Saturday, October 30, 2004

Osama: a signal?

I have to admit I was shocked to see Osama bin Laden alive and on television. I had presumed him dead, given the length of time since we had last verifiably heard from him.

I wasn't surprised to hear him repeating Kerry and Michael Moore talking points.

The real question is: why now? Is he so stupid as to think he can influence our elections, or is it a signal for a prearranged attack?

I don't think it could be a signal. The only way such a signal would be necessary is if there were a deeply imbedded terror cell with no other way to communicate, and instructions to act when bin Laden released a new tape. That strains credulity. Osama is the world's most wanted man, in his 60s, and on dialysis. It wouldn't make any sense to have a signaler who might not be alive or able to communicate at some point in the future.

Also, there are too many ways to communicate. Check an anonymous web email account at a public library, for example.

Finally, bin Laden has no history of issuing warnings. Most of his videos have been Al Qaeda recruitment films. He typically has not even directly taken credit for the many terrorist acts which can be traced to him.

It seems most likely the latest release, while proving he is alive, are a sign of weakness, not of strength. Americans know better than to pay attention to the rantings of our most hated enemy, and in fact may backlash against him, but in the Arab world his stature would be enhanced if his statement appears to have an effect on our election.

He is a man in hiding and in fear. Notice the neutral backdrop of his indoor message, in contrast to the outdoor setting for most earlier tapes. Osama cannot even risk that US experts can decipher his location from the terrain.


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