Monday, November 01, 2004

The OBL Tape

The Osama Bin Laden tape broadcast on al Jazeera (transcript of the broadcast portions here) "is authentic and was made recently" according to Bush administration sources as reported by Fox News. This assessment ends any speculation that Bin Laden was dead; speculation fueled by his long absence from any datable video tapes and a string of unauthenticated or vague audiotapes (see the Belgravia Dispatch's excellent summary here).

What's being made of it? Fox is saying that it appears that Bin Laden is seeking a truce:
Usama bin Laden appeared to soften his language toward Americans in a new videotape, saying that the United States would be safe from attack if it left the Muslim world alone.
This reading echoes an earlier post at The Belmont Club; Osama Bin Laden's Surrender Proposal;
It is important to notice what he has stopped saying in this speech. He has stopped talking about the restoration of the Global Caliphate. There is no more mention of the return of Andalusia. There is no more anticipation that Islam will sweep the world. He is no longer boasting that Americans run at the slightest wounds; that they are more cowardly than the Russians. He is not talking about future operations to swathe the world in fire but dwelling on past glories. He is basically saying if you leave us alone we will leave you alone. Though it is couched in his customary orbicular phraseology he is basically asking for time out.
The tape also marks the first time Bin Laden has claimed responsibility for the September 11th attacks. One wonders how Senator Kerry, had he been President, would have dealt with the absence of a confession from Bin Laden back in 2001. Given the Senator's preferred law enforcement paradigm, would there have been sufficient evidence to "charge" Bin Laden at the time? Maybe not, given Reuter's three-plus year use of the modifier "claimed" when describing Bin Laden's connection to the attacks on September 11th. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, what would Kerry have done when the Taliban refused to extradite Bin Laden?

Bin Laden also seeks to re-write history, now claiming that it was American support for Israeli actions in Lebanon and the "occupied" territories that led to 9/11. In pronouncements from as far back as 1991, Bin Laden blamed the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia (a holdover from the first Gulf War) as the motivation behind his war on America. Bin Laden's revision of his motives appears to be an effort to curry support in the West where the plight of the Palestinians carries more weight.

A number of sources have also noted the similarity between Bin Laden's comments criticisms of President Bush aired in Fahrenheit 911 and later parrotted by Kerry during his campaign. Ties on Pigs initial reaction sums up the feeling:

From Ties on Pigs (hat tip Powerline) Posted by Hello

John Podhoretz, writing in the NY Post, also saw a connection:
Congratulations, Michael Moore! America's worst enemy and one of the world's most evil men is a big fan of yours.
and detected a defensive tone in Bin Laden's comments:
This is, I think, a profound rhetorical change from the man who vowed in 2002 that "the United States will not survive, will not feel any safety or any security."
The Kerry camp was also sensitive to the comparison. John Sasso, a senior Kerry Campaign aide, apparently wanted to throw a Fox News producer off the campaign jet after comments about the similarity in talking points from Fox's Neil Cavutto.

The Post is also reporting that Bin Laden is even less "cocky" in the unedited version of the tape:
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.
(Isn't this last point a staple of the Left - "No blood for Oil" crowd?) Al Jazeera played only a small portion of the tape to avoid passing along any coded messages from Bin Laden to al Qaeda operatives, but isn't it interesting what portions al Jazeera kept off the air? Powerline comments:
This is really very interesting. It sounds as though the full Osama video would have been much more a campaign commercial for President Bush. Which suggests that it may be Al Jazeera, more than bin Laden, that wants to help Kerry win.
Finally, several sources have commented that Bin Laden looks healthy and comfortable in the tape, suggesting that he feels secure about his safety. Speculation has been that, if alive, Bin Laden was in hiding in either the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan or in the port city of Karachi. Although the tape was dropped off to al Jazeera in Pakistan, would Bin Laden truly feel secure there with the Musharaf government ostensibly seeking him? The tape could be a clue that Bin Laden has found shelter in Iran.