Osama bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America’ Goes Viral 21 Years Later — on TikTok
Like famous @drill tweet about the terrorist group ISIS, it was noted: “You should not hand it over to them under any circumstances.” rhetoric, more than a few people are willing to give al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden credit for his 2002 polemic against the United Statespublished to explain the ideology that led him to orchestrate the September 11 attacks.
“I want everyone to stop what they’re doing right now and go read – it’s literally two pages – and read ‘A Letter to America,’” TikTok user Lynette Adkins said in a video posted to the platform on Tuesday , referring to the title Bin Laden often gives to the text. “Come back here and let me know what you think. Because I feel like I’m having an existential crisis right now, and that’s true for a lot of people. So I just need someone else to feel this too.”
Commenters were also impressed with the document. “Read it… my eyes have been opened,” wrote one. “Read our entire existence for filth and he did NOT miss it,” said another of bin Laden’s criticism of the US. The clip itself went viral, with other young TikTokers also approvingly sharing the letter and encouraging followers to read it. “We’ve been lied to all our lives, I remember seeing people cheering when Osama was found and killed.” wrote a 25-year-old user who posted the letter in full. “I was a kid and it confused me. It still confuses me today. The world deserves better than what this country has done to them.”
A year after September 11, Bin Laden noted in his message that he was trying to answer two questions that had plagued the American media since that terrible day: “Why are we fighting and resisting you?” and “What are we calling you to and what do we want from you?” The first part is certainly the most relevant to the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as it castigates the US for helping to establish and maintain a Jewish state in the Palestinian territories. “The creation and perpetuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals,” bin Laden argued. “Every person whose hands have been soiled in contributing to this crime must pay the price, and pay it heavily.”
Bin Laden went on to outline how the oppression of Palestine should be ‘avenged’, then questioned Western imperialism and hegemony in broader terms, before shifting to a justification for killing civilians in his jihad. “The American people are the ones who pay the taxes that finance the planes that bomb us in Afghanistan, the tanks that attack and destroy our homes in Palestine, the armies that occupy our lands in the Arabian Gulf, and the fleets that maintain the blockade . of Iraq,” he wrote. “This is why the American people cannot be innocent of all the crimes that Americans and Jews have committed against us.”
Although some of Bin Laden’s statements would not have been out of place in mainstream American politics of the time – for example, he takes the US to task for not signing the Kyoto Protocol treaty on limiting greenhouse gas emissions – the letter is also interspersed with anti-Semitic tropes and hate speech. He repeatedly wrote that the country was dominated by Jews who “control your policies, media and economy,” while elsewhere he condemned homosexuality and fornication as “immoral” and accused the US of spreading AIDS, which he called a “Satanic American invention.” mentioned. As for what al-Qaeda wanted, bin Laden said the US should abandon its culture of “hypocrisy” and become an Islamic nation.
The top Google search result for ‘Letter to America’ points to a page on the website of The Guardianwho published it in 2002. For a while on Wednesday, social media-driven interest in the text made it the publication’s most popular story — but then the outlet removed the letter and replaced it with a short message: “This page previously showed a document containing, in translation, the full text of Osama bin Laden’s “letter to the American people,” as reported in the Observer on Sunday, November 24, 2002,” it reads. “The document, which was published here the same day, was removed on November 15, 2023.” No other explanation is given.
The removal sparked even more discussion on TikTok and X (formerly Twitter), where people questioned the editorial decision asked for other links to the document. “Fortunately, they cannot erase our memories, or undo our further radicalization,” wrote one X user, saying it was “not a coincidence.” The guard removed the article after it made the rounds online. ‘They really want us to remain ignorant’ wrote another. A third reader argued that Bin Laden ‘wasn’t the bad guy’. But many were shocked to see sympathy for – or agreement with – the terrorist who masterminded September 11. “These so-called TikTok leftists now praising Osama Bin Laden?” tweeted one person in apparent disbelief. “How do you become radicalized to be ridiculous?”
If anything, it should be a sign of how polarized and angry Americans have become over a conflict in the Middle East that has already claimed thousands of lives, and the role the US has played in the region for decades. You know the situation is getting dire when, for some people involved in the debate, an extremist mass murderer starts to make sense.