The bin Laden tape

Outside editorials

Posted: Friday, December 14, 2001

In the videotape released Thursday, Osama bin Laden ... allows that he was pleasantly surprised by the (Sept. 11) destruction, for which he seems to take ample credit. "We calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would collapse the area where the plane hit and all the (World Trade Center tower) floors above it only. This is all that we had hoped for."

But more than just convincing evidence that Bin Laden was behind the attacks, the tape offers a surreal look at ... "the banality of evil." ... Liberally sprinkled with references to dreams, prophets and jihads, the tape cements the image of Bin Laden as heir to a long line of messianic tyrants ...

Like each of his messianic forebears, he reveals no foresight as to how quickly evil men lose the reins of power. Adolf Hitler, whose Third Reich was to last a thousand years, was vanquished after 12. Congo's Mobutu Sese Seko, Cambodia's Pol Pot, Jim Jones and so many other apocalyptic cult leaders received not the thanks of a grateful people but defeat, ignominy and death. Now, the Taliban has collapsed and Al Qaeda is on the run; Bin Laden, serene and supremely creepy on tape, seemed clueless as to how far his star had fallen since his big day in September.

- Today's Los Angeles Times

Osama bin Laden's claim of responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks, on a videotape released Thursday by the administration, is more than a confession. It is a boast. Accepting the obsequious flattery of the unnamed comrade who appears on the tape with him, bin Laden, with evident mirth and self-satisfaction, crows that "we calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy, who would be killed based on the position of the tower ..."

These "casualties" ... have names ... people whose deaths bin Laden mocks with his thanks to Allah for the success of his "martyrdom operation."

Since the Bush administration launched its war on terrorism, there have been persistent calls for it to release more evidence of bin Laden's guilt. Some will remain committed to the wildest of conspiracy theories, but for fair-minded people this tape should go a long way toward answering those calls. And what it reveals about bin Laden's lack of human decency is even more telling than its usefulness as evidence in this foul crime.

- Today's Washington Post

... One question that arises is why bin Laden and his al-Qaeda operatives would tape the gathering. Bin Laden talked about a heightened interest in Islam after the attacks. Perhaps he wanted a recruiting tool. Americans hardly need the tape to persuade them about where to fix blame.

Bin Laden has pursued American targets elsewhere. He noted "my experience in this field." Now, the chase has been reversed, big time, as Vice President Cheney would say, American planes pounding the mountains and caves of Tora Bora.

The airing of the videotape serves more than to bolster global opinion. It should reinforce American resolve, not simply to get bin Laden and his al-Qaeda soldiers, but to press ahead relentlessly in the war against terrorism.

- Today's Akron Beacon Journal

What's most surprising about the tape is that it ever was made. In the great tradition of not only demonizing the enemy but endowing him with supernatural powers, we've become accustomed to thinking of bin Laden as a hyper-canny mastermind.

But allowing this little chat with his Saudi visitor to be taped was just plain dumb. It was an act of hubris by a megalomaniac who, on Nov. 8, the apparent date of the taping, seemed to have no clue what was about to befall the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

As Steven Push, widower of one of the Pentagon attacks' victims put it, the bin Laden of this tape seems "conceited and undisciplined ... a less formidable enemy."

- Today's Philadelphia Inquirer

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