Osama bin Laden Confirms Weinstein’s Claim?

Statements released by Osama bin Laden have validated the fears of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s Michael Weinstein, whose organization has repeatedly claimed that associations of Christianity with the US military provide “propaganda” and “recruiting tools” to America’s adversaries, endangering US troops and the mission of the nation.  For example, in the recent dust-up over Franklin Graham, Weinstein gave his standard retort that

the invitation would endanger American troops by stirring up Muslim extremists.

Referencing the impact of American Christianity in his most recent audio statement, bin Laden said:

America will never dream of peace unless we live it in Palestine…Our attacks on you will continue to (as long as you support) Israel.

Actually, come to think of it, bin Laden didn’t even mention Christians; he just talked about Palestine and Israel.  But Weinstein and his organization make their claims with such assuredness — even asserting that Christians are convincing the Muslim world that America is on a crusade — that they must be true.  Maybe some of bin Laden’s older statements reveal his “true” motivation, as implied by Weinstein (that is, bin Laden’s opposition to American acts of Christianity).

In 2001, just after the attacks of 9/11, bin Laden said:

They came out to fight this group of people who declared their faith in God and refused to abandon their religion. They came out to fight Islam in the name of terrorism.

Ah, an accusation of fighting Islam — that sounds more like it.  He continued:

Afghanistan and Iraq were bombed and all hypocrite ones stood behind the head of the world’s infidelity – behind the Hubal of the age – namely, America and its supporters…Neither the United States nor he who lives in the United States will enjoy security before we can see it as a reality in Palestine.

Hmmm.  Hubal refers to an ancient moon god, an object of pagan worship.  That hardly sounds like bin Laden is making accusations of Christian crusading.  Also, Palestine doesn’t have anything to do with overt or overbearing American Christianity.  None of these statements by bin Laden accuse the American military of “proselytizing,” an alleged act that Weinstein claims motivates “Muslim extremists.”

Perhaps, then, another speaker for the al Qaeda organization might clarify that military Christians are inspiring their cause, as Weinstein claims they do.  The following came from the alleged leader of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, in claiming responsibility for the suicide attack on the CIA base there:

[He detonated] his brilliant and diligently made hidden explosive belt, without being noticed by those who don’t believe in the afterlife; [against] a group of American and Jordanian intelligence agents in Khost in Afghanistan.

Now, Muslims acknowledge that Christians and Jews, ‘wrong’ though they may be, do “believe in the afterlife.”  Consistent with Islamic theology, then, those who don’t believe in the afterlife must be of a non-Abrahamic faith, or even non-religious.  Is this terrorist leader thus claiming America follows an eastern religion, or is atheist?  That can’t be right.  American activists like Weinstein keep saying that American Christians — not Buddhists or atheists — are providing “perfect” propaganda and recruiting tools, and are responsible for endangering American lives.  Where’s the beef?

Perhaps al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second fiddle, can explain.  He recently took Arab nations to task for not defending Islamic interests:

What those Zionist Arab brother[s] are doing of torturing the Muslim prisoners in the Crusader campaign against Islam that which they call the war on terrorism is one of the reasons to receiving the grace of America…based on the American grace and the Zionist blessings.

Ah, finally, someone accusing America, though in a second-hand fashion, of being a “Crusader.”  He goes on to say:

Those are Obama’s kids and men;…Obama’s commands…uncovered for the Muslims in Palestine and everywhere his true plan that backs Israel…Is it clear for us that Obama’s policy isn’t but a new episode in the crusaders’ Zionist campaign to enslave us and humiliate us, occupy our land and steal our resources, and fight our religion and Sharia…

The Pakistani-American Army’s miserable defense for the American crusader empire is the same role that was carried out by the Indian-British Army in servitude of the crusader British empire…[and] the same [as] provided by the forces of al-Sharif Hussein—king of the Arabic Revolution who stabbed the Ottoman Empire in its back to bring victory for the crusade Britain—and it is the same role carried out by the soldiers and officers in the Islamic Maghreb to service the crusader France…[These] are the battles of Islam against Kufr…the battle of Muslims against the crusaders.

So America is a crusader…but just like Britain and France were when they fought in the region.  It would seem Zawahiri has chosen a popular pejorative for his enemy, rather than accurate characterization of their ideological position.  After all, he uses the oxymoron “crusaders’ Zionist campaign.”  That illogical characterization of “crusade” fails to support Weinstein’s accusations.

In addition, Zawahiri claims Obama’s policies — which have very specifically avoided a promotion of Christianity — are part of that campaign.  Still, maybe Zawahiri — who frequently uses the “Crusader” pejorative — will pin down America for its Christianity:

We must seek Jihad against the Jews with all of what we have, and even jihad against those who support them and especially the Americans and the Westerners, as Israel isn’t but the spear-head of the modern Crusader-Zionist campaign, and if the mujahideen in Palestine, or the West Bank or Gaza, are becoming narrowed in, then the chances are [for Jihad] are available all over the world.

Well, apparently not.  It would seem overt Christianity in the American military is not, in fact, the driving force behind US adversaries, nor is it directly endangering American lives.

The truth of the matter is that hypothetical suppositions of offending American adversaries — as proffered by Weinstein and his ilk — have never come to fruition.  While terrorist leaders have frequently called America a “crusader” against Islam, they have applied the term to anyone who has fought them, regardless of their religious or political ideology.  (Not unlike one US political party calling the other “unAmerican” simply for disagreeing.)  The term is used as a pejorative and has nothing to do with the actual conduct of the Western — and Arab — nations that have opposed al Qaeda and other extremist groups’ goals.

