October 29, 2004

Egg on My Face?


A few days back I analyzed the history of al-Q/UBL video and audio tapes and speculated UBL was pretty long dead. My analysis was picked up by Glenn--and also a columnist at the Washington Times. I don't know what to make of this new videotape just yet--it's possible that old video footage has somehow been interposed with audio from someone other than UBL (so as to explain contemporary references to Kerry and such). Or, of course, the tape could be the real thing. If that proves to be the case, apologies for giving anyone false comfort or appearing to make political hay of the fact that I thought UBL was dead (ie, that this was another Bush success in the prosecution of the GWOT). And, if it's true, I'll have to accept that I merit a "huge amount of egg on my face" as I had intially written.

All this said, what does the transcript reveal (in terms of al-Qaeda's strategic intentions rather than intel on UBL's whereabouts)? For one, it's interesting to note that UBL is channeling Michael Moore so blatantly:


We agreed with Mohamed Atta, god bless him, to execute the whole operation in 20 minutes. Before Bush and his administration would pay attention and we never thought that the high commander of the US armies would leave 50 thousand of his citizens in both towers to face the horrors by themselves when they most needed him because it seemed to distract his attention from listening to the girl telling him about her goat butting was more important than paying attention to airplanes butting the towers which gave us three times the time to execute the operation thank god.

I guess, if just by a hair or two, it's more repulsive to hear such claptrap emanating from UBL than Moore. That said, UBL wouldn't have thought to use the "My Pet Goat" line if it weren't for the publicity it got in the movie, doubtless. Perhaps Moore (not to mention his paymasters like Harvey Weinstein) is proud our arch-enemies find his cheap, cynical oeuvre so compelling.

Question: After reading the text, and given the timing of its release, can it be read any other way than as an attempt to give Kerry an 11th hour boost? And if that's the consensus view, why would al-Qaeda view it as in their interests for Kerry to win? Some, including B.D. at various junctures, believed al-Qaeda might prefer a Bush win--calculating that it might stoke the fires of full-blown, civilizational conflict more readily (ie, Bush allegedly more the Christian warrior, divisive type as compared to Kerry).

Note too, I thought that was a miscalculation and over-simplification by al-Qaeda--arguing that Bush would prosecute the war in more nuanced terms than they expected (and, thus, more effectively in terms of really beating back not only the terrorists; but also the sources of Islamic terror). But, it might appear, Kerry is the preferred al-Qaeda candidate. Why, I wonder? Simply the propaganda value of having UBL ostensibly outlast Bush? Or to try to pull a Madrid, sans explosives, but via video? Or simply, because they believe a Kerry administration will be easier for them to deal with? Or other reasons still?

MORE: Andrew thinks the tape will help Bush. And that UBL so intended. His reasoning: the release of the tape, not only serves as a reminder of the 9/11 attacks, but also serves to stir and resuscitate the "emotional bond" the American people felt with POTUS stemming from Bush's post 9/11 rallying of the nation. That's pretty complex analysis and feels a little too Freud-y and Jung-y to me.

UBL, on one level of course, was simply telling both Bush and Kerry that 'hey, I'm around guys; and either one of you will have to deal with me whoever wins'. But, of course, he could have just as easily done so on Nov 3rd. He (if it is indeed UBL) did it before the election for a reason. As in Madrid, al-Qaeda seems increasingly intent on impacting electoral processes in democracies (already weakened here after the chad madness of 2000--with much speculation it could happen again this go around).

So, this begs the question, who did UBL think would be advantaged by his release of tape--Bush or Kerry? Look, I gotta think--Kerry. He taunted Bush--the "goat" stuff. And, of course, he's taunting him by simply proving (ostensibly) that he is alive--ie, the Tora Bora meme that Kerry likes to go on about.

Note this part of the transcript too:

Although we are in the fourth year after the events of sept 11, Bush is still practicing distortion and misleading on you, and obscuring the main reasons and therefore the reasons are still existing to repeat what happened before.

These are the words of someone who wants Bush to win? Vote Bush back in and, because of his lies, it's likelier we will strike in your homeland again?

