The American government did its level best to prevent Al Jazeera television from airing the face and words of the man who is, in these parts at least, the world's most evil creature. The reason given for trying to keep Osama off the air is that he may be delivering a message in code to his operatives. Let's leave speculations about codes and the means of underground communication to the soi-disant experts and keep an open mind on whether or not the stated reasons are the real reasons for trying to keep Osama's words from the world's rank-and-filers.
Balanced against the unknown risk of letting him be heard is the old market place of ideas argument. Let Osama say what he has to say; let those who disagree have their say; let us listen; let us think, if we are able; let us decide. Naturally, that is not the way it works. If Americans thought, advertising would not control our behavior as it does. Americans are patriots and patriots do not think; patriots do as the voices coming over the loudspeakers bid.
One of the first things the loudspeaker voices said after Osama, in truncated form, somehow wiggled on to American TV screens was that the man was attempting to influence the Presidential election. How dare he! Obviously, he does dare, but duh? It is routine for the American government to interfere in other people's elections when doing so appears to be in the interest of the United States. We have even been known to invite foreigners to influence American elections ourselves when it appeared to be in the interest of those doing the inviting. The most recent example is the visit to Washington by Ayad Allawi, the increasingly rebellious puppet prime minister of Iraq. This former button man for Saddam Hussein was invited to speak to a joint session of the American congress a few weeks ago. So it boils down to who is welcome and who is to butt out.
So Osama butted in and little good it will do him. As his own words suggest and as Bush's and Kerry's reactions to his words make clear enough, he has no horse in this race. Both candidates have said that they will strain every sinew to see the man is shot on sight. Since there is probably no one in North America who has any idea of what Osama's grasp of American politics may be, there is no guessing as to why he said what he said now. If you took a wild stab at it, you might conjecture he is somewhat inclined to have Bush remain in office because the Texan has proven to be a perfect foil for the Arab.
Be that as it may, not for the first time Osama has cautioned the rest of us about believing that he is a religious fanatic, an Islamic religious fanatic, whose misguided beliefs drive him to hate us because we are free and Allah doesn't like freedom. Certainly the administration line has always been that this war has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with religion. But Osama, in his latest communication, repeats that the roots of this struggle are political:"Security is an important foundation of human life and free people do not squander their security, contrary to Bush's claims that we hate freedom. Let him tell us why we did not attack Sweden for example."
So, Mr. President, instead of repeating, as is your custom,"They hate us, they hate us, they hate us," please answer the question. And please, should you care to reply, do not resort to far fetched statements like we are freer than the Swedes or we are the symbol of freedom and so by attacking us they attack freedom everywhere.
Osama restates what is accepted as a fact everywhere but in the United States, which is that America and Israel are co-belligerents in a Middle Eastern war which has been going on for almost half a century. Thus he says to us,"God knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers but after the situation became unbearable and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were that of 1982 and the events that followed -- when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the U.S. Sixth Fleet. . . As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me to punish the unjust the same way (and) to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women."
He is referring to events which happened a whole twenty years ago and since many Americans cannot say whether the Second World War or the Civil War came first, Osama's references will not mean much. For the few who do not suffer from political Alzheimers his words are a reminder of how far back the Israeli-American war against Arab nationalist interests goes.
These are not mere debate points. If the war is religious in origin, no minds can be changed, no deals can be struck. Religion is the antithesis of reason and is non-negotiable. Only death and exhaustion can end a religious war. If the war is political, deals can be struck, bargains can be made, policies can be adjusted and peace can be achieved. This said, there is scant reason for optimism, but always there is hope.