There was something odd about the Osama bin Laden video made public last week, noticed Web logger George Maschke (Booman Tribune).
"The video freezes at about 1 minute and 58 seconds, and motion only resumes again at 12:30," Mr. Maschke said. "The video then freezes at 14:02 and remains frozen until the end. All references to current events occur when the video is frozen."
Could the current events references have been added to an older tape? Osama is dressed just as he was in his last video, released in 2004. But that may be simply because there isn't much of a selection at the mall near his cave.
Bin Laden sounds more like Keith Olbermann, MSNBC's nutty talk show host, than like an Islamic terrorist leader.
Osama's earlier addresses had an elegance and a consistency to them. Professor James Robbins, who heads the Intelligence Center at Trinity Washington University, described this one as "an interesting fusion of pseudo-Marxism and standard Islamism, sprinkled with political sound bites that rob the address of whatever seriousness it might aspire to."
Big corporations control everything. The Iraq war was all for oil. The Democratic party is not doing enough to end it because it receives corporate contributions. Global warming is the real terrorism. Americans should read Noam Chomsky...
Has the world's premier jihadist turned into a coffee house Commie?
I doubt that Osama bin Laden has ever read Noam Chomsky, a figure little known beyond the leftist fringe at our universities. Besides, Mr. Chomsky is Jewish, and Osama is not terribly fond of Jews.
But Adam Gadahn, nee Adam Pearlman, who grew up in Southern California in the 1990s, would be familiar with Mr. Chomsky's work. Young Mr. Gadahn, also known as "Azzam the American," disappeared in Pakistan in 1998, and has since become an al Qaida spokesman.
There seems little doubt that Mr. Gadahn is putting words into Osama's mouth. But is Osama alive to utter them? Or is last week's video a tribute to what can be accomplished with videotape editing these days?
I doubt Osama's still with us, but I hope he is, because if he isn't frolicking with the 72 virgins, he can't be a happy camper.
The tape indicates Osama is worried about his relevance, said former CIA Middle East operative Robert Baer.
"It's hard to imagine that bin Laden is happy about what he's wrought in the last six years," Mr. Baer wrote in Time magazine.
"Saudi Arabia is no closer now to the Islamic caliphate bin Laden envisioned than it was before 9/11. And Iraq has shown his vision of a supranational radical Islam to be more of a pipe dream than a reality...
"Without exception, regimes across the Middle East, from Pakistan to Morocco, are more repressive than they were before 9/11. It's arguable they are more stable and better prepared to crush bin Laden's extremist interpretation of Islam," Mr. Baer said.
"Since 2001, Afghanistan was lost and never recovered from the infidels," said terrorism analyst Walid Phares. "In Somalia, the Islamic courts were driven out of the capital, at least for now. Even in tiny Lebanon, the local bin Ladenists were hit by the Lebanese army. And of course in the main battlefield, the Sunni Triangle of Iraq, al Qaida commanders were killed and local Sunni tribes are fighting the foreign jihadists."
"It must really gall him that President Bush can fly into al Anbar province in Iraq, the former al Qaida stronghold, while the only thing Osama can fly into is a rage," said Prof. Robbins.
Stymied on the battlefield, al Qaida has turned to the news media and to the Democratic party for help.
The length of time Osama devotes to Iraq indicates the conflict there is more important to al Qaida than Democrats want you to believe. But al Qaida is unlikely to benefit even if Democrats do as Osama urges. The likely beneficiaries of a precipitous U.S. withdrawal are the Shia extremists in Iran, who Osama hates only slightly less than he despises Jews and "Crusaders."
Al Qaida can still mount terrorist attacks, but even successful attacks won't advance Osama's cause, Mr. Baer said.
"Bin Laden should know by now that if he does manage a terrorist attack, the only thing he should count on is a hardening of America and its allies' positions," Mr. Baer said. "Especially in Europe. An attack there, such as the foiled plot in Germany, would sweep away European unhappiness about secret prisons and Guantanamo, once again lining Europe behind the U.S. in its war against al Qaida."