My summer beach reading this year has been a little depressing. I probably should have figured this out when buying a book on the history of al-Qaeda and the plot that led to 9/11.
But it did reveal a few enlightening tidbits about just who these guys determined to kill us in the name of 72 virgins are, exactly.
Take, for example, Osama bin Laden. In his pre-psycho-terrorist, pre-Whitney Houston fantasy days, this jolly jihadist could often be found watching American television classics like "Bonanza" (his favorite) and "Fury," which was apparently about a boy and a silky black stallion. He was one of the few bin Laden boys (he was the 17th of 54 kids born to his father's 21 wives) who didn't get sent to Lebanon for schooling, and this made him stand out as one of the less worldly ones. A former childhood pal described him as "almost girlish."
After he became a scary, creepy radical fundamentalist teenager, he still found time for extracurricular hijinks, like cutting records about jihad:
"Although he was opposed to the playing of musical instruments, he organized some of his friends into an a cappella singing group. They even recorded some of their tunes about jihad, which for them meant the internal struggle to improve themselves, not make holy war. Osama would make copies and give them each a tape."
Later, when he became serious about his religion, Osama had four wives and bought a four-unit apartment building so he could keep one family in each.
When he and his cohorts decided to make the foray into Afghanistan to help fight the Soviets, they were so inept at fighting that the Afghans asked them to leave. (It's not particularly useful when you're trying to fight an invading army and the guys helping you are really just obsessing about martyring themselves, after all.)
But they stayed. And they built caves using the excavators and other heavy machinery owned by Osama's daddy's extremely wealthy construction company.
And then there's Sayyib Qutb, the exiled Egyptian with a Hitler mustache who spent a few months in the United States circa 1948 and ended up turning his poor temper into the intellectual basis of today's fundamentalist movement.
As far as I can tell, this guy was just a hugely repressed fuddy-duddy. He traveled around New York and Colorado and a few other places and wrote angrily about the people around him, turning pet peeves into an intellectual exercise. He was particularly repulsed by women and how...oh god...they tried to corrupt the men around them. Oh!
This is Qutb on football:
"The foot does not play any role in the game. Instead, each player attempts to take the ball in his hands, run with it or throw it to the goal, while the players on the other team hinder him by any means, including kicking in the stomach, or violently breaking his arms or legs...Meantime, the fans cry out, 'Break his neck! Crack his head!'"
(So horrifyingly violent, this calls for mass murder of an entire civilization!)
This is Qutb on the American woman:
"[She] knows full well of the beauties of her body, her face, her exciting eyes, her full lips, her bulging breasts, her full buttocks and her smooth legs. She wears bright colors that awaken the primitive sexual instincts, hiding nothing, but adding to that the thrilling laugh and the bold look."
This is Qutb on haircuts: "Whenever I go to a barber, I return home and redo my hair with my own hands."
(No wonder they hate us! Jihad!)
I'm not sure exactly the point of knowing all this stuff, except maybe to bring this whole global terrorism thing into an even stranger light. We're at war with a reformed Bonanza lover and failed wannabe mercenary (slash-Bobby Brown rival) who's trying to destroy civilization as we know it. And he was inspired by a sexually repressed misanthrope who hated football and wasted money on grooming.
What fucking assholes.
It would really all be quite comical if it hadn't turned out to be so tragic.