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Islamophobia Watch

Jihad: An Interview with Osama bin Laden

This is an edited version of an interview with Osama bin Laden, conducted by Peter Arnett for CNN, which took place in Afghanistan in 1997. It goes without saying that we deplore acts of terrorism such as the 11 September attack on the World Trade Center, which falsely hold the people of the United States responsible for the crimes of their governments and lead to the horrific deaths of innocent civilians. Our purpose in publishing this piece is to provide an insight into the political reasoning characterising the militant Islamism which apparently provided the ideological underpinning to the attacks.

Mr bin Laden, you’ve declared a jihad against the United States. Can you tell us why? And is the jihad directed against the US government or the people of the United States?
We declared jihad against the US government, because the US government is unjust, criminal and tyrannical. It has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal, whether directly or through its support of the Israeli occupation of the Prophet’s Night Travel Land [Palestine]. And we believe the US is directly responsible for those who were killed in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq.

The mention of the US reminds us before everything else of those innocent children who were dismembered, their heads and arms cut off, in the recent explosion that took place in Qana [in Lebanon]. This US government abandoned even humanitarian feelings by these hideous crimes. It transgressed all bounds and behaved in a way not witnessed before by any power or any imperialist power in the world.

A reaction might take place as a result of the US government’s hitting Muslim civilians and executing more than six hundred thousand Muslim children in Iraq by preventing food and medicine from reaching them. So, the US is responsible for any reaction, because it extended its war against troops to civilians. This is what we say.

As for what you asked regarding the American people, they are not exonerated from responsibility, because they chose this government and voted for it despite their knowledge of its crimes in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and in other places and its support of its agent regimes who filled our prisons with our best children and scholars.

The United States government says that you are still funding military training camps here in Afghanistan for militant, Islamic fighters and that you are a sponsor of international terrorism; but others describe you as the new hero of the Arab-Islamic world. Are these accusations true? How do you describe yourself?
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in which the US had no mentionable role, but rather the credit goes to God, Praise and Glory be to Him, and the Mujahedin in Afghanistan, this collapse made the US more haughty and arrogant and it has started to look at itself as master of this world and established what it calls the new world order. It wanted to delude people that it can do whatever it wants, but it can’t do this. It levelled against me and others as many accusations as it desired and wished. It is these [accusations] that you mentioned.

The US today as a result of the arrogant atmosphere has set a double standard, calling whoever goes against its injustice a terrorist. It wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose on us agents to rule us based not on what God has revealed, and wants us to agree on all these. If we refuse to do so, it will say you are terrorists.

With a simple look at the US behaviour, we find that it judges the behaviour of the poor Palestinian children whose country was occupied – if they throw stones against the Israeli occupation, it says they are terrorists; whereas when the Israeli pilots bombed the United Nations building in Qana, Lebanon, while it was full of children and women, the US stopped any plan to condemn Israel.

Wherever we look, we find the US as the leader of terrorism and crime in the world. The US does not consider it terrorism when hundreds of thousands of our sons and brothers in Iraq died for lack of food or medicine. So, there is no base for what the US says and this saying does not affect us, because we, by the grace of God, are dependent on Him, Praise and Glory be to Him, getting help from Him against the US.

As for the last part of your question, we are fulfilling a duty which God, Praise and Glory be to Him, decreed for us. We look upon those heroes, those men who undertook to kill the American occupiers in Riyadh and Khobar [Dhahran]. We describe those as heroes and describe them as men. They have pulled down the disgrace and submissiveness off the forehead of their nation. We ask Allah, Praise and Glory be to Him, to accept them as martyrs.

The US State Department, quoting a Pakistani official, says that Ramzi Yousef, a convicted bomber in the World Trade Center in New York City [in 1993], stayed in the house you funded in Peshawar, Pakistan for those receiving training during the Afghan conflict, after the Trade Center bombing. Is that true? Did Ramzi Yousef stay in your house in Peshawar?
I do not know Ramzi Yousef. What the American government and Pakistani intelligence has been reporting is not true at all. But I say if the American government is serious about avoiding the explosions inside the US, then let it stop provoking the feelings of 1,250 million Muslims. Those hundreds of thousands who have been killed or displaced in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, do have brothers and relatives. They would make of Ramzi Yousef a symbol and a teacher. The US will drive them to transfer the battle into the United States. Everything is made possible to protect the blood of the American citizen while the bloodshed of Muslims is allowed in every place. With this kind of behaviour, the US government is hurting itself, hurting Muslims and hurting the American people.

