Ivo Skoric on Thu, 14 Nov 2002 19:14:02 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: Fisk: Why Has bin Laden Resurfaced Now?

But why the audio-tape and the telephone instead of a video-tape 
and hand delivery? Don't tell me that OBL can't afford a small DV 
camera. I have one! And why would he use a telephone? US can 
capture a long distance call and trace it to the origin via satellite. 
OBL is not that stupid. It is clear why would he resurface now - 
because the war on Iraq is looming after 15:0 UN SC resolution, 
and because certain 'test' terrorist operations were just completed 
world wide. Still, it could be someone else speaking instead of 
OBL - maybe that's why there is no video. Of course, this is not 
important. Al Qaeda can probably survive without OBL - he was old 
and very sick, so they might have expected he would die soon 
anyway. In true Orwellian sense it would be completely irrelevant 
whether he existed ever at all. Goldstein was manufactured by the 
Ministry of Truth to instigate fear and hate, neccessary for the 
public approval of the permanent war. Nobody seems to be 
listening to the message, though. And message is very, very 
simple: you kill us, we kill you. This is a call to the war of attrition 
in which both GWB and the proverbial OBL think that their side will 
prevail. In the meantime sensible people better run for cover.

Date sent:      	Thu, 14 Nov 2002 04:08:36 -0500
To:             	CERJ@igc.org
From:           	CERJ@igc.org
Subject:        	Fisk: Why Has bin Laden Resurfaced Now?

Robert Fisk:  "He is alive.  There can be no doubt about it.  But the questions
remain: where on earth is he, and why has he resurfaced now?"


Why Has Bin Laden Resurfaced Now?
by Robert Fisk
 2002 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

Beirut, Lebanon -- 14 November 2002 -- It is him.  The man on the tape is Bin Laden.  He is alive.  It took only a brief flurry of phone calls to the Middle East and south-west Asia for the most impeccable sources to confirm that Osama bin Laden is alive and that it was his gravelly voice that 
threatens the West in the short monologue first transmitted by the Arab Al-Jazeera television channel.

So the Saudi billionaire, the man in the cave, the "Evil One", the bearded, ascetic man whom the greatest army on earth has sought in vain, is with us still.  It's the real McCoy.

As usual, "US intelligence" -- the heroes of 11 September who heard about Arabs learning to fly but didn't quite manage to tell us in time -- came up with rubbish for the American media.  It may be him.  It's probably him.  The gravelly voice may mean he's been hurt.

He is speaking fast because he could have been wounded by the Americans.


The US was finally forced to acknowledge yesterday that the man some of them had claimed to be dead was still very much in the land of the living -- and uttering the kind of threat that fulfills the worst nightmares of Western leaders.  "Just like you kill us, we will kill you," he said.

When he was recorded, bin Laden was not talking into a tape-recorder.  He was talking into a telephone.  The man on the other end of the line -- quite possibly in Pakistan -- held the recorder.  Bin Laden may not have been in the same city as the man with the recorder.  He may well not have been 
in the same country.

Osama bin Laden always speaks slowly.  His voice is rapid, and the reason for this is apparently quite simple: the recorder's battery was low.  When replayed by Al-Jazeera at proper speed, the voice goes up an octave.

I know Bin Laden and, though I did not meet him after 11 September, I got to understand him over the years.  But writing about him is now one of the most difficult journalistic tasks on earth.  You have to say what you know.  You have to say what you think must be true.  You have to ask why he 
made this tape.  The story moves deeper into questions.  Why?  What for?  Why now?  It requires a new, harsh way of writing to tell the truth, the use of brackets and colons.

Knowledge and suspicion and probability and speculation keep grinding up against each other.  Bin Laden survived the bombing of Tora Bora.  Fact.  Bin Laden escaped via Pakistan.  Probability.  Bin Laden is in Saudi Arabia.  A growing conviction.

So here, with all its imperfections and conditional clauses, is what I suspect this tape recording means.

The story is a deeply disturbing one for the West.  It is one which is not easy to write.  I am frightened of the implications of this tape.  One of its messages to Britain -- above all others after the United States -- is: watch out.  Tony Blair was right (for once) to warn of further attacks, 
though the Bin Laden phone call was not (I suspect) monitored.  But it was Bin Laden.

We should start with Tora Bora in the autumn of 2001.  Under heavy bombardment by the US Air Force, Bin Laden's al-Qaeda fighters realized they could not hold out indefinitely in the cave complex of the White Mountains above Jalalabad.  Bin Laden was with them.  Al-Qaeda men volunteered to fight 
on to certain death against the Afghan warlords paid by the Americans, and Bin Laden at first refus
ed to leave them.  He argued that he wished to die with them.  His most loyal bodyguards and senior
 advisers insisted he must leave.  In the end, he abandoned Tora Bora in a state of some anguish, h
is protectors hustling him down one mountainside with much the same panic as Dick Cheney's security
 men carried the US Vice-President to the White House basement when al-Qaeda's killer-hijackers clo
sed in on Washington on 11 September.  All of the above comes under the label of "impeccable source

If he fled on a white horse -- a story that originally came from one of Jalalabad's corrupt Norther
n Alliance gunmen -- Bin Laden must have taken leave of his senses.  He can ride, but travelling by
 horse under fire only adds to the danger.  And a white horse, for heaven's sake?  A horse than can
 be seen in the night?

