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Jewish World Review Feb. 13, 2003 / 11 Adar I, 5763

Seth Gitell

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Imagine that, Bin Laden not listening to Chris Matthews! | We now know one thing about Osama Bin Laden. He doesn't 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 Ba'athist 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 [that's 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 - 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 Laden's latest comments don't 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 he's 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. That's what makes them both so dangerous.

JWR contributor Seth Gitell is the political writer of the Boston Phoenix Comment by clicking here.

02/06/03: Powell's powerful presentation
02/05/03: Making the case that Saddam Hussein is linked with Al Qaeda
01/31/03: Gen. Schwarzkopf is against going to war with Iraq. Since he messed things up so bad the first time around, why is anyone listening to him now?
01/24/03: Cynthia McKinney for president
01/16/03: The Sharpton test
01/13/03: Lieberman is in a pickle --- and it's becoming increasingly more sour
12/26/02: Where does the war on terror go from here?
12/23/02: Why democracy never came to Iraq after the last Gulf War
12/20/02: Vermont governor Howard Dean hopes to bridge the gulf between New England and the Western states, and bypass the socially conservative South. Should John Kerry be worried?
12/18/02: No Gore 2004: Follow the Money
12/06/02: Gore, like Dicken's Jacob Marley, Dead as a Door-nail
10/24/02: War with Iraq may not happen, after all
10/22/02: Winning European hearts and minds
10/18/02: Lieberman makes 'em laugh --- on purpose
10/04/02: Hawking an interpretation (in which Scott Ritter tells our columnist to 'go to H-LL!')
09/13/02: Bush Challenge to U.N. Members: Are You Better than League of Nations?
09/06/02: Iraq attack: Ritter's reversal
08/30/02: Stick with comedy, Jon Stewart
08/16/02: Green around the gills: Nader Effect could cost the Dems the election in three states
08/01/02: Gore's low profile is no accident
07/31/02: President Hillary? Despite her denials, candidacy is not that unlikely
07/26/02: On the road with John Kerry
07/17/02: Meet the 'Clinton' of the 2004 New Hampshire primary
07/12/02: Ancient rivalry: Williams vs. DiMaggio
07/10/02: Warrior spirit
05/08/02: Hosting a TV show will keep Clinton off the streets
04/26/02: Truth in advertising in SaudiLand --- and ours
02/28/02: Time for hipsters to do a reality-check

© 2002, Seth Gitell