Mr bin Laden, were you involved in financing the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City?
I have no connection or relation with this explosion.

Mr bin Laden, in a recent interview with an Arabic newspaper, you said that Arabs who fought in the Afghan war killed US troops in Mogadishu, Somalia. Can you tell us about that?
The US government went there with great pride and stayed there for some time with a strong media presence wanting to frighten people that it is the greatest power on earth. It went there with pride and with over 28,000 soldiers, to a poor unarmed people in Somalia. The goal of this was to scare the Muslim world and the whole world, saying that it [the US] is able to do whatever it desires.

Resistance started against the American invasion, because Muslims do not believe the US allegations that they came to save the Somalis. A man with human feelings in his heart does not distinguish between a child killed in Palestine or in Lebanon, in Iraq or in Bosnia. So how can we believe your claims that you came to save our children in Somalia while you kill our children in all of those places? With Allah’s grace, Muslims over there cooperated with some Arab Mujahedin who were in Afghanistan. They participated with their brothers in Somalia against the American occupation troops and killed large numbers of them. The American administration was aware of that.

After a little resistance, the American troops left after achieving nothing. They left after claiming that they were the largest power on earth. They left after some resistance from powerless, poor, unarmed people whose only weapon is their belief in Allah, the Almighty, and who do not fear the fabricated American media lies.

We learned from those who fought there, that they were surprised to see the low spiritual morale of the American fighters in comparison with the experience they had with the Russian fighters. The Americans ran away from those fighters who fought and killed them, while the latter [the Russians] were still there. If the US still thinks and brags that it still has this kind of power even after all these successive defeats in Vietnam, Beirut, Aden and Somalia, then let them go back to those who are awaiting their return.

Mr bin Laden, your family is a rich, powerful family in Saudi Arabia. Have they, or the Saudi Arabian government, asked you to stop your activities?
They have done that a lot. They have pressured us a lot, especially since a lot of our money is still in the hands of the Saudi ruling family due to activities of the our family and company [Saudi construction giant, the Bin Laden Group]. They sent me my mother, my uncle, and my brothers in almost nine visits to Khartoum, asking me to stop and return to Arabia to apologise to King Fahd. I apologised to my family kindly because I know that they were driven by force to come to talk to me. This regime wants to create a problem between me and my family and in order to take some measures against them. But, with Allah’s grace, this regime did not get its wish fulfilled. I refused to go back. They [the family] conveyed the Saudi government’s message that if I did not go back, they’ll freeze all my assets, deprive me of my citizenship, my passport, and my Saudi ID and distort my picture in the Saudi and foreign media.

They think that a Muslim may bargain on his religion. I said to them, do whatever you may wish. We are living in dignity and honour for which we thank Allah. It is much better for us to live under a tree here on these mountains than to live in palaces in the most sacred land to Allah, where injustice is so widespread.

Mr bin Laden, have Saudi agents attempted to assassinate you? Are you targeted by the US government? Are you in fact in fear of your life?
The US pressures are no secret to you. The Saudi pressures are also in response to American pressures. There were several attempts to arrest me or to assassinate me. This has been going on for more than seven years. With Allah’s grace, none of these attempts succeeded. This is a proof in itself to Muslims and to the world that the US is incapable, and weaker than the picture it wants to draw in people’s minds. A believer must rest assured that life is only in the hands of Allah, and sustenance is also in the hands of Allah, the Almighty.

As for fearing for one’s life, it is difficult to explain to you how we think of ourselves, unless you have full belief. We believe that no one could take out one breath of our written life as ordained by Allah. We see that getting killed in the cause of Allah is a great honour wished for by our Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). He said in his Hadith: “I swear to Allah, I wish to fight for Allah’s cause and be killed, I’ll do it again and be killed, and I’ll do it again and be killed.” Being killed for Allah’s cause is a great honour achieved by only those who are the elite of the nation. We love this kind of death for Allah’s cause as much as you like to live. We have nothing to fear for. It is something we wish for.

What are your future plans?
You’ll see them and hear about them in the media, God willing.