NOBODY IN his right mind would expect any truth-telling from Osama bin Laden’s latest audiotape, a one-minute burst of bravado broadcast on Al Jazeera TV. Still, it is important to spot the particular deceptions bin Laden is peddling, because they reveal how badly Al Qaeda has alienated Muslim audiences around the world.
In the tape played Sunday, bin Laden linked the Christmas Day bombing attempt to Sept. 11 and claimed that both were meant as messages to America. He demanded an end to US support for Israel and warned that Americans will not have security “while our brothers in Gaza live in hardship.’’
Never mind that the Yemen-based group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula already took credit for the Christmas attack, calling it retaliation for US intelligence assistance used by Yemen’s government in attacks on the terrorist group. Bin Laden’s big lie came with his evocation of the Palestinian cause. His transparent aim was to counter revulsion in the Muslim world at scenes of innocent Muslims being killed and maimed by fanaticized murderers acting in the name of Al Qaeda.
A recent report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point found that only 2 percent (12 of 661) of people killed in Al Qaeda attacks between 2006 and 2008 were from the West - 98 percent were from Muslim-majority countries. The carnage perpetrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq led to armed resistance by fellow Sunni Arabs. No less telling is the response of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas to Al Qaeda affiliates in Gaza. Those intruders are being crushed as enemies of Palestinian national aspirations.
The lesson for US policy makers should be obvious: Al Qaeda is a reactionary band of nihilists at war with much of the Muslim world. The less US leaders cast the American war with Al Qaeda in one-on-one terms, the harder it will be for bin Laden to disguise his war on fellow Muslims as a war against the West.