Monday, September 10, 2007

More on bin Laden

Nobody seems to know precisely what to make of the recent video by Osama bin Laden. Some think it contains signals, others think it is timed to coincide with tomorrow’s anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.

The Associated Press said this: “Osama bin Laden's latest message is a hodgepodge of anti-capitalist vitriol, impassioned Islamic evangelism and what can best be described as a twisted attempt at reconciliation: Join us, or we'll kill you.

“Analysts say the video that came out days before the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks is more about timing than substance, an attempt by history's most wanted fugitive to thumb his nose at the forces arrayed against him and remind the world that he hasn't been caught.

“Despite widespread fears, al-Qaida has so far failed to launch a second attack on the scale of Sept. 11, and many believe the video message — bin Laden's first since 2004 — was also an attempt to stay relevant.”

Conspiracy theories abound, and bin Laden is the subject of some that claim he is dead and that efforts to make it appear that he is still alive are the responsibility of everyone from al Queda, to the Taliban, to the Bush administration.

One account from a few years ago said this: “Osama bin Laden is dead. The news first came from sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan almost six months ago: the fugitive died in December [2001] and was buried in the mountains of southeast Afghanistan. Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, echoed the information.”

An account from the French regional daily L’Est Republicain a year ago reported that Saudi intelligence services have determined that bin Laden died of typhoid in August.

There aren’t any recent stories about bin Laden’s death that I have found, however.

I have only seen reports of the new video in the media, and it is therefore difficult to tell much about. I find it curious, however, that bin Laden, who if still alive and making new movies, obviously has access to video equipment, but apparently only has one change of clothes. His attire is the same as the last video three years ago. Now, perhaps there is some religious or cultural significance to the clothing he is wearing, but his beard is trimmed short and his hair and beard have been dyed dark brown. That’s a little odd. Maybe ol’ Osama has a new girlfriend, or is looking for one.

When we remember that today’s technology enables manipulation of images and sounds such that it is often difficult and sometimes impossible to tell that modifications have been made, it is entirely possible that the tape is a fake.

But whether bin Laden is dead or alive does not reduce the effectiveness of these tapes; they either contain coded messages or they don’t, and they can accomplish their goal either way.

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