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Bin Laden’s bookshelf.

THE AMERICAN SPECIAL forces who stormed Osama Bin laden’s Abbottabad compound deserve thanks not just for blowing his head off but also for gathering up his library, private papers, hard drives, videos and letters. The intelligence services have now declassified a number of these for our amusement.

Among them are books on Islam, politics, international law, and military and security matters, as you’d expect. Others are more intriguing. Bin Laden obviously had a penchant for conspiracy theories. Both Conspirators’ Hierarchy by John Coleman and Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier were on his shelf (but unfortunately not The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, which bears a closer resemblance to reality because it doesn’t pretend to be anything but fiction).


‘Did he underline or annotate any of these books?’

What I’d like to know is did he underline or annotate any of these books? New Pearl Harbor, for instance, by David Ray Griffin, which purports to show “that 9/11 was a false-flag operation, designed to give the Bush-Cheney administration a pretext to attack oil-rich Muslim nations” must have rankled. Did he scribble in the margins “No! No! No! It was me, me, ME! It was my idea, MY PLOT!”?

On a less obviously wacky level but intellectually no better are the books by one of the left’s favourite peddlers in secondhand thoughts, Noam Chomsky: Necessary Illusions and Hegemony or Survival.  Chomsky’s political oeuvre can be summed up in one sentence: everything wrong in the whole world is the fault of the west and the USA in particular. That’s it. You can see why Bin Laden had those, since he hated Americans even more than Chomsky does. What a pity the two of them never got together to make a video: Killing America, From Theory to Praxis. That would have gone down a storm on YouTube.

A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam by I A Ibrahim seems an odd volume to have, but maybe Bin Laden needed it to remind himself what all this Muslim thing was really about while stuck in his compound with his bad kidneys and boredom, watching videos of himself and unable to recapture his glory days organising spectacular massacres of innocent people.

HE COULD HAVE lightened his days with the occasional Dan Brown or Harry Potter, but the absence of fiction reveals him to have been a typical bloke, more concerned with factual material (or what passed as factual) than the overtly imaginative. No slim volumes of poetry in there, either.

Classified in a sub-heading “probably used by other compound residents” are titles on videogames, Islamic art and sports nutrition. There are “scans from several pages” from the Guinness Book of World Records Children’s Edition 2008, surely one of the oddest things to expect a mass-murdering swine to have on his desk, but there you go.

Also on that part of the list there’s the hard-to-find Is It The Heart You Are Asking? — described as a “suicide prevention guide”. Was this some form of research into reverse psychology to stop people not wanting to blow themselves up? It kind of fits, in a conspiracy-theory way, when you take into account the questions on a copy of an al-Qaida application form (yes, you could apply to be a human bomb). It reads like something from a Monty Python script: “Any hobbies or pastimes?”, “What is your favorite material: science or literature?”, “Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?”, “Who should we contact in case you became a martyr?”

What the intelligence services haven’t released are details of Bin Laden’s porn stash. That’s what we’d really like to find out. Burqua Brenda Rides Again? Randy Jihadi Gang Bang? Looks like we’ll never know. That’s a pity, because they’re bound to be a damn site more interesting than Dreamweaver and Photoshop manuals, and the maunderings of Noam Chomsky.

Michael Blackburn.


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