January 25, 2006


Al Qaeda's Big Boast (DANIEL BENJAMIN and STEVEN SIMON, 1/25/06, NY Times)

The author of the 9/11 attacks did not, of course, think that his musings would jump-start a negotiation. Had Americans instead listened with the ears of those for whom the message was intended - Muslims around the world - they would have heard something very different. Instead of a weak Osama bin Laden, they would have heard a magnanimous one who could offer a truce because "the war in Iraq is raging, and the operations in Afghanistan are on the rise in our favor."

As Osama said himself: "...when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse." With Iraqis chasing al Qaeda through the streets in anger and top guys being Hellfired in Pakistan, a plea for truce makes you the weak horse.

General sees rift in Iraq enemy (Rick Jervis, 1/26/06, USA TODAY)

A deepening rift between radical foreign-led fighters and native Iraqi insurgents has turned violent, the top U.S. intelligence officer in Iraq says. That creates an opportunity for American forces to try to persuade local guerrillas to put down their weapons and join the political process, he says.
Iraqi soldiers arrest an insurgent following a raid in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, on Jan. 24. Iraqi soldiers arrest an insurgent following a raid in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, on Jan. 24.
Ali Yussef, AFP/Getty Images

"Now you actually have a wedge, or a split, between the Sunni population and al-Qaeda in Iraq," said Maj. Gen. Richard Zahner, deputy chief of staff for intelligence for multinational forces in Iraq. "It poses a significant crossroads for these groups as they look at where they head."

Al-Qaida Is Losing: There's desperation in Osama's voice. (Christopher Hitchens, Jan. 24, 2006, Slate)
I once hypothesized that Osama Bin Laden might be dead. The induction went like this: Proof of life is easy to furnish, but some of the tapes allegedly showing him could easily have been cobbled from earlier releases. Ergo, it mattered to al-Qaida to demonstrate that he was alive. Yet they lacked the ability to demonstrate it. Furthermore, Bin Laden used to be a highly loquacious man, pronouncing on everything from East Timor to Iraq, and seemed at a crucial juncture to have gone quiet.

This reasoning proved inadequate when he popped up during the last U.S. election and made a series of contemporary references, mainly (and ill-advisedly) drawn from Michael Moore's dreadful Fahrenheit 9/11. And we are now assured that the latest audiotape delivered to Al Jazeera has been authenticated also. If we suppose this to be true, then it nonetheless seems to be further evidence that al-Qaida is, as I argued last week, facing a very serious crisis.

Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, there were arrogant and megalomaniac statements from men like Suleiman Abu-Ghaith, spokesman for al-Qaida, saying that this "storm" of violence would not cease falling, and warning all Muslims living in the West to avoid air travel and tall buildings. Then there came all kinds of bluster about how Iraq would be turned into a sea of fire if one coalition foot was allowed across the border. Then there was a long silence. And then the truce offers began, of which the second, delivered in a somewhat thin and reedy voice, was last week's.

We're still betting on dead at Tora Bora.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 25, 2006 9:56 PM

oh i'm going to read the nyt for accurate reporting on the wot. guffaw. forget it pinch, you screwed the pooch permanently and no one is going to read your rag except for a laugh.

Posted by: toe at January 25, 2006 10:19 PM

Osama's more likely a "wee course" for the beetles of Tora Bora, actually.

Posted by: ras at January 25, 2006 10:55 PM

Actually, Osama's been a weak horse since the afternoon of 9/11, when he went into hiding. Had he been a strong horse, he would have come forth to receive the accolades of aggrieved Arabs the world over. Arafat's two-step that day showed just how "strong" bin Laden was.

Posted by: ratbert at January 25, 2006 11:07 PM

> We're still betting on dead at Tora Bora.

Thank you! I feared I might be the only one left who still considered that a possibility. It would be better (or at least more immediately gratifying) to have a body, of course, but... one audiotape a year?

I've done my best to resist all the conspiracy theories that have come down the pike, but it does almost seem as though these tapes are too good to be true, what with boiling down to "listen to your leftists; they understand our grievances (and they know where we're coming from when we topple your skyscrapers and vow to destroy your nation and drive the Jews into the sea)." I guess as long as there are "useful idiots," someone will be willing to put them to use.

Posted by: Guy T. at January 25, 2006 11:34 PM

It is too early to say how this tape will affect Muslim opinion, but there is no doubt that Mr. bin Laden's strategy has been paying off. According to a poll released last month by Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland and Zogby International, when Muslims in several countries were asked what aspect of Al Qaeda they "sympathize" with most, 39 percent said it was because the group confronted the United States. Nearly 20 percent more sympathized because it "stands up for Muslim causes," which is really just a polite way of saying the same thing.

Lots of people in the U.S. seem to enjoy pro athletes who trash talk against "the man" as well, though when one steps over the line and gets slapped down, you never see a groundswell of mass protest that amounts to anything. The same applies with Osama -- he may get support from people who like that he challenged the U.S. (though given Zogby's 2004 pre-election polls, I'd be wary of taking his post-9/11 poll numbers as Gospel), but none of those folks are going to go to the mat for the guy, and a larger percentage of people would rather just see him go away.

Posted by: John at January 25, 2006 11:40 PM

One wonders why the tapes always seem to be of fairly poor quality and there is no video.

Posted by: Rick T. at January 26, 2006 9:24 AM

The CIA authenticates them within minutes. So, they are clearly fake.

Posted by: Bob at January 26, 2006 10:04 AM

ras. I too think he's one with the slime on a cave wall.

Bob - You're so right.

Posted by: erp at January 26, 2006 10:23 AM

If only Osama would say something, well, contemporary - like mentioning on Nancy Pelosi's hairdo, or asking Tereza for a new vindaloo recipe.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 26, 2006 11:09 AM
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