New OBL tape: Appeasement talk and cited Westerners

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Osama bin Laden, from his latest tape. Image courtesy of Nick Grace.

Bill Roggio notes the new bin Laden audiotape, “An Address to the American People by the Lion of Islam Sheikh Osama bin Laden.” As the title suggests, it is expressly directed at a Western audience. There are two interesting aspects to the tape. The first is that the tape suggests that peace with al-Qaeda is a relatively simple matter: Americans need only liberate themselves “from fear and the ideological terrorism of neo-conservatives and the Israeli lobby.” Bin Laden argues that the group’s fight against the US is due exclusively to “your support for your ally Israel.” And his bottom line is: “If you stop the war, then fine. Otherwise we will have no choice but to continue our war of attrition on every front… If you choose safety and stopping wars, as opinion polls show you do, then we are ready to respond to this.” Al Qaeda tapes directed at Western audiences are more likely to emphasize the limited nature of the group’s demands, and de-emphasize arguments and rhetoric about an existential conflict with the West. The rhetoric of major al Qaeda ideologues is not always so restrained.

Second, it is interesting to note the Westerners whom bin Laden singles out for condemnation, and those whom he cites in support of his arguments. Bin Laden takes pride in his ability to follow news and major publications coming out of the West, and will reference them in his propaganda efforts. For one thing, “Bin Laden says U.S. support for Israel and ‘other oppressive stances’ ‘pushed us to the events of 9/11,’ citing both President Obama’s June 4th Cairo speech and Former President Jimmy Carter.”

Arguing that the Obama administration is simply a repackaged Bush administration, bin Laden says that Obama uses “the same heads of defense from Cheney and Bush”; here he names Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus. (Of course, the inclusion of Gen. Petraeus betrays bin Laden’s unfamiliarity with how the US government functions.) But, to me, the most interesting of his citations to Westerners was to a book:

Bin Laden makes another but more obscure literary reference to an unnamed retired CIA agent who he says is best able to explain the reasons for the 9/11 attacks. According to bin Ladin, among the agent’s works is a book title “Confessions of a Killer for Hire.”

Contrary to ABC News’s claim that this is an “obscure literary reference,” the book bin Laden references is almost certainly John Perkins’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

UPDATE, 7:24 A.M.: Walid Phares has a great analysis of the new tape. His conclusions are similar to mine. Regarding al Qaeda’s appeasement theme, he argues that the tape’s exclusive focus on Israel and the “Israel Lobby” represents a significant evolution of its strategic communications strategy. Money quote:

The speech, per a first reading aims at creating confusion among Americans by announcing that the war can be really ended via accepting al Qaeda’s conditions. But among the messages Bin Laden is sending, is an attempt to create division within the Obama Administration by stimulating those he believes are anti-Israel to pressure the US President in order to curtail the influence of the so-called Israel Lobby inside the White House and within the Administration.

Phares also adds a few more details to bin Laden’s name-dropping of Westerners. Besides Perkins’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, bin Laden also says that John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy “will give you the truth.” Bin Laden references John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy in arguing that Obama cannot deviate from the path set by the Bush administration: “This President has become like a train set to move in a particular direction. He must accept these pressures otherwise his fate (the President) could be like President Kennedy or his brother (Robert).” (The reference to Robert Kennedy is ironic, given the tape’s exclusive focus on Israel: Sirhan Sirhan proclaimed his rabid anti-Zionism as his motivation for assassinating Kennedy.) And in describing how retaining Sec. Gates and Gen. Petraeus (as well as Adm. Mullen) represents a continuation of the Bush administration, bin Laden says that Obama “should have appointed generals who were against the war like General Sanchez and Admiral Fallon.”

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9 Comments

  • britsarmymom says:

    Hey, maybe he can dig up Neville Chamberlain.

  • Neo says:

    Al Qaeda is now trying to convince western political factions to be more sensitive to the plight of Muslims. Oh how the mighty have fallen! Up until fairly recently, they wouldn’t stoop to arguing their grievances or making any offering of peace with western political interests. Of course the offers are insincere, but the fact that they feel the need to make them is a relatively new development. Up until recently their approach was uncompromising and relentless. That approach was basically, enunciate your demands, attack relentlessly, demand total submission, offer no quarter, and when your demands are met repeat the process. Compromise is beneath them. Part of their appeal to conservative Muslims has been that they are totally inflexible. Of course I realize that Al Qaeda is not compromising. They are trying a sophisticated ploy, in place of earlier ham handed approaches. Now maybe they should offer advice on American troop levels in Afghanistan.

