January 19, 2006

The UBL Tape

I'm still totally swamped at work, but I did want to emerge very briefly to say, when I hear the word "truce" emit from UBL's lips (or, perhaps, whatever impersonator is doing a stand-in on his behalf), I conclude that we are winning the battle against al-Qaeda. Mind you, I'm not speaking about Iraq, necessarily, or perhaps certain al-Qaeda inspired spin-offs, or the GWOT generally. But the battle against the main, original al-Qaeda group that existed and grew in strength and terrorized in Dar es Saalam and Nairobi and in the port of Aden with the attack on the USS Cole--largely with impunity, it should be said, through the 1990s and into 2001--well, it has taken some real body blows these past four years. Any fair critic needs to acknowledge that.

Again, I'm not striking a triumphalist note here, as we face massive challenges still in Iraq, and Iran is rubbing our noses in it, basically giving us the finger you might say, to put it colloquially, with Ahmadi-Nejad's ever-increasing number of inflammatory comments and so purposeful junking of the American-approved EU troika's diplomatic initiative. (Iran is feeling emboldened because they doubt the West has the stomach to institute the only sanctions that would really bite, the ones that would cause an oil price super-spike to $105/barrel and up, and because the going is tough in Iraq, and they calculate that the Americans wouldn't attack--or allow Israel as proxy to mount air strikes--as Iran would then ratchet up the trouble-making in Iraq much more than they have to date, perhaps materially impacting the outcome there.) But, Iran and many other issues aside (like our declining influence of late in Asia and Latin America, of which more post the blogging hiatus)--we do have to give credit to the Bush Administration for robustly taking the fight to Bin Laden's core al-Qaeda group, and putting in a pretty decent show of it. Yes, of course, we wish that UBL were already apprehended and tried for war crimes (more favorable than killing him, which will create a martyr, while captivity will make him look small and all too human, the better to de-mythologize him).

All this said, a few cautionary notes. Reading the text of UBL's note, one must admit it is rather intelligent fare, with his gruesome evocation of U.S. soldiers' suicides in theater and the grotesqueness of IED explosions, with his description of the quartet of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz showing he follows Beltway groupings relatively closely, with his deft and rather effective reference to the 'Mission Accomplished' moment and the many casualties that have resulted since. And, of course, if his tape is followed by a major, calamitous terror attack in the United States--well, then the strategic situation will indeed change. But not in the manner UBL is attempting to achieve, necessarily. He will argue, you see, Bush didn't accept my truce--and now carnage has again visited your shores. But the American people won't be manipulated by such tactics, despite Bin Laden's attempts, in Goebbelsian mien, to divide them so. The wide center of the American polity would only be more resolved in the face of another major attack, rather than cowed and advocating retreat in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Still, an U.S. attack would be a plus for al-Qaeda strategically, no doubt, if for no other reason than it would re-assert its ability to shed blood on American shores. Fine, no argument there. But now UBL has raised the ante, again, and he risks becoming the Boy Who Cried Wolf one time to often. If he can't execute a major attack in the relatively near future, even despite his explications regarding long operational cycles (it has now been over four years and counting since 9/11), his credibility continues to erode. If he pulls it off, yes his credibility is enhanced in terms of his showcasing continuing operational capability far from his current base, but still, however, he will not achieve his desired goal of dividing the U.S. public so as to precipitate a US withdrawal from Mesopotamia. Therefore any strategic ramifications would likely be rather limited (his main strategic success to date has been spurring on significant Islamophobia in good sized swaths of the American masses, helping spur on anti-democratic impulses related to things like torture policy and too easy recourse to militarism in foreign policy, but he's already reaped that dividend and it is somewhat in remission, with a Thermidor, of sorts, having set in after the Jacobin excesses of '01-04).

Ultimately, however, one is left thinking what a sad life bin Laden leads trafficking in human misery, or, of late, reduced to threatening mass carnage via episodic videotapes basically dumped in front of Al-Jazeera's offices. So I guess I disagree somewhat with Muhammad Salah, Cairo bureau chief for the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, who says to the NYT: "The fact that he was able to record the message, deliver it and broadcast is in itself a victory for him". Well, yeah, maybe. But that's really defining victory down quite a damn lot, isn't it? It increasingly smells of desperation, of a man espying a tightening noose. I hope this is the case, as I view what Bin Laden wrought at the World Trade Center as a war crime on par with mass massacres of historical scope (like that perpetrated by Ratko Mladic, say, in Srebrenica). These were acts of brutish carnage and war, which demanded the sternest of responses, and against this specific enemy at least, we have made real progress since 9/11. Could we have made even more by not going into Iraq? Perhaps, perhaps. But it is too early to render a judgment on this score, and besides, as I said, real headway has been made. Otherwise, to stress, I don't think we'd be hearing the word "truce", as this is not really in UBL's natural lexicon, save when he's on the ropes angling for a reprieve of sorts. After all, this isn't his first truce offering, is it? Recall he proferred a 'truce' to the Europeans post-Madrid. No one took it seriously. No one will take this one seriously. Save to the extent that it reveals something about the state of UBL's movement now approaching the fifth anniversary of 9/11. It, and he, are ailing. Put that in the plus column for the Bush Administration from someone who hasn't, shall we say, been a big fan of late (of which more another day)...

