October 31, 2004



Osama bin Laden doesn't seem nearly so cocky in the unedited version of a videotape aired on al-Jazeera, complaining that the manhunt against him has hampered al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden's newest tape may have thrust him to the forefront of the presidential election, but what was not seen was the cave-dwelling terror lord talking about the setbacks al Qaeda has faced in recent months.

Officials said that in the 18-minute long tape — of which only six minutes were aired on the al-Jazeera Arab television network in the Middle East on Friday — bin Laden bemoans the recent democratic elections in Afghanistan and the lack of violence involved with it.

On the tape, bin Laden also says his terror organization has been hurt by the U.S. military's unrelenting manhunt for him and his cohorts on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

A portion of the left-out footage includes a tirade aimed at President Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, claiming the war in Iraq is purely over oil

The President should go on the air with these bits pronto, maybe even a formal address to the nation tonight or tomorrow.

OSAMA THE IMPOTENT (Amir Taheri, October 31, 2004, New York Post)

The tape is interesting for still other reasons.

First, the style: For the first time, bin Laden uses a clean, direct prose, free of blood-curdling hyperbole, childish poetics and flowery rhetoric. This may be because his message is specifically addressed at American voters rather than Islamist militants.

Second, this is a clearly political message. There are no religious motifs, no citations from the Holy Book or the Hadith and no pseudo-theological arguments. Having claimed for years that religion and politics were one, he now acknowledges that they are distinct domains. In that sense he has taken his first step toward secularization.

Third, Bin Laden appears to have abandoned his messianic pretensions. He no longer wants to save humanity from kufr (unbelief) and plant the banner of the Only True Faith on top of every capital in all continents. He is, in fact, reading an op-ed piece written in the style of Michael Moore.

FOURTH, Bin Laden is trying, rather belatedly, to attach himself to politi cal causes that might attract some Arabs. These include the Palestinian cause, a key ingredient of pan-Arab bitterness. But he also speaks of the U.S. intervention in Lebanon in 1982, forgetting the fact that the U.S. Marines and the French paras went there on behalf of the United Nations to prevent Israel from marching on Beirut to capture and kill Yasser Arafat and the entire Palestinian leadership trapped there. Nor does he mention that Arafat and his colleagues were taken to safety in an American ship under U.S. Marine escort.

His selective memory also omits the numerous instances when the Americans came to help Muslims such as in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in Kosovo.

Finally, and here is the most surprising theme of the message, bin Laden is offering the Americans a deal. To cast himself as an honest deal-maker, he takes up some of Michael Moore's themes, especially about President Bush not reacting to the 9/11 attacks fast enough.

The deal is simple, and bin Laden hammers it in more specifically: "Do not play with our security, and spontaneously you will secure yourself."

Or, it doesn't sound like him because it isn't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 31, 2004 1:02 PM

...or al Qaida commissioned a survey of registered and likely voters between Oct. 22-25 with a plus or minus 3 point margin of error in order to gauge responses to various sound bite statements before crafting the speech for Osama to deliver to the masses.

Posted by: John at October 31, 2004 11:50 PM

Should have been aired with "Band on the Run" (Muzak version) playing lyrically in the background....

Posted by: Barry Meislin at November 1, 2004 2:20 AM

Everything in the tape, including the supposed identity of the speaker, should be taken magna cum grano salis. The style of rhetoric and persuasive approach are aimed at Americans, and it is not to be taken at face value as a "State of the Jihad" report. This tape + the "American jihadi" tape = "Wouldn't it be cool to be a jihadi" + "OBL is just a reasonable man with legitimate grievances--a victim, in fact, deserving our sympathy, even support."

Posted by: fulmar at November 1, 2004 7:55 PM