Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Bin Laden Tape

As I’m sure the entire world knows by now, a tape was released today which is apparently a message from Osama Bin Laden, probably recorded at least after November 2005 and perhaps post-January 11th, 2006, though there are no concrete confirmations that Bin Laden was speaking or of a date of recording. The address marks a big change from his earlier remarks that we heard a year ago and before: while those messages were threats towards the leaders of the Western countries, this message is an appeal to the American people.

When I first read this story on CNN, I knew that there would be many sides to this tape, and looked for a second source. I was shocked at the difference between the tenure of the story on CNN and the tenure of the store on Al-Jazeera. The Al-Jazeera article, titled Bin Laden Offers Americans Truce, focus on the diplomatic side to the message, and the desire to come to some mutual understanding to stop the bloodshed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The CNN story, entitled CIA Believes Terror Tape is of Bin Laden, focuses on the threat of new attacks.

The dichotomy really points out the challenging situation being faced by the US today. We are being scared into believing that action is required. And while yes, the threat of terrorism is real and very scary, we need to take a more realistic approach to Middle East politics, and get at the roots of the problem as opposed to simply combating the symptoms. Our present wars cold take out many leaders from the Islamic nations. But unless we find ways to work with them, the problems will only recur with new leaders. And the price we pay will be American lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there are times where military might is necessary, and there are many situations like that in the Middle East. Only shows of power are respected there, and sometimes we need to show our muscles. But quick shows of power can be effective and less costly, while protracted missions like we’re seeing in Iraq only serve to show the vulnerabilities of our military in an environment where the enemy lives amongst the people. This is a lesson we should have learned in Vietnam or in Beirut, but evidently the lesson is being repeated.

Some very interesting things were pointed out in the Al-Jazeera article that are not being publicized by the American media. For example, after looking through coverage in 4 American presses, I found mention of the reference to the opinion polls, as a indicator of the date of the message, but never found mention of the entire opening passage:

This message is about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how to end those wars. It was not my intention to talk to you about this, because those wars are definitely going our way. But what triggered my desire to talk to you is the continuous deliberate misinformation given by your President [George] Bush, when it comes to polls made in your home country which reveal that the majority of your people are willing to withdraw US forces from Iraq.

We know that the majority of your people want this war to end and opinion polls show the Americans do not want to fight the Muslims on Muslim land, nor do they want Muslims to fight them on their [US] land. But Bush does not want this and claims that it is better to fight his enemies on their land rather than on American land. Bush tried to ignore the polls that demanded that he end the war in Iraq.

This is a call for peaceful resolution, but meets with the common response from Scott McClellan: “We must confront threats before it is too late…before the attacks reach our shores.”

Now I don’t trust Al Queda, and I certainly don’t want to have the threat of terror over my head at some time in the future. But I don’t believe the war in Iraq really has to do with terror, and I don’t believe we’re accomplishing any real gains in either country in the war on terrorism. So how about we explore the first offer of peace we’ve heard in a long time, and see if we couldn’t find a path to get us out of Iraq, and save our troops? And who knows, along the way se might find a way to respect the needs of the Islamic nations enough to avert a more serious war.

Posted by Scottage at 3:11 PM / | |