Posted by Gregory at January 19, 2006 11:45 PM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

The truce isn't for our benefit, though it does mirror some editorials that have appeared in the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times on the possibility of negotiating with al-Qaeda. Bin Laden was heavily criticized among fellow Islamists after 9/11 for not giving the US fair warning before a major attack because, on purely tactical grounds, it enabled the US to rally international support on the grounds that we had been unjustly attacked. The purpose of this truce offer, like that which was made to the Europeans, is to assuage such critics as much as anything else so that the next time he attacks us on the homeland he can argue that he is "safe" among his followers and fellow travelers and gave the US more than fair warning.

Posted by: Dan Darling at January 20, 2006 04:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One should consider offers of diplomacy as a way of resolving differences from bin Laden about as seriously as Bush's initiatives in going to the UN before invading Iraq.

In other words, its all just part of a larger game--- not a sign of "weakness" on OBL's part, but simply a means to an end that is as chimeral as the Bush's plans for Iraq were in 2002.

Bin Laden is insane.... the problem is that Bush keeps acting in ways that make bin Laden look prescient, rather than nuts.

Posted by: lukasiak at January 20, 2006 05:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Do we have any particular reason to think this is Bin Ladin? Does the NSA say so? If you don't trust the NSA not to fake it themselves, is there anyone who could give a competent second opinion?

Posted by: J Thomas at January 20, 2006 06:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I pay as much attention to Bin Laden's ramblings as I did to the Unabomber, which is to say none. I remember when the Unabomber forced the NYTimes and the WP to print his Manifesto, and I gave it the cold shoulder then. Later when he was captured, I read a profile on him in the NYTimes and it turns out his favorite book was Secret Agent by Conrad. I read the book and there is a self important bomber character in the book that he'd been patterning himself after. It all made sense in the way a doctor understands a disease and can determine its pathology.

Posted by: cs at January 20, 2006 06:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I pay as much attention to Bin Laden's ramblings as I did to the Unabomber, which is to say none. I remember when the Unabomber forced the NYTimes and the WP to print his Manifesto, and I gave it the cold shoulder then. Later when he was captured, I read a profile on him in the NYTimes and it turns out his favorite book was Secret Agent by Conrad. I read the book and there is a self important bomber character in the book that he'd been patterning himself after. It all made sense in the way a doctor understands a disease and can determine its pathology.

Posted by: cs at January 20, 2006 06:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What I find most interesting about this latest communique is its timing right after the attack in Pakistan that apparently killed the reported "chief bombmaker" and trainer.

To me, this confirms that that was a major blow to al-Qaeda, not only because it took out someone who was presumably key to certain operations in some level of planning, but because it ratcheted up paranoia and distrust. To be targeted that precisely in a social setting surely means that the al-Qaeda visitors were sold out by someone on the ground. It also significantly discourages future hosts from inviting al-Qaeda in for tea and chitchat about jihad. Bin Laden needed to say something, quickly, to reassure supporters despite the fact that some of his top guys were betrayed by the last people he trusts in the most remote place he can hide. Maybe we're going to be shocked by a big something in the next few months or years. But the odds look increasingly good that all he has left is bluster-- and fear.

Posted by: Mike G at January 20, 2006 04:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Saudis have Bush by the balls, and Bin Laden knows this, and he likes to tease Bush about it.

The relationship between the Saudi aristocracy and the Bushes runs deep.

Many of the Saudi aristocracy may find Bin Laden annoying, but he is still part of their society, and they have told Bush to lay off. There are more pro-Al-Queda members of Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure than any Iraqi, Iranian or Syrian governments…even the Pakistani government would give the Saudi’s a run for their money in the Al-Queda love-fest.

How convenient that the Bush administration doesn’t have the guts to confront “our allies” on it.

Georgie Boy has to kill someone, like he's killing darkies and heathens somewhere for what “they did”, (keeps the right-wing nationalists busy) as long as those darkies and heathens are not part of Saudi aristocracy.

Posted by: NeoDude at January 20, 2006 04:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Does someone have a link to the LATimes editorial(s) referenced by Dan Darling?

Posted by: Senator Blutarski at January 20, 2006 05:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Muslim fanatics who offer truces think we don't know about the Prophet's hudna with the Quraysh. Westerners call this type of conduct "treacherous" or "dishonest." UBL thinks it's fine. But we have to keep these differing views of a truce in mind. Muslim fanatics view a truce as an opportunity to regroup for a new attack, while Westerners view it as a cessation of hostilities.

Posted by: Stuart at January 20, 2006 05:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mike G

You are mistaken. This communique was created a month before the Pakistan attack (in December 05).

Posted by: Davebo at January 20, 2006 05:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wait a minute. Weren't conservatives just recenlty reassuring us that OBL was dead, and that's why it didn't matter if we ever "found" him? Wasn't he supposed to be dead of a bombing raid, an earthquake, or just good old kiney disease?

Huh. Guess they were wrong. About that. Again.

Posted by: CaseyL at January 20, 2006 05:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The fact that he was able to record the message, deliver it and broadcast is in itself a victory for him". Well, yeah, maybe. But that's really defining victory down quite a damn lot, isn't it?

