Saturday, October 30, 2004
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What to make of the bin Laden videotape?
It's understandable that most of the media reaction in this country to the bin Laden videotape is to engage in half-assed speculation on its electoral ramifications.
However, regardless of who wins, is there anything useful that can be garnered from the videotape to guide U.S. foreign policy for the future? Perusing the text, here's a possible list -- based on my half-assed speculations:
[But what about the electoral impact?--ed I'll leave that to the comments.]
UPDATE: Juan Cole makes an interesting point:
posted by Dan on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM
Was it just me, or did OBL look pretty ill ? From the few minutes I watched, it seems that the previous videos of him were shot from closer and seemed quite a bit sharper. This one seemed grainier and more distant, as if the cameraman were trying to avoid focusing in on his face too much. There have been rumors going around that he has kidney problems, was wounded at Tora Bora etc. He does not look a well man... Dan, maybe he's concentrating on his "legacy" now... ?posted by: fingerowner on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
He's not making a deal, he's taunting us with worthless offers so as to bolster his reputation in the mid-east and separate us further from our allies who might see us as unreasonable for not addressing the offers.
If we did deal with bin Laden, would we have any way of guaranteeing his side of the bargain? No.
What's more, we do have the ability to find him and take it out. All we lack is the will.
As to effects on the election, bin Laden will look like a winner either way.
If he is seen, however, as healthy, unpreasured and taunting America, that could hurt Bush.posted by: Boronx on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
Look, the deal is not a serious one. It's an attempt to fuck with us, and to justify his actions to the world.posted by: pr' on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
I agree with Dan that the speculation over which candidate will be helped by Osama's broadcast or even which candididate Osama "prefers" is kinda weird. It might even be offensive by being so divisive in the face of a real threat.
We should vote for the candidate/administration we feel will be more compotent (and clearly the Bush administration has made too many egregious mistakes and must be held accountable). But I don't think Osama really cares who's in the white house. He engaged in his crusade under Clinton, under Bush, and will probably continue under the next administration.
The significance of the tape it seems is that Osama presented himself as more of a statesman than a guerilla fighter either as an appeal to middle easterners or foreign powers.posted by: Lez on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
If there's one thing that I've come to resent about this election and national security, it's the series of claims that UBL or Saddam or some other terrorist or dictator wants one person to win over he other person. Enganging in that type of thinking seems to be little more than an exercise in voicing your biases and things like that. That's fine, I guess, but it doesn't add anything constructive to the debate, among other things.
This is not really a slam against you, Dan, but people in general.
Thiposted by: Brian on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
I think you're right, Boronx. It may be somewhat of a taunt to the US, but it's more likely a message to the global Muslim population that the US is impotent at dealing with terrorism other than destroying existing infrastructure in the process of nailing a few specific individuals.
We're in a no-win situation - as was the British during the War for Independence two centuries ago. Our current administration didn't learn in history class. We're standing in rows in the fields with our muskets and cannons while they are shooting at us from behind the trees.
I'm all for killing terrorists, but it should be done covertly against specific targets, not pre-emptively against whole populations. With our current approach spawning more discontent than it alleviates, the only way we can "win the war on terrorism" will end up being called genocide.
That's where "staying the course" with nothing new is heading. We need some different approaches; not "cut and run", but certainly not "head in the sand," as we are now.posted by: regm on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
GOP spinmeisters are quoted as being "gleeful" over the OBL tape, because they believe it will frighten people into supporting Bush.
You know what would make me "gleeful"?
5 minutes in a room with those jackals. With a baseball bat.posted by: Palladin on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
It's the job of electioneering hands to jump on anything that might aid the campaign they are working for. They are not always good judges of which things these might be. This tape isn't one of them. No American voters are going into the voting booth with their decision resting on the taped statement of some damned dirty Arab.
As to the statement itself, it looks to me more an effort by bin Laden to reposition himself and perhaps maintain his relevance to Islamist militancy. Most of the comment I've read on the dispersal of al Qaeda after the Afghan campaign and the anti-American feeling since the Iraq invasion has focused on how support for terrorism has grown in the Muslim countries. This may be so, but it does not follow from this that bin Laden is in a stronger position.
