You Mean Osama BinLaden Is Still Making Political Statement? On America's Newshour?
He isn't dead of kidney failure or rotting in a cave somewhere in the Hindu Kush. He wasn't smoked out of his hole, and he in no way appeared to be on the run. The images broadcast on every American television station in the last few hours showed a man apparently in good health, clothed in traditional white and wrapped in a golden robe. His hands were steady and his voice was clear. From all appearances, Osama bin Laden is tanned, rested and ready.
In as much as it is possible for a wanted mass murderer to have a conversation with the American public, this is what we are seeing tonight. Osama bin Laden directed his message not at the Muslim world, not at the American government, but at the people gearing up to vote for a President on Tuesday. "You American people, my speech to you is the best way to avoid another conflict about the war and its reasons and results," said bin Laden. A lot of people thought the capture of bin Laden would be the 'October Surprise' to affect the vote. Instead, we got, hard as it is to believe, an election editorial from Osama, who remains alive and free. As far as October surprises go, this one is completely off-the-grid strange.
For the first time, bin Laden openly took responsibility for the attacks of September 11. "We fought you because we are free...and want to regain freedom for our nation. As you undermine our security, we undermine yours," he said. "To the U.S. people, my talk is to you about the best way to avoid another disaster. I tell you: Security is an important element of human life and free people do not give up their security."
Bin Laden attempted to explain his reasons for the 9/11 attacks, stating that the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 lit his homicidal fuse. "I will tell you the reasons behind these incidents," he said. "I will be honest with you on the moment when the decision was taken. We never thought of hitting the towers. But after we were so fed up, and we saw the oppression of the American-Israeli coalition on our people in Palestine and Lebanon, it came to my mind and the incidents that really touched me directly goes back to 1982:. When the US permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon with the assistance of the 6th fleet. In these hard moments, it occurred to me so many meanings I can't explain, but it resulted in a general feeling of rejecting oppression, and gave me a hard determination to punish the oppressors. While I was looking at the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it came to my mind to punish the oppressor the same way and destroy towers in the U.S. to get a taste of what they tasted, and quit killing our children and women."
While candidates Bush and Kerry were careful to avoid using the video as a club to batter each other, their surrogates have already taken to the airwaves to spin this event for one or the other. At first blush, it is difficult to imagine how bin Laden's entrance into this voting season helps the election prospects of Mr. Bush. The videotape was first broadcast by the al Jazeera network, which is based out of Qatar. According to CNN, the U.S. Ambassador to Qatar attempted to stop Al Jazeera from broadcasting the tape. That, as much as the actual content of the tape, speaks to how nervous the re-appearance of bin Laden makes the Bush administration.
Beyond the demonstrable fact that Mr. Wanted-Dead-Or-Alive is still upright and breathing, there is the scathing mockery bin Laden leveled at Bush, along with a back-handed thank-you to Bush for giving the 9/11 terrorists the time they needed to complete the attack. "We never thought that the high commander of the U.S. armies would leave 50,000 of his citizens in both towers to face the horrors alone," bin Laden said. "It appeared to him that a little girl's talk about her goat and its butting was more important than the planes and their butting of the skyscrapers. That gave us three times the required time to carry out the operations, thank God."
Once again, Bush's comments from March of 2002 rise again with the impact of a gut-punch. "So I don't know where he is," said Bush of bin Laden at the time. "Nor - you know, I just don't spend that much time on him really, to be honest with you. I... I truly am not that concerned about him." The fellow who orchestrated the massacre of 3,000 people, the fellow whom Bush said he wasn't concerned about, thanked Bush for giving him the time necessary to complete his wretched act. In the parlance of American youth, Bush got punked by the top terrorist on national television.
An issue which has already been pressing on this campaign season now resonates with new urgency. For the last several days, the Bush administration has been wrestling with the fact that nearly 400 tons of high explosives - the same kind of explosives used to bring down Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, the same kind of explosives used to blow a hole in the USS Cole - walked away from a storage bunker in Iraq.
Videotape from a Minnesota news station, shot by embedded reporters during the invasion of Iraq, showed members of the 101st Airborne cutting the locks on the place. No troops stayed to guard the well-known bunker, however, because such duty was not a priority of Bush administration officials handing out marching orders to the troops. Bush's own weapons inspector, David Kay, was appalled at what he saw on the Minnesota news station's footage of the opening of the bunker. "When you break into it, you own it," said Kay. "It's your responsibility to secure it."
Thanks to the disastrous Iraq invasion, and the continuing debacle that is the occupation, Iraq is now a place where al Qaeda terrorists may operate freely. How much of the missing explosives in question have fallen into the hands of bin Laden loyalists? How much of the thousands of tons of explosives and weaponry that went similarly unguarded by American forces all across Iraq have likewise found their way into al Qaeda hands? The re-emergence of Osama bin Laden makes these questions all the more pressing.
How all of this will shake out among the American electorate remains to be seen. Perhaps the American people, upon seeing a healthy bin Laden again on their televisions, will be reminded of Bush's failure to capture or kill him and punish Bush at the polls. Perhaps they will be angered that bin Laden dared to throw his two bloody cents into the political conversation and side with Bush over Kerry. Perhaps the only absolute conclusion to draw from all this is the one that almost certainly occurred to every American who tuned into the broadcast.
The bastard is still alive.