September 9, 2001 On Videotape, Bin Laden Charts a Violent Future By JOHN F. BURNS
The image on the grainy videotape is mesmerizing : a tall, slim, middle- aged Arab man, with the bushy beard, white robes and draped white headcloth of a
devout Muslim, standing before a gathering somewhere in Afghanistan. He is reading an Arabic poem, apparently his own, on papers that riffle in a breeze.
The speaker’s style is that of the fire-and-brimstone preachers common at Friday Prayers across the Middle East. But he is no imam, nor even, by calling, a
poet. He is Osama bin Laden, the 46-year-old Saudi-born fugitive millionaire who has declared a « holy war » against the United States, directing suicide bombings that have made him
the F.B.I.’s most-wanted terrorist.
In the verses, read at the wedding in Afghanistan of his oldest son earlier this year, Mr. bin Laden declares his purpose - killing Americans and Jews -
more starkly than ever. Proudly, he salutes the suicide bombing of the American destroyer Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden last October in which 17 American sailors died, and promises more
« The victory of Yemen will continue, » he says.
Shots of the Cole listing in Aden harbor after the attack, and of the Americans being carried in flag-covered coffins - and a simulation of the bombing,
complete with a blinding flash - are played in the tape’s opening and closing sequences.
The shots are taken from American television coverage, and accompanied by what seems like a gloating brutality. « Their limbs were scattered
everywhere, » Mr. bin Laden says.
The verses also celebrate what Mr. bin Laden describes as the futility of American military might. « In Aden, our brothers rose and destroyed the
mighty destroyer, a ship so powerful it spreads fear wherever it sails, » Mr. bin Laden says, over images of the Cole.
« But as it moves through the water, toward the small boat bobbing in the water, it is sailing to its own destruction, drawn by the illusion of its own
In the Cole attack, two Arab- speaking suicide bombers blew a gaping hole in the destroyer at the waterline with an explosives-laden skiff, causing $250 million
damage. While Mr. bin Laden, on the tape, stops short of saying he ordered the strike, he effectively confirms what the F.B.I. suspected from the outset : that it was a bin Laden
Mr. bin Laden uses the tape to spell out a continuing nightmare for his principal enemies, the United States and Israel. He promises an intensified holy
war that includes aid to Palestinians fighting Israel - an important shift in emphasis, according to intelligence analysts. In recent years, through a series of violent attacks, Mr. bin
Laden’s main focus has been on driving American forces from the Arabian peninsula.
He also outlines plans for an expansion of his terrorist training operations in Afghanistan, saying that the Taliban, the Islamic militant movement that has
sheltered him since 1996, have built an ideal, purified Islamic state that provides the perfect base for a worldwide holy war against « infidels. »
When the two-hour videotape surfaced last June, it attracted little attention, partly because much of it was spliced from previous bin Laden interviews and
tapes. But since then the tape has proliferated on Islamic Web sites and in mosques and bazaars across the Muslim world.
Intelligence officials who have analyzed the tape now say it features the fullest exposition yet of Mr. bin Laden’s views, as well as his terrorist
strategy, and thus provides a rough road map of where his organization, Al-Qaeda, is headed.
With his mockery of American power, Mr. bin Laden seems to be almost taunting the United States. Although F.B.I. investigators believe he was behind the
World Trade Center bombing in 1993 that killed six people, two bombings in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996 in which 24 American servicemen died, and the bombings of two American embassies in east
Africa in 1998 that killed 224 people, as well as the Cole attack, the United States has found no way, so far, of containing him.
After nearly a year, American investigators have been unable to trace the Cole plot beyond six men arrested in Aden for assisting the bombers. The man thought
to have directed the attack for Al-Qaeda, Muhammad al-Harazi, is believed to have fled to Afghanistan. Last month, the Indian police indicted Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Harazi for an
abortive plot in June to bomb the American Embassy in Delhi, and alleged that Mr. Harazi visited New Delhi in February, using a pseudonym, when he was already named as a Cole
Now, despite a $5 million American reward for his capture, multiple indictments in American courts, and a cruise missile strike on his camps in Afghanistan in
1998 that he narrowly escaped, Mr. bin Laden is threatening still more attacks. He tells followers that there is nothing to fear from the United States and that their Islamic faith - and
their willingness to die - is enough to neutralize America’s military might.