And this:

We didn't find difficulty dealing with Bush and his administration due to the similarity of his regime and the regims in our countries. Whish half of them are ruled by military and the other half by sons of kings and presidents and our experience with them is long. Both parties are arrogant and stubborn and the greediness and taking money without right and that similarity appeared during the visits of Bush to the region while people from our side were impressed by the US and hoped that these visits would influence our countries. Here he is being influenced by these regimes, Royal and military. And was feeling jealous they were staying for decades in power stealing the nations finances without anybody overseeing them. So he transferred the oppression of freedom and tyranny to his son and they call it the Patriot Law to fight terrorism. He was bright in putting his sons as governors in states and he didn't forget to transfer his experience from the rulers of our region to Florida to falsify elections to benefit from it in critical times.

Corruption (in bed with the Saudis)! How Halliburton-esque. Dynastic decadence! The tyrannical Patriot Act! The stolen election in Florida! These could be Joe Lockhart or Bob Shrum talking points.

No, I think UBL is trying to help beat Bush so he accomplish the propaganda coup of having outlasted him (or, perhaps, he is calculating al-Qaeda's strategic situation may improve in a Kerry administration). But, of course, the tape might well backfire if that is the intended effect. Americans, whether from Guardian writing campaigns or al-Qaeda tapes--don't like people poking their noses into their own business and fundamental rights. Like picking their Presidents, for instance.

Still, if UBL is really, really smart and realize this (that his criticisms of Bush will actually prove a positive for Bush)--and calculates (erroneously in my view) that Bush's re-election could help precipitate the clash of civilizations he desires--Sullivan's analysis could be right.

But why, ultimately, do I still think it's wrong? Because, deep down, I believe UBL views Americans as hyper-secular, ultra-spoiled, porno-fed, white-trash, cowards (think Hilton sisters and their ilk--the so underwhelming L.A. trailer-chic, Von Dutch cap-clad gaggles). And that--by signaling an attack is likelier if Bush wins and criticizing him so much in his tape--it might stir the 'meek' to vote Kerry.

More; re: this passage:

Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or Al Qaeda. Your security is in your hands. Each state that doesn't mess with our security has automatically secured their security.

A neat, strategic amiguity if you will. Should Kerry win--al Qaeda gets to keep killing Americans. It's not about a specific leader--but the state writ large, of course. This is why I think all this hudna and truce talk is overblown.

Wretchard sees no mention of Andalusia so thinks UBL has given up on restoration of some glorious Caliphate spanning Alhambra to Jakarta. But how does Belmont Club think UBL defines not messing with their security? In my view, this means that the U.S. must still pull out of Iraq, Afghanistan, stop its support to Egypt and Saudi (mostly financial), stop support to Israel (both military and financial), and stop helping Musharraf in Pakistan. In a word, a total non-starter from our perspective. There is no truce offer. This is simply an attempt to look more the mellowed, statesman following up on the fake peace proffer to New Europe. Contra Wetchard, I don't think at all UBL is saying: "if you leave us alone we will leave you alone" in a manner materially different, in substance, than before. He has simply made a stylistic adaptation, theatrically, so as to appear a rational actor worth listening too. If anything, this makes him more dangerous--as more will begin to think he is someone we can deal with--a "nuisance," say--but one we can handle.

Interestingly too, as Juan Cole notes, UBL has adopted neo-Wilsonian language in his latest tape:

The talk about being "free persons" (ahrar) and fighting for "liberty" (hurriyyah) for the Muslim "nation" (ummah) seems to me a departure. The word "hurriyyah" or freedom has no classical Arabic or Koranic resonances and I don't think it has played a big role in his previous statements.

I wonder if Bin Laden has heard from the field that his association with the authoritarian Taliban has damaged recruitment in the Arab world and Iraq, where most people want an end to dictatorship and do not want to replace their secular despots with a religious one. The elections in Pakistan (fall 2002) and Afghanistan went better than he would have wanted, and may have put pressure on him. He may now be reconfiguring the rhetoric of al-Qaeda, at least, to represent it as on the side of political liberty. I am not saying this is sincere or might succeed; both seem to me highly unlikely. I am saying that it is interesting that Bin Laden now seems to feel the need to appeal to this language. In a way, it may be one of the few victories American neo-Wilsonianism has won, to push Bin Laden to use this kind of language.

Cole doesn't think this adoption of neo-Wilsonianism amounts to much--but doesn't it showcase that Bush has forced UBL to make significant adjustments, at least sylistically, in his rhetoric (as even Cole notes, because of the relatively successful Afghan elections?).

