Full Text and Analysis of bin Laden's Audiotape
By Dan Darling
My message to you is about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the way to end it.
I had not intended to speak to you about this issue, because, for us, this issue is already decided on: diamonds cut diamonds.Praise be to God, our conditions are always improving and becoming better, while your conditions are to the contrary of this.
This message, like bin Laden's October 2004 video, is addressed to the American public, though its true audience is not the people of the United States but rather his supporters and fellow travelers within the Middle East and Islamic world. While some observers have suggested that this audio is somehow different from its predecessors due to a lack of Qur'anic invocations, the opening benediction is actually quite in keeping with bin Laden's style. Moreover, the absence of references to either the Qur'an or classical Arab or Islamic texts should be understood as keeping with the form of the message, namely that its intended recipients are the American rather than the Islamic world.
However, what prompted me to speak are the repeated fallacies of your President Bush in his comment on the outcome of the US opinion polls, which indicated that the overwhelming majority of you want the withdrawal of the forces from Iraq, but he objected to this desire and said that the withdrawal of troops would send a wrong message to the enemy.
There is no reference here to what specific opinion polls bin Laden is referring to here and public opinion on the issue of Iraq is a rather fluid subject, but based on other comments within the message we can assume that he is referring to polls from circa October-November 2005, or immediately following the events of Hurricane Katrina. Both the hurricane and the events that followed led to a great deal of political controversy within the United States and once the immediate disaster had ended President Bush initiated a whole series of campaign-style speeches in an effort to rally support for his policy decisions with regard to Iraq where he made a semblance of the argument that bin Laden is caricaturing here. This message should then be understood at least in part as an attempt to "rebut" Bush's campaign to win support for his policies in Iraq and to establish bin Laden as his opposite number if not equal on the opposing side. This is by no means a new tactic - numerous al-Qaeda leaders have directly challenged statements made by US officials in the past, Ayman al-Zawahiri has issued his own "rebuttals" to the American State of the Union address in the past, and bin Laden attempted to present himself in his October 2004 video as a kind of mirror image from what many viewers might expect to see from a head of state.
Bush said: It is better to fight them on their ground than they fighting us on our ground. In my response to these fallacies, I say: The war in Iraq is raging, and the operations in Afghanistan are on the rise in our favour, praise be to God.
While this presentation of Bush's position is rather caricatured (as it is in other parts of bin Laden's presentation), bin Laden is also presenting an interesting style of response to what is popularly known as the "flypaper theory" for the war in Iraq which, in its crudest form, argues that there is a finite number of jihadis in the world and that it is necessary for the United States to establish a location in the Middle East where they can be drawn in, prevented from attacking the US homeland, and ultimately defeated through application of superior firepower and technology. Most critiques of the flypaper theory generally argue that there is neither a finite number of jihadis and that if there are not all of them will go to a set location, but bin Laden is not adopting that position. Rather, he is arguing that the flypaper theory is incorrect because al-Qaeda, not the US, is winning or at least holding its own in Iraq and Afghanistan, a claim that should be understood as being similar to the argument that the war in Iraq and Afghanistan have increased terrorism.
The Pentagon figures indicate the rise in the number of your dead and wounded, let alone the huge material losses, and let alone the collapse of the morale of the soldiers there and the increase in the suicide cases among them.
So, just imagine the state of psychological breakdown that afflicts the soldier while collecting the remnants of his comrades' dead bodies after they hit mines, which torn them. Following such situation, the soldier becomes between two fires. If he refuses to go out of his military barracks for patrols, he will face the penalties of the Vietnam butcher, and if he goes out, he will face the danger of mines.
So, he is between two bitter situations, something which puts him under psychological pressure - fear, humiliation, and coercion. Moreover, his people are careless about him. So, he has no choice but to commit suicide.What you hear about him and his suicide is a strong message to you, which he wrote with his blood and soul while pain and bitterness eat him up so that you would save what you can save from this hell. However, the solution is in your hand if you care about them.
