- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2001

This week, the world received yet another video message from terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. It was delivered by videotape via the Arab satellite network, Al Jazeera, which treated us to the full 33 minutes of the tape on Thursday.
The good news is that bin Laden looked wan and gaunt, like the man on the run that he really is. His beard is turning white and his cheeks are sunken; lack of mobility in his right arm suggests the likelihood of a war wound. He looks far older than his 44 years. A lot of people will be cheered by the fact that the man who inspired September 11 is aging rapidly though not rapidly enough if you ask anyone around here. There is of course the possibility that bin Laden may have departed this world already, as a result of the U.S. bombing campaign.
The bad news is that most of us have had enough of this awful man to want to look at him again, let alone have his words parsed endlessly by television's talking heads.
The previous tape, released as evidence by the U.S. government before Christmas, was fuzzy, hard to hear and seemingly taped in secret. Incriminating as bin Laden's comments certainly were, the quality of the tape itself, not to mention its mysterious origins, left a lot to be desired.
This time, the voice of the terrorist is loud and clear, his gaze fixed straight on the audience. "It is important to concentrate on the destruction of the American economy," he says. "So the United States will be too busy to bother with Islamic fighters." This is certainly an ambitious man with a big agenda.
Without directly taking responsibility for the September 11 operation, bin Laden does not leave his approval and appreciation in doubt. He praises not just the attacks on Washington and New York, but the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in eastern Africa as well. They happened in response "to the continuing oppression inflicted on our children in Palestine, Iraq, Somalia and southern Sudan," he says. "Our terrorism is against America. Our terrorism is a blessed terrorism to prevent the unjust person from committing injustice and to stop American support for Israel, which kills our sons." Presumably this attack on Israel is meant to inflame the Arab "street," which has been surprisingly quiescent during the bombing campaign.
Blessed terrorism? At least, bin Laden himself does not shy away from the word "terrorism," which relativists here have avoided. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, don't you know. While this most recent tape, which has been dismissed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as "propaganda," may not exactly be a smoking gun, perhaps it could change the minds of those in this country who still doubt that bin Laden was behind the murder of 3,000 Americans.
Editors at The Washington Post come to mind. This is how bin Laden was identified in a front-page story in the Other Paper on Wednesday "the Islamic radical whom the United States blames for the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and at the Pentagon." Whatever happened to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's statements that there was conclusive proof that bin Laden is guilty as sin, you have to wonder. At The Post, they are still keeping an open mind. Bin Laden's pride in the achievements of his followers ought to be good enough for the rest of us.

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