Yes, indeed: just days before Presidential Election 2004, America's # 1 "bogey-man", Osama bin Laden, is suddenly back in the public consciousness via a videotape partially aired yesterday on the Arab-language television service Al-Jazira. The portions that were aired are altogether fascinating in and of themselves: for instance, for the very first time, bin Laden openly takes credit, on behalf of Al-Qa'eda, for the 9/11 attacks. The video also contains some factual errors: for example, Osama states that " It never occurred to us that the highest military leader of American armed forces would leave 50,000 of his people in the Twin Towers to face the horror all by themselves when they needed him most. He was more interested in listening to the children's story about their goat rather than worry about what was happening to the towers. So that gave us double the time to carry out our attacks". Of course, by the time the President was told- in that Florida schoolroom- "America is under attack", the last two of the jetliners other than the two that had already been crashed into New York City's World Trade Center were well airborne (so just what was done by the terrorists in this "double the time"?-- it sounds as if Osama has gotten an at least somewhat mangled version of what is seen in Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11).
At one point in the portion of his latest videotaped message aired by Al-Jazira, Osama bin Laden is seen saying: "Although we are ushering in the fourth year after September 11th, Bush is still causing confusion and misleading you by not telling you the true reason [for the attacks]. Therefore, motivations are still there for what happened to be repeated"-- but what exactly is this "true reason"? Osama himself stated, at another point in the videotape, "As I was looking at those towers destroyed in Lebanon, it sparked in me that we should punish the transgressor with the same and that we should destroy the towers in America, so that they taste what we taste and would stop killing our women and children". Thus, Osama here makes a clear link between the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon to go after the Palestinians seeking refuge there back in the early 1980s and 9/11 (keep in mind that the Israeli military commander of that operation was current Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon). But is this at all to be taken at mere face value?
Let's get one thing straight here: the principal goal of Al-Qa'eda is the restoration of the Arab Caliphate of the 7th into 8th Century, what has become known to History as the Caliphate of the Umayyads, pure and simple (and you can take those last two adjectives in several different ways!). Putting aside that one of the essential flaws of any "puritan" movement is the fact that the passage of time means that you are not going to ever get a true "restoration" because even the most "pure" are going to be at least somewhat affected (especially in this age of global mass communication, but this was basically true of "puritanism" in earlier eras) by a surrounding culture that is, no matter how much resisted, going to seep into even the "puritan"'s world-view, this- nevertheless- remains the paramount Al-Qa'eda cause, the consummate dream of the Sunni Islamist, to which all else is secondary (however much- or little- such secondary causes and goals might only further aid the overarching Al-Qa'eda "mission").
Whatever Osama bin Laden might say now- or, for that matter, will say in the future- the primary reason the United States of America was attacked on 11 September 2001 was because Al-Qa'eda perceives the West- its politics, its economy, its culture, its lifestyle(s)- as a direct threat to Al-Qa'eda's own vision of a Muslim World living under that group's extremist vision of theopolitical governance and the United States of America- as the Western superpower, the "metropole" of the "constellation" short of Imperium that is the Western World- is the most threatening of any Western democracy to the terrorist group's aims. Thus, when Osama notes- as he did in this most recent tape- that "Bush says and claims, that we hate Freedom, let him tell us then, 'Why did we not attack Sweden?' ", obviously citing this as "proof" that Al-Qa'eda is not at all a threat to the Western World in general, he is being most disingenuous (the Nazis didn't attack Sweden either, even though Sweden had a form of governance not inherently different from the Denmark and Norway Hitler did invade; Sweden was spared during World War II because, first of all, it had professed Neutrality and, second, Nazi aims were- as things turned out- to be halted within only a relatively few years: one can, therefore, only wonder what Sweden's future might have been were it to have been totally encircled by a Nazi Imperium!-- does the fact of the Nazis' not invading Sweden really at all mitigate the clear threat Hitler actually was to 1940s Europe, let alone the World at large? I think not!).