Might these terrorist groups latch on to a “Christian scandal” in order to generate publicity or sympathy?  Though Weinstein frequently cites that hypothetical, it has yet to occur in any significant fashion.  Still, if it did, the terrorists would be no more justified than they are now.  The claim America is on a Christianizing crusade is no more accurate than the accusations America is intentionally murdering innocent civilians in its combat operations.

Just because the enemy says something doesn’t mean it is true, nor does it mean the US has to change its conduct as a result — as Weinstein would suggest.  By his logic, the US should cease its alleged missile campaign against its adversaries in northern Pakistan, since it supposedly led to the failed car bombing in New York by Faisal Shahzad, thus endangering American lives (a point others have raised).  The US objective, then, should not be to protect freedom or do what is right; instead, America should prevent potential offense of its adversaries so they stop having a reason to threaten US interests.

Of course, that’s ludicrous — yet it is exactly what Weinstein suggests.  Presumably, he would have Christianity restricted in order to prevent non-Christian adversaries from being offended, and thus, in his mind, motivated to attack the United States.  (In reality, Weinstein uses the “endanger our troops” meme as his own “propaganda” device, as it elevates the passion and apparent gravity of his claims.  Weinstein is interested in influencing Christianity, and “concern for the troops” is merely a path to that end.)

In fact, despite Weinstein’s accusations or his manufactured hypothetical offense, the true motivation of al Qaeda and its allies has nothing to do with overt Christian conduct.

In September 2009, bin Laden clearly stated his long-standing position, and it had nothing to do with Christianity in America:

First, I say: we have shown and declared many times over more than two and a half decades that our dispute with you [is based on] your support of your allies; the Israeli occupiers of our land in Palestine. It was this stance—along with other injustices—that moved us to carry out the events of September 11…

Put the issue of your alliance with the Israelis up for debate and ask yourselves what your stance is: is your own security, blood, children, money, jobs, homes, economy, and reputation more important to you, or do you prefer the safety of the Israelis, their children, and economy?…

If you stop the war, then so be it. But otherwise, it is inevitable that we will continue our war of extermination against you on all possible fronts.

Bible references on rifle scopes and Chaplains who encourage evangelism may make for interesting American headlines (and generate income for the organization Weinstein created and runs), but it would appear bin Laden thinks they pale in comparison to the “propaganda” value or the “recruiting” power of America’s support for the state of Israel.

One could easily use Weinstein’s stereotypical logic to say America’s support for its ally Israel “endangers American troops by stirring up Muslim extremists.”  While interesting academically, such a claim is a ridiculous foundation for foreign or national security policy.  While some may legitimately debate America’s alliance with Israel, even they would likely agree appeasement of terrorists is far from a desirable policy.

Christianity is no more a “recruiting tool” for America’s adversaries than is paganism, homosexuality, or the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.  The fact there is no evidence to support the assertion, however, has not stopped Weinstein or those who follow his lead from doing so:

  • You couldn’t do a better recruiting [job] for al-Qaeda or the Taliban. – Michael Weinstein
  • We’re handing Al Qaeda a powerful recruiting tool. – Ed Brayton, MRFF ally
  • [This] provid[es] plenty of potential propaganda material for recruiting by extremists. – Chris Rodda, MRFF research assistant

These accusations are unfounded and misleading because they imply that but for the public association of Christianity with the US military, American adversaries would have no cause to fight.  They imply the motivation leading to the bombing of the World Trade Center, the attacks on the US embassies in Africa, and the attack of 9/11 has somehow faded, and it has been replaced by a desire to fight American Christianity on display in the US military.

The accusations, which have long continued, are unsupported to date by any facts.  Those who have attacked America and her interests have done so for many reasons, but none has yet stated it was because there were Christians in the US military.

Worse, Weinstein has recently moved the goalposts in his crusade against Christianity:

Islamic fundamentalists must cherish [the Reverend Franklin] Graham as a propaganda tool…There can be no doubt that his…bigotry has buttressed the direct and indirect efforts of Islamic extremists to maim, kill and otherwise spill the precious blood of our honorable young men and women in uniform…

Note Weinstein didn’t associate Graham’s “propaganda” value with his association with the military.  Instead, Graham — a civilian American citizen — is endangering American lives merely because of his beliefs.  In the past, Weinstein has asserted military associations with Christianity should be eliminated because of the danger to US forces.  Would he now make the same claim for civilians?  Must Graham be silenced because his beliefs are a “direct” support to those who “spill the precious blood” of US servicemembers, like Graham’s own son?

Weinstein has either failed to fully develop his thoughts, or he has inadvertently revealed a greater scope to his personal agenda.  First, he doesn’t care about the “precious blood” of American troops, or he would also fight the other “propaganda” provided to the enemy, and he wouldn’t devalue the sacrifice of American troops by turning their deaths into a cheap fundraising prop.  Second, consistent with his former statements, Weinstein has demonstrated that he aims not at just Christians in the military, but also Christians in America.

The accusation that something is a “recruiting tool” for American adversaries or provides “propaganda” is irrelevant.  It is simply a tool to sensationalize a topic to generate publicity, often for the purpose of fundraising for an activist agenda.  The actions of the American military should be judged on their merits with respect to the freedoms protected by the US Constitution and the strategic goals of its political leadership, not on the possible reactions by those who would deign to attack America anyway.

Those who make their choices purely based on other peoples’ reactions will end up doing exactly what those other people want.  In the past, some have called that appeasement.  Others simply call it cowardice and surrender.

The text of al Qaeda statements can be read here.