After a year of silence, Osama bin Laden has filled the world’s headlines with an audiotape, and the predictable opinions are being heard. Is his offering of a truce a sign of weakness or strength? Is he making such statements because he is harried or is the statement a result of the recent US missile attack in Pakistan? All of these questions are to be expected from a media that has usually asked: Is he really alive? Where is he? It rarely asks: What did he say or mean?
Bin Laden’s public statements - which have almost never been aired in full-length in the US mainstream media - have been made primarily based on his religious or ideological considerations. He has consistently justified al-Qaida’s actions and those of other jihad groups as a defensive struggle against Western encroachment on Islamic societies and the “apostate” regimes currently ruling Muslim countries. Moreover, he has consistently elaborated basic themes: one-sided US support for Israel at the expense of the Palestinians; US historical and current support for “apostate” Muslim regimes, such as that governing Saudi Arabia; the West’s pilfering of Muslims’ natural resources, especially oil; and the West’s cultural, political, and military attack on Muslims worldwide.
After the 9-11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., al-Qaida was criticised by those within its own ideological persuasion, not for having attacked the US, but for not having followed correct religious procedures. It had failed to get the proper religious-legal rulings in support of such an attack; had not warned Muslims, women, children, and innocent civilians; and had not made an offer of peaceful resolution - all before attacking.
As of today, all of these conditions have been fulfilled with respect to the next attack in the US. Religious rulings have been obtained, warnings have been issued, and offers of a peaceful resolution - to accept a truce if the US offers one - have been made. In bin Laden’s mind, and in the minds of likeminded fundamentalist jihadists, all the preconditions have been met for directly attacking the United States. This is the real meaning of the audiotape.
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