May 21, 2015
Osama bin Laden liked the same books as your Uncle Jeff
by Alex Shephard
Yesterday, the United States Government declassified a trove of documents acquired by Navy SEALS uring their raid of Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound. According to CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani was long-planned and the timeing was unrelated to Seymour Hersh‘s recent provocative counter-narrative of bin Laden’s assassination—one of Hersh’s main assertions was that the information gathered from the raid were forged and that the evidence suggested bin Ladin had little influence in post-9/11 al-Qaeda.
Whether or not you buy Hersh’s narrative or the CIA’s assertion that the government’s document dump was unrelated to said narrative, there’s a lot of interesting—if relatively inconsequential—stuff, especially when it comes to bin Ladin’s reading material, which was embargoed until yesterday.
The books in question were digital files, and were found on computers, thumb-drives, or discs. Presumably by necessity (as it’s the only aesthetic defense), bin Laden was that rarest of readers: someone who read on a computer, rather than from a print book or on an ereader. Most of the attention paid to bin Laden’s library has focused on the higher profile names who had a place in bin Laden’s library—Bob Woodward and Noam Chomsky being the most renowned—or the incongruities—bin Laden possessed a book focusing on suicide prevention and books covering 9/11 conspiracies
For the most part, bin Laden’s library is dominated by what you could describe as “Uncle Books.” While “Dad Books” are sweeping, somewhat overgeneralized historical works that sand away rough edges and meld moving, if relatively unsubstantiated claims of American exceptionalism with banalities that suggest that, under the skin of every man likes a Great Man, if only he could learn how to Mold His Genius and Devote Everything To Securing His Greatness, “Uncle Books” are all about the invisible structures that prevent men from being great. Osama bin Laden loved Uncle Books—books about military tactics and fuckups, the Illuminati, contradictory conspiracy theories; books about ancient history that are actually about how contemporary society is decaying and about to collapse; books that suggest wide-learning but generally reflect an all-consuming, uniform paranoia. These are books whose subtext explains why your Uncle Jeff got divorced from your Aunt Carol and moved back in with your dad’s folks—they also explain why your Uncle Jeff keeps mailing you fireworks and Army patches.
According to BuzzFeed:
“Of the 38 full-length English-language books he had in his possession, about half of them were conspiracy theory books” about the Illuminati, Freemasons, and other conspiracy topics. Texts listed on the “bookshelf” include Bloodlines of the Illuminati by the American conspiracy theorist Fritz Springmeier; The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 by the 9/11 conspiracy theorist David Ray Griffin; and The Secrets of the Federal Reserve, a book by the Holocaust denier and anti-Semite Eustace Mullins.
Most of the other half—excluding the two that have gotten the most attention, those by Woodward and Chomsky—also reflect that paranoia, though more indirectly. In other words, Osama bin Ladin likes the books your Uncle buys from the discount racks at Barnes & Noble.
Melville House publishes none of the following books, which were found to be in Osama bin Laden’s library:
- The 2030 Spike by Colin Mason
- A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam by I. A. Ibrahim
- America’s Strategic Blunders by Willard Matthias
- America’s “War on Terrorism” by Michel Chossudovsky
- Al-Qaeda’s Online Media Strategies: From Abu Reuter to Irhabi 007 by Hanna Rogan
- The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast
- The Best Enemy Money Can Buy by Anthony Sutton
- Black Box Voting, Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century by Bev Harris
- Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier
- Bounding the Global War on Terror by Jeffrey Record
- Checking Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions by Henry Sokolski and Patrick Clawson
- Christianity and Islam in Spain 756-1031 A.D. by C. R. Haines
- Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies by Cheryl Benard
- Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
- Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Committee of 300 by John Coleman
- Crossing the Rubicon by Michael Ruppert
- Fortifying Pakistan: The Role of U.S. Internal Security Assistance (only the book’s introduction) by C. Christine Fair and Peter Chalk
- Guerilla Air Defense: Antiaircraft Weapons and Techniques for Guerilla Forces by James Crabtree
- Handbook of International Law by Anthony Aust
- Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky
- Imperial Hubris by Michael Scheuer
- In Pursuit of Allah’s Pleasure by Asim Abdul Maajid, Esaam-ud-Deen and Dr. Naahah Ibrahim
- International Relations Theory and the Asia-Pacific by John Ikenberry and Michael Mastandano
- Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II by William Blum
- Military Intelligence Blunders by John Hughes-Wilson
- Project MKULTRA, the CIA’s program of research in behavioral modification. Joint hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources, United States Senate, Ninety-fifth Congress, first session, August 3, 1977. United States. Congress. Senate. Select Committee on Intelligence.
- Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky
- New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin
- New Political Religions, or Analysis of Modern Terrorism by Barry Cooper
- Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward
- Oxford History of Modern War by Charles Townsend
- The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy
- Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower by William Blum
- The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly Hall (1928)
- Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins
- The Taking of America 1-2-3 by Richard Sprague
- Unfinished Business, U.S. Overseas Military Presence in the 21st Century by Michael O’Hanlon
- The U.S. and Vietnam 1787-1941 by Robert Hopkins Miller
Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.