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Osama Bin Laden Loved Reading Conspiracy Theories and Noam Chomsky Books

A recently declassified partial list of materials seized in the raid that killed the terrorist leader reveals some of his preoccupations.

by Tony Tulathimutte
21 May 2015, 5:00am

The media is still debating this month's piece of big Osama bin Laden news: the long (and disputed) piece by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh accusing the Obama administration of lying about basic facts surrounding the raid that killed the world's most infamous terrorist. In the story, Hersh quotes one anonymous source as saying that there was no "treasure trove" of documents retrieved in the raid, as government officials have long claimed—and perhaps partially in response to that, on Wednesday the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released "Bin Laden's Bookshelf," which purports to be a (partial) list of documents and books found at the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

It's fun to imagine Bin Laden reading to pass time in hiding, stretched out on an IKEA POÄNG and eating white cheddar Pirate's Booty. Notably, he doesn't read any fiction (Jihadi Potter?) or pop nonfiction (He's Just Not That Into Jews?). The bulk of his reading list is just what you'd expect: articles about al Qaeda, dry treatises on US foreign policy, ominous documents about French nuclear waste and antiaircraft weaponry, and the writings of Sayyid Qutb (who is often credited as an ideological forefather of modern radical Islamism).

But some of it is weirder:

A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, by I. A. Ibrahim

There was an actual Qur'an at the compound too, of course, but sometimes even religious extremists want the Cliff's Notes version of their faith, I guess. The cover illustration I found—a Qur'an rocketing out of Earth's orbit—isn't doing much for anyone's understanding of Islam, but it did enhance my respect for graphic designers.

"Website Claims Steve Jackson Foretold 9/11"

Do you remember in seventh grade when your skin looked like baked ziti and you combed through every issue of InQuest in search of something even cooler than Magic: The Gathering? Then you might be familiar with Illuminati: New World Order, the irreverent collectible-card trading game by Steve Jackson Games, set in a world where every conspiracy theory is true.

Apparently someone in Abbottabad was having good old-fashioned internet lolz at this blog post on the geek news site ICv2, which reported on the claim that certain I:NWO cards predicted 9/11. Of course, we've been through conspiracy theories like this with the X-Files spinoff, the Wingdings font, The Simpsons, and VICE itself. This, along with the fact that the Delta Force: Xtreme 2 video-game guide and "GameSpot Videogame Guide" were also at the compound, leads us to the alarming conclusion that Osama was sort of a dork.

A Bunch of Conspiracy Theory Books

You can chalk up that I:NWO article to Bin Laden's glee at reading about his own handiwork, but the truth is the guy just loved conspiracies: His bookshelf included Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier; Black Box Voting: Ballet Tampering in the 21st Century by Bev Harris, about ballot tampering; Conspirators' Hierarchy by John Coleman, about the Committee of 300; Secrets of the Federal Reserve by noted antisemitic gasbag Eustace Mullins; and The Taking of America 1-2-3 by Richard Sprague, about the Kennedy assassination.

God, I love the idea of Bin Laden staying up all night late reading AboveTopSecret.com, taking a sick pull off his Pinnacle Pro weed vape, and then going on IRC and being like, "OMG jet fuel really can't melt steel beams! Wheels within wheels, man."

Hegemony or Survival and Necessary Illusions, by Noam Chomsky

These two books by the legendary leftist thinker and linguist Noam Chomsky indicate that maybe Bin Laden assumed the enemy of his enemy was his friend. Or maybe he just needed something dense to read to help him get to sleep at night.

Adobe Acrobat manual

"But if the manual is in PDF format, how do I open it if I don't know how to use Acrobat yet??? DEATH TO AMERICA!"

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