There are a lot of different themes that are touched on briefly here, so many in fact that it is nothing short of impossible that bin Laden is not actively familiarizing himself with the most extreme elements of US or at least Western anti-war discourse. While he certainly follows Pentagon figures in an effort to learn as much as possible about his enemy (materials recovered from Afghanistan certainly support the belief that al-Qaeda actively believed in open-source research, albeit sometimes from dubious sources), arguments such as the current psychological state of the US soldier, the current war on terrorism as being analogous to Vietnam, and that those who really support the troops should also support their withdrawal could only have been pirated from Western and quite possibly American sources. Particularly this can be seen in the comments over concern about the current state of American troops, which is widespread in the more extreme American anti-war circles but far rarer abroad, where US troops are regarded as some kind of monolithic stormtroopers in the service of an evil empire.
The news of our brother mujahideen, however, is different from what is published by the Pentagon. This news indicates that what is carried by the news media does not exceed what is actually taking place on the ground. What increases doubts on the information of the White House's administration is its targeting of the news media, which carry some facts about the real situation.
The exact identification of "news of our brother mujahideen" is difficult, since his references below would seem to suggest that he is referring to the British tabloids - a source rather far removed from jihadi outlets. Al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda supporter websites regularly carry extremely dubious propaganda claims, whether purporting to be from Afghanistan or Iraq, of hundreds upon hundreds of US troops being killed in daring raids or in some cases conventional skirmishes with al-Qaeda fighters. The reference to news being "published by the Pentagon" or the White House "targeting" the media may just be a general denunciation of the fact that these reports do not receive attention from mainstream media outlets or it may be a more subtle jab at the activities of the Lincoln Group in Iraq, a story that surfaced at around the same time as the tape is believed to have been recorded in late November or early December.
Documents have recently showed that the butcher of freedom in the world [US President Bush] had planned to bomb the head office of al-Jazeera Space Channel in the state of Qatar after he bombed its offices in Kabul and Baghdad, although despite its defects, it is [Al-Jazeera] one of your creations.
The documents in question first surfaced in the British tabloids on November 22, enabling us to place a cap on the earliest possible date in which this audiotape could have been recorded. The reference to al-Jazeera being a "creation" of the West may strike some readers as bizarre, but al-Jazeera is regarded as every bit as reprehensible by bin Laden as the US itself because of its close relationship with the Qatari government. "Defects" in this case refer to al-Jazeera's often-criticized editorial line towards the US, which from bin Laden's perspective is one of its features.
Jihad is continuing, praise be to God, despite all the repressive measures the US army and its agents take to the point where there is no significant difference between these crimes and those of Saddam.
Here again, we can see that bin Laden is adopting yet another anti-US cliche to bolster his argument, namely that Iraq today is no better than Iraq under Saddam Hussein because of incidents like the abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib.
These crimes include the raping of women and taking them hostage instead of their husbands. There is no power but in God.
The torturing of men has reached the point of using chemical acids and electric drills in their joints. If they become desperate with them, they put the drill on their heads until death.If you like, read the humanitarian reports on the atrocities and crimes in the prisons of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
Most of these descriptions, as I understand it, are distorted characterizations of items that have actually occurred in either official military reports or those filed by human rights groups like Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, with the general thrust of bin Laden's statement suggesting the latter. This suggests that he is at least passingly familiar with the latter items, which are quite lengthy and indicate that he has spent at least some of his time since October 2004 reading them.
I say that despite all the barbaric methods, they have failed to ease resistance, and the number of mujahideen, praise be to God, is increasing.
This remark is somewhat similar to the argument put forth by Pape and others that foreign occupation and the inevitable abuses resulting from it is actually the source of terrorism. While bin Laden does not cite Pape and would angrily argue against his thesis, he does appear to accept the end-result of his ideas. There is also a desire to rhetorically establish a sense of inevitability to his victory in Iraq by arguing that the US will only create more enemies there the harder it fights.
In fact, reports indicate that the defeat and devastating failure of the ill-omened plan of the four - Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz - and the announcement of this defeat and working it out, is only a matter of time, which is to some extent linked to the awareness of the American people of the magnitude of this tragedy.
