Professor Miller is not a believer in the 9/11 conspiracy theory, but neither does he believe Osama Bin Laden was the 9/11 mastermind.
I was fortunate recently to speak to UC Davis Professor Flagg Miller after a talk he gave regarding the audio tapes of Osama Bin Laden he has been translating. I was particularly interested in the professor’s take on several conspiracy related items I’ve read on the net. First some background from Science Daily:
More than 1,500 audiocassette tapes taken in 2001 from Osama bin Laden’s former residential compound in Qandahar, Afghanistan, are yielding new insights into the radical Islamic militant leader’s intellectual development in the years leading up to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Flagg Miller, an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of California, Davis, and the first academic researcher to study the tapes, will present his preliminary observations in a lecture at the Center of Modern Oriental Studies in Berlin on Sept. 18. The first research paper stemming from Miller’s study of the tapes will appear in the October issue of the journal Language & Communication.
… The audiocassettes, along with a number of videotapes, were first acquired by a CNN producer and Afghani translator in the weeks following the Taliban’s evacuation from Qandahar on Dec. 7, 2001. After the FBI declined stewardship of the tapes, CNN turned the collection over to the Williams College Afghan Media Project, headed by anthropologist David Edwards. Edwards contacted Miller, a linguist and cultural anthropologist who studies the roles of language and poetry in contemporary Muslim reform in the Middle East. The audiocassettes are now at Yale University, where they are being cleaned, digitized and described; the process will take several years to complete.
… The tapes date from the late 1960s through 2000 and feature more than 200 speakers from more than a dozen countries in the Middle East, Indian subcontinent and Africa. The speakers, identified on cassette labels, include prominent scholars as well as some of al-Qaida’s most important strategic thinkers and operational leaders. The recordings include sermons, political speeches, lectures, formal interviews, exchanges between students and teachers, telephone conversations, radio broadcasts, recordings of live battles and Islamic anthems, as well as trivia contests and studio-recorded audio dramas.
Twenty of the audiocassettes contain recordings of bin Laden; 12 of these include material previously unpublished in any language, according to Miller. … – sd
Does Al Qaeda mean, “the toilet”?
My first question was about something I read on WhatReallyHappened which seemed to indicate that no Arab group would ever call itself “Al Qaeda”.
“Ana raicha Al Qaeda” is colloquial for “I’m going to the toilet”. A very common and widespread use of the word “Al-Qaeda” in different Arab countries in the public language is for the toilet bowl.
Professor Miller replied:
“… as i recall, I have heard an expression similar to this now and then… but Arabic speakers have many more neutral and positive associations with the term al-qa`ida than they do negative, and context means everything for words that can take on so many different meanings. The argument that one off-beat phrase like this cans the whole possibility that al-qa`ida could be a term for a militant movement doesn’t make much sense.”
Professor Miller replied via email that the answer was “yes” to all of the following of my summary points from the remaining “conspiracy questions” I asked in person and via email:
Was Bin Laden sick in a Dubai hospital in 2001?
- There was no indication on the 20 tapes of Bin Laden that he was ill in 2001 or that he was in a hospital in Dubai.
Was Bin Laden involved in the 9/11 attacks?
- While he does not rule it out, nothing on the 20 tapes he has where Bin Laden is speaking indicates Bin Laden was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
What about Obama’s funeral notice?
- Professor Miller discounts the Egyptian article about Bin Laden’s supposed funeral. He believes this was a ruse to deflect US anger.
What about Bhutto’s claim Bin Laden was murdered by Omar Shiekh?
- Professor Miller discounts the claim by Benazir Bhutto (David Frost interview on 11/2/2007) that Bin Laden was murdered by Omar Shiekh.
What about Bin Laden’s early denial of involvement in the 9/11 attacks?
- Professor Miller is aware of Bin Laden’s early denial (CNN), but believes Bin Laden was lying when he said he was not involved in the attacks.
Did professor Miller hear a genuine Bin Laden confession regarding 9/11 involvement?
- Professor Miller has heard audio recordings from 2003 (not in the collection he has) which he believes to be genuine Bin Laden, and in which Bin Laden claims responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.
Does the professor believe Bin Laden was the 9/11 mastermind?
The first question asked during Q&A came from someone I did not know who was sitting next to me. He asked about the 9/11 conspiracy theory as it relates to Bin Laden being the mastermind of the attacks. Was Bin Laden the mastermind?
That is consistent with what Dick Cheney has said. Surprised?
Professor Miller pointed out that the person who has confessed to being the mastermind is in US custody … and that he has been tortured. He also stated that he was not letting Bin Laden off the hook, however, and that in his own view, the claims of the conspiracy theorists could be debunked.
Is professor Miller working with the FBI?
No, he was approached to help them, but the FBI was understanding that a religious studies professor’s academic work would not benefit by such an alliance.
Does he believe Bin Laden is dead now?
Yes, perhaps so, because it was strange that Bin Laden did not release any new audio statement regarding the recent US election results. In other words, where is the Osama on Obama tape?
Why did the FBI release the tapes?
One person wondered during Q&A why the FBI wouldn’t want to keep the tapes as intelligence. Professor Miller said he did not know why the tapes were released.
Will anyone be able to hear the tapes?
The tapes will eventually be available via Yale, the current owners, in a special collection, but not as something that can be downloaded via the Internet.
There are some other things I recall from the talk that I’ll add to this as I get time, but I wanted to put this up tonight.