Ha. Funny stuff. That being said, his existence so many years after 9/11 is something of a victory. He attacked America and lives to tell us about it. Repeatedly. Still, if this is what all his "victories" look like, I could live with it.

Oh, and welcome back Mr. D.

Posted by: Eric Martin at January 20, 2006 05:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I can't believe that you all miss the plot. Binney, AP's 'exiled Saudi dissident' was captured in Tora Bora in 2001, and has been kept in Cheney's secured location all these years. His timings are just too perfect to be coincidental. Last time when Bush's poll was dropping like a rock, Binney came to his rescue; this time Bush is in deep NSA dodo, and is on the brink of impeachment, Binney comes to his rescue again. A conspiratorial mind knows this is just one coincident too many.

Posted by: ic at January 20, 2006 06:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Mike G-- You are mistaken. This communique was created a month before the Pakistan attack (in December 05)."

Well, but it was just released now by whoever thought the jihadis needed some bucking-up from the top.

Posted by: Mike G at January 20, 2006 06:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Have you read what OBL actually said? He sounds like he is channeling Cindy Sheehan. He hits all the left's talking points - we're losing in Iraq, Bush is a liar, withdraw the troops now, soldier morale is low, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, etc. He even manages to throw in a reference to Vietnam and a conspiracy theory or two.

What purpose does it serve for OBL to sound so eerily similar to Howard Dean? He obviously follows our political chattering classes quite closely. Why has he adopted the tone and message of the left? Why does he choose their words in his tapes designed to demoralize and threaten the US?

He did the same thing prior to the 2004 election, threatening retaliation to the "red states" who vote for Bush and referencing Michael Moore's film.

Whose side are you on if OBL is parroting your words?

Posted by: inmypajamas at January 20, 2006 06:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Al-Jazeera says it was recently recorded, only verifiable time frame is the last reference to an actual event, London Bombing.

Posted by: jimbo at January 20, 2006 06:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

After every statement insert your favorite current or ex-Democrat politician or consultant.

Raw Data: Bin Laden Transcript

Thursday, January 19, 2006

— The following is a translation of the portion of the purported Usama bin Laden audiotape aired on the Al Jazeera network:

I propose a long-term truce with the U.S. military. God has prevented us from lying and betraying. You can give us this truce so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan that you have destroyed.

This will prevent the loss of millions of dollars, billions of dollars that go to corrupt businessmen in the United States.

Our situation is getting better and better and your situation is getting worse and worse.

But I wanted to talk to you because of the lies that have been given to you by your President Bush when he commented on the results of the opinion polls in your country that showed the majority was for the pull out of U.S. forces in Iraq.

You [Bush] opposed this opinion by saying a pull out of U.S. forces would send the wrong message and that it is better to fight them in their land than they fight us in our land.

I have an answer for this. I'm saying that the war in Iraq is lit up like crazy and the operations are estimated in our favor in Afghanistan and the number of dead and injured on your side is greater and greater, in addition to material losses.

The result of the opinion polls are wise and Bush must follow it. Iraq has now become a point of attraction to all qualified people the mujahadeen who by the grace of God were able to infiltrate all the security measures that were taken by Coalition forces. And as proof to that: The bombings that you saw in many important capitals of the world.

The reason why we didn't have any such an operation in the United States is not because of security difficulties; the operation will take place and you will see such operations by the grace of God and by the will of God.

So you see how Bush was misleading people. The opinion polls are for the pull out and it's important that opinion polls say the people didn't want to fight the Muslims in their land and they didn't want the Muslims to fight them in their land.

I propose a long-term truce that will give the two sides stability and security.

And this is the most important, most diligent solution as a result of which there will be no losses.

Posted by: jimbo at January 20, 2006 07:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

ic:

If you think Bush is in deep trouble over the NSA thing, or that he's anywhere near impeachment, you're high on Left Wing Cocoon Fumes.

The strongest allegations coming from the Left about the spying and FISA could be true, and you still wouldn't get all the House Democrats to vote for impeachment. Why? Because they actually have political sense, and those in reasonably contestable districts know they would be crushed in November as Al Qaeda facilitators and fellatiators.

A much better conspiracy theory than "Bush controlls OBL" is "Bush controls Nader, Kos, Michael Moore, and MoveOn". As the last seven Presidential elections show, the only way the Democratic Party can win presidential races is with the left wing united behind a DLC/New Democrat candidate. As the whole history of the United States elections in wartime shows, 1812-present shows, you can't win as an anti-war candidate when there's a war on. Lieberman was the only Democrat who could possibly win in 2004; Kos/Moore/MoveOn were lined up against him, and Nader was waiting in the wings to bite him on the left flank if he got nominated.

Posted by: Anonymous Lunatic at January 20, 2006 07:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Al-Jazeera says it was recently recorded, only verifiable time frame is the last reference to an actual event, London Bombing.

I think he made reference to the British memo in which Bush expressed a desire to bomb Al-Jazeera. New of this broke more recently than the London Bombing.

And for the record, I am firmly on Osama's side. Yeah!

Posted by: Eric Martin at January 20, 2006 07:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

somebody, i think it was a guy from the baker center whos also a columnist for one of the london arab papers, pointed out that there were no koran quotes, none of the usual arabic rhetorical flourishes. he speculated this means OBL doesnt have access to any native arabic speaking staff - hes probably holed up surrounded only by friendly Pashtuns.

