Osama's message hits the hornet's nest 100 hours before the Election Day 

A.H. Jaffor Ullah


Just four days before the presidential election in the U.S. , Osama bin Laden sent a videotape, which was beamed from of all the places�Al-Jazeera Network TV.  In the tape, an apparently healthy Osama bin Laden delivered some strongly worded messages for President Bush and Americans.  The timing of the videotaped message could not have been better.  Osama is a publicity seeker par excellence.  Thus, he knew that Americans would react to his taped message.  There was no hint of an impending threat from al-Qaeda to America at this time but Osama quipped, �Despite entering the fourth year after September 11, Bush is still deceiving you and hiding the truth from you and therefore the reasons are still there to repeat what happened.�  There is an oblique reference to September 11 downing of the twin tower complex.  

Osama knows very well that he and his terror organization, al-Qaeda, has become an election issue and his name was mentioned in all three televised debates.  Therefore, his message to Americans was: �O American people, I am speaking to tell you about the ideal way to avoid another Manhattan , about war and its causes and results.�  He did mention the November 2 election in his 11-minute videotaped message by saying: �Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al-Qaeda.  Your security is in your own hands and each state which does not harm our security will remain safe.�  

Osama�s videotaped message was all the rage in various Internet forums and discussion group.  I will share with the readers some of the funny comments that I have read in the Internet but first things first: How did the Bush Administration, candidate Bush, and his challenger, Senator Kerry, reacted to Osama�s tough talk that came to light right before the election?  

First, there was no official reaction from the Bush Administration when the news of the new videotape of Osama bin Laden surfaced in the Internet.  But later, the intelligence department thought it could be a signal for an attack.  In reaction to Osama�s taped message, the U.S. government officials warned in a new bulletin that urges state and local authorities to be extra vigilant.  Throughout the summer months when both the Democrats and Republicans were holding their convention, we read the news of public discussion by top Bush administration officials about the seriousness of a potential threat to disrupt the election.  On late Friday (October 29, 2004) after the news of the bin Laden�s tape was made public, the FBI and Homeland Security Department issued a warning by stating: �We remain concerned about al-Qaeda�s interest in attacking the American homeland, and we cannot discount the possibility that the video may be intended to promote violence or serve as a signal for an attack.�  

The warning bulletin from the Homeland Security Department went to their advisers; federal, state and local law enforcement; and select members of private industry.  The government apparently took steps to secure the public and that homeland security officials have been urged to keep vigilant.  We have learned that in the videotape including portions net yet broadcast there was no overt threat and no specific timetable or method given for an attack.  The U.S. government officer who watched the entire tape said that much of what has not aired amounts to a sustained diatribe against President Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush.  It even criticizes George Bush�s economic and jobs programs and asserted that the Iraq war is all about oil.

Osama�s videotaped message 100 hours before the Election Day has caused political angst in both the candidates.  Both Mr. Bush and Kerry responded with dignified statements of unity against Osama and his terror organization.  Nonetheless, the two campaigns struggled to figure out how such a ghastly event would alter Tuesday's (Nov. 2) outcome.  Senator Kerry did not waste time once he was aware of the Osama Tape.  He sternly said, �Let me make it clear, crystal clear: As Americans, we are absolutely united in our determination to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden and the terrorists.�  Some tough talk by Kerry.  Then President Bush spoke his mind; he said, �Let me make this very clear: Americans will not be intimidated or influenced by an enemy of our country.  I�m sure Senator Kerry agrees with this.�

However, even as the candidates uttered seasoned politician-like phrases, their advisers and allies were busy as ever to spin.  Richard C. Holbrooke, a foreign policy adviser for Kerry, said on CNN that the tape was a reminder that Kerry would be more aggressive in pursuing bin Laden.  Mr. Holbrooke remarked, �How can this grotesque mass murderer be out there on worldwide television more than three years after 9/11?  Why haven�t we captured him, if the Bush administration was going to be so effective in the war on terror?� 

