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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