OBL'S TAPE: ONE MORE SPIN IN US
The current US presidential campaign, which is
about to come to a close, has been replete with spins disseminated
by the spin-masters of President George Bush as well as Senator
John Kerry. Have the spin-masters of Osama bin Laden
circulated one of their own as the American people get ready
to vote, with his purported video-recorded address to the American
people telecast by Al Jazeera, the blue-eyed channel of Al Qaeda,
on October 29,2004?
2. The latest telecast message of OBL has made
the confusion regarding the state of the so-called war against
terrorism worse confounded, raising more questions than providing
answers. Is it genuine? How come OBL seems to be growing younger
and healthier, when, like all human beings, he should be growing
older and weaker, particularly when he is being relentlessly
hunted, as we are told day in and day out by Bush? Why the absence
from the latest videoo tape of Ayman Al-Zawahiri, his Egyptian No.
2, who had figured in the tape of September last year? Why the
absence in the latest tape of rifles or machine guns
which were present in the tapes of the past, which either showed
OBL as carrying them or which were shown as placed by his side?
3. The latest tape shows OBL not as a dreaded
jihadi terrorist hurling blood-curdling threats at the American
people, against the background of rifles and the wildness of the
Afghan terrain, but as a mujahideen statesman addressing
well-reasoned arguments to the American people from behind a
lectern in a TV studio-like ambiance , with OBL well made-up
for the occasion to appear like a man in the pink of his health,
in total control of his faculties and of the world around him,
with no care in the world, not even about his own physical
security, which might have necessitated his changing his physical
appearance to prevent identification. OBL's spin-masters have
manoeuvred his entry into the drawing rooms of millions of
American homes as the third debater in the presidential debate.
4. Here is OBL, alive and kicking, alive and
leading, alive and taunting not only President Bush, but also his
father and his brother, the Governor of Florida. OBL does
not appear to be uttering a threat of another 9/11. He is rather
pouring scorn on the claims of Bush and his advisers that they are
winning their self-styled war against terrorism.
5. As the date of the polls approached, there
was feverish speculation as to whether Bush, helped by President
Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, would produce OBL before the
American people like a magician producing a rabbit out of
his hat and thereby make Kerry look silly and win a thumping
victory. Instead of Bush producing OBL and embarrassing Kerry, it
is OBL's spin-masters who have produced him before the voters,
making Bush, Kerry and everybody else in the US look silly and
6. What does the tape tell of the state of Al
Qaeda, its morale, the motivation of its cadres, its command and
control, the unity of its leadership? Zilch.
7. What does the tape tell of the future plans,
tactics and strategy of Al Qaeda? Zilch.
8. Then, what does the latest tape seeks to tell
if it wants to tell anything at all?
9. What it does not tell?
- First, OBL is probably alive and kicking and
has recovered from the effects of the shrapnel injury
reportedly suffered by him at Tora Bora end-2001.
- Second, he feels fairly confident of his
safety wherever he is.
- Third, he has at his disposal a set of
spin-masters and psy-warriors who are more than a match for
those around Bush and Kerry.
- Four, they have at their command all that it
needs for producing a message like this, with considerable
- Five, it was shot around the third
anniversary of 9/11.
10. An Associated Press report carried by the
"USA Today" on October 30, 2004, says: "While
Pakistan's army has been active in the tribal belt, some have
questioned their resolve, noting they allowed an Uzbek terror
leader to escape after purportedly surrounding him earlier this
year. Talat Massood, a defense analyst and former Pakistani
general, said the terror mastermind was likely in the sprawling
port city of Karachi or the rugged tribal belt between Pakistan
and Afghanistan. Wherever he is, Massood said, the emergence of
the tape shows bin Laden feels pretty secure. In the video, the
Saudi millionaire looks to be in surprisingly good health,
considering speculation that he has been holed up in a mountain
cave for three years, Massood said. "The fact that he has the
courage to come out shows that he feel protected in his
surroundings," Massood said, adding that his hearty
appearance "shows that he is probably living in reasonable
comfort and he is being taken care of."
- Why no reference to the current holy fasting
period of the Muslims? Does it mean it was shot before the
Ramadan fasting started?
- Why so little reference to Iraq? Why no
homages to the hundreds of suicide bombers of Iraq who have
killed themselves in their jihad against the US-UK occupation?
- Why it tries to belittle only Bush's handling
of the fight against Al Qaeda and not his handling of the war
- It projects the US bombings in the Lebanon in
the early 1980s, the fraternisation of Bush and his father
with the rulers of West Asia as the root cause of the decision
of Al Qaeda to stage 9/11, but why no reference to the Cruise
missile attacks in the Sudan and Afghanistan ordered by former
President Clinton in October 1998, which till now were
considered to be the trigger behind the 9/11 strikes?
- What does it seek to achieve by the release
of the tape just before the US presidential elections---defeat
of Bush or his victory by making wavering US voters vote for
him out of a reflux of solidarity against Al Qaeda?
- If the purpose is to create this reflux of
solidarity behind Bush, who stands to gain by a Bush win apart
from Bush himself? First, Al Qaeda by aggravating the divide
between the Islamic world and the West? Second, Musharraf, who
has been the greatest beneficiary of the war against
- How come every video and audio tape of bin
Laden and al-Zawahiri disseminated by Al Jazeera since the US
started its war against Al Qaeda on October 7, 2001, has
emanated from Pakistan and reached the Al Jazeera office in
- Has Pakistan's military-intelligence
establishment had a hand in the production of the latest
message, calculating, rightly or wrongly, that this would
redound to the benefit of Bush? They are very nervous over the
prospects of a Kerry victory.
11. This is the most perceptive comment to have
come out so far on the tape. Who is taking care of him? Find that
out and you know where is bin Laden, who had the tape produced and
disseminated and with what objective?
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd),
Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently,
Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and
Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF),
Chennai Chapter. e-Mail: email@example.com