Anarchists, Bin Laden, and the Environment

Back in January, Osama bin Laden released one of his enigmatic audio recordings (in the form of a video) urging the people of the world to turn against the United States on environmental grounds, in particular that the U.S. was largely responsible for climate change.  (HOTEL TANGO to Charles Cameron for showing me where the English language transcript could be found.)

Anarchist News has just re-posted an item entitled “Environmental Jihad” (which originally appeared here) expressing dismay at Bin Laden’s posting.  On the one hand, the author, Micah White, agrees with Bin Laden’s environmental critique.  On the other hand, he admits that “hearing the ‘enemy’ express sentiments so similar to our own inner thoughts is challenging.”  “Bin Laden’s clarion call…marks the beginning of a holy war against the West that many Western environmentalists may come to endorse.”  Yet, “It is, of course, a highly suspect proposition that anyone in good conscience could rally behind bin Laden. He has blood on his hands that can never be washed off, no matter how green the water.”

Perhaps trying to psychologically wriggle himself out of agreeing with such a man, White even expresses some skepticism about Bin Laden’s actual existence, comparing him to 1984‘s enigmatic and elusive but hated Emma Goldstein.

He concludes:

There seem to be two possible scenarios that could prevent civilization’s collapse. One is that we continue the scientific-materialist project: Embrace geoengineering wholeheartedly and hope that an entirely unnatural synthetic world can save us. The other possibility – and the one that seems increasingly likely – is that a charismatic member of the mujahideen will arise to deliver a challenge that resonates with the materially poor and the spiritually wealthy of every nation of the world.

As of this writing, there are no particularly cogent comments on the piece, but I find it interesting how the ultimate superficiality of Bin Laden’s appeal is immediately evident to White, as sound as the Bin Laden’s critique arguably may be in itself.  However, I am slightly alarmed that White thinks that Bin Laden’s appeal “was the beginning of a new era of solidarity between those who have rejected consumerism and the five billion others who never had a choice.”  White presumably knows more about the environmentalist world than I, and certainly politics is seeing some very strange bedfellows these days.  That said, I’m not aware that other radical environmentalists have actually found inspiration in Bin Laden’s words.  Furthermore, the “five billion others” have yet to rally to Bin Laden’s cause on environmental grounds or others.

I’m tempted to say that this issue bears watching.  However, I bet that Bin Laden and the Salafi jihadists will not return to environmentalist issue anytime soon, so ultimately this may just be an uncomfortable moment for some people in the environmental and anarchist movements.

UPDATE 4/24: There are about 25 comments on this post now.  Most went off on a tangent, but I reprint two that are interesting, read the original posting a little differently from the way I do, and give a taste of what discussion is like on

f[…] you adbusters. ally with religious fundamentalists? you and your bourgeois luddism make me want to barf. leave the junk thought in berkeley where it belongs please, and leave radicalism to the radicals.


brilliant! why, this could be even more successful than the alliance with Stalin!

Published in: on April 24, 2010 at 10:41 AM  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. As-Sahab Media Foundation Presents
    Usama Bin Laden
    “The Way to Save the Earth”
    Released on: February 17, 2010

  2. This is an attempt by UBL to extend the jihadist frames – a form of frame alignment:

    Snow et al (1986) “Frame alignment processes, micromobilization, and movement participation,” American Sociological Review

  3. […] the original post: Anarchists, Bin Laden, and the Environment « On War and Words anarchist-news, author, dismay-at-bin, environment, expressing-dismay, laden, micah, […]

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