Republican spin masters are at it now.  Like his democratic counterparts John Feehery, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Republican-Illinois), said bin Laden�s statement might help Bush.  �You really want a strong leader.  So it plays well for the president.�  Jeff Bell, Bush�s campaign strategist said, �If you've got Osama back on the scene talking about 9/11 but not making an attack, it could be the best of both worlds.  It's good for Bush, the fact that [bin Laden] hasn�t been able to attack, except for verbally.� 

Senator Kerry�s aides appeared visibly alarmed while they were airborne in a plane as they planned a response to bin Laden�s tape airing.  One prominent Democrat who was in the plane thought that for swing voters, who have not followed the election closely, bin Laden's reappearance may well boost Bush.  You can see that bin Laden�s videotaped message had took swipe at both the campaigns of Bush and Kerry.  No one can deny that Osama is a shrewd jihadi.  There is even a hint in the message that Osama has viewed Michael Moore�s documentary �Fahrenheit 9/11� because there was this oblique reference to Bush�s reading of story books to school children on September 11, 2001, in Florida in Laden�s message.

Now let me turn to the reaction of ordinary Americans.  I visited a respected pollster in America , Zogby International�s website in which there was a readers� forum.  There, I found some of the smart comments made by some very ordinary Americans.  One person wrote: �Guess if you�re on the less endowed side of the intelligence spectrum, you might feel stirred to support the man who said he didn�t care about catching bin Laden.  But those people are already voting for Bush.  For the rest of us, I think this will rapidly become another reminder of his incompetence.  In order for this to move you toward Bush, you have to forget that he has had 3 years to get bin Laden, and he hasn�t done it.  I think bin Laden popping up reminds us of that.�

Another participant in Zogby site wrote: �I don't know how this going to affect the election.  It could play one of two ways: 1. Remind people of the threat of terrorism and drive them toward Bush is the belief that he will �keep them safe.�  I don�t understand this line of thinking, but I know some people feel that way.  2. Remind people that Bush has failed at capturing Bin Laden just like he failed in Iraq and failed to get the economy going.  We'll have to wait for a couple of days to see which way it works out.�

A Kerry supporter wrote in the same site, �It is THREE years and counting since 9/11.  If we had devoted significant resources to the search for bin Laden, as AESHIstory (another participant) says, we either would have found him or harassed him more effectively.  Despite all the reports that he was dead, debilitated, disabled, isolated, etc., he actually looks and talks likes he�s been in Florida for the last 3 years.  Bush pulled troops, search drones, satellite resources, special ops troops etc., away from the search for the real enemy in order to pursue his personal bogeyman.  Now our enemy is lecturing us on prime time television.�

Apparently, Osama looked quite sharp in the recent video.  This brought the following remarks in the Zogby International�s website: �While it is undoubtedly true that Osama would have dolled himself up before going on camera (I can't quite imagine Osama bin Laden with a makeup artist, a producer, and whatnot....the mixture of imagery between an Islamic fundamentalist and some Mary Kay cosmetic ladies doesn't mesh in my brain), there is only so much that anyone could cover-up.  More to the point, I'm pretty sure that those sort of makeup type resources would likely be fairly Spartan wherever he shot that video--although who knows--so that means that his appearance in that video is also probably a very nearly accurate depiction of his current condition (with certain caveats: he wasn't running sprints in the video or anything, so he could still have his health problems for all we know).  Considering all of this, it really struck me, as you noted, how well he looked.  I mean, hell, he really did look almost rested!  I can�t even begin to fathom how a man of his age, after this much fighting, running around, stress, etc., could look that together without some major "help," and yet I can't imagine he actually went on a vacation, or visited a plastic surgeon, or even really has a makeup artist to cover up the stress.  That�s just a little creepy to me.�

In summary, Osama�s videotape had surfaced 100 hours before the Election Day and that caused angst in both the presidential candidates.  The U.S. Homeland Security Department is taking the message very serious thinking that the message encoded in the tape may signal an impending attack.  While the spin masters from both the Bush and Kerry camps are giving their erudite explanation, and the Internet junkies are making theirs smarmy comments in Zogby International�s website, Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants are probably having their last laughs as they are lying low somewhere in the mountainous region of Pakistan or Afghanistan.  Only time can tell whether Osama�s antics will have an impact on the U.S. election.    


Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans , USA

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