Make no mistake, however. UBL, al-Qaeda, and myriad affiliates thereto remain hugely perilous groupings intent on inflicting massive harm on us unless we were to vacate the entire Middle East region (and perhaps certain areas beyond). This battle hasn't changed. No Sweden-Kerryesque hudna is on proffer. It's simply that the rhetoric and atmospherics are being adjusted--UBL is making a bid for the Moore-wing of the U.S. polity, to a fashion.

Few will be fooled (one hopes). Today, passing through Miami International, I bought a bunch of periodicals (WSJ,NYT, NYPost and so on). The cover of the NY Post had a huge picture of UBL. A kind and sweet African-American cashier girl stated to a colleague, as she took in the picture of UBL: "Poor Saddam, he is paying for Osama." I said nothing, but thought: Isn't Osama hoping, per his latest video production, that some will start whispering: "Poor Osama, he is paying for Bush."

Regardless, and finally I guess, I hope we all agree (even that woman tending the register here in Miami!) with Andrew when he writes:

Although I suspect it will help Bush a lot, my hope is that it will have no effect either way. I don't want that murderous bastard to have any say on what this democracy decides. I just hope that whoever gets elected next Tuesday manages to find and kill him. Soon.


Posted by Gregory at October 29, 2004 10:38 PM

...can it be read any other way than as an attempt to give Kerry an 11th hour boost?

Shooore. It can be read as the signal for an attack. Didn't he used to release tapes as signals?

Posted by: Angie Schultz at October 29, 2004 11:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is a depressing tape. I had hoped that UBL was dead or at least very ill. The silver lining, I guess, is that he looked the same as his previous self at the time this tape was made. If he looks the same now, perhaps that will make it easier to identify him, so that he can be killed.

The political impact of the tape should be obvious to everybody. Regardless of UBL's intention, the release and the contents of this tape will help the President's campaign. I say this as someone who has already voted for John Kerry.

The lesson of the tape is that we are in danger, no matter who wins on Tuesday. (Angie Schultz makes a good point, too. Perhaps Secretary Ridge should consider Orange Alert.) Therefore I will support the winner, no matter who wins, in his efforts to defeat and destroy this evil menace.

Posted by: Arjun at October 29, 2004 11:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think this is clearly Osama (sorry, B.D.), and just as clearly an effort by Osama to influence the election. I'm just not sure yet which way he wants to influence it. Jonah over at the Corner says that those on the Left who think that this is is a double secret effort to get BUSH re-elected are "high." I'm not so sure of that. Dig this:

Notice that the narrative Osama spins is apparently lifted hook-line-and-sinker from Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. (No, really. Read the transcript.) Now it seems possible (indeed, I think, likely) that Osama thinks Moore's conspiracy theory is endorsed by the bulk of Americans who oppose Bush. (And, hell, that may be right.) So, by very clearly towing the Michael Moore party line, Osama is openly identifying himself with the American Left. (Disclaimer: I'm not saying the Left is like Osama. I'm saying he's identifying himself with the Left.) What surer way to have his enemy Bush re-elected than by making common cause with Bush's domestic enemies?

Of course, Osama may have the political tin ear that Jonah thinks he is. Indeed, he may think that he's validating Michael Moore's ravings, and that this will finally persuade enough Americans that the anti-Bush brigade is right.

Regardless, I'm not so sure at this time whether Osama's new tape lays to rest the conventional wisdom that the jihadists are praying for Kerry to lose.

Posted by: D.J. at October 30, 2004 12:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm starting to thing it does neither. Call me an old fashioned American, but anybody changing their vote now is basically giving in to the terrorists. Everybody had pretty much made up thier mind by now and I'd like to think that Americans are bigger than this.

It could cut both ways--(1) Bush failed to get him, or (2) rally round the President. Either way, the candidates have to handle this like a live grenade.

Posted by: Rob W at October 30, 2004 12:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, like you, I've been convinced for years that UBL is dead (the lack of commentary on the shuttle disaster, even though there was an Israeli on board, was to my mind the final straw).

I do wonder one thing: for years we've had the ability to take pictures of someone, and make movies showing that person doing something they never did (the example I ran across was someone making video of Steve McQueen driving cars that were made after his death). So my question is: how easy is it to prove fraud when someone does that? With millions of dollars at their disposal, it shouldn't be too hard for al Qaeda to get their hands on what they would need to do that.

OTOH, maybe it is real. In which case, damn. Now let's find and kill the bastard.

Personally, I vote for the "tin ear" hypothesis. And if we do make it through the election w/o an attack, my hat will be off to President Bush for providing a defense far better than what I thought he (or anyone) could provide.

