[ by Charles Cameron — following up on Browsing in bin Laden’s library ]
Marcy Wheeler at Salon reports of the ODNI’s Bin Laden’s Bookshelf (expanded form, .pdf) that “the categorization imposed by ODNI” consists “largely of overlapping categories of English-language materials worthy of a Jorge Luis Borges short story.
- Publicly available US government documents (including the full-length book, The 9/11 Commission Report as well as a number of other book-length reports)
- English-language books (including the publicly available US government report on MKUltra, CIA’s 1960′s drug experimentation program, as well as materials like a single web page that are not books)
- Materials regarding France (including some full-length books, apparently in English)
- Media articles (including numerous longer journal articles)
- Other religious documents (including some book-length materials in English)
- Think Tank articles (including numerous
- Software and technical manuals (some of which are books)
- Other miscellaneous documents (largely maps, but including some dictionaries)
- Documents probably used by other compound residents (including a few full-length books)
The Borges “short story” referenced here isn’t in fact a short story but an essay, The Analytical Language of John Wilkins, which includes a classification system “which doctor Franz Kuhn attributes to a certain Chinese encyclopaedia entitled ‘Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge'”. Borges’ spurious taxonomy divides the animal kingdom into the following categories:
(a) belonging to the emperor,
(d) sucking pigs,
(g) stray dogs,
(h) included in the present classification,
(k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,
(l) et cetera,
(m) having just broken the water pitcher,
(n) that from a long way off look like flies.
Nicely observed, Marcy.
Of particular personal note considering my interest in games:
Under the heading “Documents Probably Used by Other Compound Residents” we find listed:
Delta Force Extreme 2 Videogame Guide Game Spot Videogame Guide
One wonders (idly) whether ODNI cannot believe OBL would play such games, or whether that classification was arrived at on the basis of the location in the compound where these materials were found.
And given my interest in religion:
Under the heading “Think Tank & Other Studies”:
Program for the Study of International Organizations (PSIO), “Hizb ut-Tahrir: The Next Al-Qaeda, Really?” by Jean-Francois Mayer (2004)
And under the heading “Other religious documents”:
a treatise on Christianity by one Monqith Ben Mahmoud Assaqar PhD, titled Was Jesus crucified for our atonement? — which opens with the following (presumably post-doctoral) statement of scholarship-to-date:
Praise to Allah (S.W) , the cherisher and sustainer of the worlds, and may peace and blessings be upon all of His messengers. In our previous parts of this series “True guidance and light series”, we have concluded and confirmed a plain truth, which is that the Holy Bible, as we have seen, is man work, and not the word of Allah (S.W) in any way. Thus, Christians cannot present it as evidence for any of their creeds or events, including the crucifixion and the Atonement.
FWIW, reading this treatise will likely not have helped OBL in his quest for interfaith understanding.
[ by Charles Cameron — always interested in other people’s books, & with a keen eye for eccentric choices ]
Every terrorism library – and every terrorist’s library, too, maybe – should have at least one conspiracist book in it, and Bin Laden’s library apparently had several – I’d likely count America’s “War on Terrorism” by Michel Chossudovsky and Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins among them — but I’m impressed he had a copy of Michael Ruppert’s Crossing the Rubicon, my own choice for that category on account of its chapter on games.
Interesting, too, that he had a copy of the Select Committee on Intelligence report on Project MKULTRA, “the CIA’s program of research in behavioral modification.”
Way more interesting, though, is his seemingly owning a copy of Manley P Hall’s great opus, The Secret Teachings of All Ages – “An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy: Being an Interpretation of the Secret Teachings Concealed within the Rituals, Allegories and Mysteries of All Ages” — the date 1928 is given in ODNI’s listing of his English language books, so I’m wondering if he had the same huge, wood-boxed early edition I once had, now retailing for $1,500.
And then there’s the kicker. Bin Laden apparently had a copy of the article Website claims Steve Jackson game foretold 9/11 — still up on the web — see illustration above.
That’s just too rich!
[ by Charles Cameron — hey, I recommend Stern’s earlier Terror in the Name of God and JM’s Jihad Joe, too ]
Jessica Stern & JM Berger have a very clever title for their book — which is one of many things I didn’t get to address in my Pragati review, because there’s really a great deal to be said about IS and about the book. Let’s take a look at that title:
ISIS: State of Terror is a triple pun really, since their book is about:
Okay. The Islamic State really “exists” on three braided levels:
My point here being that to understand IS we need both “physical” and “metaphysical” eyes, and a healthy dose of online virtual savvy too. And that’s why Jessica Stern & JM Berger‘s book is an invaluable guide: it looks closely into all three realms.
Interestingly enough, to me at least, I see my focus on Islamist apocalyptic has gone through three phases, each one having its own cluster of traditions / ahadith:
On the horizon, still, the traditions about the Ghazwa-e-Hind. Keep your eyes peeled.
[ by Charles Cameron — another example of what I call “landmines in the garden” ]
I wouldn’t have picked a bio of Anders Breivik as a likely source for insights into Iraq, but Åsne Seierstad‘s bio, One of Us, provides one all the same… first quoting the Qur’anic sura Al-Anfal (upper panel, below) in her epigraph to a chapter —
— then commenting on that quotation (lower panel, above) a page later.
What interests me here is Seierstad’s last sentence as quoted in the lower panel:
By naming the campaign of extermination after a sura of the Qur’an, the Iraqi government sought to legitimate its executions as a war against believers.
We have seen jihadists quote scripture often enough to suggest they have divine sanction for their acts of violence. Here it was Saddam Hussein in 1988 whose interpretation of the Qur’an provided that sanction. And I emphasize the word “interpretation” since Sura 8, Al-Anfal (The Spoils of War), was received shortly after the Battle of Badr, which it is understood to describe in detail, and its applicability by analogy to completely different circumstances such as Saddam’s campaign against the Kurds (and also, as Wikipedia notes, Assyrians, Shabaks, Iraqi Turkmens, Yazidis, Jews, and Mandeans) is indeed interpretive and subjective rather than “authoritative”.
Saddam Hussein’s “authority” in Quranic exegesis would be questionable at best — so long as one was not overheard questioning it in Iraq at the time.
Specifically, the very next verse of Al-Anfal clarifies the context. It does not say “When you find the unbelievers living in their villages and towns” — it says:
O believers, when you encounter the unbelievers marching to battle, turn not your backs to them.
But it is a little late for anyone to presume to give Saddam Hussein lessons in the book he once ordered written in his own blood, least of all myself.
My overall point here is that the world’s scriptures in general offer paths towards paradise, pardes, pardis — a tranquil garden or orchard. Not infrequently, though, they also contain texts which can blow up in our faces if read not in historical context but with contemporary violent intent.
Landmines in the Garden.
[ by Charles Cameron — who knows more or less what Walter Robb of WholeFoods was getting at, but doesn’t think it adequately sums to what cathedrals have to offer ]
This tweet by friend Victor d’Allant frankly saddened me…
— Victor d'Allant (@dallant) March 19, 2015
Until redeemed by the comment at the tail end of this BBC report:
To support the crowdfunding effort to save the “temple of books that raises reading to a religious experience” — figure this out: Dominicanen gaat door!