The Left

Substance and Bluster

Peter Preston, in his review of Bruce Lawrence’s collection of Osama bin Laden’s writings makes a few interesting points:

Sometimes, as when analysing Israel’s hold on Washington policy-makers or dissecting the rottenness of too many Arab regimes, bin Laden could be launching a standard New Statesman tirade. Sometimes, he is a gentle interpreter of a gentle religion, able to quote widely soothing verse. Sometimes, he raves, the fundamentalist promising hellfire tomorrow. But break down the stew into its basic ingredients and there’s always substance as well as bluster.

Preston has noticed that there’s a convergence between the political perspectives of sections of the left, and Al Qaeda. At times Al Qaeda simply strategically frames its arguments in terms which deliberately echo the preoccupations of western leftists. That doesn’t mean that Bin Laden and the left genuinely share an analysis. It simply means that Bin Laden can do the sort of rhetoric that plays well with some of his audience in the West.

But as Preston observes, there is a degree of genuine commonality of analysis between Al Qaeda and sections of the Western left. Such as the shared view that Israel has a “hold on Washington policy-makers“, for example. I wonder if that’s an example – in Peter Preston’s head – of “substance” or “bluster”.

Finally, there’s this:

“[Bin Laden] is formidable, an image, a force. If you’re looking for a British parallel, though their policies have nothing in common, the politician he most reminds me of is Tony Benn, convincing as always about a golden past that has been betrayed, unveiling statistical amazements and historical myths with equal facility, always seeming safe within a cocoon of certitude.”

I think that’s a trifle unfair.

Unlike Benn, Bin Laden has not signed Galloway’s petition, alongside a number of French fascists, for the release of Tariq Aziz.

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