The Osama bin Laden I saw in his most recent video is certainly not the same man who was responsible for the demise of more than 3,000 people in 2001. The tape broadcast on Al-Jazeera was the first we saw of him in 14 months. So one has to pose the question of whether the war on terror is going well. However obvious it is to you, our declared war on terrorists and terrorist networks is working; the new image of bin Laden is living proof.
We all cringed when the new video surfaced; however, this one demonstrates to be different. In a sense, it was good news: It was a video not an attack. In addition, this paltry attempt to sway our election was a sign that we have weakened the structure of Islamic extremist networks. However delusional it is, bin Laden’s ideology of hate condemns the United States and we can never be too careful.
Such extremists live for one thing: to destroy the West and all the freedoms it entails. In this most recent display of rhetoric, bin Laden claimed not to oppose freedom and cited Sweden as a country he has never attacked. He implied that in order to never be attacked by him or his al-Qaida constituents again we needed to leave the Middle East and end our relationship with Israel. Hold the phones. Is this a transition from terrorist to political director? Whatever he is trying to convey with his perplexed message, he did accomplish one thing: He created a new image for himself.
Vladimir Lenin, Ayatollah Khomeini and others are political leaders who began their careers as charismatic outsiders with forceful ideologies. Yasser Arafat, for example, projected from terrorist chief to the head of Palestine. These leaders, including bin Laden, all know that in order to get their philosophies and ideologies heard they need more than a small faction of followers. However, I am not comparing the specific principles of these leaders; I am simply showing reference to the way they demonstrate power. Moreover, bin Laden’s confusing phrases and falsified examples of U.S. tyranny exemplify his weakening support.
Usually bin Laden sends his self-glorifying tapes to us after he has claimed something. Well, not this time; one has to wonder why? Could it be that we have weakened him to such a great extent that he no longer has the resources or manpower as he once did? The answer is yes. The war on terror has an ugly face and is interpreted many ways, but bin Laden’s display of self-justification in this most recent tape supports our success. His rank-in-file members have dwindled so that he tries to appeal to alienated Arabs. He attempted to rally them up in support for his cause; that is not a sign of a leader with much command.
Instead of declaring attacks, bin Laden struggled to justify his actions taken against the United States. He explained that he didn’t oppose our free society but our actions taken in the Middle East. This was an obvious attempt to right his evil acts in the minds of Americans. But bear in mind, when people try to appease you it is not for their enjoyment; it is purely because they need to.
Bin Laden’s transformation from terrorist to political leader has its ups and downs. Although we have to heed notice anytime bin Laden speaks, his most recent message was different from ones past. He is attempting to cast himself in a different light. He values his success in 2001 but understands that we won’t let it happen again and knows that his networks of Islamic extremist puppets are feeble and need to regroup. Thus, we have the transformation. His makeover is consistent with history. When one faces great opposition, one must change. We are the same great nation as we have always been and we are doing the things necessary to keep it that way.
Erik Raymond is a sophomore majoring in political science.