New York City was attacked because it is the economic capital of the United States and, by extension, the financial capital of the entire West- the World Trade Center "Twin Towers" having been the direct target of the 9/11 attack on that city only because it was so much the obvious one; Washington, meanwhile, was intended to be attacked because it is the political capital of the United States, perceived as at the very heart of Western power. Because those aboard that Flight 93 which crashed in Pennsylvania that terrible day reacted the way they did, we don't have an image in memory of, say, a United States Capitol with its famous dome "all stove in" to go along with our all too well remembered images of a plume of thick, dark smoke being blown for miles from skyscrapers on the verge of eventual collapse: while this is altogether good for the National Psyche, it also tends to skew our thoughts about what had actually happened on 9/11 and, more importantly, why.
As a result, too many have concentrated on that portion of the 9/11 attack that took place against the Twin Towers, as opposed to the attack on the Pentagon that was just as much part and parcel of the very same event: this, of course, is perfectly natural-- the burning and then the collapse of both towers in New York was, in the main, a far more spectacular display (unlike the attack on the Pentagon [or, for that matter, the crash of Flight 93 in a Pennsylvania field], it could be seen for tens of miles around the City-- also, all the major over-the-air and cable TV networks, with their morning news programs based in New York, rather expectedly used the burning Twin Towers as a backdrop for their anchors up on their respective roofs, so Americans could see much more of what was happening in New York in real time than what was, at the very same time, happening in Washington or out in western Pennsylvania); in addition, many more died or were injured at what we all now call "Ground Zero" than at the Pentagon or aboard Flight 93 (and there is probably, however far in the back of the collective American mind, a notion that the Pentagon is, after all, a military complex-- many of those who died or who were injured there, while they certainly deserve the same honors and memorials as those who died at the World Trade Center that horrible morning, were working in and for an organization where death is all too often the highest price to be paid in the course of duty; while this could also be said of the police and firefighters who died in New York, a far larger proportion of the 9/11 casualties at the World Trade Center were ordinary civilians merely engaged in their everyday workaday lives: the average American, therefore, cannot be too much faulted for feeling more empathy for an office-worker taking his or her usual elevator in one of the Twin Towers than someone who might have done the exact same thing at the Pentagon that same morning, even though both might have ended up sharing much the same fate as a direct result of much the same cause).
I have heard far too many who have opined that New York City was attacked on 11 September 2001 primarily because it happens to be the largest Jewish city in the world and, yes, Osama's own recently aired words themselves seem to play on the views- where not also the fears- of those who so state. After addressing his remarks directly "to the American people", Osama claims his talk is "about the best way to avoid another Manhattan" (note that even bin Laden does not at all mention Washington as the second city attacked that day-- despite numerous claims by so-called "experts" over here about misunderstanding of America and its culture on Al-Qa'eda's end, it is quite clear that Osama still well knows of what his intended audience will be thinking as they hear what he has said); later in the video, he claims that plans to attack the Twin Towers were not made "until our patience ran out and we saw the injustice and inflexibility of the America-Israel alliance towards our people in Palestine and Lebanon". But note well what else bin Laden says on that video: "Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or Al-Qa'eda- your security is in your own hands: any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked" and "we fought you because we are free... and want to regain Freedom for our nation. As you undermine our security, we undermine yours". What is most interesting about this last passage is its middle portion- that about "regain"ing "freedom for our nation"- note, nation: singular! And that is at the very heart of the matter here.
