Editorial by John Ziegler

The Lost Truth of the bin Laden Tape

12/20/2001

The videotape in which Osama bin Laden gloats over his victory on September 11th has quickly become the most analyzed home video in the history of the world (remember, Zapruder was using film that fateful day in Dallas). But despite the fact that there has been no shortage of scrutiny of this captivating piece of history, there seems to have been several important aspects of it that have gone almost completely unnoted.

Foremost among these largely unspoken elements of the tape is the nature of how it was discovered. All we know so far is that the video (apparently an original, not a copy) was found by the United States in a house in Jalalabad, Afghanistan and bore a November 9th date stamp. You wouldn’t know it from the media coverage, but this sparse set of “facts” should raise several questions and possibilities, including the likelihood that bin Laden actually WANTED this tape to be released in exactly the manner that it was.

Have we already forgotten that as early as October 10th our own television networks were publicly stating that they would no longer play bin Laden’s messages on their airwaves? This means that bin Laden could easily have produced the tape with the intention of allowing the United States to find it so we would eagerly circulate it for him. If this is true, it provides us with some vital, and somewhat chilling, information about Osama bin Laden.

If bin Laden did “play us” in this circumstance, it would mean that he possesses an understanding of both human nature and the way our system works that is far beyond what most experts have given him credit for. He must then fully comprehend the reality that people (especially those that make their living by working in the press) always want most what they can’t have, and place little value on what is given to them. Had he broadcast this near confession on his own it is unlikely that the tape would have received any where near the play and attention that it has garnered throughout the world, and even those who still support him would not have been able to lamely claim that the production was fake.

While it would be impossible to prove at this point that bin Laden planned this entire videotape boondoggle, common sense alone leads one in the direction of that conclusion. Are we really to believe that bin Laden created this tape (he obviously knew it was being made) with extremely “damning” information on it and then just left it behind in an abandoned house where it just so happened to be picked up by American forces? We have heard reports that when his followers retreat they do so very quickly, but I have real difficulty accepting the idea that this is the type of material that would fail to make the “cut” of items that get carried out (I have visions of a hurried Osama quickly going over his video collection, trying to decide if he should take with him his copy of Britney Spears’ HBO concert, a bootlegged copy of Ishtar, or the potentially most damaging piece of evidence against him in a trial for his life).

How is it that a man who was able to get others to martyr themselves without even knowing it and who kept the true magnitude of the attacks a secret from even his closest advisors was guilty of such a monstrous blunder of security? Not only does it make very little sense for bin Laden to have even made the tape if he didn’t want it to be widely seen, this potential strategy of getting us to release it for him may actually have been quite brilliant and effective. After all, it did him no harm among people who already hated him, convinced shockingly few “open-minded” Muslims of his guilt, and further elevated his stature in the radical Islamic world while providing a boost in moral for those who wanted him to have been responsible for the massacre of the Infidels.

What disturbs me most about the likelihood that bin Laden got exactly what he wanted here is that his successful scheme shows him to be a far more cunning and coherent adversary than we had previously thought. Regardless of its origin, the tape clearly revealed him to be a long way from insane, and actually quite rational. It has always been our tendency to compartmentalize those who do extreme evil into the realm of one-dimensional and psychotic characters. This allows us to discount their wickedness as not really being a reflection on the nature of our own humanity. In the case of Osama bin Laden, doing so would not only be cowardly and shortsighted, it would also be counterproductive and inaccurate.

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