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Misinterpreting Osama's Message: Erring on the Side of Danger
November 22, 2002 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Misinterpreting Osama's Message: Erring on the Side of Danger (via AlterNet) Bin Laden's messages are mistaken for unconditional threats and vows to attack. They are really conditional warnings that whatever we do, they will respond in kind. Some new insights from reading between the lines of OBL's communiques without lapsing into left wing apologia (More inside)
posted by BentPenguin (17 comments total)

 
I found myself agreeing with one paragraph, then disagreeing with the next. In the end, I think the article is mistaken if only because it seems to make it sound like OBL wants to say stop here we're even, when in fact it appears they still feel the west has it coming.
I still think its quite illustrative of how the west is filtering his messages for maximum impact. YMMV
posted by BentPenguin at 12:04 PM on November 22, 2002


What a piece of nonsense. We have not ignored the messaage (the govt) and look only for clues to attack messages...how does the writer know this? And I agree with the previous post, that we are not now even but rather that what this fruitcake has in mind is the Islamization of the world with first ridding the ME of Westerners.
The real agenda for this writer is the anti-war message she shifts to, as though if America does not attack Iraq all will be well. Now, you don't have to be for or against the war to note that that is a separate issue, and you can be for the war with Iraq and disregard a threat that the score will be evened. Or you can be against the war and thus hope all will be well. It won't. The guy is a killer. He is in hiding in a country we are friends with--either Saudi Arabia, Pakestan, Yemen, or Afghanistan. And in passing DEBKA was correct when they announced two months ago that he was alive.
posted by Postroad at 12:13 PM on November 22, 2002


This sounds like the people in England who, during WW2, were pushing for a cease-fire with Germany.
posted by eas98 at 12:18 PM on November 22, 2002


Well, hell, if Osama bin fucking Laden says that they'll only respond in kind and not launch any attacks without cause, I'm ready to believe him. We can trust him, right?
posted by callmejay at 12:42 PM on November 22, 2002


I'm still not buying that bin Laden survived Tora Bora although I understand that our government is obliged to take these messages seriously, since we can't prove that OBL is either dead or alive.
That said, it's pure propoganda no matter how you slice it--which makes it totally f*cking worthless for anything other than evoking emotion. Anybody who's still sitting around trying to find evidence of reason or humanity in these transmissions is a moronic weenie.
posted by Tiger_Lily at 12:45 PM on November 22, 2002


Tiger...I agree about Osama's life - he's either very crippled or dead. He knows that a video of him would be a very powerful message to fellow Islamists, and an image of him very crippled would not. Hence, the last message was voice-only, if that even was Osama (as it may have been).

As for the article, considering al-Qaeda related groups have attacked, since 9/11, in Pakistan, India, Yemen, Tunisia and in all probability Bali, many places which have no connection to US policy aside from the people there being non-Moslem, I fail to see the writer's logic. It reminds me of people who find God when they're on Death Row and expect to be a) believed and b) let free.
posted by Kevs at 1:30 PM on November 22, 2002


And in passing DEBKA was correct when they announced two months ago that he was alive.

What about three months ago when they said he was dead? Or what about four months ago when they said he was alive in Pakistan? Debka seems to change their story a lot-- since it's all based on rumors and gossip anyway I guess it's to be expected.
posted by cell divide at 1:45 PM on November 22, 2002


They are really conditional warnings that whatever we do, they will respond in kind.

So if we all dress up like Dr. Frank N. Furter, we can expect al Qaeda to, as well?
posted by Ty Webb at 2:47 PM on November 22, 2002


I believe she is completely correct in saying that this is going to turn into a worldwide version of the Palestinian-Israel conflict.
posted by moonbiter at 3:03 PM on November 22, 2002


Right-on moonbiter, that's the exact part of the article that struck me the most. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I agree in large part with the article. The war on terrorrism cannot be won with missiles and bombs. It can only be won in the hearts and minds of the people. It is not sufficient for Westerners to abhor violent Islamists; we will need the wholehearted support and cooperation of the muslims mainstream.

