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New Bin Laden Video Released Ahead of 9/11 Anniversary

Osama bin Laden addressed the American people in a new al-Qaida video that was broadcast on Al-Jazeera television Friday. Security analysts assess what it says about bin Laden's status and what it could mean for the United States.

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    The new video is almost 30 minutes in length. In it, bin Laden says, quote, "People of America, the world is following your news in regards to your invasion of Iraq. After several years of tragedies of this war, the vast majority of you want it stopped. Thus, you elected the Democratic Party for this purpose, but the Democrats haven't made a move worth mentioning. On the contrary, they continued to agree to the spending of tens of billions to continue the killing," end quote.

    Bin Laden also mentions current events, including an acknowledgement of the recent elections in France and Great Britain.

    For analysis of bin Laden's message, we talk to Bruce Hoffman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University; and Mohammed Hafez, visiting professor of political science at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.

    Gentlemen, thank you for being with us. And, Bruce Hoffman, to you first. What do you make of this video and, first of all, in terms of how bin Laden looks?

  • BRUCE HOFFMAN, Professor, Georgetown University:

    Well, he has had something of a makeover. His beard is much darker. He doesn't look quite as haggard as he did in his last appearance three years ago, but this could be just, on the one hand, the wonders of makeup, on the other hand, his attempt to disguise himself and to sort of camouflage himself and not appear as we last saw him.


    Professor Hafez, how different from the bin Laden of a few years ago?

    MOHAMMED HAFEZ, Visiting Professor, University of Missouri: Well, he looks like he put on a little weight, but I agree with Bruce. His beard is trimmed, and it is darker. And, interestingly, some of the jihadists on the Web forums have commented on this, commenting about, is it permissible for him to trim his beard? Some of these guys don't think it is Islamic to actually trim your beard.


    What about — continuing with you, Professor Hafez — what about what he says? There are so many interesting things to look at in the transcript of what he says, talking about the Democratic Party winning the elections, not being able to end the war in Iraq. What do you make of the entire message?


    Well, what's interesting, I think what he's trying to do is to speak to the American public above the heads of their leaders. And what he's saying is, not only the Republicans or the Bush administration, but it's also the Democrats that are out letting you down.

    And he attributes this to corporate power. He attributes this to the powers that be, the moneyed interests that control this and that are benefiting from the war, according to his words. And this is, oddly enough, kind of a Marxist discourse, not an Islamist discourse, and that's something I found really puzzling.


    Bruce Hoffman, you're smiling here.


    Well, I think Mohammed's analysis is entirely accurate. I thought the same thing, that it's almost this adolescent channeling of Marxism, blaming democracies and the capitalist system, but also borrowing from Leninism, saying that these systems are inherently corrupt, they're inherently militarist.

    It's also a very selective, I think, and jaundiced view of history. He looks to John F. Kennedy and says, "He could have ended the Vietnam War but for the military industrial complex." He talks about Jews, had they put their faith in Muslims and sought safety from Muslims, they could have avoided the Holocaust, which is, of course, I think a highly idiosyncratic reading of history, to say the least.