- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

Terrorist leader Osama bin Laden’s latest taped message has been taken by Islamic extremists as a thinly veiled instruction to attack only U.S. states that vote today for President Bush, analysts said yesterday.

Most reports on the tape, which first appeared on Al Jazeera television on Friday, have translated a key passage as saying, “Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked.”

But Arabic language analysts said yesterday the passage also could be translated as saying, “Your security is in your own hands, and any [U.S.] state that does not belittle our security automatically guarantees its own security.”

Yigal Carmon of the Middle East Media Research Institute said some Islamist Web sites were interpreting the statement as a clear threat against any state that votes for a continuation of current U.S. foreign policy, which al Qaeda perceives as anti-Muslim.

The following interpretation has appeared on the Islamist Web site al-Qal’a, Mr. Carmon said: “It means any U.S. state that will choose to vote for the white thug Bush has chosen to fight us, and we will consider it our enemy. And any state that will vote against Bush has chosen to make peace with us, and we will not characterize it as enemy.”

Although other analysts are less sure about the specific Arabic word bin Laden used for “state,” they agree the Saudi-born terrorist was referring to either a specific state or an electoral region.

Elsewhere on the tape, bin Laden demonstrates an unexpected familiarity with U.S. politics, making it plausible that he would try to exploit the Electoral College system to terrorize Americans.

“I think if Mr. Bush is elected, it is highly likely that there will be at least some symbolic attacks,” said William Buckley, who teaches the politics of terrorism at Georgetown University. “If Mr. Kerry is elected, it is highly likely there will not be. …

“There has been a very deliberate low level of little to no terrorist activity, and his speech the other night was a very deliberate signal about what would be a mistake to do from his vantage point,” Mr. Buckley said.

The analyst said any signal on the tape may have been compromised because the message has not been broadcast in its entirety.

“My guess is that it was a coded threat and that there are specific folks who have been told to act should the outcome be one way or another, and that the coded threat was chopped off. So how much got through and how much didn’t is part of the issue,” Mr. Buckley said.

In additional excerpts released yesterday by Al Jazeera — which aired 14 minutes of the 18-minute video and provided the whole tape to U.S. intelligence services — bin Laden boasted that he eventually would bleed America dry.

“We became experts in gang warfare and in the war of attrition,” the terrorist mastermind said.

Bin Laden said religiously inspired Arab volunteers with whom he fought the Soviets in Afghanistan had “bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat. …

“So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy,” a calm and forceful bin Laden said, speaking without his habitual weapon in hand or usual references to infidel crusaders.

The whole rhetoric of jihad was missing from his speech, Mr. Carmon noted. “He was trying to be effective — he talked to Americans in their own language, political and secular, with scare tactics.”

In parts of the tape, bin Laden boasted of the ease with which al Qaeda has been able to make the U.S. administration jump.

“It was easy for us to provoke this administration and drag it” to places of al Qaeda’s choosing, he said in an apparent reference to Iraq.

“It only takes sending two mujahideen to the Mashreq [east] raising a piece of cloth bearing the name of al Qaeda for the [U.S.] generals to scurry there, causing America human, material and political losses without any gain to speak of, except some benefits for their private companies,” he said.

• This article is based in part of wire service reports.

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