Thoughts?

Posted by: liberalhawk at January 20, 2006 07:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My first thought when I heard OBL's comments about a peace deal was,"WE ARE WINNING!" Why else would he offer a cease fire? He and his organization perhaps desperately needs a break from the fighting. And any time he is aired Bushe's approval ratings go up because it reminds us there really is a war going on.

Posted by: Scott Singletary at January 20, 2006 08:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A Lunatic: I think "A conspiratorial mind knows this is just one coincident too many." should give you a hint of what I am actually saying. Binney said "Allah forbids us to lie", the Canuck Liberals said "we do not make this up", a CNN correspondent really believe something similar to what I said happened.

Posted by: ic at January 20, 2006 10:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


http://americansforfreedom.blogspot.com/2006/01/worrying-coincidences-iran-syria-qaeda.html
I am toubled by the combination of the following recent events:

OBL tape, Amadinejad visiting Damascus, the upcoming IAEA / UN talks, Sharon's incapacitation and Chirac's vow to nuke any state that attacks France with WMDs. Throw this together with the large disposible cell phone purchases in the past couple months in the US and it seems to me that Iran/Syria and Qaeda are whipping up some terror coordination in the near future to prevent action against the Iran nuke regime.


UPDATE: Astute Blogger agrees, and points out that:

Iran is moving its foreign currency reserves out of European banks as a pre-emptive measure against any possible U.N. sanctions over its nuclear program, the Central Bank Governor said Friday.

This is not good. Something is brewing.

http://astuteblogger.blogspot.com/2006/01/drudgebreitbartap-iran-moving-its.html


UPDATE: US Market down 200 points on Iran & Quaeda fears, + earning issues. MORE TO COME HERE, I think. see Barry Ritholtz at http://bigpicture.typepad.com/

Posted by: jp at January 20, 2006 10:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Did anyone noticed UBL reference to William Blum's book (Rogue State) and using Blum's argument to attack America? Read the whole thing and you will find it.
I think it is a SAD day when, UBL and America's ultra-left have reached the same logic !!!

Posted by: FB at January 20, 2006 10:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I will second J Thomas' questioning of the tape.

I distinctly remember Ashcroft declaring a TERROR ALERT at politically opportune times. And then when Iraq was invaded, no more TERROR ALERTs. Bush is probably re-inventing UBL because Iraq isn't going so well.

Misdirection is the only trick a good magician needs.

Posted by: cs at January 20, 2006 11:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yeah FB, UBL also shares a lot of the same logical moorings as the ultra-conservative religious right. Same arguments too. Same blame of modernity for all that ails society. Same literalist interpretations of centuries' old religious texts.

So what? Sad days, same minds, guilt by extenuated and highly strained association.

bla bla bla.....

Posted by: Eric Martin at January 20, 2006 11:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Jacobin excesses"? While you are invoking history, look up the Alien and Sedition Act, Lincoln's detaining 35,000 people during the Civil War, and Roosevelt's internment camps for Japanese Americans. Bush's transgressions pale in comparison.

"Too-easy-recourse-to-militarism"? Gosh . I don't know... could it be because we are uh, at war?

Whatever criticsm you have about Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq, the Jihadis have screwed up worse. Islamophobia has more adherents, many of whom are Muslim.

Posted by: Chuck Betz at January 21, 2006 12:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I concur with Dan Darling's assessment in the first post on this thread. The truce offer would be made if al Qaeda had plans at any level for a terrorist attack in the US or elsewhere. It therefore could precede such an attack by days or weeks, or not at all, depending on how far plans are advanced and whether they proceed to conclusion without being disrupted by American and allied countermeasures.

I put down Greg's thoughts about bin Laden's "sad life" to a poorly considered attempt at rhetoric on his part. My own dominant thought about bin Laden is that he ought to have been laid out on an Afghan hillside with a knife in his eye years ago. That is never has been is not something I see as a plus for President Bush or anyone else on our side.

Posted by: Zathras at January 21, 2006 01:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bin Laden proposed a truce with Europe in April 2004, and extended that to the United States his October 2004 message. So his talk of a truce in his most recent message is a continuation of a rehtorical strategy which is over a year old. It's nothing new.

I think that Dan Darling (above) has posted the most plausible explanation of bin Laden's purpose in offering this truce--bin Laden thinks that his violence will appear more justified if he can claim that he offered us a ceasefire and we rejected it.

As for "[giving] credit to the Bush Administration for robustly taking the fight to Bin Laden's core al-Qaeda group," well, all right. I hereby give Bush credit for robustly taking the fight to al Qaeda, to the extent that this didn't conflict with Bush's desire to invade Iraq.

Posted by: Kenneth Almquist at January 21, 2006 01:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

OBL makes another appearance, and Karl Rove promptly announces that the theme of the 2006 elections will be "Security."

It's nice of OBL to provide the Bush Admin with fresh footage for its campaign ads.

And I'm sure both OBL and Bush are very pleased that the quivering masses of terrified jelly which comprise Bush's supporters have reacted with their usual Pavlovian alacrity.

