Seven Stories Press; 106 pp.
Review by Joshua Sperber
The salient contradiction characterizing the mainstream media has become far more pronounced since September 11. That is, the conflict between disseminating corporate propaganda—a raison d’etre whose aims are largely consistent with those of U.S. global domination—and the fear of undermining its perceived credibility by not acknowledging actual events, has been heightened by the emergence of a visibly violent reality in which U.S. complicity is nearly impossible to deny. This has led to a marked increase of radical coverage in the mainstream news media on the one hand, and to an outbreak of nonsensical pseudo- explanations of historical phenomena on the other.
As’ad AbuKhalil’s Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New "War on Terrorism" is an important rebuttal to many of the notions emerging from the latter’s arena. While AbuKhalil demystifies ubiquitous myths concerning the Islamic world and exposes numerous U.S. hypocrisies regarding its professed concern for democracy and human rights, his most important service is to discredit the view that the current conflict constitutes a "clash of civilizations."
AbuKhalil easily dismantles this idea and its implications of a homogenous and incorrigibly irrational Islamic mentality, by recalling movements like Arab Nationalism—the massively popular, progressive, and secular movement headed by Egyptian leader Jamal Abdul-Nasser. The assumption underlying the "clash of civilizations" line, that Islamic fanaticism is reflective of that civilization’s inherent characteristics, is particularly cruel, given that the Islamic world’s democratic movements have historically been undermined by the West and that rather than their fanatical replacements typifying uniquely Islamic traits, they evidence the kind of regimes Washington prefers.
The book’s glaring liability is that, in explaining U.S. motives, it at times elevates a somewhat abstracted "Islamophobia" above concrete and historically consistent economic exigencies and behaviors. Although certainly real, U.S. "Islamophobia" cannot explain American attacks on Central or South America, or other non-Islamic regions that have asserted their economic independence, nor can it account for the Japan-bashing that accompanied World War II and Pearl Harbor’s commemorations. AbuKhalil’s polemic also loses steam when he places U.S. hostility to Arab nationalism within the context of the Cold War, without acknowledging that U.S. hostilities to Third World socialism have outlasted the Soviet Union. That the Cold War justified the enormous expenditures the nascent military industrial complex created and relies on, and was a replacement to World War II, and has been followed by a largely unpopular War on Drugs, suggests that any attempt to place the War on Terrorism within historical context must give primacy to a consistent economic policy whose fulfillment requires perpetual war.
Just the same, Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New "War on Terrorism" is a cogent refutation of pervasive and misleading myths that have found a use value in today’s retrogressive and increasingly antipodean ideological climate.
Joshua Sperber recently graduated from San Francisco State, majoring in 20th century European history.