Probably the last pre-October surprise that President Bush wanted as we approach the sixth anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11 is a new videotape from Osama Bin Laden. The bearded man who still appears on the White House “Wanted: Dead or Alive” poster has defied attempts to find him and bring him to justice. Billions of dollars and far too many sacrificed American, Iraqi and Afghan lives later, the icon of those who despise American foreign policy in the Middle East will not disappear. Rumsfeld, Gonzales and Rove have been jettisoned to the neocon mash potato lecture circuit, but the lame duck president may very well leave office while Osama is still sitting in front of the cameras. What does a man like Osama think about in exile?

You can get a sense by looking at some of the translated excerpts provided on Al-Jazeera. The BBC provides a short video clip, but I have yet to find the video on Youtube:

“I am sending you important messages so lend me your ears. I will begin with the war opposing us, and some of its repercussions for both of us.

“At first, I say that despite the fact America possesses the greatest economic power and the most powerful and modern military arsenal, despite spending on this war much more than what the entire world spends on its armies, and despite it being the superpower influencing world policies – as if it has a monopoly on the unjust veto right – despite all of this, and with God’s help, nineteen young men were able to change the direction of its compass.

“Any speech about the “mujahidin” is an integral part of the speech of your leader. The impact and significance of this are not hidden.”

* * * * *

“Bush mentions his co-operation with Maliki and his government to spread freedom in Iraq, but in fact, he is co-operating with the leaders of one sect against another sect, believing that this will lead him to a quick victory.

“Thus, he spread the so-called civil war, and things worsened on his hands and got out of his control. He became like someone who ploughs the sea and gains nothing but failure.

“These are some facts pertaining to the freedom he says he is spreading. Bush’s insistence not to give the United Nations an expanded mandate in Iraq is an implicit admission of his loss and defeat over there.

“Among the most important items in Bush speeches since September 11 is his statement that the Americans have no options but to continue the war. Such statements are in fact a repetition of the words of the neo-conservatives, such as [Dick] Cheney, [Donald] Rumsfeld and Richard Perle, who said earlier that the Americans have no option but to continue war, or to face a holocaust.”

* * * * *

“However, we are a people that do not tolerate oppression, we reject humiliation and disgrace, and we take revenge on the people of tyranny and aggression.

“The blood of the Muslims will not be spilled in vain, and the morrow is nigh for he who awaits.”

* * * * *

“The genocide of peoples and their holocaust was perpetrated on your hands. All what is left from the Red Indians is a few specimens. A short while ago, the Japanese observed the 62nd anniversary of the annihilation of Nagasaki and Hiroshima with your nuclear bombs.”

* * * * *

“Yet in spite of that, you [American citizens] allowed Bush to complete his first term. And what is even stranger is that you still chose him for a second term. This was a clear and explicit mandate you gave him, with your full knowledge and consent, to continue killing our people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then you claim to be innocent.

“This innocence of yours is similar to my innocence of the blood of your sons on the 11th, were I to claim such a thing.

“But it is impossible to humour many of you in the arrogance and indifference you show for the lives of humans outside America, or to humour your leaders in lying. The whole world knows that they have the lion’s share of that.”

* * * * *

“In answer to the question about the reasons of the Democrats’ failure to stop the war, I say that these are the same reasons of the failure of former President [John ] Kennedy to stop the Vietnam war.

“Those who possess real power and influence are the ones who have the biggest capital. And since the Democratic regime allows the major corporations to support candidates, be they presidential or congressional, then there should be no need for astonishment at the Democrats’ failure to stop the war. You are the ones who say ‘money talks’.”

* * * * *

“I also want to bring to your attention that among the greatest reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union was their being afflicted with their leader [Leonid] Brezhnev, who was dominated by pride and arrogance and refused to recognise the facts on the ground.

“Since the first year of Afghanistan’s invasion, reports indicated that the Russians were losing the war. However, he refused to admit this so that it would not be added as a defeat in his personal history – even though refusing to acknowledge defeat not only fails to change the truth for the wise ones, but also exacerbates the problem and increases the losses.

“How similar is your situation today to their situation about two decades ago? The mistakes of Brezhnev are being committed by Bush. When asked about the date of withdrawing his troops from Iraq, he said that the withdrawal will not take place during his term, but during the term of his successor. The significance of these words is not hidden.”

Interestingly, Osama provides a history lesson, a very post-colonial one at that. He lists the sins of our fathers and our current leaders as though they are the only ones with sin. The revenge trope gets full attention, but it is still the rattling of a man without military power and deluded into thinking a miracle might happen to shape the world the way he would have it. I suspect the miracle he hopes for will not happen. I also think that sooner or later he will be caught. As he notes, “money talks” and the enormous price on his head may eventually entice someone to reveal his hideabout.

What is left out of these brief excerpts, and I do not know if this is the doing of Al-Jazeera or the American security site which released the excerpts, is his call for Americans to convert to Islam. A key part of Osama’s message, and one that I think many in the Islamic World want to believe, is that Americans are turning to Islam after the 9/11 attack and the ill-fated responses of the Bush administration. Just as very few Muslims ever convert to Christianity (and this was true even in the zenith of colonial control), so few Christians today (whether in the West or the Middle East) opt to become Muslim. There are the famous exceptions, a Cat Stevens turned Yusuf Islam, but there is no major trend yet to be reported. Perhaps our government and the news media believe the hype. Actually, I find it a breath of fresher air that Osama is calling for conversion rather than just preaching hellfire and brimstone to infidels. But what Osama says matters only in terms of how people react to what he says or even the fact that he still is able to speak?

Here’s a thought. This is obviously a developing story and there has not been any academic analysis of the tape yet, but I wonder what the current neocon administration would do if they did capture Osama. Where would he be held? Guantamano? Would we ship him off in stealth to Saudi Arabia, his national identity before he became a shadow mahdi? Can you imagine the circus of a televised trial? I have seen enough Westerns to know that his “gang” will do everything they can to spring him from the gallows. Maybe it would be best just to let him age naturally and put out a videotape every couple of years. Any tape, no matter how interesting, has a short life on Youtube.

Daniel Martin Varisco