Maybe we should ask the people of New Orleans about "security." Maybe we should ask the soldiers, maimed in Bush's War, who face a loss of veterans' benefits; or the families who've had to buy armor and supplies for their sons and daughters in uniform; or the soldiers being penalized for providing their own armor, how "secure" they feel. Maybe we should ask the millions of elderly Americans who woke up the day after Bush's Rx drug benefit went into effect to find they couldn't fill their prescriptions how "secure" they feel.

But noooo. Let OBL show his face again, and the Right dives for its security blanket, right on cue.

Posted by: CaseyL at January 21, 2006 02:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pat Lang has posted the same take as Darling.
I think it is the correct perspective.

Posted by: avedis at January 21, 2006 02:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Somehow CaseyL has obtained an advance copy of OBL's next tape.

Posted by: inmypajamas at January 21, 2006 02:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The problem is our president.

He can’t allow pluralism and all-American patriotism to work, because when it does his involvement with the corrupt Saudi Aristocracy would come under a microscope.

Bush has this nation chasing ghosts in the Middle East, just so his relationship with the Saudi aristocracy stays healthy.

Better to have an authoritarian and right-wing nationalistic base protecting him..forget protecting the nation.

And as long as right-wing nationalists care only to put darkies in their place, Bin Laden and Al-Queda get’s away with mass murder.

Posted by: NeoDude at January 21, 2006 01:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Based upon the diminished quality of the above commentary, I think that in Greg's absence, not only have the vultures been gathering on the walls, but they have been calling in their cousins from other, less distinguished blogs and backwaters.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at January 21, 2006 04:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's nice to know that the EU-3 got their permission slips from Washington before they embarked on their rather futile diplomatic excursions. It's a pity the US didn't take a seat at the table as well.

I would take issue with your assumption that driving the US from Mesopotamia is the real goal of this little intervention - I suspect that he is trying to push Bush's buttons, and make sure that the US military stays there for a good deal longer, and at a good deal more expense.

The Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan because they couldn't afford to continue the conflict; given that the federal debt ceiling is set to breach the 8.16T level in the next 60 days - that means that the deficit will have grown by 2.51T in less than 4 years. At current rates of expenditure, the US will hit the 9.5-10T level by the time Bush leaves office. I doubt that the US economy will grow by 40% by 2009, and Bush's successor is going to be facing a series of highly unpleasant fiscal choices.

Posted by: dan at January 21, 2006 07:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I feel very sad when I read comments from Americans who hate Bush so much they want the US to go down the tubes just to spite him.

You folks brush up on your Arabic, you hear?

Posted by: miriam at January 21, 2006 10:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I found the juxtaposition of these comments fascinating.

dan: The Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan because they couldn't afford to continue the conflict; given that the federal debt ceiling is set to breach the 8.16T level in the next 60 days - that means that the deficit will have grown by 2.51T in less than 4 years. At current rates of expenditure, the US will hit the 9.5-10T level by the time Bush leaves office. I doubt that the US economy will grow by 40% by 2009, and Bush's successor is going to be facing a series of highly unpleasant fiscal choices.

miriam: I feel very sad when I read comments from Americans who hate Bush so much they want the US to go down the tubes just to spite him. You folks brush up on your Arabic, you hear?

Miriam, I think that George Bush is doing a pretty good job of taking this country down the tubes regardless of what a few lefties think. You folks buy yourselves some commodities, hear?

Posted by: George at January 22, 2006 04:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Who makes tinfoil? After reading all these comments I'm buying stock.

Posted by: wizard61 at January 22, 2006 02:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I will try out Thibaud's powerpoint approach.

THESIS: We can tell nothing useful from the UBL tape.

FACTS: None.

NEWS: A tape attributed to bin Ladin has been disseminated widely. Various people have reacted to it.

OTHER PEOPLE'S CONCLUSIONS:
0. Bin Ladin is still alive, after all these years. How come?
1. Bin Ladin is offering a truce because his organisation has been badly hurt and he needs to reorganise. We're winning.
2. Bin Ladin is offering a truce because arab opinion doesn't like surprise attacks, they want a truce offer that can be accepted or rejected before attacking.
3. Bin Ladin suggests american-style arguments against the continuing war in iraq etc because he's aiming this at westerners, his understanding of us is improving.
4. Bin Ladin uses liberal arguments against the USA because liberals are just like Bin Ladin, showing that they are the enemy.
5. Bin Ladin pretends he wants us out of iraq so we'll stay in iraq and get sucked dry.
6. Bin Ladin really does want us out of iraq just like the treasonous liberals do.
7. The Bush Administration faked the tape because terrorist warnings make Bush more popular.
8. The Bush Administration faked the tape because Bin Ladin arguing we should get out of iraq will provide support for staying in iraq.
9. The Bush Administration faked the tape because news about Bin Ladin will distract attention from the many Republican scandals.

MY CONCLUSIONS:
0. We don't know who faked the tape.
1. We don't know what they wanted.
2. We could go down the list and speculate which of them might have done it this way. But it's a lot of effort for very little result.
3. It isn't worth it. Just forget it. But check your emergency supplies. Al Qaeda or somebody else might attack. Bush has probably utterly botched Homeland Security. Do what you can for your own family and your own neighborhood.

