A trove of information seized during the 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound was declassified yesterday. In total, 266 English-language books, U.S. government documents, and think tank reports were found in Bin Laden’s Pakistan hideaway. And among the documents recovered was a report from Heritage Foundation expert Jim Phillips.
Phillips’ report, “The Evolving Al-Qaeda Threat,” is a testimony he gave in 2006 before the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on terrorism.
The key to defeating Al Qaeda, Phillips argued, is to discredit and defeat its ideology — not just to target Al Qaeda leaders. So a two-pronged approach is necessary to truly defeat the terrorist network: we must confront them not only on the battlefield but in the ideological war of ideas.
“The revelation made me feel queasy and surreal,” Phillips said of this uninvited notoriety:
Queasy because I was shocked at how much attention Bin Laden evidently paid to think tank analyses and Washington debates on counterterrorism strategy. I hope that anything I wrote did not help him. Also surreal, because I have been reading his writings and video transcripts since before 9/11 and it is odd to think that he also was reading mine.
In a way, the discovery of Phillips’ report among Bin Laden’s reading materials is a testament to the power of ideas. Heritage works to ensure that our analyses, grounded in the principles of the American founding, have as broad an audience as possible, whether we’re making the case for economic reform or for defeating Al-Qaeda.
In his testimony, Phillips quoted conservative thinker Richard Weaver’s dictum that “Ideas have consequences” and explained how Muslims must be convinced that Bin Laden’s ideas have bad consequences, not just for the United States or non-Muslims, but for Muslims themselves.