Bin Laden went either to Kashmir (possible, though unlikely) or Karachi (most probable).  I say tha
t because Bin Laden boasted to me once of the many admirers he had among the Sunni clergy of this g
reat, hot and dangerous Pakistani city.  He always talked of them as his "brothers".  He once gave 
me posters in Urdu which these clerics had produced and pasted on the walls of Karachi.  He liked t
o quote their sermons to me.  So I'll go for Karachi.  But I may be wrong.

In the months that followed, there were little, tiny hints that he remained alive, like the smell o
f tobacco in a room days after a smoker has left.  An admirer of the man insisted to me that he was
 alive (fact, but not an impeccable source).  He was trying to find a way of communicating with the
 outside world without meeting any westerner.  Absolute fact.  His most recent videotape -- which w
as dismissed as old by those famous "US intelligence sources" because he didn't mention any events 
since November 2001 -- was new (strong possibility, backed up by a good -- though not impeccable --

So why now?  The Middle East is entering a new and ever more tragic phase of its history, torn apar
t by the war between Israelis and Palestinians and facing the incendiary effects of a possible Angl
o-American invasion of Iraq.  Bin Laden must have realized the need to address once more the Arab w
orld -- and his audiotape, despite the direct threats to Britain and other Western countries, is pr
imarily directed towards his most important audience, Arab Muslims.  His silence at this moment in 
Middle East history would have been inexcusable in Bin Laden's eyes.

And just to counter the predictable counter-claims that his tape could be old, he energetically lis
ted the blows struck at Western powers since his presumed "death".  The bombings of French submarin
e technicians in Karachi, the synagogue in Tunisia, Bali, the Chechen theatre siege in Moscow, even
 the killing of the US diplomat in Jordan.  Yes, he is saying, I know about all these things.  He i
s saying he approves.  He is telling us he is still here.  Arabs may deplore this violence, but few
 will not feel some pull of emotions.  Amid Israel's brutality towards Palestinians and America's t
hreats towards Iraq, at least one Arab is prepared to hit back.  That is his message to Arabs.

Bin Laden always loathed Saddam Hussein.  He hated the Iraqi leader's un-Islamic behavior, his secu
larism, his use of religion to encourage loyalty to a Baath party that was co-founded by a Christia
n.  America's attempt to link al-Qaeda to the Baghdad regime has always been one of the most prepos
terous of Washington's claims.  Bin Laden used to tell me how much he hated Saddam.  So his two ref
erences to "the sons of Iraq" are intriguing.  He makes no mention of the Baghdad government or of 
Saddam.  But with UN sanctions still killing thousands of children -- and with Iraq the target of a
 probable American invasion -- he cannot possibly ignore it.  So he talks about "Iraq's children" a
nd about "our sons in Iraq", indicating Arab Muslim men who happened to be Iraqi, rather than Iraqi
s.  But not Saddam.  It's not difficult to see how the US administration may try to use these two r
gent e
nough to be able to predict this -- clearly felt that an expression of sympathy for the Arabs of Ir
aq outweighed any misuse Washington could make of his remarks.  This has to come under the label of
 speculation (although near certainty might be nearer the mark).

Back in 1996, Bin Laden told me that British and French troops in Saudi Arabia were just as at-risk
 of being attacked by his followers as American forces.  In 1997, he changed this target list.  The
 British and French he now dissociated from any proposed attacks.  But in the new audiotape, they a
re back on the 'hit list' along with France, Canada, Italy, Germany and Australia.  And Britain is 
at the top.

The message to us -- the West -- is simple and repeated three times.  If we want to back George Bus
h, the "pharaoh of the age" -- and "pharaoh" is what Anwar Sadat's killers called the Egyptian pres
ident after his murder more than two decades ago -- we will pay a price.  "What business do your go
vernments have in allying themselves with the gang of criminals in the White House against Muslims 
...?"  I have heard Bin Laden use that Arabic expression ifarbatu al-idjran twice before in convers
ation with me.  "Gang of criminals". Which is what the West has called "al-Qaeda".

So what comes next?  A few weeks ago, I was asked by a member of an American university audience wh
ere I thought the next blow would come.  The two words I thought of were "oil tanker".  This came u
nder the label "total speculation".  But I didn't want to give anyone any ideas.  So I said nothing
.  The following week, al-Qaeda struck the supertanker Limburg off Yemen.  Now I search my mind for
 worse thoughts.  And I prefer to end my story.

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