TANGENT #1: If someday you create a secret group, generate some sort of digital signature. Super PGP, whatever. If you make one that nobody but NSA can crack then later on you can use it and nobody can pass messages under your name but you and NSA. What do you have to lose? Bin Ladin should do this; it isn't too late.

TANGENT #2: Conservative wingnuts accuse everybody else of treason for not fully supporting the war. They feel like liberals are the biggest and most important enemy. Others apply the exact same argument to wingnuts. Buth are mostly correct. To the extent that the USA is a superpower, what US citizens choose is more important than what foreign heads of state choose. It's only when we lose superpower status that foreign enemies become important enough that we need to unite against them.

Are we there yet?

Posted by: J Thomas at January 22, 2006 04:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What do you think of the new way Rice wants to use the State Dept. and ambassadors around the world -- the "Rice Doctrine" for the DoS?

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06022/641714.stm

I'd love to see a post on this, especially more comprehensive than the Gazette article.

Great blog Greg!

Posted by: Radcliffe at January 22, 2006 11:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

LMAO - good call Michael.

Some of you people need to get a grip on reality here... The whole McBushcronyistnewworldorder conspiracy things gets equally as tiresome as the whole liberals are traitors meme.

Given the history of man kind do you really think that its possible for a small group to great such a staggering power play and have every single player keep their mouth shut??? It just doesn't happen - at least not in the real world.

And for those of you who think challenging your elected leaders (remember that concept BTW - YOUR ELECTED leaders), equates to treason then I strongly suggest you take some basic political classes and understand the concepts that underpin the separation of powers, and other basic forms of checks and balance in government. Then maybe you might understand the vital importance of dissent in a healthy democracy.

And as for suggesting that because OBL is covering the left talking points, precisely serves his purpose of divide and conquer. He's reasonably intelligent for a fanatic, and he understand you far better than you understand him...

Come back soon Greg!!!

Posted by: Aran Brown at January 23, 2006 03:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eek Double post and spelling!!!

2nd Paragraph should read" "...for a small group to create such a staggering..."

The Last Paragraph should read: "...because OBL is covering the left talking points, by default the left are OBL supporters. That is patently stupid and..."

Sorry!

Posted by: Aran Brown at January 23, 2006 03:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm as dyed-in-the-wool a moderate Dem/Bush loather as there can be, I even have my "Howard Dean isn't always crazy" ID card in my wallet -- but I must say, this is not the moment for lefty conspiracy triumphalism. The obvious conclusion one has to draw from the message is unmistakeably that it's good for Bush in the it's-good-for-the-nation-too way.

I am on a private message board among IRL friends where hawks and doves vigorously debate Iraq and the GWOT almost on a daily basis. We're all NYC Dems, but some of us are just more hawkish than others. When word of the "truce" came down the other day, I posted to the group that "hmmm, something went right here." This from an unabashed Bush-basher. You don't have to sign on on the whole war or the whole GWOT or Bush's approach to anything -- but something did go right here, and it's incumbent on those of us who do want the GWOT, such as it is, to go well, to admit that.

Posted by: Martin at January 23, 2006 03:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aran, where do you get your news?

The whole New World Order thing, they *didn't* keep their mouths shut, they published the whole thing ahead of time and they haven't denied it since.

So the question is, when things went just how they said, was it coincidence or were they really behind it?

Posted by: J Thomas at January 23, 2006 05:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,
I think that OBL's call for a truce was made, because he probably has some operations underway in the US that will inflict heavy civilian casualties. So with his latest dsipatch, he can then claim that he asked for a truce prior to the executions of these attacks. Whether or not the US is winning the war against the terrorist really depended upon how you view the latest attack in Pakistan. Certainly from the perspective of the villagers in Damadola, the attack was a failure, because it inflicted such a heavy toll of civilian casualties. And again, like the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the US has broken international law by violating the national air space of Pakistan, a sovereign nation, just as the US did in Yemen early in the war on terror with another Predator drone attack targeted against terrorists.
OBL obviously sees himself as the titular leader of a Pan-Islamic nation of Muslim throughout the Middle East. So he offers the fig leaf of a truce to his main adversary. Delusional thinking? Time will tell whether President Bush or OBL is more delusional. But what is already clear is that the US occupation of Iraq had pushed the Shiites in the south to forge closer ties with Iran, one of the nations that President Bush called part of the axis of evil. Iran has already promised around one billion dollars in foriegn aid to the newly elected government and the Iraqis and Iranians are in negotiations for sharing Iran's port facilities for the export of oil. So President Bush has nudged Iraqi closer to Iran. I thought that he wanted to create a sustainable democracy in Iraq that would create a domino effect of spreading democracy throughout the region?
In Vietnam, according to former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in one of his "mea culpas" books, where he made a desparate attempt to rehabilitate his image, he estimated that between 3 to 3.4 million Vietnamese were killed in the war. If you take those casualties as a percentage of the entire population of north and south Vietnam and transpose the same percentage to the entire population of the United States at the same time, if the Vietnam War was fought on American soils, the casualties would be between 27 and 30 million American citizens. And having been a medical corpsman in Vietnam, I can tell you that the civilians suffered greatly. So I have little stock with moral outrage over the carnage issue. We have a great deal of innocent blood on our own hands, to say the least.
And a recent Lancet report found that in a fourteen month period, American forces inflicted some 30,000 civilian death in Iraq. And now due to criticism back home about American casualties, American field commanders in Iraq have been relying on air strikes to take out insurgents. But air strikes also cause "collateral damage" to innocent civilians and turn them against the American occpuation. So the military tactic of air strikes has become a self-defeating policy that turns the hearts and minds of Iraqi toward the insurgents rather than toward the Americans. It has become a reccruitment tool for the insurgents, funded by American tax-payers.
Sincerely,
George Hoffman

Posted by: George Hoffman at January 23, 2006 03:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"And a recent Lancet report found that in a fourteen month period, American forces inflicted some 30,000 civilian death in Iraq."

