February 15, 2006


Bin Laden's Game: Most officials thought last month's Osama bin Laden tape was no big deal— maybe even a gesture of weakness. Author and ex-CIA analyst Michael Scheuer, who founded the Agency's bin Laden unit 10 years ago, thinks they're dead wrong. (Steve Perry, 2/15/06, City Pages)

City Pages: You've dissented strongly from the Bush administration line that says bin Laden and other Islamic radicals "hate us for our freedoms." What's the real root of their opposition?

Michael Scheuer: The real root of their opposition is what we do in the Islamic world. If they were hating us because we had elections, or gender equality, or liberty, they would be a lethal nuisance, but they wouldn't be a threat to our security. If you remember, the Ayatollah tried waging a jihad against Americans because we were degenerate—we had X-rated movies, we drank liquor, women were in workplaces. Very, very few people were willing to die for that kind of thing. [...]

CP: After the latest bin Laden tape aired, the official spin was to call it a political bluff, or even a call for truce out of weakness on his part. But you've written and spoken about seeing a different aim behind these bin Laden warnings, one that has more to do with meeting the expectations of a Muslim audience than a Western one.

Scheuer: I think that's very much the case. He's very conscious of the tradition from which he comes and how that history works. It's the tradition of the prophet that you warn your enemy and you offer a truce before the fighting starts. Saladin followed the same tradition against the Crusaders in medieval times, and bin Laden has been very careful to follow that in his time. He's offered us warnings numerous times, but this is the first time he's offered a truce in addition. In the early summer of 2004, he offered the Europeans an almost identical truce or cease-fire. They refused him much like we did, and he attacked them in July of '05 in London. [...]

CP: From the standpoint of practical politics, do you think bin Laden and his associates feel obliged to make the next attack on U.S. soil more spectacular than the last?

Scheuer: That's certainly what they have promised. And one of the things I've tried to point out when I've been interviewed is that, objectively, if you examine bin Laden's rhetoric, the correlation between words and deeds is pretty much—close to perfect. One of the things he always stressed from the very first days of al Qaeda was, I intend to incrementally ratchet up the severity of the pain I cause Americans until they begin to listen and change their policies. So my answer would be yes. To keep true to his world, which seems to be a major concern for him, the next attack on America will have to be more damaging than 9/11.

There don't seem to be many more willing to die for the al Qaeda jihad and if 7/07 was their big follow-up to their last warning then the threat is wildly overblown.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 15, 2006 11:43 PM

scheurer is a little pimp. he has as much credibility as scott ritter.

Posted by: toe at February 16, 2006 10:13 AM

Sticks and stones ...

Posted by: erp at February 16, 2006 10:28 AM

Let's say scheuer is correct; it's been our policies not our civilization. So what?

So what about Usama's Wahabism, caliphate and Sharia law rhetoric?

Regarding the truce: So what happened to the strong horse?

So what about the possibility Scheuer's been wrong all along?

Posted by: Genecis at February 16, 2006 10:50 AM


Isn't the point that he's wrong within the interview. Al Qaeda has to, by its own standards, escalate every attack, yet the post 9-11 attacks have been relatively modest.

Posted by: oj at February 16, 2006 10:55 AM

Hard to believe anyone would take Scheuer seriously, after all this is the same turkey who was in charge of the "bin Laden Unit" at the Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999 - a halcyon period that we may remember for the bombing of the Embassies, the Kobar Towers, or the Cole.

He makes the same Arabist arguments that the rest of the bought and paid for apologists at Foggy Bottom make:

The U.S. was attacked on 9/11 and will continue to be attacked because we support Israel, because we put troops on Saudi soil, and because of OIILLLLL!!!!

He's a pathetic hack and in the good old days he'd have been hauled into a courtroom, in chains, to get a fair trial before being hung for criminal negligence that resulted in the deaths from all those terrorist attacks.

Posted by: Robert Modean at February 16, 2006 11:05 AM

Osama's come a long way from demanding the return of Andalusia to offering a truce.

Oh, and that means he's winning? In what world?

Posted by: Mikey at February 16, 2006 11:28 AM

Osama needs no better publicist.

Posted by: ic at February 16, 2006 1:15 PM

If al Qaeda tops 9/11, in America, they're going to find out what "imperialism" is.

The ghosts of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki give warning...

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at February 17, 2006 9:46 AM