Is OBL lying to the American people?

Bunnybinladen_2Back from his near-death experience, Osama bin Laden emerged to make an anti-Bush ad in the form of an address to the American people. The bearded one closed with the warning: “Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked.” Leading up to this statement, however, he took a series of swipes at George H.W. Bush and President Bush:

1) He claimed, “[President] Bush is still exercising confusion and misleading you and not telling you the true reason [for the attacks].” Hint: It wasn’t because al Qaeda envies our freedom.

2) He noted the “similarities of [the first Bush] administration and the regimes in [Muslim] countries, half of which are run by the military and half of which are run by monarchs.” Both of these familiar regime types and, by extension, the White House, “are full of arrogance and taking money illegally.”

3) In a bit of a chronological screw-up, he charged George the First with “suppression of freedom to his own country” by way of the PATRIOT Act.

4) Finally, he picked up on the fact that President Bush continued to read to elementary students on September 11 and said this: “[W]e never knew that the commander-in-chief of the American armed forces would leave 50,000 of his people in the two towers to face those events by themselves when they were in the most urgent need of their leader.”

For the latest partisan back-and-forth over the bin Laden tape, visit the websites of the Weekly Standard (start here and here) and the American Prospect. For what it’s worth, the pre-poll indicators seem to say that this will be bad for Kerry and good for Bush.

Two things surprised me about the video. The first was that Osama bin Laden has clearly been keeping tabs on the lefty criticisms of George W. Bush. The second was that he tailored his remarks to try to persuade a certain segment of voters. He charged that meddling by Americans and Israelis had prompted September 11. He attacked the democracy building and human rights rhetoric of the Bush administration and placed Islamic regimes on the side of freedom, in contrast to the American occupation, which was the closest he came to ever mentioning Iraq.

To certain ears, I’m sure it was it an almost reasonable address, with the reassuring message that no further aggression on the United States’ part would be met with no further violence by al Qaeda. But the speech glossed over the larger vision that led to the attack on the Pentagon and the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Here is a link to the text of bin Laden’s famous 1996 fatwa, and I encourage GetReligion regulars to go there and read it. Notice that the cleric holds the crusades against the U.S. and complains of a “Zionist-Crusader” alliance.

The document is sprawling and the complaints wide-ranging (from the free-spending Saudi royals to American involvement in the Middle East to the rotten nogoodniks in the press), but the overall vision is one of a crusading Islam. Bin Laden would expel westerners and Jews from lands that he considers to be Muslim turf and press for a stricter interpretation and enforcement of Allah’s law within that world. And his conception of what constitutes Muslim lands is quite extensive.

Not to put too fine a point on it, bin Laden now appears schizophrenic. Either he has changed his mind some since he penned the fatwa or else the notorious cleric was not being completely candid in his recent message. One of his deputies should have clued him in to the fact that a good cop/bad cop routine requires more than one person to pull it off.

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  • ken53

    bin laden recent video address to the American people is actually pretty consistent with what he said in a ‘letter’ to the American people way back in 2002. In the letter, like the video, he explains his reasons for the attack and what America can do to have peace.

    It is an easy read but too long to post in it’s entirety but if you are interested in reading it here is a link:,11581,845725,00.html

    Here is how he explains why he is writing the letter:

    “Some American writers have published articles under the title ‘On what basis are we fighting?’ These articles have generated a number of responses, some of which adhered to the truth and were based on Islamic Law, and others which have not. Here we wanted to outline the truth – as an explanation and warning – hoping for Allah’s reward, seeking success and support from Him.

    While seeking Allah’s help, we form our reply based on two questions directed at the Americans:

    (Q1) Why are we fighting and opposing you?

    Q2)What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you? “

  • dlw

    I argue in my blog,, that OBL is likely engaging in subterfuge whereby he knows that his implicit endorsement of Kerry will help sway undecideds to get Bush reelected.

    And this is because he prefers Bush as president, due to how his policies have helped spread the imperialistic view of the US that al Quaeda and other terrorist organizations use to recruit new volunteers and supporters.


  • ken53


    That would be one logical explanation for his video, but how does it square with what he has said on previous occasions?

    After giving this stuff some considerable thought I wonder if it might be that we should just take bin laden at his word as far as his motives go. His struggle has been pretty consistently for sharia and against western influence throughout his ‘career’ as a terrorist.

    From his perspective it may seem logical that to get our attention he had to use a two by four over the head kind of approach and that now he has our attention he can argue his point.

    I he is allowed to live long enough, by either God or man, he may evolve into another elder statesman of the struggle kind of figure. It would not be the first time a ‘terrorist’ gained legitimacy as their struggle gains legitimacy.

    George Washington and the revolutionies were considered terrorists by the Enlish King and wasn’t Israel founded by some people who used terrorist tactics also against the British?

  • dlw

    I don’t trust his peace-talk. Initially, I was a little open to it, but when I perceived that he was trying to give Bush a gift by implicitly endorsing Kerry, I thought that the man is mucking with our politics, which implies he probably plans to continue being a rabble-rouser.


  • Hunt-Banning Unitarian for Peace

    I was interested to read, courtesy of ken53′s link, the text of Osama Bin Laden’s letter to the American people.

    This might seem a facetious question, but bear with me – but did the American people reply? Did the American government formally reply on their behalf?

    I ask, because in the aftermath of September 11th, George W. Bush spoke of the attacks as an act of war. The U.S. Government has since talked of a ‘war on terror’. He and the Government could have chosen, instead, to designate those acts as crimes, and sought the backing of the international community in bringing the perpetrators to justice. Much – spiritually, ethically, morally, politically, philosophically – hinges on whether 9/11 is considered an act of war or a crime. ‘War’ presupposes a kind of equality between participants: England and Germany were at war between 1939 and 1945. In speaking of war, Bush and the U.S. spoke of al-Qaida’s capacity, in a sense their ‘right’, to wage war, rather than to be considered as a gang of murderers and criminals.

    So, the question again… if Hitler’s Germany, with whom Great Britain was at war, had formally sued for peace in 1942, the British Government would have formally replied. Those were the rules. Did the U.S. Government reply to Osama Bin Laden’s letter, and if not why not? How will we know when the ‘war on terror’ has been won, and how will the terrorist network be able to sue for peace, if it wanted to?

    I ask this question as a kind of sustained thought experiment. It may clarify something for someone, or may just be dust thrown against the wind.

  • ralphg

    I get the feeling the video was faked.

    An actor plays Binny; the words sound too much like written by an opportunist.