Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Bin Laden's New Message
There are several interesting aspects to Osama bin Laden's first, albeit brief, message of 2008, transcribed here by the NEFA Foundation. Clearly the senior al Qaeda leadership thought the issue was important enough to have bin Laden address it, something he has not done since December 2007.

The first is the specificity of the threat to Europe, and the precise reason for that threat, the alleged insults perpetrated by the printing of the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. This, according to bin Laden, is more insulting that waging war against al Qaeda or the killing of women and children.

This seems to be part of the Islamist tradition of warning one's enemies of an impending attack, and giving the enemy a chance, however brief, to repent and and convert. Whether al Qaeda can carry out a serious attack is a separate question from whether al Qaeda or its affiliates want to carry out such an attack and believe they can.

It would be highly demoralizing for bin Laden to make a rare public statement without being able to follow through, or at least believe his organization is capable of following through.

Bin Laden ends the statement with one of the strongest possible statements that an attempt to follow through in striking Europe in ways that dwarf prior attacks, invoking Allah to bereave many of the mothers of the mujahadeen "if we fail to help the messenger of Allah." So death is preferable to not acting, not an idle statement given the widespread use of suicide bombers.

The second aspect is bin Laden's attempt to amplify the outrage over the cartoons by stating that attempts to depict Jesus or any of the other prophets in the same manner would insulting. "We believe in all of the prophets (PBUT), and whoever detracts from or mocks any one of them is an apostate unbeliever."

This is the first time I have seen an attempt to broaden the issue out from solely an Islamist issue of Mohammed, to a broader audience that may be insulted by similar drawings of other religious figures.

A third aspect is an awareness of the outside world that is more than passing, noting the British government's squelching of an investigation into possible bribes by Saudi Arabia in the purchase of weapons. It was not the kind of news that made a huge splash, so clearly he has time to monitor the news on an ongoing basis.

Finally, there is the justification for past and upcoming carnage in a direct and succinct way: "If there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions."

Words, in this world view, matter as much or more than actions. And, he said, will be in what we see, not what we hear. These statements should not be taken lightly.

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