video & commentary | essays about video | entire video
For several months prior to the attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, a videotape
calling Muslims to a holy war against forces described as
Crusaders and Jews circulated underground in the Arab world.
Produced on behalf of Osama bin Laden and prominently featuring
his image, words, and ideas, the tape is designed to recruit
young Arab men to journey to Afghanistan and train for a
war in defense of Islam.
The portions of the tape presented here, and the accompanying
analyses and commentaries, reveal the worldview of the bin
Laden organization and illustrate its propaganda skills.
Since the tape was made at least six months before September
11, it can contain no secret messages relating to further
attacks. Nor is it part of the propaganda war between the
United States and Osama bin Laden that has become a matter
of media controversy since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan.
This tape does not target non-Arab, non-Muslim viewers.
While a case may be made, therefore, that the decisions
of certain news organizations to limit coverage of messages
and images coming from the bin Laden camp, the various arguments
supporting these decisions have little relevance to this
tape. The excerpts and analyses offered here are intended
solely to inform the public of the mindset and propaganda techniques
of a cruel and ruthless adversary.
Following a brief, unlabeled prologue [Excerpt 1], the
tape is organized in three parts: Reel I "The Situation
of the Muslim Community"; Reel II "The Causes"; and Reel
III "The Solution."
Reel I further divides into segments labeled by country:
"The Land of the Two Holy Places," i.e., Saudi Arabia [Excerpts
2-3]; "Palestine" [Excerpts 4-6]; "Chechnya"; "Iraq" [Excerpt
7]; "Lebanon," specifically the village of "Qana"; "Indonesia";
and "Kashmir" [Excerpt 8 contains the concluding general
speech at the end of this segment].
Since the copy of the tape available for analysis has a
gap in Reel II, the only segment title available is "The
Love of This World and the Hatred of Death" [Excerpts 9-10].
The several minutes that precede Reel III contain speeches
identifying the United States as the author of the woes
of the Muslim world [Excerpt 11]. The title of this segment
Reel III divides into three segments: "Hijra (Migration)"
[Excerpts 12-14]; "Preparation" [Excerpts 15-19]; and "Jihad
(Holy War)" [Excerpts 20-23].
The excerpts add up to approximately 42 minutes, or 42%
of the entire 99-minute tape.
Richard Bulliet and Fawaz A. Gerges, General Editors
images and events captured in this video tape are graphic
and may be disturbing to viewers. While Columbia University
believes this video to be authentic, we make no representations
about the source or authenticity of the materials.