George - if you going to beat the Lancet report drum please get the hysterical innacuracies right - its 100,000 dead iraqis ( all women and children iirc ) - all the fault of Chimpy McHalliburton - or so the DNC tells us


Now back to reality - the best estimates are indeed of 30,000 dead - but not all caused by US actions, nor all "civillians"


If you think its news that the toppling of an entenched dictatorship and many months of terrorist activity has killed thousands of people then you've come to the wrong place

On the plus side - removing Saddam has SAVED hundreds of thousands of iraqi lives

http://markhumphrys.com/iraq.html#democide


Of course, if you take the view that Iraq was a nation of kite flying joy prior to us messing it up - you'll need to visit some Iraqi blogs at least to educate yourself

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at January 23, 2006 04:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BTW, this tape by Bin Laden is far more important and strange than anyone credits thus far. If indeed it is Bin Laden, something that remains unproven. It may be a virtual Bin Laden, A synthesized Bin Laden, etc. The lack of video confirmation is important as well. The Arab followers of Bin Laden, including the casual cheerleaders, are especially familiar with the stylistics of mass media and are always disappointed in the lack of video. There is a strong machismo culture here, and when one suggests that Osama is a coward for not showing his face, Arabs nod their head in agreement. OBL is not gaining local prestige with these audiotapes. Also, let me be the first to claim that he now has an American, a rather young and educated--even if self-educated, hard-leftist US citizen--working with him now. It would take a long post to simply begin the discussion of how different he sounds, the change in syntax and diction, the shifting semantics, the addition of US (not UK English) idioms, etc.


What heavy toll in Pakistan? A half-dozen highly ranked Taliban and Al Qaida killed--including those at the highest level of leadership. A few civilians dead. What are you thinking? Even Al Jazeera didn't go off the deep end on this one. By the way, no one, besides those familiar with the FADA, understands the complexity of the issues surrounding the theater involved in the followup to this bombing. This area is so far out of the 'country' of Pakistan and so isolated that there isn't even a stringer from a Pakistani, much less a western news agency within a hundred kilometers--maybe more. From Peshawar and the Frontier Post or other news organizations, it is a hazardous and arduous full day and more trip through unbelievably bad roads into the town. If you can get required permission to enter FATA. So every military event in the tribals and other remote regions is staged as media theater without fear of contradiction.

The key information here is that bodies were immediately removed--all agreed on that. The first foreign reports claimed a major leadership death toll. Soon afterwards, a Pakistan government 'spokeman' disagreed, affirming the claims of the leader of the town, a well-known Taliban/Al Quaida member/supporter. In fact, the rigged photo op and ridiculous civilian death claims were submitted only to exploit the credulity of the leftist western press and to embarrass Musharaff. No one in Pakistan takes the word of a FATA town leader seriously; everyone knows it's theater. Not long after, of course, Musharraf's staff was forced to correct the erroneous initial report (which didn't come from his office, but through NWFP leadership hoping to embarrass the US and Musharraf.)

Hiding the evidence always means major blow has been struck and the incriminating bodies must be removed before Musharraf's best people move in and battle the PR of tribals, Taliban, the ISI and others who come in to fight over the meaning of the bombing and develop alternate theories and claims. Otherwise, the bodies would have been stacked and exploited through photo and video. Both the Taliban and Al Quaida have been known to 'save' bodies to throw into bombing sites. The ludicrous expansion (or suppression) of numbers killed in bombing and other events has a long history in Pakistan (and in India and Afghanistan.) Somethimes it is a propaganda tool, sometimes just a simple desire to sell papers. There is a joke in Peshawar that translates roughly in English: "40 mujahirs died in a rocket attack. One mujahir had to die 35 times!"

Hoffman's rant is bizarre. Lancet has already been discredited regarding the 'hundred of thousands' of civilians dead in Afghanistan. Following that debacle, the increasingly leftist/hysterical Lancet came up with the 'hundred thousand' (is that the only figure they know?) in the initial weeks of Iraq II. One of the women they relied on for this data recanted, turned rightward in her political orientation and, sadly, died last year in Iraq. The folks which groups like the Lancet rely on for this information in both Afghanistan and Iraq are virulently anti-war, pro-insurgent and pro-Palestinian. Others among them go further: pro-Hezbollah, pro-Hamas and pro-Al Quaida. It's like asking the World Workers and Spartacus League in the UK to collect data during the Cold War.

Posted by: John at January 23, 2006 04:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

John, I haven't seen anything discrediting the Lancet study. Do you have some links? It would be interesting to see where this study's standard methods went wrong.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 23, 2006 05:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

good post, but I think the "truce" is aimed more at fellow islamists than at Americans ... by offering a truce he shores up the legitimacy of whatever he's trying to do. it may sound crazy but these guys do place a lot of value in justifying their actions.