Once again, through Osama bin Laden, Al-Qa'eda is here attempting to "piggy-back" its own cause atop the Palestinians' cause (to try and make it one and the same, all the better to recruit future "martyrs" in the West Bank and Gaza!)-- but, in the end, Al-Qa'eda cares not one whit about Palestinian nationalism (though they will certainly use its extremist form to foster its own goals), for Al-Qa'eda itself only recognizes a pan-Arab Sunni nationalism that is hoped will, one day, create a theocracy over all the Muslim world (just ask those who lived under the Taliban-- Afghans all, protecting Al-Qa'eda and willingly doing Al-Qa'eda's bidding- but it was the Arabs leading Al-Qa'eda calling all the shots-- if you want to see a "preview" of what living in this "restored caliphate" will be like): to Al-Qa'eda, an "Iraq", a "Sa'udi Arabia", an "Oman", a "Kuwait"- yes, even an "Iran" or an "Afghanistan"- or, for that matter, a "Palestine" (even one including all that is now Israel) are, every one of them, artificial constructs- a post-World War I Western imposition on the map of Islam. No, Al-Qa'eda's hatred of Israel is not engendered by concomitant unwavering support for the Palestinian cause but, rather, by the fact that an avowedly Jewish nation-state would be anathema in the midst of the lands a restored Arab caliphate would, by definition, have to claim. That this nation-state, further, proclaims the concept of Republican Democracy as its theory of governance (a theory of governance not at all conducive to the one of rule through Law based on extreme Koranic exegesis that is Al-Qa'eda's own theory of governance) only adds to this hatred.
So, when Osama- in this recently aired video- claims that President Bush is lying when he says that Al-Qa'eda hates Freedom, he is here also being rather disingenuous, for Al-Qa'eda's concept of Freedom is surely not that which the vast majority of Americans would consider to be the highest expression of Liberty! Indeed, Al-Qa'eda's own notion of Freedom is, rather, the free right of an elite to impose their narrow religious views onto the behavioral choices of the many (never mind the fact that there are those here in the United States- admittedly coming from a very different theological direction- who would, absent both the terrorism and the Islam Al-Qa'eda itself professes, most wish to do much the same!): in the Arab caliphate governing all Islam for which Al-Qa'eda hopes, Allah (though this would be a rather restrictive notion of the Will of God)- and not at all His People- would be sovereign-- not exactly the stuff of Republican Democracy!
Which of the Major Party presidential candidates most benefits from Osama bin Laden's sudden appearance back into our national consciousness as we are now in the "home stretch" of Presidential Election 2004? Probably neither. Yes, Senator Kerry can cite this videotape as well underpinning his own claim that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has diverted resources from capturing or killing Osama bin Laden (for, if he had already long been captured or killed, he wouldn't have been able to make this video); at the same time, however, President Bush can now also cite Osama as, again, the quintessential mastermind behind a major terrorist threat- the type of threat we Americans still face and from which, or so the President would argue, only he and his policies can adequately defend the United States... "You pays yer money and you takes yer choice"... for Al-Qa'eda's 9/11 attacks were a "Freedom's just another word for 'nothing left to lose' " gambit: if the United States, for some unlikely reason, had failed to react to them, then so much the better for Al-Qa'eda and its "mission"; but if, as actually happened, the USofA fought back in response, Al-Qa'eda would now have its desired Holy War, an early 3d Millennium renewal of the early 2d Millennium Crusades, with all that might imply for the extremist Muslim hell-bent on taking on the West's principal "unbelievers".
A re-elected President Bush (particularly if his new electoral mandate were to be primarily seen in light of this latest bin Laden "message") would- given his own religiosity and that of much of his conservative base- be the perfect such "Crusader" in the eyes of Al-Qa'eda but, despite the many pundits I have seen over the past 24 hours claiming that Osama bin Laden "fails to understand the American electorate" (stated along with notions that Al-Qa'eda must mistakenly think that, as with Spain in the wake of '3/11' in Madrid, the terrorist group can influence our Presidential Election), I think Osama bin Laden understands just enough of what American elections are all about to inherently know that a "President Kerry" isn't going to significantly change things as far as Al-Qa'eda vs. America is concerned. After all, Al-Qa'eda has already got their "Crusade" and the American electorate is going to vote as they vote next Tuesday with little overall influence by this latest "message" from Osama bin Laden!