Tuesday, January 06, 2004

America's Race Against Osama Bin Laden

A tape believed to be from Osama Bin Laden was played on Al Jazeera on January 4, 2004 calling for unremitting Holy War against the United States and upon all Muslims to reject their current rulers in favor of Bin Laden's own Islamic leadership. Dan Darling of Regnum Crucis examines Bin Laden's exhortation in greater detail. The most important development is Al Qaeda's now growing hostility towards Middle Eastern and Southwest Asian governments, who are described as corrupt pawns of the United States. It is interesting to compare Bin Laden's speech -- if Bin Laden it is -- with President Bush's speech before the National Endowment for Democracy. Both men have described these governments as corrupt and tyrannical; both offer alternative visions of the future to the region's inhabitants. Yet both have stopped short of a final breach.

It is not unreasonable to think that both Bin Laden and President Bush are swimming against the tide of their historical dealings with the region's despots. The Kingdom Saudi Arabia, which can serve to illustrate the rest, was both client and enemy to the United States, just as it still both benefactor and persecutor of Al Qaeda. There would be those, both in the US Government and Al Qaeda, who would keep things just as they are. Foreign Affairs argued that America's way forward is still to support "moderate" factions in the House of Saud. Many an Al Qaeda ideologue must similarly be arguing for support for the "extremist" Saudi camp as an alternative to confrontation. Yet events are pushing both America and the terrorists into open hostility with the region's rulers, whose formula of playing both sides of the street no longer works. The words "you are either for us or against us" have now been uttered in both English and Arabic. Whether they were uttered in bluff or in earnest now remains to be seen.