In the first place, he has probably lost most of his ability to oversee specific terrorist actions, the ability he exercised up to 9/11. Secondly, with his organization badly damaged after the Afghan campaign (and, perhaps, by diminished cooperation from officials within the Pakistani and Saudi governments) the willingness of Islamist groups around the world to engage in terrorism may have increased -- but their ability to strike at American targets, especially within the United States, hasn't. Such strikes require detailed planning and coordination over many months, as 9/11 did. Without a sanctuary in Afghanistan and with communications much more aggresively monitored than they were before 9/11 such operations must be much harder to pull off, and nearly impossible for bin Laden.
On the other hand, there is Iraq. Even here, though, we need to consider bin Laden's position and his understanding of Muslim and especially Arab politics. He knows that Islamist Sunnis have struck at occupation forces; they have also struck, to overall deadlier effect, at Iraq's majority Shiites and secular Iraqi Sunnis, people bin Laden regards as apostates but probably does not want to fight at the same time he is trying to mobilize Muslims against us. This may account for his somewhat less bloodthirsty rhetoric and apparent efforts to appear as the victim of an aggressive war. It is this image of a wronged victim that he wants all Muslims to adopt; only violence by people backed into a corner can now be easily justified.
Why does anyone believe that OBL *cares* who wins? I
Why not take the simplest explanation? Now, *no matter
OBL is alive but don't believe that he had contacts in Iraq ... we all know that there was no relationship between Saddam and OBL ... those who beleive that line also believed that the Mafia did exist ...posted by: p on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
"5 minutes in a room with those jackals. With a baseball bat."
Geez, Palladin, please don't dishonor a baseball bat this glorious year of all years. Can't you find something more suitable? How about using a shard of metal from the World Trade Center against these people who are gleeful Osama is not caught but is up and running again? Beat them until they say, "I know it was bin Laden who attacked us. I know that."posted by: roger on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
I don't know that OBL necessarily wanted to help Bush or Kerry, but merely wanted to create the impression that he influenced the election, thereby enhancing his status no matter who actually wins.posted by: fling93 on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
Oh, and this impression would also undermine the leadership of the winner, whomever that is.posted by: fling93 on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
Roger, you're right.
Baseball bats're too good for them.
And so is calling them 'jackals.' Jackals are decent, hardworking animals.
Being PC: it's hell on the rage-violence reflex :)posted by: Palladin on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
Pallidan, I thought those who disagreed
Didn't you get that email?
And you forgot to specify WHO was to have
This guy isnt dumb. The negotiations angle is right out of the North Vietnamese playbook. He has no intention of honoring a deal, or probably even striking one. However Bin Laden believes there is a powerful segment of world opinion that worships at the altar of negotiation and that they can be, if not won over, at least humored to some extent. He is correct. He is planting a seed in a crack he sees in Western politics. Its truly astounding, this entire message was aimed directly at the Michael Moore crowd, particularly in Europe. He may be right, I dont doubt there are those who see OBL as more reasonable than Bush. Clever.posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
I see 2 options:
1-Like you said he´s asking for the Hudna (temporary ceasefire).
2-Or he wants to support Kerry but in the way that makes the less damage to Kerry: using a Michael Moorish rethoric without any of his trademark blood speech, which could have led many voters directly to Bush. Like saying: Bush is stiring up things ,USA isnt evil it's just badly guided.
He changed PR tactics and that´s really interesting because there is something USA must have done that forced him to do that.
"What's more, we do have the ability to find him and take it out. All we lack is the will."
How many years for Israelis to catch the Munich Olympic Games murders? last week Israelis forces killed a terrorist that was in hit list for 10 years in smallish place like Gaza. Catching a person is 70%luck 10%money 20%work.posted by: lucklucky on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
I've been checking out various news sites to try to get a sense of how people are responding to this latest, and I have to say that this is (even more than usual) the most thoughtful and interesting commentary. Y'all are a smart bunch of people! But, Mark, I want to respond your comment about those who "worship at the altar of negotiation": from what I've seen, disputes, even brutal ones, are nearly always settled by negotiation eventually. The question is how big a stick or how juicy a carrot is necessary to reach an agreement. I don't dispute that a really big stick is needed to combat terrorism, but it needs to be combined with a bit of carrot as well to be effective in the long run. Some people are for all force, and others for all negotiation, but I think the most intelligent leaders are looking for the most effective combination of the two. What do you think is the right combination?posted by: Jess on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
Mark Buehner writes: "The negotiations angle is right out of the North Vietnamese playbook. "
No, he's clearly working out of the Al Sadr playbook.
Negotiate - fight - negotiate - fight - build a political movement - etc.posted by: Jon H on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
I was shocked and disgusted to read the following about the Republican response to the Osama bin Laden tape:
A senior GOP strategist added, "anything that makes people nervous about their personal safety helps Bush."
