MAP Member Opinion "Peace"  
 

On the “Osama” tape
By Phil Steger, Executive Director of Friends for a Non-Violent World
February 12, 2003

A tape rumored to be the recorded voice of Osama bin Laden is suggesting a deeper alliance between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein than many have believed to exist. Yet, despite the fact that Secretary of State Colin Powell has pushed the notion that its existence proves an alliance against the West, the tape itself offers little to substantiate this.

According to the New York Times, the tape “offered little evidence of an alliance between Mr. Hussein and Mr. bin Laden,” but rather, “it did seem to validate Arab leaders’ warnings that Islamic extremists would exploit any assault on Baghdad to further inflame the region (NYTimes, 2/14/03, Neil MacFarquhar, A16).”

The tape calls for Muslims to rush to Iraqis’ defense against an, “unjust war”, but is careful to insist that, “the fighting should be in the name of God only, not in the name of national ideologies,” and clearly warned Muslim fighters that they should not, “seek victory for the ignorant governments that rule all Arab states, including Iraq.”

Short-form re-cap:

  • Tape calls Muslims to defend Iraq from “unjust war”.
  • Calls Iraqi government “ignorant”, and warns Muslims not to seek victory for it, but for God.
  • Offered, “little evidence of an alliance between Mr. Hussein and Mr. bin Laden, but it did seem to validate Arab leaders’ warnings that Islamic extremists would exploit any assault on Baghdad to further inflame the region.”
  • All quotes, including quotes from the tape itself (in first two bullet-points) are from The New YorkTimes, 2/14/03, Neil MacFarquhar, A16).

On CIA testimony apparently backing of Bush conclusions:

CIA chief George Tenet seems to have gone a long way to back the Bush Administration’s declarations that the long split between Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organizations like Al Qiada and secular Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein is healed.

He has testified that the CIA has evidence of Iraqi providing Al Qaida with training in forgery and bomb making and of providing two, Al Qaida associates with training in gas and poisons. He said also that Iraq is harboring senior members of a terrorist network led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a close Al Qaida associate. The Bush Administration and the press has carelessly shorthanded this to mean, “a senior Al Qaida member”, ignoring the real ambiguities that surround the true nature of that association, and whether Zarqawi shares Al Qaida’s ends, or is receiving anything more than lodging inside Iraq.

The bin Laden tape seems to add credibility to an Iraq/ Al Qaida link. Yet, the message itself says nothing about creating an Iraq/ Al Qaida alliance. Rather, it calls on Muslims to defend Iraq from invasion and carefully specifies that, “The fighting should be in the name of God only, not in the name of national ideologies, nor to seek victory for the ignorant governments that rule all Arab states, including Iraq.”

The White House has criticized Tenet for being too reluctant to conclude that there exists an Al Qaida/Iraq connection. In October, Tenet testified that there was little chance of Iraq trusting Al Qaida enough to provide it with a weapon of mass destruction. He also testified that that in the judgment of the US intelligence community there is a very low likelihood that Iraq would attack the US with weapons of mass destruction, or help others to.

The basic reasoning behind this has not changed with Tenet’s recent announcements. Any attack by Saddam Hussein, or by Al Qaida with weapons traceable to Iraq would result in Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s immediate destruction. Saddam is too obsessed with his own power to risk that. If the CIA’s assessment of this basic inhibition has changed, Tenet has said absolutely nothing about it.

Neither has US intelligence or the Bush administration provided evidence to support the extraordinary assumption that war with its grotesque consequences for Iraqi civilians and American soldiers, and its following, indefinite period of costly US occupation will better eliminate the threat posed by Al Qaida and Iraq’s relationship than other means. Nor have they shown that war will address, and not aggravate, the underlying pressures that contribute to increasing radicalization in the Middle East and the now near global pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Nor has the Bush administration provided a solid explanation for why, in the face of all this, it is willing to order US men and women into harm’s way and to precipitate the lethal attacks against Americans it is telling us it wants to avoid.

The questions of Saddam Hussein’s character and Osama bin Laden’s intentions, and the potential threat of an alliance between them have been resolved. While war will lead many good men and women and huge numbers of innocent Iraqis to their final rest, the president is still a long way from proving that war is the answer.

Present

  • 1. Testimony based on protected intelligence sources that Iraq is harboring known Palistinian terrorist Abu Masab al-Zarqawi.
    • a. CIA chief George Tenet and the president are calling Zarqawi different things:
      • i. “A senior Al-Qaida member,” says the press and president
      • ii. “A leader of a terrorist network, and close associate of Al-Qaida,” says Tenet
    • b. Doesn’t show that Zaqawi and Al Qaida’s aims are the same.
    • c. Doesn’t show that Iraq is providing Zaqawi, or Al Qaida through Zaqawi, weapons, or anything other than safehaven.
    • d. Does show that Saddam Hussein working with known terrorists.
    • e. Does show that Saddam Hussein is dangerous to people outside his country.
  • 2. Testimony based on protected intelligence sources that Iraq provided forgery and bomb-making training to Al-Qaida “in the past” and that Iraq has provided poison and gas training to Al-Qaida associates “in the past”
    • a. Doesn’t show that Iraq is presently providing weapons of mass destruction or weapons of mass destruction training to Al-Qaida.
    • b. Does show that Saddam Hussein has and is capable of providing training to Al-Qaida associates in weapons of mass destruction training on a limited basis.
    • c. Doesn’t show that Saddam Hussein has ever provided or has any plans to provide weapons of mass destruction to Al Qaida, or to its members or associates.

ABSENT from new testimony:

  • Any evidence or testimony based on guarded sources that Saddam Hussein is planning to attack US or help Al-Qaida to obtain WMDs.
  • Any evidence or testimony based on guarded sources that Saddam Hussein has overcome inhibitions to attacking or helping others to attack US, as the CIA testified to in October
  • Any evidence or testimony based on guarded sources that war is the best way to reduce or eliminate the threat posed by Iraq and Al-Qaida’s known association.
  • Any evidence that war will not kill hundreds of thousands Iraqi civilians.
  • Any evidence that war will not rally Muslims around Iraq or Al-Qaida.
  • Any evidence that war will not cause Iraq to launch lethal, weapons of mass destruction attacks against the US and Israel, or make it possible for terrorists including Al Qaida to do so, as the CIA concluded it would in October.

Above information drawn from "Top US Officials Tell Lawmakers of Iraq-Qaeda Ties: CIA Chief, in Most Explicit Statement Yet, Says He Has Evidence of Connection", by David Johnston, The New York Times, 2/12/03, pg. A1.

George Tenet quotes taken from: "Words of CIA and FBI Chief: Dangers America Faces from Al Qaeda," transcripts of Senate select intelligence committee testimony ran on page A16 of 2/12 New York Times.

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