The latest message from a speaker purporting to be al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was posted to the Internet late Sunday night. Containing predictable diatribes, the tape made the rounds of Monday morning news as commentators of all stripes weighed in. The consensus? It's what bin Laden isn't saying that's most revealing.
- Out of Ammo In accordance with last week's news of diminished al-Qaeda support, Matthew Yglesias believes the tape reveals a desperate bin Laden throwing resorting to "kitchen sink" rhetoric: "You can think of this as bin Laden shifting to a kind of lowest common denominator appeal. We see here that the indifference to Palestinian suffering that’s considered de rigeur by many in American politics is a key strategic vulnerability of the United States; when the well is running dry, this is something people looking to rally recruits against us turn to." Salon's Juan Cole is on the same page: "Whenever al-Qaida foregrounds the Israeli-Palestinian issue, it is a sign of the organization's weakness. Everyone knows that they haven't done anything practical for the Palestinians, and that the Palestinian leadership doesn't want them grandstanding on the backs of the Palestinians. Bin Laden is increasingly irrelevant."
- By the Book Jazz Shaw of the Moderate Voice initially takes a somber tone, reminding readers that the 9/11 attacks were in part a failure of imagination. Yet he scoffs at bin Laden's message itself, characterizing it as only the most obvious appeal to radicalism: "When it comes to getting responses to your terrorist Help Wanted ad in the Muslim world, there’s little better than reminding people of America’s continual presence as Israel’s big brother on the playground."
- Palestine = Afghanistan? The speaker's conspicuous, curious alternating emphasis on Israel and Afghanistan during the tape has many in the blogosphere grasping for the underlying premise. At the Heritage Foundation, James Carafano makes the case that the tape is really all about Afghanistan: "If the US holds out in Afghanistan, Pakistan will feel the pressure to eliminate the sanctuaries for the Taliban and al Qaeda once and for all…that would spell the end of Bin Laden. Not surprising he would like to see America fail." Jules Crittenden, taking aim at Shaw and the Moderate Voice, says as much: "If Israel is the root of it all, how come all the jihadis keep going to Iraq and Afghanistan and always leave the Palestinians hanging out there by themselves? Sheesh. Wrong way, guys."
- Trouble at Home = Trouble Abroad Huffington Post's Beau Friedlander makes the tenuous accusation that the speaker's reference to a weakened Obama is actually a reaction to a racist revolt against the president by the GOP and its supporters: "Folks, we are a hop skip in a jump away from real trouble here...Al Qaeda is a literal-minded group. The chances are reasonably good that the tea parties and the birthers and the Joe Wilson comment are somewhere at the root of the purported bin Laden comment."
- Never Forget Ed Morrissey offers a nuanced breakdown of the tape, concluding that, apart from shifting the focus to Israel, it doesn't offer anything significantly new from al-Qaeda. That, however, should not make U.S. citizens feel complacent. On the contrary, Morrissey cautions: "In the past, Osama’s messages have set the stage for coordinated attacks. Of late, AQ has been unable to conduct attacks after most of these speeches, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable now...the fact of the message should put us on heightened alert." Townhall's Hugh Hewitt is equally wary.
- Yeah, So, About That Whole Israel Thing... Over at New York Magazine, Dan Amira wittily undercuts bin Laden's stated motivation, i.e. influencing the country's discourse in any way: "Given that there's no individual in the world whose guidance Americans are less likely to heed, we wonder if bin Laden has ever considered trying reverse psychology instead. Something like, 'Hey America, you know what I love? That you support Israel so much. It really warms my heart. Keep up the good work.'"