  • Render says:

    Appoint generals who are against the war?
    Does OBL appoint terrorists who are against the war?
    ===
    Once again OBL makes it very clear that its all about exterminating the Jews.
    Once again the MSM spins or ignores the message from The Base.
    ===
    Such a fan club Steven Walt has; David Duke and Osama bin Laden.
    IMAGINE
    THAT,
    R

  • Mr T says:

    OBL- “then we are ready to respond to this”
    Yeah, meaning we will then take you over and establish the global caliphate.
    OBL has clearly enunciated his goals. I am sure they have not changed. He remains committed to establishing a worldwide caliphate where everyone submits to Islam. (of course with him at the top).

  • KnightHawk says:

    Translation – “Really all we want are the Jews… for now”
    Oh joy!!
    Maybe he’ll offer one of those peace deals that have worked out so well in the NWFP, wouldn’t that be just grand?
    Nice try on his part to try and stir up trouble on Obama’s political flanks though, or is he just trying to take credit ahead of time for what’s coming around the corner?

  • Jack Pierce says:

    The book bin Laden references is almost certainly NOT John Perkins’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. It is far more like to be one of Michael F. Scheuer’s, former CIA employee. In his 22-year career, he served as the Chief of the Bin Laden Issue Station (aka “Alec Station”), from 1996 to 1999, the Osama bin Laden tracking unit at the Counterterrorist Center. He then worked again as Special Advisor to the Chief of the bin Laden unit from September 2001 to November 2004. Scheuer became a public figure after being outed as the anonymous author of the 2004 book Imperial Hubris, in which he criticized many of the common United States and Western world assumptions about the motives for Islamic terrorism, and put these into the context of greater Western-Islamic relations.

  • Jack Pierce says:

    The book bin Laden references is almost certainly NOT John Perkins’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. It is far more like to be one of Michael F. Scheuer’s, former CIA employee. In his 22-year career, he served as the Chief of the Bin Laden Issue Station (aka “Alec Station”), from 1996 to 1999, the Osama bin Laden tracking unit at the Counterterrorist Center. He then worked again as Special Advisor to the Chief of the bin Laden unit from September 2001 to November 2004. Scheuer became a public figure after being outed as the anonymous author of the 2004 book Imperial Hubris, in which he criticized many of the common United States and Western world assumptions about the motives for Islamic terrorism, and put these into the context of greater Western-Islamic relations.

  • Neo, Mr T:
    You are, of course, correct that bin Laden’s portrayal of al-Qaeda’s grievances as narrowly circumscribed is false.
    However, Neo, I disagree with your contention that this is an obvious sign of weakness on al-Qaeda’s part. You write: “Up until fairly recently, they wouldn’t stoop to arguing their grievances or making any offering of peace with western political interests.” Actually, there was a marked shift in al-Qaeda’s rhetoric following the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings that swung Spain’s election to the Socialists. After the Socialists announced that they would withdraw Spanish forces from Iraq, bin Laden offered — for the first time — a truce to European countries that similarly withdrew. Also, the video he released just before the October 2004 U.S. elections portrayed al-Qaeda’s grievances as narrow. I wrote about the evolution of al-Qaeda’s rhetoric in the Weekly Standard in August 2005, //bit.ly/13aMQa, and again wrote about it in January 2006 following the release of a new bin Laden tape: //bit.ly/Wpmgg.
    Regardless of the false premises of bin Laden’s claim of limited grievances, this is not a new rhetorical turn. What is new is the latest tape’s exclusive focus on Israel.

  • Jack:
    I am of course familiar with Scheuer and his work, but bin Laden is not referencing Scheuer here. First of all, it’s worth noting that bin Laden previously made explicit mention of one of Scheuer’s books in his September 2007 video: //bit.ly/6vbr4 (page 6).
    Look at bin Laden’s description of the unnamed author’s book title: “Confessions of a Killer for Hire.”

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