Posted by: praktike at January 23, 2006 06:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

UBL, or whoever is speaking in his name, is trying to appear magnamious. Like all his stuff, this tape is less aimed at the west than at the Muslim world.

The purpose being to enhance UBL's position for those who might feel some sympathy to his version of jihad, or its aims. Praktike is correct, this is about legitimacy.

Most likely, from the perspective of UBL, if he can pull off an operation in the US or elsewhere, even better. He can appear 'rational'.

The real enemy for el Qeada and its fellow travellers are moderate Muslims. This tape is part of the ongoing attempt to bolster the el Qeada brand. Whether this indicates UBL, or whoever, feel it has been suffering, I have no idea.

Posted by: wsam at January 23, 2006 09:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think it premature to predict the state of AQ and to know that even if that organizaton declines whether other terrorist groups will replace it.

We have seen some geographical extension of activities since 9/11. Last year a resurgent Taliban killed ne hundred of our troops in Afghanistan. Iraq seems to have been a playground for terrorists of various nationalities.

We now have a variety of terorists playing with oil supplies in several regions. Iraq, Nigeria and central asia. The fact that they may not be closely allied does not mean that their activities don't support each other (each cut off drives up the price of oil and makes other cut offs more effective) and the 5 million barrels they threaten is above the world's 2 million barrels of surplus.

I believe we have serious problems and in the past declarations of victory have led to long term demoralization.

Posted by: anna at January 23, 2006 09:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

John wrote: ... Also, let me be the first to claim that he now has an American, a rather young and educated--even if self-educated, hard-leftist US citizen--working with him now. ...

Uh huh. young, educated.. an elitist! a damn hippy elitist! A long-hair, no doubt. Yup, that's gotta be it. Probably that guy Eli from MoveOn. Seriously, John, how do you know this putative American working with UBL isn't a far right Christian Fundamentalist. They both want a lot of the same things.

Posted by: George at January 23, 2006 09:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JT. I try to read widely - from Left leaning publications and websites through to moderate conservative and moderate right (Even I can't hack the hardcore fundamentalist right). I've read as widely as the Dog Skin Report, Narco News, Scoop sites through to the CNN and Fox sites, Economist, Financial Times, Time and the like when I can get them, and of course ou national daily. Its by no means a perfect spread, but you make do with what you can find and the time you have.

What I'm intimating is not that the US Govt is squeaky clean - far from it, but the whole secret new world order/illuminati/skull and bones thing isn't doable in my opinion. There might be lots of corruption in Government, but to think that a small group (which supposedly includes GWB??) could completely subvert Western Governments and install themselves as rulers of the free world as an authoritarian regime, really strikes me as bordering on Tim Foil territory. A bit like the whole liberals are traitors meme...

As far as conspiracy theories go its a nice little outlet for one paranoia, and does serve as a very good warning to ensure that the institution of democracy and the checks and balances in government are preserved (and which are under threat at the moment), but it shouldn't be taken overly seriously. There is more than enough real corruption and conspiracies to worry about.

Posted by: Aran Brown at January 23, 2006 11:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aran, you are arguing that it doesn't fit the conventional wisdom that a small group could subvert the US government. It's hard to believe it could happen, therefore it didn't happen.

You wouldn't use that reasoning in science, or math, or history. Why use it here?

The PNAC suggested a series of events. Up to a point, that series of events happened just as planned. Coincidence? It isn't a question of subverting the whole free world, but only the USA.

An extreme conspiracy theory would say that somehow a small group managed to carry out its plan despite the opposition of the whole nation. But the will to be stupid has never been stronger, and we had a lot of people who were ready to follow any bold plan that sounded halfway good -- and media that were ready to make the individual steps sond halfway good.

To me, the most implausible part of it is that in a nation crawling with crackpot theorists, one particular crackpot group would temporarily get the presiden'ts undivided support. But then I look at Bush and that isn't so implausible.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 24, 2006 04:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"To me, the most implausible part of it is that in a nation crawling with crackpot theorists, one particular crackpot group would temporarily get the presiden'ts undivided support. But then I look at Bush and that isn't so implausible."

But hey - at least he's "no leftie" ;)

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at January 24, 2006 06:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bush's borrow-and-spend policies are not at all conservative either. Hard to tell his direction, not left or right. Down. He's led us down into a hole and he keeps digging.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 25, 2006 10:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The logical result of Bush's policies will be massive waves of bankruptcy across the nation---possibly across the Western World.
The ultra-wealthy will be able to buy up the wreckage for a pittance, guaranteeing a lock on the wealth of nations for centuries. Achieving this result is apparently the goal of the Bush regime.

Posted by: Marky at January 27, 2006 08:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The logical result of Bush's policies will be massive waves of bankruptcy across the nation---possibly across the Western World.
The ultra-wealthy will be able to buy up the wreckage for a pittance, guaranteeing a lock on the wealth of nations for centuries. Achieving this result is apparently the goal of the Bush regime. "

No no - its Skull and Bones - and the Freemasons - yeah....


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Posted by: RPjQnkVuSm at January 28, 2006 10:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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