Posted 6:15 p.m. Feb. 21
by Carolyn Polinsky
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
Osama bin Laden called upon all Muslims to fight against a U.S. led attack on Iraq, in a 16-minute address broadcast on the Al-Jazeera television network Feb 11.
A second audiotape surfaced later in the week, in which a voice purported to be that of the al Qaeda leader called U.S. leaders, including President George Bush “stupid,” and the speaker predicted his own demise as a martyr.
In the first speech, bin Laden said that Muslims must do anything necessary to fight against the enemy, including street fighting and suicide attacks. The American government, he said, relies on bombing and psychological warfare and soldiers who do not believe they are fighting for a just cause.
“We also want to clarify that whoever helps America … either if they fight next to them or give them support in any form or shape, even by words, if they help them to kill the Muslims in Iraq, they have to know that they are outside this Islamic nation,” bin Laden said.
He added that Muslims should do anything they can to “overthrow the leaderships that work as slaves for America” and said it should be done in the name of Allah. He warned Iraq’s neighbors that they would be committing a mistake if they chose not to help the country.
In the second tape, the speaker said that America is planning an attack on Iraq as a Christian crusade to restructure the Middle East to benefit Israel.
CIA leader George Tenet said the day after that the first tape is being examined to find out whether the message is a sign that another attack by al Qaeda could soon occur.
“What he said has often been followed by attacks, which I think corroborates everything in what we are seeing in terms of raising the threat warning, in terms of the specific information we had at our disposal last week,” Tenet told reporters.
However, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge said later: “There is no rhyme or reason to when they attack. Ultimately they attack when they are ready.”
He is considering soon lowering the terrorism threat level from the current high-risk and said the information that led it to being risen last week may have been fabricated.
Some political experts believe that bin Laden, who insulted Saddam Hussein on the tape, is trying incite conflict in order to find more fighters for the Muslim cause and because he wishes to see the Iraqi leader out of power. On the tapes, bin Laden is supportive of Iraqis, but not Hussein.
On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Senate panel of the first bin Laden tape and said it is a signifier that the al Qaeda leader is working with Iraq to help the country.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher agreed with Powell’s assessment that bin Laden and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein were “bound by a common hatred” despite their different viewpoint On Wednesday, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan denied that his government had any ties to bin Laden and al Qaeda.
This article appeared in the February 20, 2003 issue of the Hatchet.