To those who have studied Mr. bin Laden, this confidence is one of the tape’s strongest features. « A year or two ago, after the missile attacks on
Afghanistan, there were people in Washington saying bin Laden was in a box, » said Peter Bergen, a Washington-based writer who interviewed Mr. bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1997 and who
is now writing a book on him, to be titled « Holy War Inc. » « But if he’s in a box, he’s a jack-in-a- box. He as much of a threat as he ever was. »
Part of Mr. bin Laden’s defiance seems to stem from his increasingly close ties with Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers. Eager for American diplomatic
recognition and aid, the Islamic clerics who lead the Taliban have suggested that they might expel Mr. bin Laden from Afghanistan, where he fled after being forced from Sudan under
American pressure. But American officials suspect the Taliban’s hints at estrangement from Mr. bin Laden were a ploy, and the tape seems to confirm this.
At one point, Mr. bin Laden declares the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, the rightful spiritual leader of the Muslim world, and says Afghanistan has
become the equivalent of the purified Islamic state established in Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest cities, by the Prophet Muhammad in the early seventh century. He urges Muslims everywhere to
migrate to Afghanistan to support the Taliban and Al- Qaeda, saying it is their duty to God.
« There is now a Muslim state that enforces God’s laws, which destroys falsehoods, and which does not succomb to the American infidels - and it is led by a
true believer, Mullah Muhammad Omar, the commander of the faithful, » he says.
Another sign of the freedoms Mr. bin Laden appears to enjoy are the tape passages showing his followers engaging in combat training, including firing heavy
weapons and storming buildings, at a location identified as the « al-Farooq camp. » Some recruits appear little more than 11 or 12. In one scene, Mr. bin Laden himself is seen
crouching to fire a Kalashnikov rifle.
Much of the tape focuses on the current upheaval in Israel and the Palestinian territories. What is not clear, say intelligence experts, is whether Mr. bin
Laden plans to mount direct attacks on Israeli targets, or whether he is firing followers’ passions for attacks elsewhere. « Our brothers in Palestine are waiting for you anxiously, and
expect you to strike at America and Israel, » Mr. bin Laden says. « God’s earth is wide and their interests are everywhere. »
Since the Jordanian police foiled a bin Laden operation to mount bombing attacks on pilgrims during millennium celebrations 20 months ago, Israel has been on
alert for fresh bin Laden terror plots. Israeli intelligence officials say they have evidence that bin Laden agents have already linked up with radical Islamic groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad
and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah.
Vincent Cannistraro, former head of counterterrorist operations for the Central Intelligence Agency, who reviewed the tape, said Mr. bin Laden’s warnings
of new attacks should be taken seriously. « The intifada has clearly focused his attention on the Palestinian problem, which he sees in holy war terms - the Palestinians being oppressed by
the Israelis, in ways that are only possible because of the support they get from the United States, » he said. « This has reinforced his opinion about the United States and its
policies in the whole of the Middle East. It sharpens his instincts for attack. »
 America the Vulnerable Meets a Ruthless Enemy By JOHN F. BURNS Published : September 12, 2001
LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMySpaceYahoo ! BuzzPermalink Since the end of the cold war in the early 1990’s, there have been two Americas, existing side by
side : the America that is the world’s only superpower, dwarfing every other nation in its economic and military might, and the America that learned in one deathly hour on Tuesday that no
amount of power can provide protection against an enemy with limited means but a ruthless determination.
For years that vulnerability has been a concern of defense experts in the Pentagon and elsewhere who have studied what some have called « asymmetric
warfare » — a 21st- century phrase for a concept that has been around in warfare since David and Goliath and has found its most menacing expression in the modern world in the suicide
But it has also been studied, and celebrated, by many of the terrorist groups that will now be on the list of suspects in the attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon.