He called it "a little gift," saying it helps the President but doesn't guarantee his reelection."
posted by: Jess on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
As noted above, OBL will adapt and/or doesn't care who's in the WH. He and others are still going to try to attack. And, no matter who wins they're going to declare that the tape affected the election.
I haven't read the transcript, but even the mention of Kerry doesn't necessarily mean it was recorded recently. He could have recorded a version for Dean, Kucinich, Kerry, and Al Sharpton months ago, but the Kerry version is the one we're seeing now.
Is there anything he mentioned that couldn't have been foreseen in that same way?
Even if in the unlikely event there were a truce, and even if it lasted for ten years, the relentless march of Islamic expansionism will continue. The only way to defeat that is to counter extremist ideology and with military force when necessary.
Regarding the last comment, here's the link: "We want people to think 'terrorism' for the last four days," said a Bush-Cheney campaign official. "And anything that raises the issue in people's minds is good for us."
Also see this: "I want you to stand, raise your right hands," and recite "the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."
Now, what does all that remind you of?posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
As long as this ridiculous Al Jazeera tape is still being talked about seriously, people should take the time to review the September 28, 2001, interview of Osama Bin Laden with Pakistan's daily Ummat.
OBL clearly states which candidate he finds preferable. The negative *emphasis* was on the Bush family, not Kerry. Simply count the references and add the Michael Moore angle. :)posted by: Curtis on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
Negociate -- what with who?
posted by: spencer on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
Patrick McNally draws attention to an interesting point, bin Laden's claiming of credit for the 9/11 attacks. His 2001 statements seemed to seek to obfuscate this issue, one reason why many people in the Muslim countries seemed to have found persuasive the most amazing conspiracy theories about 9/11 being the result of a plot by the Mossad or the CIA.
Had Muslim audiences already decided that these conspiracy theories were false, and that 9/11 for better or worse was a product of bin Laden's organization? Or will his claiming credit for this now cause a rethinking among Arabs particularly, who had used the familiar device of blaming wickedness on various non-Muslims to avoid thinking of bin Laden as a wanton murderer?
These are questions, not arguments; I really don't know what the answers to them are, and would welcome comment from anyone more familiar with published opinion in Muslim countries than I am.posted by: Zathras on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
Tape is a fake. If it came from A-Q, the dude talking is probably one of OBL's adult sons with some make up and computer voice processing to make him sound exactly like the old man and it was probably done in a studio in Iran. But it could very well be an Actor with a beard and a voice processor. The technology is all PC/Apple based and readily available to amateurs. You can do this at home. Its why Ashley Simpson has to lip synch everything.
The speech was written by a european bilingual leftist muslim with the intention of influencing the American election. OBL would not, could not write or say such things, his rhetorical patters are fixed in the mold of a muslim immam, not a european intellectual, who has watched Michael Moore.posted by: Robert Schwartz on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
"I categorically do not think that such a deal (we won't bomb you and you pull out of the Middle East) should be struck, but it is interesting that bin Laden is trying to put it on the table."
I think we should offer him a deal. Through the negoation process we should find out where he is then blow the general area to hell and back.posted by: cubicle on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
I agree with some of what you say about the Bin Laden tape, but I think we Americans want it to be more about him than it is about us. Bin Laden appears to be very savvy of our culture (especially its history) and about our mass media's ability to inflate our gullibility. Bin Laden has played us like a well-schooled rapper in this tape. He knows we'll look for symbols and finger movements, when in fact it's all about him looking at us. It's very important to him that he be important to us. Al-Zarqawi was beginning to fog our memory of Bin Laden. The Tape serves as a reminder of Bin Laden and demonstrates how h eloves to dither with us.posted by: Roger on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
MEMRI says that part of translation was erroneous or overlooked: They say that Binladen threatned every individual US state. Those that will vote for Bush could be attacked and those that will not vote for Bush will enjoy a truce.posted by: lucklucky on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
Look, let's be honest.
The only think missing from Bin Laden's tape was a short blurb at hte end about how "I'm John Kerry and I approved of this message".
Also, I think it of note that the first thing John Kerry did was take a poll... Instead of leading, John Kerry stuck a finger into the wind like Bill Clinton did so many times.
That's no leadership. Which, it should be noted is no big shock, given John Kerry is no leader.posted by: Bithead on 10.30.04 at 12:37 PM [permalink]
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