This is not the first time that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri have singled out specific US officials for blame - one recalls his November 2002 remarks in which argued that Rumsfeld was responsible for atrocities in the Vietnam War - but it does indicate that he continues to follow Beltway politics at least peripherally. His belief that the US will leave Iraq as soon as the American public comes to the conclusion that continuing to fight there is a lost cause is strikingly similar to the arguments invoked by many advocates of immediate withdrawl and once again establishes a sense of rhetorical inevitability for al-Qaeda's ultimate victory there.
The wise ones know that Bush has no plan to achieve his alleged victory in Iraq.
This comment mirrors some of the 2004 election rhetoric of Bush "not having a plan to win the peace" in Iraq and it should be understood that bin Laden is not quoting it because of his concerns over the proper execution of Phase 4 operations but rather because (as with a number of other topics) it is a convenient rhetorical hammer for him to attack the head of the US government with.
If you compare the small number of the dead when Bush made that false and stupid show-like announcement from an aircraft carrier on the end of the major operations, to many times as much as this number of the killed and injured, who fell in the minor operations, you will know the truth in what I am saying, and that Bush and his administration do not have neither the desire nor the will to withdraw from Iraq for their own dubious reasons.
As with criticism over not having a plan to achieve victory in Iraq, these comments concerning Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech mirrors the rhetoric of his political opponents and is part of a calculated effect by bin Laden, just as his invocation of a desire by President Clinton to deflect attention from the Monica Lewinisky scandal following the August 1998 US missile attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan mirrored those of Clinton's opponents. The comment that the administration has "neither the desire nor the will to withdraw from Iraq for their own dubious reasons" would seem to be an acknowledgement that the administration has painted itself into a rhetorical box with respect to Iraq and hence is unable to withdraw because of it, so bin Laden is calling on its detractors to do the grunt work for them.
To go back to where I started, I say that the results of the poll satisfy sane people and that Bush's objection to them is false. Reality testifies that the war against America and its allies has not remained confined to Iraq, as he claims.
This would seem to be a reference to polling data concerning Iraq following Hurricane Katrina. The reference to Bush's detractors as "sane" and being acquainted with reality also mirrors some of the post-2004 arguments by Democrats (pioneered by Eric Alterman?) that they existed in a "reality-based" community in contrast to the "faith-based" community in which Bush and his supporters subsisted. His argument that the war between al-Qaeda and the US has not been confined to Iraq is a clear argument against the "flypaper theory."
In fact, Iraq has become a point of attraction and recruitment of qualified resources.
On the other hand, the mujahideen, praise be to God, have managed to breach all the security measures adopted by the unjust nations of the coalition time and again.The evidence of this is the bombings you have seen in the capitals of the most important European countries of this aggressive coalition.
The argument that Iraq now serves as a magnet for terrorism in contrast to its Saddam-era state and that surviving members of al-Qaeda in Iraq or allied groups will one day return to their home countries to carry out terrorist attacks has been of major concern to both terrorism analysts and US government officials. That bin Laden is aware of and indeed confirming such sentiments indicate that he is either familiar with counterterrorism literature on the subject and/or is not nearly as isolated from the day-to-day operations of al-Qaeda as many have argued - a claim that I would argue was always difficult to prove given that he is still in possession of courier network so loyal, secretive, and elaborate that he has been able to relay messages to al-Jazeera and back for over 4 years without compromising his own location.
The reference to bombings in European capital is a clear reference to both the 3/11 bombings in Madrid, Spain and the 7/7 bombings in the London, United Kingdom. While both attacks have been attributed to members or allies of al-Qaeda, it is important to note that bin Laden characterizes both as attacks on "this aggressive coalition" - i.e. those European nations that supported the US invasion of Iraq. This is not altogether surprising, as numerous al-Qaeda publications as well as the master strategy laid out by its military commander Saif al-Adel have made reference to the need to evict the US and its allies from Iraq as soon as possible. Such remarks are also likely intended to bolster arguments that it was participation in the war in Iraq that has brought Islamic terrorism to Europe.
As for the delay in carrying out similar operations in America, this was not due to failure to breach your security measures. Operations are under preparation, and you will see them on your own ground once they are finished, God willing.
Some regard these comments as little more than bluster given the widespread misreporting concerning this statement was that bin Laden was offering a truce. In fact, this is nothing more than a refutation of the claim that heightened US security since 9/11 has thwarted any further attacks as well as a statement of intent that such attacks will come. If bin Laden is indeed to be taken at face value that preparations for another major attack are underway, this would here again serve as further evidence that he continues to operate in some type of a command and control capacity.