Does this mean we should give in to the demands of the extremists? Of course not; that would be tatamount to suicide. But we need to listen to them. Moderate muslims have legitimate grivances with the West (eg. Palestine, Iraq). We should be preparted to address these grievances. Winning the support of the Muslim majority will do more than a thousand bombs to undermine the power homicidal lunatics like bin Laden.
posted by Loudmax at 3:53 PM on November 22, 2002


Ummm, the "We are going to kill 2 million of your adults and 2 million of your children" thing really makes me think that he's not quite really very much in the "no hits back" category.

This is going to dive into the I/P war levels no matter what we do. Buckle your seatbelts. The "moderate muslims" (the silent majority, I have to assume, so I can sleep at night) may have complaints about the west. The West has complaints about them, too. Can we air those, or should we shut up and listen to them because some of their extremists killed 3000 Americans in a sneak attack?
posted by swerdloff at 4:26 PM on November 22, 2002


So if we all dress up like Dr. Frank N. Furter, we can expect al Qaeda to, as well?

Of course not. Sharia specifically prohibits transexualism. But they might respond by dressing up as Brad.
posted by shoos at 4:47 PM on November 22, 2002


A nice balanced article from a completely unbiased leftist website.
posted by Oxydude at 6:29 PM on November 22, 2002


"We promise we won't attack you and you promise you won't attack us."

Ah, its the always triumphant 'suck our thumbs and hope the bad man will go away' method of fighting. This guy and Neville Chamberlain would have oodles to chat about.
posted by owillis at 6:37 PM on November 22, 2002


What utter nonsense. Most interesting thing about the article was the guys declareed profession: "...a clinical and political psychologist"

Never heard of one of those before.
posted by keno at 7:28 PM on November 22, 2002


keno, to be perfectly fair, there is a field called Political Psychology.

As I've said before, and not being the first to invoke Neville Chamberlain, appeasement was a deliberate policy chosen for Britain in its particular circumstance: they were a weakened power facing a coalition of collectively stronger powers, with significant sympathy for Germany et al. not only among their allies, but among their own people (and the US). Appeasement was a choice for a nation that did not (and certainly before US involvement could not) imagine itself strong enough to oppose fascist aggression on the continent. In the end, it was a failure, and in many respects a miscalculation. That doesn't mean that appeasement isn't a choice that a state has in any given situation, but when your every move is telegraphed as trying to avoid war, an ambitious opponent is only emboldened.

In many respects we have followed a policy of appeasement in regard to the Islamist (and/or pan-Arab nationalist) agenda. Iranian hostages? Pinned; no retaliation, concessions in exchange for the freed. US embassy bombed in Beirut? Marine barracks bombed in Beirut? Random bombing of the hills, and withdrawal. Clinton engaged in much of the same in retaliation for Dhahran, for the Bush assassination plot, for the US embassies, for the USS Cole. At best, this was only a holding action, deferring a problem for the next guy; and at worst a concession that we would never be serious when our interests were threatened.

If we were to act as though al Qaeda could simply issue a warning of retaliation and freeze our foreign policy, we would simply be inviting escalation; how far up would they ratchet their demands? This is the advantage of a non-state actor; they have no national interests to protect. They don't have to worry about sanctions or long-term consequences for their economy. If we begin to pretend that Osama is President Osama of Ummaland, we'd be making a grave mistake. They know -- or used to know -- they can attack our ships in Yemen, and make trouble for the Yemeni government rather than themselves. A policy which pretends they have the legitimacy of a state is buying into and reinforcing all their advantages.
posted by dhartung at 9:52 PM on November 22, 2002


The key is to actually fight terrorists using superultra troops who can infiltrate their lairs and take them out. At the same time address the major friction points in the world fairly and without listening to special interests (oil, religion). Use America's power for economic reform while at the same time having elite fighting groups take down terrorists who threaten America or world peace.

It's pretty much exactly what Bush is doing, except in the real world where special interests, politics, and all kinds of other shit get in the way.
posted by chaz at 2:15 AM on November 23, 2002


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