Posted by: Greg D at October 30, 2004 12:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Perhaps this might cheer you guys up:


Taken from footage of Bin Laden's latest video and some classic Muppetry - spot the difference.

Posted by: Johnlouis Swaine at October 30, 2004 12:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is bin Laden trying to claim that he wasn't trying to kill 50000 people? Give me a break. Did he think the buildings would not fall down? Then what was that video that we captured in Afghanistan where he was talking about the attacks to some Saudi male all about, where said he thought the buildings might fall down?

I'm not convinced the video has him really. The resolution on the video is too low and the camera is too far from his face. Something about the man's facial structure looks off. Maybe OBL has lost weight. Unfortunately that beard hides a lot of his face and makes it difficult to say whether it is him for sure. Moreover, his Michael Moorish talking points make me even more suspicious. If it is OBL, I don't think his purpose is to make us choose one candidate or another, it is to confuse us and make us argue amongst ourselves.

Posted by: ATM at October 30, 2004 12:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Do you think UBL reads the NYT and Washington Post with his breakfast? Or that he watches CNN or Fox?

I figure it's just him and the Koran.

He probably has about as much interest in what we think as the typical American cares about the French or the Germans - zippo.

Posted by: claude tessier at October 30, 2004 01:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One more thing: I don't know whether this hurts or helps Kerry (and I agreew with ATM that, above all else, Osama is trying to divide Americans); what I can predict with some certainty, however, is how we can tell which side thinks it's more damaging to their cause. Here's the rule of thumb: If the Bush people start pushing the theory that it's not really Osama, then score a point for Kerry. If, on the other hand, Kerry supporters and the Michael Moore crowd try to argue that this is a Republican ruse, score one for Bush.

Posted by: D.J. at October 30, 2004 01:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bin Laden obviously knows that the tape, with its transparent Michael Moore talking points, will be received as support for Kerry, so the electorate, having discovered his scheme, will support behind Bush, but then the resentment over being manipulated will certainly be so strong that the immediate backlash will work in Kerry's favor, which will make him seem like Bin Laden's pawn...

...so it's a good thing we've all just built up our immunity to iocane poison.

Posted by: Matt at October 30, 2004 01:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I was just describing this tape to a friend. As I started quoting the reference about the "pet goat," I felt completely foolish. My friend gave me a funny expression.

Bin Laden citing Michael Moore? It's a bit of a stretch.

With great respect for the thoughful and cogent comments posted above, this tape seems more comedy to me than reality. I await the analysis of the original Arabic voice track with my skepticism still intact, even if admittedly less confident than yesterday.

Posted by: Hovig at October 30, 2004 02:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

[I'm assuming it's real.] Have just seen the transcript, but this seems more like OBL taunting Americans than endorsing one candidate or another. I'm not sure he truly cares who is in the White House, perhaps he thinks he can "work with" whoever we elect.

His face in our faces after Kerry's continuous talking points for the last month about Bush not finishing the job against Al Qaeda is a win for Kerry unless completely mishandled.

His taunting of Bush, e.g. about Bush's original "pet goat moment" might play well for Bush, dunno. That could break either way.

Tradesports.com has Bush up about 3-4 points since the news broke, for whatever that's worth, but tradesports has been crazy the last few days.

Posted by: Bill Arnold at October 30, 2004 03:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't think bin Laden is so interested personally in neverending conflict, though I believe some of the people drawn to him are. I believe he was interested in driving the US out, showing that he could easily defeat a superpower, like he thought he did when the Soviets left Afghanistan. The mistake he made was that he thought it would be easy. Instead he has lost much of his organization. The only way he can win in the forseeable future is if the US allows itself to be defeated.

So now he has suddenly adopted leftish talking points that can appeal to a portion of the American electorate. He has noticably dropped his top two reasons for waging war against the US: his xenophobic and bigotted objection to US troops in Saudi Arabia (who participated in the containment of Saddam) and his putative objection to the suffering of Iraqis due to sanctions. Of course if he was concerned about this, he should have attacked Saddam. I believe he is playing political games, engaging in press relations. He like many bigots and adherents of totalitarian ideologies has decided to present a more presentable face to world that masks his visciousness and hatred. I think this video is aimed at more than the US. It's a ploy also aimed at our allies.

Posted by: ATM at October 30, 2004 03:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


A few weeks ago I asserted that the Zarqawi announcement that he had become a full-fledged franchise of OBL in the Jihadoterror racket was PROOF that OBL was dead. This post was picked up and linked to all over the blogosphere.

