This week, Osama bin Laden again found his way out of his cave to a microphone, in order to make new pronouncements for his twisted god.
You’d expect that a guy cutting himself down to about one message per year would make sure he packed a lot of good stuff into it. Alas, for the most part it was the usual delusional rhetoric. And when I say delusional rhetoric, I’m not talking about the “kill the infidel” boilerplate, I’m talking about things like his assertion that the American media is painting a rosy picture of the war in Iraq, that our troops are all on suicide watch (and that they are raping and kidnapping Iraqi women), and that public opinion polls prove that the Americans want an immediate pullout.
This brings us to two conclusions. First, for a supposed diversion from the War on Terror, Iraq sure occupies a lot of space in Osama’s thoughts. Second, we know he isn’t getting CNN on his satellite dish.
But he did include a real gem: He offered us a truce.
Strangely, he did this after beginning his rant with boasts about his superior tactical position. “Only metal breaks metal, and our situation, thank God, is only getting better and better, while your situation is the opposite of that.” Really, Osama assures us, he is just looking for a partner for peace. “We don’t mind offering you a long-term truce on fair conditions that we adhere to. We are a nation that God has forbidden to lie and cheat. So both sides can enjoy security and stability under this truce so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been destroyed in this war.”
Forgive us, Caliph bin Laden, if we don’t run to the negotiation table, especially when you say, near the close of your rant, “Failing to carry out jihad, which is called for in our religion, is a sin.”
A number of analysts have noted that Islamic warriors have a tradition of warning the enemy and offering a truce before they bring the hammer down. They conclude the offer is just a piece of rhetoric and not a sign Al Qaeda is on the ropes. That’s an opinion based in fact and good insight, but fortunately it is wrong.
Prior to the 9/11 attacks, Osama was focused on killing infidels to drive us out of the Middle East. In 2002 he wrote a letter to the American people in which he offered a simple way to end terrorism: Everybody converts to Islam (his version, not that “religion of peace” stuff) and we’ll all be happy together. Now he’s gone from pounding his shoe and yelling “We will bury you” to singing “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” Why?
Quite simply, Osama is losing the battle for hearts and minds. For example, a poll of 2,069 Afghani adults conducted late last year showed that 90% of them had an unfavorable view of Osama, with 75% choosing “very unfavorable.” American troops have a favorability rating of 83%, and 82% of Afghanis think overthrowing the Taliban was a good thing for Afghanis. Osama can talk about fictional U.S. polls all he wants, but among people who have lived under his idea of government he has a soaring 5% approval rating.
Things aren’t going any better in Iraq. Al Qaeda murderers have spilled blood, but they have not stopped the Iraqi Army from training, the Iraqi police from recruiting or Iraqi elections from occurring. Their few attempts to openly hold ground near the Syrian border have ended with them being reduced to sandwich bag-sized pieces by our Air Force. Meanwhile, the land area they’ve been able to render dangerous for the citizens of Iraq gets smaller every day, and the land watched over by Iraq’s army keeps growing larger.
Finally, he can’t even kill very well. In over four years, the number of Americans Al Qaeda has killed is still about a third the number Britain lost on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The number of soldiers they have killed in Iraq is still less than the number who died in one day at Antietam during the Civil War.
Don’t get me wrong. Al Qaeda is still the greatest threat we’ve ever faced. We could lose a city tomorrow if they get a nuclear weapon. But barring such a holocaust, Osama’s pretension that he is in the driver’s seat is only bluster. He once famously said that Al Qaeda would win because when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they will naturally back the strong horse. The truce offer is strong evidence that Osama’s horse is weak and winded, and it is only a matter of time until it’s a dead horse.