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Osama loves Saddam
BY SETH GITELL

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2003 -- We now know one thing about Osama Bin Laden. He doesnít watch MSNBC "Hardball" or read blogs.

In the most recently released audiotape, believed to be authentic by most security experts, Bin Laden speaks of finding common cause with the secualar Baíathist regime in Iraq, to which he refers as "socialists." "It doesn't harm in these conditions the interest of Muslims to agree with those of the socialists in fighting against the crusaders [thatís us]," Bin Laden argued in his message that encouraged Iraqis to dig trenches and perform suicide bombings against America.

Bin Laden, in his own words, removed one plank taken as a matter of faith by many opponents of a US invasion of Iraq: namely that the religious Al Qaeda would never ally itself with the secular Iraqi dictator because of ideological differences. "Ideologically and logically, they cannot work together," General Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistan's spy agency InterServices Intelligence, told the Associated Press in January. Or this from former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Jack Kemp, who has been critical of the need for war: "Bin Laden uses the US-Iraq conflict to incite the Muslim masses and to foster American guilt. He hates Iraq because before the Gulf War it was everything he detests in a secular, modernizing Islamic nation with a history of religious pluralism. Hussein may see bin Laden, whose mujahedin fought against Iraq in the later stages of the war with Iran, and his unholy warriors as the biggest single threat to his regime." Or this from none other than Tarik Aziz, the Iraqi deputy prime minister, himself :""Historically speaking, everybody in the region, everybody in the world knows Iraq has no connection with al-Qaida. We are quite different people ó different in ideology, different in practice."

Bin Laden follows a more ancient and Middle Eastern ideology -- one the US employed in the covert Afghanistan War against the Soviets in the 1980s -- the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Unlike some in favor of war with Iraq -- including, according to some news reports, some in the Bush Administration -- I take no relish in the latest news. Bin Ladenís latest comments donít please me. They scare me. Not because of the threats. The threat of an attack here in the mainland US has been probable ever since September 11th. But the comments show how differently Bin Laden thinks about the world than we do. As long as he is alive, what the US does has no bearing on him. Bin Laden believes he won the war in Afghanistan -- just because he is still alive. His advising Iraqis of the proper action to take in case of US attack demonstrates a state of mind directly contrary to what many of us think here. To many of us, the facts that the Taliban were driven from power in Afghanistan and replaced by a more humane regime; many Al Qaeda members have been killed or captured; and Bin Laden himself is on the run, suggest that we are winning the war on terror. To Bin Laden, the facts that he is alive and able to make statements in defiance of the US means heís winning it. This is very similar to the stance Hussein took after being crushed by the US in the first Gulf War. Because he defied America and survived still in power, he was victorious; he had faced down the greatest power in the world.

Bin Laden and Hussein have more things in common than most people think. Thatís what makes them both so dangerous.

What do you think? Send an e-mail to letters@phx.com.

Issue Date: February 12, 2003
"Today's Jolt" archives: 2003  2002  2001

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