Not Quite Oprah's Book Club

Bin Laden & Gitmo detainee reading lists

By Robert A. George
|  Thursday, Sep 17, 2009  |  Updated 5:33 AM PDT
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Not Quite Oprah's Book Club

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Guantanmo detainees sit together inside a common area -- where apparently they are allowed access to all sorts of reading material, including most popular with prisoners, the Harry Potter books.

Just in time for the beginning of fall and the start of school (alas, delayed a bit because of translation problems), Osama bin Laden releases a tape that doesn't just insult President Obama and declare that Americans have lost the Afghan war. 

Nope, Professor bin Laden shares with Americans his preferred reading list.  

1. “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” by Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and John J. Mearsheimer, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. Published in 2007, the book argues that uncritical American support for Israel, shaped by powerful lobbying organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, does grave harm to both American and Israeli interests.

2. "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” in which former President Jimmy Carter gives his views about how best to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, and criticizes Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the territories.

3. The third book referred to on the tape is called “The Apology of a Hired Killer,” according to the SITE translation...While there seems to be no book of that title and description, at least one analyst has suggested that Mr. bin Laden may have been reading “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” by John Perkins.

BIG surprise!  (Not!)

Bin Laden is partial to books that are critical of Israel -- and another that, implicitly, questions Western capitalism. In short, there's not too much, uh, variety in this list. You'd think that bin Laden might want Americans to learn a little about Islamic/Islamist beliefs. No suggestions to read the Koran or other Muslim texts or history lessons? Something to help Americans broaden their horizons?  Instead, it's a bunch of Western books?  Even the New York Times Book Review is a bit more cosmopolitan. 

Ironically, bin Laden's book list comes out at an interesting time -- barely a week after the Gitmo Amazon List (not its real name) was also "released" by journalist Besan Sheikh.  Believe it or not, an American president's book is also on the list of books most requested by "guests" at Guantanamo Bay:

1. The Harry Potter novels

2. Cervantes' Don Quixote

3. Barack Obama's Dreams from my Father.

No reason was given for these choices, which are followed in popularity by Muslim religious volumes.

The Muslim religious volumes aren't much of a surprise. The Top Three, however, are a shocker.  Clearly, jihadis (or, we must be sure to say now, accused jihadis) are interested in learning something about both American politics (the president's autobiography) and Western literature -- classic (Don Quixote) and contemporary (Harry Potter). Who would have guessed?

Wouldn't it be great to listen in on the detainees book discussion group?

On second thought, maybe not. 

In any event, one thing is clear about these two lists: Despite what many say about the treatment of detainees at Gitmo, they are getting an introduction to the diversity of Western culture.  Alas, poor bin Laden: Stuck in his cave somewhere in AfPak, he gets stuck with rather boring anti-Israel/anti-Western tracts.  

Osama, surrender yourself! You might learn something!!!   

New York writer Robert A. George blogs at Ragged Thots. Follow him on Twitter. 

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