It was quickly followed by a long and well-reasoned essay by Greg at the Belgravia Dispatch which concluded the same thing - and by an article by Markl Steyn that claimed that he has been saying it for years.


Proving TWO things: one, that he's alive, and two THAT OUR STRATEGY AND OUR EFFORTS WORKED - we either shamed him into coming forward (for if he was in hiding he was a coward) or we challenged him into coming forward (which is also a possibility because this sub-human piece of kaka is an egomaniac).

In either case, now that he has come forward it is now MORE likely that we can track him down and KILL him.

I think that (1) the quality of the tape (the sound & lighting; and the fact that he is indoors and NOT in a cave) - and (2) the quickness with which it came forward (from the time we challenged him) - and (3) the temporal proximity of its coming forward to the election PROVES that OBL is in a major city in either Iran or Pakistan. A city where elements of the Secret Police can protect him from anti-Jihadi elements. This means he is in Teheran or in Karachi.

The most likely of these two is Teheran - because half of the ISI in Pakistan can be counted on to do their duty - after all: they helped us get KSM and RBS.

We should demand that the Mullahs turn him over, and give them an ultimatum: turn him over before there is another attack, or we will retaliate against you if and when there is an attack.

They will either turn him over - or stop the impending attack.

That's a win for us either way.

Posted by: reliapundit at October 30, 2004 03:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why is it so difficult for everyone to simply accept that OBL wants to see Bush defeated. It's not that he prefers Kerry--he doesn't care who our president is. It could be bill Clinton, Bush or Kerry it's all the same to him. We are the infidel that needs to be destroyed.

It's about POWER. That's the occam's razor answer. The power that comes from influencing events through violence fear and intimidation. That's what terrorism is about anyway. For him, the videotape represents an opportunity to to go on record telling America to throw Bush out. If Bush loses he can claim to influenced the American election. OBL can say guy who fought him eventually lost. There can be no greater proof of his power that the claim to have helped topple the President of the greatest western democracy on earth. Kerry is incidental to his goal. OBL has been out of sight for many months and barely seen since 9/11 and he surfaces just in time to influence the election. That shows he still has power and makes America look like its scared of him.

The idea that he comes out with this tape (especially with the Michael Moore content of it) and hopes to criticize Bush to create a backlash in favor of Bush is ludicrous. I mean is there any, any evidence that he has acted that way in the past. He either hopes it helps Bush lose or he doesn't care. He just wants a chance to take credit for something

Posted by: John Schulte at October 30, 2004 03:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sure, it might be a warning, but he looked and sounded pretty pathetic to me, like a skinny Michael Moore. The big Dr. Evil making a campaign speech to the American people??!

Posted by: PJ at October 30, 2004 04:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Count me among the shocked- I was pretty certain OBL had perished, convinced (among other things) by the analysis by a commenter here about dialysis and such.

That being said, it's hard to see who the tape benefits- though if I had to say one or the other I'd say Bush.

I do think that letting this bizarre tape influence your vote one way or another would be a travesty.

Posted by: BigMatt at October 30, 2004 05:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Will this tape put an end to the widespread speculation in the Arab/Muslim world that the Mossad carried out the 9/11 attacks? This fascinating theory apparently intrigued Amiri Baraka, the former poet laureate of the state of New Jersey, whose poem about the 9/11 attacks included the truly memorable line "Who told 4000 Jews . . . "

Will this tape put an end to the perhaps painstakingly investigated theories of the bestselling French expose entitled L'Imposture Effroyable (or is it L'Effroyable Imposture)? You know, that book about how the U.S. was never actually attacked on 9/11?

There has to be some way to put it all together . . . OK, I've got it! Usama bin Laden works for the American CIA --- and he's Jewish!

Posted by: Arjun at October 30, 2004 05:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Drejejian,

Bin Laden famously thought the U.S. would not react militarily to the WTC attacks. He thought we would run like Clinton did in Mogadishu. Clearly he did have a tin ear for Americas and President Bush in particular.

He did not want an all out fight. He wanted to attack the U.S. on its homeland to prove how weak and decrepit a society we have. He thought he was safe in Afghanistan.

If he didn't want to fight back in 2001 what could convince anyone that he would want to fight in 2004? And it's fairly obvious that Bush will definitely fight. It's not as clear for Kerry, even if only because he hasn't had the chance. Wouldn't OBL want to go with the devil he doesn't know given his preference for not fighting the U.S. directly (i.e. asymmetric war)?

