Back 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.