore God to accept those brothers within the ranks of the martyrs, and to admit them to the highest levels of Paradise.Continuing in the same interview, from page 119:
As for the World Trade Center, the ones who were attacked and who died in it were part of a financial power. It wasn't a children's school! Neither was it a residence. And the general consensus is that most of the people who were in the towers were men that backed the biggest financial force in the world, which spreads mischief throughout the world. And those individuals should stand before God and rethink and redo their calculations. We treat others like they treat us. Those who kill our women and our innocent, we kill their women and innocent, until they stop doing so.
Later, from a December 26th, 2001 statement titled, "Nineteen Students" (from page 149):
It was not nineteen Arab states that did this deed [9/11]. It was not Arab armies or ministries who humbled the oppressor who harms us in Palestine and elsewhere. It was nineteen post-secondary students - I beg God Almighty to accept them - who shook America's throne, struck its economy right in the heart, and dealt the biggest military power a mighty blow, by the grace of God Almighty.From a February 14th, 2003 statement (page 194):
One of the most important positive effects of our attacks on New York and Washington was to expose the reality of the struggle between the Crusaders and the Muslims, and to demonstrate the enormous hostility that the Crusader feels toward us.From an October 29th, 2004 statement (page 242):
For example, al-Qaeda spent $500,000 on the September 11 attacks, while America lost more than $500 billion, at the lowest estimate, in the event and its aftermath. That makes a million American dollars for every al-Qaeda dollar, by the grace of God Almighty.He continues later to mock President Bush on the same page:
For your information, we agreed with the general commander Mohammed Atta, may God bless his soul, to carry out all operations within twenty minutes, before Bush and his administration could be aware of them, and it did not occur to us that the Commander-in-Chief of the American armed forces would leave fifty thousand of his citizens in the two towers to face this great horror on their own, just when they needed him most. It seems that a little girl's story about a goat and its butting was more important than dealing with aeroplanes and their butting into skyscapers. This gave us three timess the amount of required time to carry out the operations, praise be to God.There are even more speeches where bin Laden praises the attacks, although he makes no mention of who carried it out, presumably though, if bin Laden were actually denouncing the attacks, or thought it was carried out by the Americans in order to blame him, he would not be praising them. There is, however, no denial or any indication by Lawrence that any of these admissions are fraudulent.