He knows he cannot win a war of symmetry and Bush has forced that upon him.


Posted by: Birkel at October 30, 2004 05:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think B.D. is right: UBL aims to frighten U.S. voters into ousting President Bush.

Remember this al Qaeda "slogan": "You love life, and we love death." UBL believes that Americans "love life", and that the American people are therefore afraid of those who "love death". So he thinks that if he attacks the U.S. President, the American people will oust that President out of fear.

As for UBL's motivation in preferring the President's removal, I agree with John Schulte' comment above: it has nothing to do with the nature of our President, or with the nature of his opponent. (Remember that al Qaeda began planning the 9/11/01 attacks during the Clinton Administration, then carried out the attacks during the Bush Administration.) Rather, it is simply due to the fact that our President is now the President, so "defeating" him is evidence of UBL's power.

Posted by: Arjun at October 30, 2004 05:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

UBL taunted Bush, gave American voters AND the states of the world a choice. Safety or more of the same.

UBL stated "Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or Al Qaeda. Your security is in your hands."

So...each of us gets to choose. Even Al Qaida cannot guarantee your safety because your choice will trigger forces that are even beyond UBL's control. You must choose to quit oppressing Muslims wherever they are, you must stay out of Muslim lands, you must stop fighting Muslims...or else.

I don't think UBL's message was for or against either candidate. I think the message was directed at individual Americans specifically and people of the world generally.

The message was directed at our individual will to resist Al Qaida. So if each of us must choose a candidate to represent our will to resist then each of us must decide which candidate represents our personal will to resist.

Kerry has shown lack of resolve in the past and chooses political expediency often. I don't think John knows how to simply choose a stand and stick with it. The world is just too nuanced for John.

Bush's will is unshakable and he stubbornly stands on principle.

I choose Bush

Posted by: lugh lampfhota at October 30, 2004 06:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

John Shulte, re
"The idea that he comes out with this tape (especially with the Michael Moore content of it) and hopes to criticize Bush to create a backlash in favor of Bush is ludicrous."
This is pure projection. We do know (or rather, I've heard and believe, if you prefer) that there has been plenty of debate in the Jihadist parts of the internet about whether Bush is good or bad for them. For whatever it's worth, I see it as a "If Bush is defeated I can claim a win, and if he wins I win anyway because my movement wins". But that is just as much projection as your "ludicrous". It could easily be that the calculation on his part is "boost Bush as a recruitement booster"; he has had 3 years on the run to think about these sorts of nuance, after all, and introspect about his tin ears for American politics.

[I'm not accusing you of this last, this is a general statement]
Let's not mistake OBL for a evil cartoon character; He is a serial mass murderer, and he has depth and nuance to him, and believes *he* is fighting the good fight against evil.

Posted by: Bill Arnold at October 30, 2004 06:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good analysis.

I agree with the "Osama for Kerry" meme. I'm surprised you didn't cover the idea that a Kerry Presidency would, I believe, be more likely to result in a generalized mid east war, which is one of Bin Laden's goals.

Kerry's predilictions would allow for the Iranian situation to fester until we were forced by cirumstances to take drastic action. Does anyone think that serious military action against Iran wouldn't (assuming Israel had a hand) lead to, at the very least, some kind of arab boycott against the US, increased tensions between Syria and Israel, and destablised regimes in Jordan and Egypt?

The next few months are going to be very interesting.

Posted by: superhawk at October 30, 2004 10:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Great comments!

I think it helps Bush. The resemblance to Michael Moore's 9/11 is uncanny, so here you have the world's arch-fiend spouting platitudes like the Democrat left fringe.
To my mind, his rhetoric also sounds like he's been kneecapped. No more fire will rain down on American stuff. Chalk another for Bush.
But I'm a Kerry supporter. Does each side think it benefits the other?

Posted by: gaw3 at October 30, 2004 12:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David Brooks in the New York Times today:

Kerry did say that we are all united in the fight against bin Laden, but he just couldn't help himself. His first instinct was to get political.

On Milwaukee television, he used the video as an occasion to attack the president: "He didn't choose to use American forces to hunt down Osama bin Laden. He outsourced the job." Kerry continued with a little riff from his stump speech, "I am absolutely confident I have the ability to make America safer."

Posted by: werner at October 30, 2004 03:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Egg on your face? BD Gets Results!