Based on the above, we see that Bush's argument is false. However, the argument that he avoided, which is the substance of the results of opinion polls on withdrawing the troops, is that it is better not to fight the Muslims on their land and for them not to fight us on our land.
We do not object to a long-term truce with you on the basis of fair conditions that we respect.
We are a nation, for which God has disallowed treachery and lying.
In this truce, both parties will enjoy security and stability and we will build Iraq and Afghanistan, which were destroyed by the war.There is no defect in this solution other than preventing the flow of hundreds of billions to the influential people and war merchants in America, who supported Bush's election campaign with billions of dollars.
These remarks were widely interpreted in the Western and international press as calling for a long-term truce between the US and al-Qaeda, but this is in fact a mischaracterization. Rather, what bin Laden is saying here is that if the US is willing to take the initiative and offer him a truce (perhaps parallel to full US withdrawl from Iraq and Afghanistan?) that he would be open to accepting it. It should be noted that the idea of a truce between the US and al-Qaeda does not represent a significant shift in policy from either bin Laden's stated objective or al-Qaeda's grand strategy, so long as one understands that is a truce rather than an armistice that is being discussed here. Bin Laden has been willing to offer truces before, most recently to Europe, and it should be understood that these offers serve three ends. The first is that in the unlikely event they are successful, bin Laden will have limited the number of enemies he has to fight in order to achieve his short-term objectives of establishing a caliphate in the Middle East. The second is that it enables him to argue, particularly to his fellow Islamists, that he has offered the West a way out of the carnage and therefore cannot be held accountable for any of the bloodshed that follows. Finally, it once again enables him to take up the mantle of a pseudo-head of state by demanding that standing governments negotiate with him and his representatives despite his status as a private citizen rather than a legitimate government. Most striking, he is claiming to speak on behalf of the entire Islamic world, a dignity traditionally associated with the office of caliph.
The allegations of war profiteering and the presumably veiled references to Halliburton once again indicate that bin Laden is familiar with political accusations towards the company and indeed he referenced Halliburton in his 2004 truce offer to the European governments as well as pseudo-Marxist claims of corporations secretly controlling the actual mechanics of American democracy in his October 2004 video statement.
Hence, we can understand the insistence of Bush and his gang to continue the war.
If you have a genuine will to achieve security and peace, we have already answered you.
If Bush declines but to continue lying and practicing injustice [against us], it is useful for you to read the book of "The Rogue State", the introduction of which reads: If I were a president, I would halt the operations against the United States.
First, I will extend my apologies to the widows, orphans, and the persons who were tortured. Afterwards, I will announce that the US interference in the world's countries has ended for ever.
Finally, I would like to tell you that the war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever as the wind blows in this direction with God's help.
If you win it, you should read the history. We are a nation that does not tolerate injustice and seek revenge forever.Days and nights will not go by until we take revenge as we did on 11 September, God willing, and until your minds are exhausted and your lives become miserable and things turn [for the worse], which you detest.
Interestingly enough, the quotation here is not actually from William Blum's anti-US work Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower but is instead from Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire, another anti-US work by Blum. This indicates that bin Laden is not only familiar with Rogue State, which has been published in Arabic in Egypt and Lebanon, but that he may have Blum's works in their entirety, once again indicating that he has been doing a great deal of reading since his disappearance in December 2001.
The argument that bin Laden's jihad is one of reprisal rather than one of aggression is a common theme in al-Qaeda literature, particularly because it enables the organization to argue that any action, no matter how horrid, is justified as a reprisal against the US. One can easily find such themes as early as June 2002 in Suleiman Abu Ghaith's declaration that "We have the right to kill 4 million Americans - 2 million of them children - and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons, so as to afflict them with the fatal maladies that have afflicted the Muslims because of the [Americans'] chemical and biological weapons." Under such a rationale, any terrorist attack, no matter on what scale, is easy enough to justify.
