Enter your email to receive the Library of Social Science Newsletter:   
History builds on cripples and corpses
Richard A. Koenigsberg
Abdullah Azzam Abdullah Azzam
Stalin, Hitler and Mao operated according to Azzam’s philosophy. They recognized that “history” (that which is remembered) builds on slaughter—a “lofty edifice of skulls.”

The terror Bin Laden created is dwarfed by the efforts of Stalin, Hitler and Mao—whose reputations rest on a foundation of cripples and corpses.

Bin Laden’s mentor—Abdullah Azzam—has been called the “Lenin of international jihad.” An entire philosophy of history is contained within the following passage (from “Martyrs: The Building Blocks of Nations”).

Azzam: “History does not write its lines except with blood. Glory does not build its loft edifice except with skulls, Honour and respect cannot be established except on a foundation of cripples and corpses. Empires, distinguished peoples, states and societies cannot be established except with examples. Indeed, (one cannot) change reality, or change societies, without blood, sacrifices and invalids, without pure, innocent souls.”

This statement provides an introduction to the “Law of Sacrifice:” my hypothesis that ideologies become established insofar as people kill and die for them.

Azzam doesn’t beat around the bush, stating explicitly that history “writes its line in blood;” that honor and glory build upon a foundation of “cripples and corpses.” Empires, societies and states, Azzam says, are brought into being through the vehicle of blood, and sacrificial death.

What is (political) history? The creation of “invalids”—testifying to the existence or reality of some sacred ideal.

Ideals that constitute history have been called Allah, France, Great Britain, Germany, or communism (to name just a few entities in the name of which people have killed and died). The fantasy, in any case, is the same: slaughter functions to validate an ideology (and to bring “glory” to leaders who represent them).

People like Stalin and Hitler and Mao operated according to the philosophy put forth by Azzam. They recognized that history builds on a “lofty edifice of skulls;”  understood the principle that slaughter creates “history” (what is remembered). Bin Laden was a terrorist, but his efforts are dwarfed by those of Stalin, Hitler and Mao--whose reputations rest on a foundation of cripples and corpses.