C'mon, your reporting got picked up, and it goaded Osama into releasing this tape. Great work!

[No, I am not sure if I am serious, either.]

Posted by: Tom Maguire at October 30, 2004 04:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

UBL might be setting himself up to declare victory REGARDLESS of who wins. My reasoning here:

Posted by: Capt Trevett at the Commons at October 30, 2004 05:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I wouldn't beat yourself up over believing OBL was dead -- I did too. (Though maybe it was your blog that convinced me, bastard...)

I'm not really sure who Osama wants elected and I think we have to presume he doesn't really care. He did mention there was no difference between Kerry and Bush's policies. But ultimately, no matter what, there's a pretty decent chance that the media will spin the outcome of the election as "Osama's video tipped it" (even if no such thing happened) --- if Kerry wins, because voters suddenly realized Bush let this get away; if Bush wins, because voters don't trust Kerry to run the war on terror. OBL wants to seem influential, that's what he's going for, and it could happen regardless of who is elected.

Posted by: Guy at October 30, 2004 05:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Americans, whether from Guardian writing campaigns or al-Qaeda tapes--don't like people poking their noses into their own business and fundamental rights. Like picking their Presidents."

It would be nice if we treated other countries' citizens as we would like to be treated.

Point two. As a hispanophile, I think Dr. Drezner is coming perilously close to the neocon 'the Spaniards are cowards' line with the repeated references to Madrid. The logic of the Spanish election was this:

Against overwhelming public opposition, Aznar not only sent troops to invade Iraq, but was determined to play a large symbolic role.

The Iraq campaign was supposed to make Spain safer.

The Madrid bombing proved that Spain was not safer for having participated in the invasion. (Indeed, the case could be made that resources used in the Iraq campaign would have been better deployed in Spain).

The Spanish people, having been confirmed in their original judgement, took the first opportunity to effect democratic change. A triumph of democratic accountability.

Posted by: stari_momak at October 30, 2004 06:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Spanish people are safe only because American's are willing to finish the job with regards to Iraq. Now imagine if the Bush administration's response to 9/11 had to been to walk away from the containment of Iraq like bin Laden wanted us to, since the most vulnerable targets were those troops participating in containment. Or imagine if instead of taking out Saddam in face of opposition from Europe, the Bush administration said that the era of collective security is over and that the US would no longer defend Europe against external foes and would no longer waste its breath and efforts in trying to prevent totalitarian regimes in Islamic countries in North Africa and the Middle East from gaining WMDs. The simple fact is that the US is only at immediate risk for terrorism because the US has been willing to bear its collective security responsibilities. Taking an isolationist stance would dramatically decrease the short term risk of terrorism to the US and would dramtically increase the chances of confict breaking out in the middle east and eventually in Europe.

Posted by: ATM at October 30, 2004 07:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Congratulations! You and the other bloggers who wrote of their sureness of his being dead clearly CALLED HIM OUT. When I read the blogs concerning this my first thought was that if he is alive he is going to answer these blogs. Now he has. I was hoping he was dead, I guess he is not. But we will get him, one way or the other.

Posted by: Ruth H at October 30, 2004 08:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But politics has shaped Kerry's approach to this whole issue. Back in December 2001, when bin Laden was apparently hiding in Tora Bora, Kerry supported the strategy of using Afghans to hunt him down. He told Larry King that our strategy "is having its impact, and it is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimalize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively, and we should continue to do it that way."

A bouquet,

Congatulations for posting the above and reminding us that the Tora Bora outsourcing allegation is yet another Kerry flip flop ( as well as a baseless allegation, contradicted by the commander who made the tactical decision.) Kerry spent so little time in Vietnam and is otherwise so clueless about defence matters that he, like Andrew Sullivan, doesn't know the difference between strategical and tactical decision-making. Or is Kerry just a liar who will say anything to get elected.

Your language- "politics has shaped Kerry's approach- is, however, too nuanced. Put bluntly Kerry is shameless and, it can't be repeated too often, will say anything to get elected.

I guess, if just by a hair or two, it's more repulsive to hear such claptrap emanating from UBL than Moore.

A brickbat,

Surely you jest. bin Laden is the sworn enemy of America. Claptrap is to be expected from him. Michael Moore is a multi- millionaire American citizen, with ready access to the facts, who was given a special place of honor at the Democratic convention. Moore is not yet under indictment for treason , nor has he been thoroughly rebuked by the public and the party that has embraced him as their spiritual leader has not been crushed at the polls. How is it more repulsive to hear this claptrap from bin Laden than Moore?

