A Repackaged Bin Laden Plays Mind Games with Western Audience

Al Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden presented a brushed up new image in his first video speech in three years on September 8. His style had changed too as he bid to challenge President George W. Bush’s recent assertions that the West is engaged in a long ideological war with Islamist extremism.
In his 25-minute speech, bin Laden borrowed the comparison President Bush drew between the Vietnam and the Iraqi Wars in addressing Veterans of Foreign Wars on Aug. 22 and compared the civilian casualties of the two conflicts.
His object was to show that the same people – he named Donald Rumsfeld – were responsible for both calamities.
He also made a point of turning American symbols against their leaders to show he was a match for their president in the ideological arena too. There was a suggestion that his speech had Western input – the American jihadi Adam Gadahn was mentioned – and was tailored to impress Western, especially American, audiences and prepare their minds for embracing his brand of jihadist Islam.
Certainly his neatly trimmed and fashionably darkened beard, his immaculate silken robes and sophisticated oratory were in sharp contrast to the harsh, out-of-the-desert, Koran-thumping Osama bin Laden, who inflamed Muslim masses seven years ago when he gloated over his mass murder of Americans.
Has the repackaged bin Laden lost his Islamist charisma?
His most effective and authentic videotape was discovered by US forces near Kabul in 2001 and released on 13 December, 2001, four months after the 9/11 atrocities. He was shown gleefully explaining to Saudi clerics (see picture) how he, as a construction engineer, calculated the exact force of the two airliners which rammed the World Trade Center of New York. He had counted on their flaming impact melting the steel supports of the towers and toppling three or four floors. Much to his surprise and evident joy the towers collapsed in their entirety.
Six years later, he invokes the trendy issue of global warning.
“This greatest of plagues and most dangerous of threats to the lives of humans is taking place in an accelerating fashion as the world is dominated by the democratic system, which confirms its massive failure to protect humans and their interests from the greed and avarice of the major corporations and their representatives.
“And despite this brazen attack on the people, the leaders of the West – especially Bush, Blair, Sarkozy and Brown – still talk about freedom… Is there a form of terrorism stronger, clearer and more dangerous than this?”
He trashes the capitalist system as “harsher and fiercer that your systems in the Middle Ages… under the label of globalization to protect democracy.”
For ending the Iraq war, al Qaeda’s leader has a simple answer: Americans must embrace Islam. But this does not stop him putting his oar into US politics. Asking why the Democrats have failed to stop the war, he says: “…they are the same reasons which led to the failure of Kennedy to stop the Vietnam War. Since the democratic system permits major corporations to back candidates, there is no cause for astonishment at the Democrats’ failure to stop the war… Money talks.”
It is also interesting to note that al Qaeda’s leader is trying to influence the US presidential campaign at this early stage. In the past, he made dramatic statements on election eve. Now, without waiting for the Republicans and the Democrats to select their candidates, bin Laden has focused on the parties themselves, mainly deriding the latter for failing to follow through on its pre-midterm election pledge to bring the troops home from Iraq.
debkafile‘s al Qaeda experts say that, while polishing his public persona for Western consumption, Osama bin Laden has also adopted a new style for his jihadist following, that of religious guide, supreme mentor, the great ideologue and imam, who leaves crude threats to others.
Many Western pundits claimed that the new speech contained no threats. Our sources caution against falling into this error. They note that al Qaeda’s leader may have changed his marketing tactics, but not his spots: His diatribe starts with the words: “Praise to Allah and his law of retaliation – ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and the killer is killed.'”
Despite its lack of specific warnings, several security analysts said bin Laden’s video could be a signal to his followers to launch new strikes.
Rohan Gunaratna, a leading authority on militant Islamism, agrees.
“Osama is presenting Koranic injunctions before planning to attack.”
He told Reuter Sat. Sept. 8, “Osama’s call to the Americans to convert to Islam is indicative of an al Qaeda attack on U.S. targets. Before the Prophet (Mohammad) attacked his enemies he urged his opponents to embrace Islam.”
On the World War II Holocaust of European Jewry, reverts to his ranting style:
“We [the Muslims] are a people who don’t sleep under oppression and reject humiliation and disgrace, and we take revenge on the people of tyranny and aggression, and the blood of the Muslims will not be spilled with impunity, and the morrow is nigh for he who waits.”
This phrasing fits the fanatical convictions which drove the old, unkempt bin Laden to orchestrate unspeakable carnage.
On Aug. 10, debkafile disclosed exclusively a rush of exchanged messages and instruction on Islamist sites referring in clear terms to the “dirty bomb” or even nuclear attacks al Qaeda was preparing for the sixth anniversary of 9/11.
Our sources spell out the targets as being New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Florida, Seattle and Texas. The orders were signed Abdul Kandahar al Zarqawi and Basialn bin Abdallah a- Salafi al-Shami, noms de guerre symbolizing, respectively, al Qaeda’s two battle arenas of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the most radical Salafi brand of Sunni Islam and the Levant.
Taken together, the speech and the Internet instructions point to a division of labor between publicists who staged bin Laden’s appearance together with the supreme decision-making elite of al Qaeda, and the field operatives. But there is no sign that Bin Laden’s movement has abandoned any part of its program of terror.

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