In a new tape posted to an Islamic forum on Friday, Al Qaeda leader and world public enemy #1 Osama bin Laden departs from his usual calls for death and destruction in order to lament the vast and damaging effects of climate change.
"The number of victims caused by climate change is very big," says bin Laden (though officially the voice has yet to be verified as his). "Bigger than the victims of wars." It may seem like the terrorist is softening in his old age, but analysts have been quick to suggest that this latest recording smacks of desperation: anything to recruit supporters and regain flagging support, and with tens of millions of Pakistanis affected by recent flooding, the timing certainly makes sense.
It is certainly interesting to see such a source talking up the negative effects of climate change, when such non-terrorist luminaries as, say, the U.S. Congress can only continue muddying the conversation with things like Climategate and other bits of smokescreen. And this isn't the first time bin Laden brought up the subject in one of his Dispatches From an Afghani Cave: in January he devoted almost an entire message sent to Al-Jazeera to climate change. "All industrial nations, mainly the big ones, are responsible for the crisis of global warming," he said. Then too, experts responded with little but sarcasm.
It's true that a message of compassion for children dying in floods and the like sounds about as hollow as it possibly could coming from an indiscriminate mass murderer, but it does bring up a question we raised here earlier regarding Islam and environmental terrorism. If the most infamous terrorist in the world really thinks the world needs to fight climate change and mixes that message with humanitarian messages rather than attack mantras, one could (perhaps naively) see it as, well, progress. The Qu'ran's messages of "reverence toward nature" could start to resonate louder than twisted and obscene recruitment toward violence.
“The huge climate change is affecting our nation and is causing great catastrophes throughout the Islamic world,” bin Laden says on the recording. “[This] calls for generous souls and brave men to take serious and prompt action to provide relief for their Muslim brothers in Pakistan.” In his January recording, bin Laden blamed industrialized nations for their role in global warming, specifically calling out George W. Bush for his role and his apparent pandering to corporate interests.
A less-than-subtle and desperate move to bolster support in bin Laden's backyard? Probably. Valid points, though? Definitely.