An Osama Bin Laden reader

Ten #OBL pieces from the <em>New Statesman</em> archive.

1. Great games and proxy wars (July 2001)

Should we fear the Taliban as harbingers of world destruction? Or are they merely simple young men with stylish turbans and grand delusions? Pankaj Mishra visits a ravaged land.

2. The beginning of a virtual revolution (September 2001)

The US arouses in billions of people the kind of murderous fury that led to the French and Russian Revolutions. But this time, it's on TV. By John Lloyd.

3. Why terrorism is unbeatable (February 2002)

Revolutionary nihilism of the kind embodied by al-Qaeda is not a throwback to the past but part of what it means to be modern. John Gray reviews the reaction to 11 September 2001 and argues that Americans, like the rest of us, must learn to live with such shocks.

4. Reflections on a war of ghosts (February 2002)

America, once more, is fighting in a country that it barely understands. Pankaj Mishra on a conflict where very little is as it seems.

5. Who really downed the twin towers? (April 2002)

Were the 11 September 2001 attacks actually the work of the CIA? Why is no plane visible on photos taken seconds before the Pentagon was hit? Johann Hari reports on the vogue for conspiracy theories.

6. Beyond belief (July 2003)

Al-Qaeda's apocalyptic brand of religion runs counter to the secular myths of the west. As a result, we fail to understand its essential modernity, argues John Gray.

7. The man who believes in nothing (February 2006)

Even if they disagree about what he stands for, most people assume that Osama Bin Laden is a man of conviction. Yet his statements show him to be a shameless chancer who steals most of his ideas from the west, writes Brendan O'Neill.

8. Can Obama woo the Muslim world? (June 2009)

Barack Obama went to Cairo to woo the Muslim world. But one lofty speech won't stop America from being loathed, writes Mehdi Hasan.

9. The NS Interview: Omar Bin Laden (November 2009)

An interview with one of Osama's son's. Questions included: "Do you have problems trying to get on a plane?" "What was life like in the Bin Laden household?" And "Where is your father?"

10. Why the Taliban are winning in Afghanistan (June 2010)

As Washington and London struggle to prop up a puppet government over which Hamid Karzai has no control, they risk repeating the blood-soaked 19th-century history of Britain's imperial defeat, writes William Dalrymple.

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.