Understanding Bin Laden's Hot Buttons

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Aside from his specific gripes against current U.S. policy, there's a historical component to Osama bin Laden's complaints against the Western world. TIME's Scott MacLeod discusses:

TIME.com: It's plain to see why Bin Laden would try and champion the plight of the Palestinians and Iraqis, but what is his propaganda purpose in calling the U.S. "Crusaders"?

[an error occurred while processing this directive]Scott MacLeod: For Muslims, the mediaeval crusades marked a very bloody and disastrous period in their history, when Western European armies motivated by religion rampaged through Muslim lands, conquering and subjugating them and occupying their holy sites in Jerusalem. The defeat of the Crusaders by Saladdin and his reconquering of Jerusalem has always been upheld as an important milestone for Muslims in their history.

Bin Laden, in his speeches, tries to present the activities of the West in today's Arab world as a return of the Crusades, which has been drummed into Muslims and Arabs in their history books as a dark era, and one that was heroically resisted by Muslim warriors. He tries to present himself as personifying the spirit of Saladdin and others who are embraced as heroes in the Arab world for fighting the infidel.

In his most recent speech, Bin Laden twice mentioned "80 years" of humiliation at the hands of the West. To what was he referring?

There's a strong feeling in the Arab world that the West bitterly betrayed the Arabs after World War I, when it broke up the Ottoman Empire. And it was this betrayal that marked the first chapter of modern Western involvement in the Arab world.

When World War I broke out, the Middle East had been ruled for hundreds of years by the Ottoman Turks, who were allied with Germany. Around 1914, the British encouraged the Emir of Mecca, Sheikh Hussein (great grandfather of Jordan's late King Hussein), to lead a revolt against the Turks in Saudi Arabia, promising independence if he could drive them out. As Arabs see this history, they rose against the Turks and drove them out, but instead of being granted independence, the Arab world was betrayed.

First, the British had secretly accepted a proposal by the Zionist movement to create a homeland for the Jewish people in post-Ottoman Palestine, which would give a good part of the territory to a people who at that time were a minority of the population.

The second thing that happened was that in the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, the British and French agreed to divide up the Middle East between them and were mandated by the League of Nations to rule these areas, postponing independence. Needless to say, Arab nationalists have always viewed these events 80 years ago as a betrayal of promises to the Arabs, and as laying the foundations for a Jewish state by force of Western arms. And Bin Laden is trying to fashion his image as the savior who will right these perceived wrongs.