One of those certain to be high on that list, Osama bin Laden, has made America’s helplessness in the face of terrorism a rallying cry, one he has used
repeatedly to taunt the United States and to draw new recruits to his ranks of suicide bombers. People close to Mr. bin Laden in Afghanistan, where he lives, today denied responsibility
for the attacks.
The theme of American helplessness, applied as often to Israel as to the United States, is common among the leaders of Islamic militant groups like Mr. bin
Laden’s Al Qaeda, as well as two groups that operate in the Palestinian territories, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which operates from Lebanon.
Although investigators may well absolve these groups of the New York and Washington attacks, there is little doubt that the officials will be examining the
threats that the leaders have issued against the United States. None of the threats is likely to draw more attention than what Mr. bin Laden had to say about America’s susceptibility to
terrorism in a two-hour videotape delivered to a Kuwaiti newspaper this summer.
On the tape, which proliferated rapidly on Islamic Web sites and in mosques and bazaars across the Muslim world, Mr. bin Laden seemed to gloat as he spoke
in Arabic of future attacks on American targets that he said would dwarf those he has directed in the past. « With small capabilities, and with our faith, we can defeat the greatest
military power of modern times, » he said at one point. « America is much weaker than it appears. »
At one point, the Saudi Arabian- born Mr. bin Laden seemed to hint at a suicide attack in the United States. Over pictures of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the
Egyptian-born Muslim cleric who is serving a life sentence in the United States for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Mr. bin Laden described the cleric as « a hostage
in an American jail. » He added, « We hear he is sick, and that the Americans are treating him badly. » Then, addressing his followers, he shifted straight into an exhortation to
martyrdom. « You will not die needlessly, » he said. « Your lives are in the hands of God. »
Since the tape surfaced in June, there have been other hints that a new bin Laden attack might be imminent. Abdel Bari Atwan, editor in chief of Al Quds al
Arabi, an Arabic- language newspaper published in London that has kept a close watch on Mr. bin Laden and his pronouncements, said today in an interview with the BBC that Islamic militants
in touch with the newspaper had hinted that a major attack was under preparation, without giving any hint of when or where.
Elsewhere on the tape, Mr. bin Laden called on his followers to prepare new suicide attacks to avenge Palestinians who have been killed in the past year’s
violence with Israel, Without specifying whether those attacks would be mounted against Israeli targets or elsewhere.
At first, when the bin Laden tape surfaced it attracted only passing attention, partly because large passages were spliced from earlier bin Laden interviews and
But intelligence officials in Washington see it as the fullest exposition yet of the bin Laden strategy, and a rough road map to where Al Qaeda, his group,
might be headed. One of the characteristics that has set Mr. bin Laden aside among terrorist leaders has been the way he has coupled the furtiveness inherent in his deadly trade with
warnings that new attacks may be in hand.
On several occasions, he has done this by releasing tapes or interviews alluding to new attacks shortly before they have been carried out.
He did this with a tape that surfaced in the Middle East shortly before two Arab-speaking suicide bombers in a fiberglass skiff attacked the American destroyer
Cole last October in Aden harbor in Yemen, killing 17 American sailors. In the latest tape, he promised that the Cole attack was only a preliminary to new strikes. Although recent weeks have
seen the State Department issue a flurry of alerts, and temporarily close several embassies considered possible targets, experts were not convinced that the tape presaged a major strike, partly
because much of it had been taken from tapes made as much as three years ago.
On the tape, Mr. bin Laden read a chilling poem with themes that have a powerful resonance among Muslims with the grievances against America.
Principal among these grievances is Israel, and the support it draws from the United States — a shift in emphasis, according to intelligence experts. In the
past, Mr. bin Laden, one of more than 50 children of a Yemeni-born migrant who made a vast fortune building roads and palaces in Saudi Arabia, has made his principal obsession driving
American troops from the Arabian peninsula, site of Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest sites.
But this time, « purifying » the holy places seemed to take second place behind supporting Palestinians. Over scenes of some of the harshest
incidents, like footage of a young Palestinian boy shot in his father’s arms as they sought shelter from crossfire in Gaza, Mr. bin Laden urges the killing of Americans and Jews :
« We will see again Saladin carrying his sword, with the blood of unbelievers dripping from it. »