Posted by: Terry Gain at October 30, 2004 08:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Allow me to correct my post above. The language which I thought too nuanced was from the wonderful article by David Brooks. So much for my petty carping . Now as to that moronic, pacficist internationalist Kerry...

Posted by: terry Gain at October 30, 2004 08:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why does anyone believe that OBL *cares* who wins? I
don't get that. As someone (Drezner, I think, or maybe
one of his commenters) pointed out, who we think OBL
wants is more a reflection on our own biases.

Anyway, it's sufficiently cryptic that he couldn't be sure
whether it would help or hurt his preferred candidate,
anyway. (I mean, just look at the difference between Greg
and Andrew.) He's not stupid; he must know that.

Why not take the simplest explanation? Now, *no matter
who wins*, he gets to claim that he affected the election.
That will undoubtedly be the spin here, for either a
Bush or Kerry victory.

Posted by: Matt Newman at October 30, 2004 10:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Matt, it is possible that he doesn't care who wins and that he is just screwing with us. But in all likelihood, he realizes a Kerry victory would likely represent weakened American resolve and makes the US more susceptible to retreat. Another factor to consider is that Bush will be a 2nd term president if he were to win, which means he doesn't have to worry about reelection. Cheney isn't going to run either. He can be more aggressive and effectively has his whole term to deal with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kerry on the otherhand is vulnerable, if he were to win, to defections from his anti-war base. If he doesn't make things improve by early 2007, he is going to be vulnerable. I have no idea if bin Laden is capable of this analysis.

I don't think the bin Laden video will change very many people's minds about who to vote for. It could alter whether people actually vote. It may bring out Kerry's anti-war base, depress pro-war Kerry voter turnout, and increase pro-Bush turnout.

Posted by: ATM at October 30, 2004 11:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The liberal elite in Iraq is afraid that a Kerry win will result in an early withdrawal. See Iraqi blogs. It is hard to understand how anyone who regards the war on terror and the continuing liberation of Iraq as the pre-eminent issues can help but be concerned by a Kerry election victory- given his long and faithful allegiance to internationism and pacificism. How does Kerry continue to prosecute the war if his European friends ask him to end it? Will he continue to proscute it when they say they aren't going to help-as they will.

It is inconceivable that bin Laden doesn't want a Kerry victory given Kerry's history and that Kerry's base wants America out of Iraq. The Bush bashing on the tape makes it plain for all to see who bin Laden favors -except perhaps brains fevered with FMA anger or other lmalfunctons such as placing the victory of the party on a higher plane than the nation's security.

Posted by: Terry Gain at October 31, 2004 01:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How very funny that anyone thinks bin Laden wants Bush or Kerry to win. That's just like us Americans, to think that it's all about us, and not about the issues which bin Laden brings up.

I guess one day we'll realize that bin Laden's words are face-value, not aimed for double-guessing what ifs. Plain and simple, even with the flowery Arabic overtones.

Posted by: TAE at October 31, 2004 06:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yup, Ol' Skunkbeard is back. I guess that Al Qaeda figured that the masked marvel "Azzam the American" wasn't scary enough, so they sent in the varsity.

My response: Is that all you terrorist scum have got? Lots of scary threats, lots of talk, lots of finger-waving. But you know that if they could have attacked us, they would have sent a bomb instead of a videotape. Homeland security is working. The war on terror is working. Most of Osama's buddies have been "brought to justice," either through capture or "getting their 72 virgins." And guess what? We're still killing the terrorists in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. And if George W. Bush is re-elected, we'll keep killing them until we achieve victory.

I have to admit that I was wrong; I thought that the scumbag was probably a DNA smear on the floor of Tora Bora or pushing up daisies someplace else in Afghanistan, mainly because he was such a publicity hound that it didn't seem likely that he would go for more than three years without releasing a new videotape to fire up his followers. It now appears that Binny is still very much among the living. That cannot be said for many of his followers, however.

Posted by: BarCodeKing at October 31, 2004 06:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I read on Reuters that the UBL video was handed in to Al Jazeera in Islamabad.

Doesn't this fact possibly provide a helpful clue as to UBL's current location?

Posted by: Arjun at October 31, 2004 05:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

i continue to believe ubl is in a large pakistani city, such as karachi. ksm was captured in a large pakistani city and it is likely ubl is too. just my two cents.

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