© 2003 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com
huffers and puffers get help from bin Laden |
|Maureen Dowd |
February 13, 2003
WASHINGTON Osama bin Laden came to the
rescue of George W. Bush on Tuesday. The president and his secretary
of state had been huffing and puffing to prove a link between Saddam
Hussein and Al Qaeda. George Tenet, who presides over a CIA full of
skepticism about the tie, did his best for the boss, playing up the
link to the Senate.
Ignoring all the blatant Qaeda hooks to
Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen and Pakistan; ignoring the fact that bin
Laden has never had any use for the drinking, smoking, womanizing,
secular Saddam; ignoring the fact that Saddam has no proven record
of sharing weapons with Al Qaeda, the Bushies have been hell-bent on
making the Sept. 11 connection.
The world wasn't entirely
buying that rationale for war. And then who but bin Laden himself
should pop up on an audio tape, calling on Muslims to fight the
United States if the "infidels" attack "our brothers in
His disdain for Saddam still gleamed through. He
barely mentioned the Iraqi leader and seemed to be holding his nose
when he gave permission to his Qaeda brethren to fight the
"crusaders" alongside Saddam's Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party, "even if
we believe and declare that the socialists are apostates," and
whether Saddam remains in power or not.
Still, the Bush
administration pounced on the tape, hoping it would prove to those
epicene Old Europeans, with their poufy blue-helmeted UN force, that
Al Qaeda and Iraq were "bound by a common hatred," as the State
Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, said.
Powell was so
eager to publicize bin Laden's statements that he broke the news
himself at a Senate Budget Committee hearing, hours before Al
Jazeera even acknowledged it had the tape.
He said the tape
showed that bin Laden was "in partnership with Iraq" and proved that
the United States could not count simply on a beefed-up inspection
force in Iraq.
In the past, the national security adviser,
Condoleezza Rice, has implored the networks not to broadcast the
tapes outright, for fear that bin Laden might be activating sleeper
cells in code.
But this time the administration flacked the
tape. And Fox, the official Bush news agency, rushed the entire tape
onto the air. So the Bushies no longer care if Osama sends a coded
message to his thugs as long as he stays on message for the White
To get Saddam, the Bush administration is even willing
to remind the American public that it failed to get bin Laden. Its
fixation on Saddam seems to have blinded it to the possibility that
bin Laden might be perversely encouraging America in this war. The
administration and Al Qaeda both have a purpose for invading Iraq,
and both want a regime change. Both talk about "liberating" the Arab
people, but bin Laden's vision is apocalyptic. He wants the Middle
East - Israel and the Arab monarchies - to go up in flames. By
Zionizing the American battle with Iraq and promising an
anti-American theocracy, he hopes to radicalize recruits for a jihad
against a U.S. occupation of Arab land.
Bin Laden's own
fanaticism was forged by foreign occupations - the Soviet Union's
invasion of Afghanistan and American forces stationed in Saudi
The Bush hawks want to go to war in a nonapocalyptic
way, to stabilize the Middle East, not to inflame it. They have a
grandiose - if risky - plan to transform Iraq into a model kitchen
of democracy, a buffer for Israel that the Palestinians and other
Arab autocracies would be pressured to emulate.
quizzed Bush officials Tuesday, asking whether General Tommy Franks,
the future mukhtar of Baghdad, would be choosing new Iraqi
leaders. They pressed about the time and cost of an American
Christopher Dodd of Connecticut suggested that
there could be unforeseen explosions in the model kitchen, citing an
alliance between the Iraqi exiles who might run a post-Saddam
government and conservative Iranian clerics who think the United
States is the Great Satan.
"You have to level with the
American public," the Democratic senator lectured the Bush
officials. "It could be very costly and take a long, long
But it is the Bushies' dream of a model kitchen in
Iraq, rather than a Saddam-Qaeda link, that makes this war seem
noble to them.
That is why they were so busy hawking the
Osama tape, rather than coming up with ways Americans can protect
themselves from the Osama attacks - other than with plastic and duct
Copyright © 2003 The International Herald Tribune