As for us, we do not have anything to lose. The swimmer in the sea does not fear rain. You have occupied our land, defiled our honour, violated our dignity, shed our blood, ransacked our money, demolished our houses, rendered us homeless, and tampered with our security. We will treat you in the same way.
You tried to deny us the decent life, but you cannot deny us a decent death. Refraining from performing jihad, which is sanctioned by our religion, is an appalling sin. The best way of death for us is under the shadows of swords.
Do not be deluded by your power and modern weapons. Although they win some battles, they lose the war. Patience and steadfastness are better than them. What is important is the outcome.
We have been tolerant for 10 years in fighting the Soviet Union with our few weapons and we managed to drain their economy.
They became history, with God's help.You should learn lessons from that. We will remain patient in fighting you, God willing, until the one whose time has come dies first. We will not escape the fight as long as we hold our weapons in our hands.
This argument sounds somewhat bizarre to most Westerners, so it is necessary that it be understood that he is referring both to his understanding of the current state of the Middle East as well as to a rather long view of history. Bin Laden, like any number of others including the renowned intellectual Bernard Lewis, seems to accept the argument that the current inhabitants of the Middle East are essentially still living within the confines of the failed civilization of the Ottoman Empire. Unlike Lewis, however, bin Laden attributes this and all other real or perceived failures of the region squarely at the feet of the United States and its allies, a view that anti-US tracts like Rogue State written by American authors do everything to reinforce that presupposition. Because bin Laden sees the Middle East as having nothing to live for, he has no problem whatsoever with giving them something to die for.
With respect to his argument for a long year of history, this is a rather common way of looking at the world in many societies that Americans would do well to acquaint them with. Simply put, many Arab nationalists and Islamists believe that they can defeat Israel because, as the argument goes, Israel has only been established for about 50 years while the Crusader states existed for more than a century. All that is lacking, according to this view, is a Saladin to unite the Middle East, which is one of the reasons why declaring oneself a new Saladin is a favored means of establishing legitimacy in that part of the world. Similarly, bin Laden is arguing here that just as the Afghans and their Arab allies were losing for the overwhelming majority against the USSR in Afghanistan, they ultimately prevailed against one superpower and hence can be expected to do so again. Here again, we can see him arguing that the triumph of al-Qaeda is a matter of inevitability and that the only question remaining is when, not if, it will occur.
I swear not to die but a free man even if I taste the bitterness of death. I fear to be humiliated or betrayed. Peace be upon those who follow guidance.
This is probably the clearest declaration from bin Laden himself that he has no intention whatsoever of being taken alive by the US and fits with rumors and reports that he has given his bodyguards instructions to kill him rather than allow him to be captured so that he will never have to know the humiliation of imprisonment or the knowledge that he might have been betrayed by one of his subordinates.
Much of this material does not represent a significant departure from bin Laden's previous statements and there can be little doubt that the tape was genuine and recorded between November and December 2005. Contrary to media reports, he did not offer a truce to the United States but instead argued that the US should offer a truce to him if we want to see a short-term end to the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. These statements, like his clear declaration of intent to attack the US homeland again, should be understood within the perspective of al-Qaeda's warning cycle and despite being directed at the American people were at least partially aimed at covering his bases to his Islamist supporters in addition to the usual bluster and threats. The view that this message should be regarded purely as an admission of weakness from bin Laden ignores the attacks that al-Qaeda was able to successfully perpetrate following the 2004 truce offer to Europe as well as the broader complexity of the statement.
Some have argued that the mere fact that bin Laden was able to get his message out is in of itself a victory. While this is arguably true in as far as his courier network remains intact, what is far more apparent is that this message was intended once again to catapult him to the forefront of the international media and to reestablish him as the public head of al-Qaeda and to project himself to the rest of the world as the spokesman and leader of Islam to the West. Thus, the message should be understood as building on earlier themes even while matter-of-factly stating his intentions to attack the US in future. Bin Laden is nothing if not an adept politician, so his effort to frame his statements in US political rhetoric sometimes obscures his resolute determination in attacking the United States in the future as well as his willingness to sacrifice the entire Middle East to achieve these objectives. Those who regard the failure to capture bin Laden to date as a sign of the war on terrorism's failure should instead recognize that it is precisely his survival that makes the prosecution of the war such a critical issue.