Why does Osama bin Laden do anything? Because he thinks it will stir up animosity against his enemies. In a recent threatening tape recording, the Saudi arch terrorist said, “All industrial nations, mainly the big ones, are responsible for the crisis of global warming. This is a message to the whole world about those who are causing climate change, whether deliberately or not, and what we should do about that.” Why did he say this? I believe for two reasons. First, he is attempting to blame yet another global problem on the United States and the Western (non-Islamic) world, to bolster his argument that such countries and their way of life should be destroyed. It may be true that the US contributes disproportionally to global warming, but I doubt you would find anybody who would seize upon that as a reason why the entire country should be annihilated. Secondly, and more subtlely I think, he is stoking political discontent in Western democracies, especially the United States, over the contentious nature of global warming. President Obama and others currently in power or favor in the United States want to address climate change. US conservatives, on the other hand, who oppose Obama’s initiatives almost without exception, have been more closely identified with individuals and groups who deny global warming (or deny that it is caused by man) than have US liberals. By mentioning global warming in a terrorist tape, Osama is handing opponents and deniers of global warming a political tool; he hopes they will say, “Look! Osama bin Laden, our arch enemy, is in favor of doing something about climate change! And guess what? Barack Obama and Al Gore agree with him! How can we support a policy that Osama bin Laden is in favor of?” As usual, however, Osama fundamentally misjudges and oversimplifies the political processes of Western democracy, which is why his message appears so transparent and ham-handed. I don’t think Osama bin Laden really cares about the environment, nor do I think the invitation to link his position to that of politicians who favor doing something about global warming will be very successful.
Furthermore, note the specific connection Osama makes between global warming policy and George W. Bush, who, regardless of how Americans felt about him, was widely criticized throughout the world and especially in Islamic countries. One of the main world criticisms of Bush was that he refused to endorse the Kyoto Treaty, a move that angered many nations in Europe, Asia and elsewhere. As Osama has long painted Bush as the devil incarnate, the fact that Bush is perceived to have done nothing substantive about global warming, and in doing so getting out-of-step with most world opinion, is yet another epithet to fling at Bush. Considering that Osama’s tape-recorded pronouncements don’t seem to have much effect except on his own devoted followers, I wouldn’t expect his inclusion of environmental messages in his threats to have any serious consequence one way or another.
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